The Hidden People of North Korea: Everyday Life in the Hermit Kingdom

Ralph C. Hassig, Author, Kongdan Oh, Author Rowman & Littlefield Publishers $39.95 (300p) ISBN 978-0-7425-6718-4
In this state survey, scholars Oh (whose parents fled North Korea) and Hassig (Oh's American-born husband), gather behind-the-curtain research to expose day-to-day life, and the powers that control it, in North Korea, a developed nation where meat is a luxury and the Internet doesn't exist for anyone but the dictator. Examining the history and present of the regime, the authors (2000's North Korea through the Looking Glass) provide a lucid guide to the mechanics by which Kim Jong Il's Soviet-style socialist totalitarianism has endured into this century. Much of their information has been available before (in their own work, David Hawk's comprehensive The Hidden Gulag, and elsewhere), but serious scholars of the region will find some new information, including the details of North Korea's transnational economy. The uninformed will find much that's fascinating and shocking: a nation of castes and concentration camps, replete with a politics of fear that rivals the worst Orwell could imagine. Though some topics are underreported-including the state ideology (religion by another name), Juche theory-Hassig and Oh provide a valuable catalog of oppression so deep that a hopeful conclusion-that Jong Il's regime is ultimately unsustainable-won't ameliorate the feeling of unease.
Reviewed on: 11/16/2009
Release date: 11/01/2009
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