The Ministry of Truth: Kim Jong-Il's North Korea
In his introduction, celebrated German writer Kracht argues that under Kim Jong-Il's rule, North Korea has essentially become Jong-Il's ""three dimensional stage-set,"" a country based entirely on simulations projected by the government to convince the world, as well as a number of its own citizens, that the socialist nation is happy and thriving. Though foreign guests ""see only what the regime wants them to see,"" the rich, full-color images of North Korea's capital city Pyongyang captured by international photographers Munz and Nikol contain a surreal beauty, often monumental and sparsely populated, that inspires a vivid sense of isolation and uncertainty. A lack of captions and frequent interruption by quotes from Kim Jong-Il's book on film production, The Art of Cinema (""Artistic generalization is effective... because it creates a hundred facts with one stroke""), turn the images into a kind of challenge, daring readers to parse the ""real"" North Korea from the infamous leader's staged tableaus of normal life; Kracht describes, for example, empty subway trains run for the benefit of visitors, and a trip to a film shoot at which the camera isn't even plugged in. This slim book provides rare glimpses into the ""world's first postmodern country,"" each as illuminating for what it shows as for what it hides.