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Part horror story, part historical document, part memoir, part political tract, this record of one man's suffering gives eyewitness proof to an ongoing sorrowful chapter of modern history.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

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Vanessa on 07-10-11

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.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Rhea on 09-25-13

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

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10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Anonymous User on 02-10-11

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.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By MRS on 01-02-17

Fascinating read

Fascinating albeit horrifying reading. What a brave and resilient man! One only hopes that change will come to those poor people sooner rather than later

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