Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag by Chol-hwan Kang, Pierre Rigoulot

By Chol-hwan Kang, Pierre Rigoulot

North Korea is this day one of many final bastions of hard-line Communism. Its leaders have stored a decent clutch on their one-party regime, quashing any nascent competition pursuits and sending all suspected dissidents to its brutal focus camps for "re-education." Kang Chol-hwan is the 1st survivor of 1 of those camps to flee and inform his tale to the realm, documenting the intense stipulations in those gulags and supplying a private perception into existence in North Korea. half horror tale, half old record, half memoir, half political tract, this checklist of 1 man's pain offers eyewitness evidence to an ongoing sorrowful bankruptcy of contemporary history.</Div>

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Back to the emu: I stretch my neck and look around. I retract my neck and move my head between my legs, looking back at the revellers through my knees. And as a grand finale, I squat down and pretend to lay an egg, accompanied by a few clucking chicken sounds. The crowd goes wild, the tuak flows and the room starts spinning around me. ‘Kangaroo! Kangaroo! ’ they chant, asking for an encore. At this stage I am virtually beyond caring and start hopping about wildly until I trip over a pair of stretched-out legs and fall right into the basket of party snacks, sending the biscuits flying in all directions.

We hop on the back and enjoy the brief but hair-raising ride back into town. The coffee shop is abuzz with people, all of whom seem to know Jo. There’s lots of back-slapping as we enter, followed by the predictable questions: How long have you 37 espresso with the headhunters been in town, Jo? Where are you off to? Come have some coffee. One of the entourage is our boatman, and he tells us that there’s been a change of plan: the water level at the upper reaches of the Katibas river has dropped dramatically and its tributaries cannot be navigated.

The chief ’s wife and daughters now join the party, bearing platters of cracker biscuits (longhouse favourites throughout Sarawak) and huge mugs of coffee. The coffee is good. More clicking and clacking sounds from the chief, and a bunch of kids, following his instructions, clamber down the log to fetch my pack. Looks like we’ve been invited to stay. The inseparable duo – Josephine and her Hello Kitty bag – follow the chief ’s wife inside. I gather my muddy boots and backpack and proceed to catch up with them, ahead of a procession of Iban kids, panting dogs, toothless 45 espresso with the headhunters grandmothers and various assorted onlookers who follow my every move with great interest.

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