Thursday, 17 June 2010

Pyongyang: A Journey Into North Korea

Picked this up at an independent bookstore.  They were doing some world cup country tie-in: books about every country that's in the tournament. I've had a strong interest in N. Korea since a rogue Russian photographer's work was released. We're talking electric fences round the beaches, only allowed to see inside 1 room, that kinda thing.

This is a black and white graphic novel by a guy called Guy Delisle. It's his memoirs. He stayed in the capital of N. Korea for 2 months working in animation for SEK (Scientific Education of Korea), and meets a few other foreigners working there from around the globe in clubs and such.

It's quite short, 176 pages.  Guy manages to take in a few basic things with him to the country, but somehow manages to take a portable radio, some Aphex Twins CDs, and 1984.

There's not a huge amount to say about this without spoiling it. He walks around with his guide and translator and manages to show a little bit of what the country's like, but you just can't get a citizen's perspective. You figure out how brainwashed they are, you realise how weird everything is. I guess it was able to portray that whole secluded, isolated totalitarian state (ended up thinking Kim Jong Il was Big Brother).. but since the place is so secretive and you can't go around for a walk on your own it's not easy to do. Lot of the book just shows how bored he is working there.

I think it did extremely well in a graphic novel format especially when there's so little that can be said about the country from an internal perspective.

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