Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee--A Look Inside North Korea
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THE STORY THEY COULDN'T HACK: In this rare insider’s view into contemporary North Korea, a high-ranking counterintelligence agent describes his life as a former poet laureate to Kim Jong-il and his breathtaking escape to freedom.
“The General will now enter the room.”
Everyone turns to stone. Not moving my head, I direct my eyes to a point halfway up the archway where Kim Jong-il’s face will soon appear…
As North Korea’s State Poet Laureate, Jang Jin-sung led a charmed life. With food provisions (even as the country suffered through its great famine), a travel pass, access to strictly censored information, and audiences with Kim Jong-il himself, his life in Pyongyang seemed safe and secure. But this privileged existence was about to be shattered. When a strictly forbidden magazine he lent to a friend goes missing, Jang Jin-sung must flee for his life.
Never before has a member of the elite described the inner workings of this totalitarian state and its propaganda machine. An astonishing exposé told through the heart-stopping story of Jang Jin-sung’s escape to South Korea, Dear Leader is a rare and unprecedented insight into the world’s most secretive and repressive regime.
people, all of us Koreans, but why were our lives so different? As I learnt more about South Korea and the outside world, my focus turned inwards again, towards the North Korean political system. Although the slogan of the United Front Department is “Localization,” outside texts that dealt with Kim Il-sung or Kim Jong-il on a human level had the sacrilegious sections blacked out by censors. It was this that provoked my curiosity more than anything—if you casually wave someone away from a secret,
we put our feet on each other’s bellies to warm them. We could see the whole village down below, and could even count the individual torches in the alleyways beneath us. Near where we had been hiding, two vehicles had their lights on although their engines were switched off. Chang-yong’s mother-in-law was perhaps sleeping through it, as there were no lights on in her house at all. We did not have to wait too long before the sky had begun to lighten and gain some color. The order must have been
proposal that they pay 40 billion US dollars in war reparations was alarming. North Korea had argued that the war damages and interest accrued since the time of the Japanese occupation amounted to 40 billion dollars. Japan responded by saying that North Korea owed money to Japan for having used factories, railroads, and other infrastructure built by Japan, and subsequently not dismantled by them, in the period following its withdrawal from Korea. But the most pertinent card they played was that
a two-track railway as a central part of his economic reconstruction plan, because he resented the single-track railway laid by the Japanese and wanted to be “liberated” from that particular reminder of Japan’s colonial rule. At the same time, the Propaganda and Agitation Department had ramped up anti-Japanese propaganda through all media outlets, emphasizing the suffering of the Korean people under Japanese occupation. Such was the background to Kim Jong-il’s ignoring of the UFD’s advice. To
asked in astonishment, adding that although she could perhaps endure the hunger, she could never stomach returning to that cruel country. Others joined in, clicking their tongues in disapproval. The woman from Hamheung, who I had thought the most withdrawn, started cracking her knuckles nervously and said agitatedly, “A lot of the refugees in China have experienced repatriation. Those of us who have been sent back, knowing what the world is like over the border, usually have another go at