6 Great Materials About North Korea

In response to threats from anonymous hackers, believed to be from North Korea, Sony has canceled their release of “The Interview”.  The film tells the story of two friends, a talk show host and his producer, who are sent on a mission to assassinate North Korea’s totalitarian leader, Kim Jong Un.  This bowing down to terror threats sets an extremely dangerous precedent, and it’s already kicked off a major debate about censorship and cyberterror across the Internet.  While previews for the film looked promising, this could have a silver lining: according to leaked emails, even Sony executives chided the film for being both a misfire and “desperately unfunny”.  Even if the film wasn’t terribly good, I’m sure that a whole lot of people are going to want to see the film, especially now that it has so much controversy surrounding it.  But if you’d like to get a glimpse into the bizarre world of North Korea, there are other ways you could do it.  I recently came across an article that highlighted some of the videos and books that offer a valuable insight into the totalitarian state.

Michael Weilert MD Nothing to Envy

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (Barbara Demick): This haunting non-fiction book traces the lives of six North Koreans.  Demick pieced together her portrayal of the country through years of research and interviews with defectors.

North Korea’s Slave Labor Camps (Vice): Without a doubt, Vice is not without controversy, and in many cases they’re little better than blatant yellow journalism.  Nonetheless, Vice’s CEO Shane Smith’s journey through Siberia to search for “off-shored” North Korean labor camps is dark and fascinating indeed.

Michael Weilert MD The Orphan Master's Son

The Orphan Master’s Son (Adam Johnson): This novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2013.  The Washington Post praised the book for making North Korea a real and riveting place that’s hard to forget.

Michael Weilert MD The Cleanest Race

The Cleanest Race (B.R. Myers): In this book, Myers examines the ideology of the North Korean state which, despite its communist roots, borrows significantly more from the fascist traditions of imperial Japan.  For instance, its all-devouring propaganda program not only builds up a massive myth behind the kim dynasty, but also plays upon some disturbing themes, such as racial supremacy and a hatred of foreigners.

Michael Weilert MD The Aquariums of Pyongyang

The Aquariums of Pyongyang (Chol-hwan Kang): When Kang was 9 years old, his grandfather was charged with treason, and his entire family was sentenced to a labor camp.  For the next 10 years, Kang performed manual labor alongside his family before defecting.

The Game of Our Lives: This BBC documentary takes a look at one of North Korea’s brighter moments when, in 1966, their relatively unknown soccer team took the World Cup by storm and earned the respect of soccer fans across the world.