North of the DMZ

Essays on Daily Life in North Korea


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About the Book

The Kim dynasty has ruled North Korea for over 60 years. Most of that period has found the country suffering under mature Stalinism characterized by manipulation, brutality and tight social control. Nevertheless, some citizens of Kim Jong Il’s regime manage to transcend his tyranny in their daily existence.
This book describes that difficult but determined existence and the world that the North Koreans have created for themselves in the face of oppression. Many features of this world are unique and even bizarre. But they have been created by the citizens to reflect their own ideas and values, in sharp contrast to the world forced upon them by a totalitarian system.
Opening chapters introduce the political system and the extent to which it permeates citizens’ daily lives, from the personal status badges they wear to the nationalized distribution of the food they eat. Chapters discussing the schools, the economic system, and family life dispel the myth of the workers’ paradise that North Korea attempts to perpetuate. In these chapters the intricacies of daily life in a totalitarian dictatorship are seen through the eyes of defectors whose anecdotes constitute an important portion of the material. The closing chapter treats at length the significant changes that have taken place in North Korea over the last decade, concluding that these changes will lead to the quiet but inevitable death of North Korean Stalinism.
Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Andrei Lankov is a senior lecturer at the Australian National University.

Bibliographic Details

Andrei Lankov
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 358
Bibliographic Info: 62 photos, references, index
Copyright Date: 2007
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2839-7
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5141-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1

Part 1. Leaders Dear and Great…      7
Part 2. In Times of Propaganda      33
Part 3. The Arts and the Media      49
Part 4. The Workers’ Paradise? The Social Structure of the DPRK      66
Part 5. Pyongyang      77
Part 6. Daily Lives      96
Part 7. Recreation and Fashion      115
Part 8. Family Matters      125
Part 9. All Things Which Move      141
Part 10. Big Brother Is Watching      170
Part 11. How Does the System Work?      190
Part 12. Schools      212
Part 13. It’s Economics…      219
Part 14. Foreign Affairs      241
Part 15. On Spying, Smuggling and Kidnapping      256
Part 16. North Koreans Overseas, Foreigners in North Korea      278
Part 17. Defectors      286
Part 18. The Unnoticed Death of North Korean Stalinism      305

In Lieu of Conclusion: With a Bang, or with a Whimper?      327
Further Reading      331
Index      337

Book Reviews & Awards

“if anything is missing here, it’s probably not worth knowing…well written, comprehensive and relevatory…valuable”—School Library Journal; “deserves ongoing mention and recommendation as a powerful survey…must have this rare insider’s look at the North Korean psyche”—Midwest Book Review; “we are obliged to Lankov for this insight…Lankov is one of the most illuminating North Korea watchers around…uniquely perceptive…especially good on the details of everyday life”—The New York Review of Books; “offers an intriguing and informative peek into North Korea through the lens of daily life”—Pacific Affairs; “valuable…a detailed description of North Korean life…one of the best guides to the daily life of North Koreans available in English”—Korean Quarterly.