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Publisher's Summary

"Destined to become a classic" (Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking), this harrowing memoir of life inside North Korea was the first account to emerge from the notoriously secretive country - and it remains one of the most terrifying.

Amid escalating nuclear tensions, Kim Jong-un and North Korea's other leaders have kept a tight grasp on their one-party state, 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. Sent to the notorious labor camp Yodok when he was 9 years old, Kang observed frequent public executions and endured forced labor and near-starvation rations for 10 years. In 1992, he escaped to South Korea, where he found God and now advocates for human rights in North Korea. 

Part horror story, part historical document, part memoir, part political tract, this book brings together unassailable firsthand experience, setting one young man's personal suffering in the wider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, giving eyewitness proof to the abuses perpetrated by the North Korean regime. 

©2005 Chol-hwan Kang, Pierre Rigoulot (P)2018 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"A chilling testimony....Freezes the heart and seizes the soul." (Kirkus Reviews)

"A triumph against silence." (Financial Times

"The Aquariums of Pyongyang is one of the most terrifying memoirs I have ever read. As the first account to emerge from North Korea, it is destined to become a classic." (Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking

What listeners say about The Aquariums of Pyongyang

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Riveting!!

Really enjoy this book! The tale was gripping & well narrated. I am moved by the survival imaging and personal insight of the author. This is the 2nd book I’ve read about North Korea, and I find myself so sad for the plight of the people forced to live under this regime. I pray that someday they know true personal freedom.

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Food for Thought

This is a short but compelling account of life in the North Korean gulag, which enslaves hundreds of thousands of it’s people. Getting to know Kang Chol-hwan and his family and their journey made the events of this book very personal. I felt like a member of the family. American leftists nowadays claim they are oppressed and our nation is not free, I believe they should read to this book. There is no government in the West that is oppressive, let alone anywhere near authoritarian like North Korea. Read this and grow up.

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A Masterpiece

I am having a hard time remembering reading another book that was as meaningful to me as this one. it is really easy to dismiss N Korea as a bad place without giving it a second thought, but this dives deeply into what day to day life is like in N Korea and the Gulags, no spoilers, but the ending is wonderful, and ultimate triumph of good v evil.

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Heartbreaking & appalling

This is the second true story by a N,. Korean "renegade". The depths of depravity are difficult to even realize, and the demented unquenchable power grabs on the backs of human beings should be judged and adjudicated by the UN. I am amazed that these fine men survived & escaped that inhumane exstence . To think in this day & age, treating people like this exists. Simply horr8ble.






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Cannot describe my feelings

I can’t describe to a would be listener how much this book has impacted me. The atrocities these people endured day after day, month after month, and year after year are unimaginable. It leaves a pit in my stomach, feeling unable to do something, anything, to help the North Korean people. I can’t believe our government will not rally the international community to bring about a regime change and subsequent freedom for these people. Very sad indeed. Our government appears to be as afraid of Kim Jong il as much as his country is. This is a very eye opening book.

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very enlightening publication. highly recommend!

loved it! This book gives a rare glimpse into the horrors experienced by a North Korean prisoner in a reeducation camp.

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Highly recommended

Imagine spending 10 years of your childhood in a gulag.. I recommend this book to anyone in interested in the human condition and wanting to learn more about North Korea. There is somewhat of a good ending for the author as well.

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Communist Child Care Program?

once again the lies of communist never cease to amaze me! the system that promises so much care and concern for the forgotten peasants of western rich capitalism. can't or more like won't help or care for the most vulnerable amongst us! namely children. the author of this book gives us his first hand account of a North Korean Gulag! hidden from the rest of the world for many decades the horrors of being re-educated by communist regime! nobody is shown mercy, not even children. the authors real life experience beginning at the tender age of 9, gives us all the horrible details. even after he escapes to South Korea, the media once again doesn't believe his nightmare of a story. which only compounds the ignorance! to the world. a clear and concise reading of this profound story make this book even more of a historical read. if you're looking for the truth of the treatment of the North Korean population, then look no farther, it's all wrapped up here...

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North Korea is a true Hunger Games world

scary stuff, especially since its all real and occuring right now. someone needs to enlighten these leaders and educate them to the current world.... or just, u know, get rid of them.

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A very interesting point of view

I have been listening to a number of books on both North and South Korea recently. Most are not set this far back, and few have as much detail about what went on(and presumably still goes on) in the prison/re-education camps. hearing this account after listening to accounts such as those in In Order to Live, which seems a fair bit more recent, really puts thing in perspective. It is interesting to see how defection has changed over time. I felt that the writing and flow of this book was considerably better than many of the books I have listened to recently. I would definitely recommend it.