Aquariums of Pyongyang

Aquariums of Pyongyang

Ten Years in A North Korean Gulag

Book - 2001
Average Rating:
Rate this:
North Korea today is one of the last bastions of hard-line Communism. Until recently, no one ever managed to leave the country. No organized, active opposition movement exists, either at home or abroad. Western historians and researchers have had little access to information about North Korea apart from official Party documents and propaganda. This book marks the first time that a victim of the regime, a survivor and escapee, has provided a personal and documented insight into the labor camps, the organized famine, the farcical trials, the repression, and the political conditioning within this "hermit kingdom."Kang Chol-Hwan was arrested at the age of nine along with other members of his family when his grandfather made remarks about life in a capitalist country that were judged to be too complimentary. He grew up in the camps and has escaped to South Korea to document his personal life as a testimonial to the hardships and atrocities that constitute the lives of some several hundred thousand people living in the gulag today. Kang's account of his internment reveals the life-and-death conditions of the camp, the relentless forced labor, and the mental repression that drove the two hours of daily "political training" that followed twelve hours of backbreaking work. His memoir documents the political bartering of food and the "ideological" uses of malnutrition. Part horror story, part historical document, part memoir, part political tract, this book brings together unassailable firsthand experience, setting one young man's personal suffering in the wider context of modern history.
Publisher: New York, NY : Basic : 2001
ISBN: 9780465011018
Branch Call Number: 365.45 K131a
Characteristics: 238p
Additional Contributors: Rigoulot, Pierre


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Sep 27, 2017

Kang Chol-Hwan's family was prosperous and respected in Japan. But they were staunch believers in communism and chose to move to North Korea with the promise that they would be an important asset to the cause. They soon feel prey to the unpredictability and brutality of the reigning government. His grandfather disappeared and it was later found that he had been arrested on charges of being an enemy of the state. As they do, they arrested the rest of the family as well, including nine-year-old Kang.

This book tells of his life in the prison camp where he and his family grew up. It is similar in bleakness and depravity to Camp 14 and other books by and about people who have escaped from North Korea. He did escape, though he had to leave the rest of this family behind. Told in a very straightforward style.

Apr 11, 2012

This is a truly amazing memoir. Definitely worth the read because the insight provided is incredible.


Add a Quote

Sep 16, 2017

The author was examining his feelings upon being told that he and his family were to be released from the prison called Yodok after 10 years, since he was a young boy. He felt joy, but also fear and moroseness. "Deep down, I had come to love them (the mountain ridges that surround the prison). They had been the bars of my prison and the framework of my life. They were my suffering and my being, bound indissolubly together."

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Subject Headings


Find it at NWPL

To Top