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The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag | [Kang Chol-Hwan, Pierre Rigoulot]

The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag

North Korea is today one of the last bastions of hard-line Communism. Its leaders have kept a tight grasp on their one-party regime, quashing any nascent opposition movements and sending all suspected dissidents to its brutal concentration camps for "re-education." Kang Chol-hwan is the first survivor of one of these camps to escape and tell his story to the world, documenting the extreme conditions in these gulags and providing a personal insight into life in North Korea.
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Publisher's Summary

North Korea is today one of the last bastions of hard-line Communism. Its leaders have kept a tight grasp on their one-party regime, quashing any nascent opposition movements and sending all suspected dissidents to its brutal concentration camps for "re-education."

Kang Chol-hwan is the first survivor of one of these camps to escape and tell his story to the world, documenting the extreme conditions in these gulags and providing a personal insight into life in North Korea.

Part horror story, part historical document, part memoir, part political tract, this record of one man's suffering gives eyewitness proof to an ongoing sorrowful chapter of modern history.

©2005 Chol-hwan Kang and Pierre Rigoulot; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

What Members Say

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  •  
    Vanessa West Covina, CA, United States 07-10-11
    Vanessa West Covina, CA, United States 07-10-11 Member Since 2011
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    "Unique and Engaging"

    This is a remarkable story of how one man survived the Gulags (aka concentration camps) of North Korea. Whether it be talking about swallowing live salamanders, hunting rats to eat, or attempting to steal an officer's rabbit, this book is full of bizarre, entertaining, horrifying, yet undeniably engrossing accounts of what life is like under the "Dear Leader" and the North Korean regime and how one man could bravely escape his fate.

    The narration was done my Stephen Park who did a fantastic job.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rhea Fort Worth, TX, United States 09-25-13
    Rhea Fort Worth, TX, United States 09-25-13 Member Since 2013

    short, fat, and stupid.

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    "Another North Korean winner"

    Somthing about the North Korean non-ficton does it for me. If you like "Nothing to envy" you will like this. Reveals the horrors that every day North Koreans have to face if they step out of line. Every time I read on of these North Korean non fictions I am truly thankful to be an American. It also makes you realize how insignificant your day to day problems can really be. Scoop up this gem you will not regret it. Top notch

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Margo Rio Vista, CA, United States 09-25-12
    Margo Rio Vista, CA, United States 09-25-12 Member Since 2008
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    "A Horrifying Parallel Universe - A Must Listen!"

    This was a hard story to listen to because of the topic. Stephen Park is an excellent narrator, and the high quality of the writing makes this horrific story impossible to "put down". I enjoy books that educate and this one does a good job of giving us an inside perspective on life in North Korea through a personal story of tragedy and triumph. I highly recommend this audiobook.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sunzal Mexico City 07-11-14
    Sunzal Mexico City 07-11-14 Member Since 2009

    Sunzal

    ratings
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    "Wow"
    What made the experience of listening to The Aquariums of Pyongyang the most enjoyable?

    The story telling was uncredible...


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Aquariums of Pyongyang?

    When he was taken from his home


    What does Stephen Park bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Nothing big


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Why do you ask these questions audible. I just want to give a review...that's all.


    Any additional comments?

    Why can't i just rate with stars? That's important too

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James San Jose, CA, United States 01-30-14
    James San Jose, CA, United States 01-30-14 Member Since 2009
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    "Solid if ploding story of the North Korean Gulag."

    The personal story of one man who managed to escape the North Korean Gulag Aquariums Of Pyongyang is a solid performance but somewhat dated.

    Written at the turn of the Millennium it has not aged well. To give the author his due he could have not know how lashing himself to the ship of the George W. Bush administration would tarnish the ending of his book.

    The beginning is harrowing enough. The author, a mere boy, is first pulled from the comfort of Japan to live in the "worker's paradise" of North Korea by his foolhardy and ideological family. From there the standing of the family is slowly chipped away until one awful night they fall from the elite of North Korean society, from the heights of Pyongyang to the depths of the Korean Gulag.

    From there the little boy grows fitfully to a man and that man finally finds a way to escape and report on the daily grind of one of the Korean camps.

    The prose are workman like, and the narration moves along, if sometimes sluggishly. It's a good work, but it is not a great work. I would recommend this as a companion to "Nothing To Envy" which is in many ways the stronger of the two books.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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  • Philip
    Piacenza, Italy
    2/10/11
    Overall
    "Interesting story from the secret state"

    This account of one man's suffering in the camps of North Korea is interesting and rare. That said, the author is far from a skilled writer and much of the story seems too descriptive when it should be shocking or engaging. The book that was most obviously brought to mind while reading this was The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, which was a harrowing read as well as an important historical document. While the Gulag was in measures shocking and life affirming, much like other fiction-based-on-fact books such as A Thousand Splendid Suns, I came away from the Aquarium feeling like I had read a factual account lacking in emotional impact; this may be a result of cultural differences or the fact that the other authors such as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn were excellent writers. However, I do feel an audience needs to be repulsed by the events more to really empathize with the author, and too often the most heinous acts are raced over while tedious routines are given more attention. Anyone who has read The Gulag will know how grizzly some of the book can be but also how fundamental that is to connecting with the author's lot.

    All in all, I would only recommend this book to those interested in the regime of North Korea and it's inhumane society, but don't expect to be as shocked as you might think.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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