The Aquariums of Pyongyang

The Aquariums of Pyongyang

Ten Years in A North Korean Gulag

Book - 2005
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After the division of North and South Korea, Kang's family returned to North Korea from Japan, where his grandparents had emigrated in the 1930s. His grandfather had amassed a fortune and his grandmother became a committed Communist. They were fired with idealism and committed to building a new Korea, only to be removed without trial to a remote concentration camp, apparently because the grandfather was suspected of counter-revolutionary tendencies. Kang Chol-hwan was nine years old when imprisoned at the Yodok camp in 1977. Over the next ten years, he endured inhumane conditions and deprivations, including an inadequate diet (supplemented by frogs and rats), regular beatings, humiliations and hard labor.
Publisher: New York : Basic Books, c2005.
ISBN: 9780465011049
Branch Call Number: 365.45 Kan
Characteristics: xxiv, 238 p. : ill. ; 21 cm.
Additional Contributors: Rigoulot, Pierre


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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.


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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."


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