Friday, December 24, 2021

Review of "See You Again in Pyongyang: A Journey Into Kim Jong Un’s North Korea," by Travis Jeppesen

 Review of

See You Again in Pyongyang: A Journey Into Kim Jong Un’s North Korea, by Travis Jeppesen, ISBN 9780316509152

Five out of five stars

 An almost unique perspective on the DPRK

 The author has one of the most unusual perspectives on North Korea since Kim Jong Un came to power. He is an American that was accepted into a Korean language program at a North Korean University, the first ever to do so. Not surprisingly, he was the only American student in the program. It was not Jeppesen’s first trip into the country, so he had some familiarity with the way things are done in what is rightly referred to as “the Hermit Kingdom.” Given how little is known about the country and how their social structures function, his experiences provide valuable information about that mysterious land. Of course, it must be kept foremost in mind that he was almost constantly accompanied by government minders.

 Yet, Jeppesen found that there is a dynamic society that manages to largely function, albeit with some enormous internal contradictions. Nearly all citizens are in a constant state of uncertainty and fear, which dictates much of their actions. Like all societies, there are the privileged, a group that seems to be growing over time. Jeppesen even found many instances of “creeping capitalism,” where people created some modestly functioning free markets for goods not otherwise available.

 This is one of the most fascinating books about the mystery known as North Korea. Unlike most of the other books written by experts that are remote from the country, this one is by a person that actually lived in the country for some time and was allowed some travel to locations other than the capital of Pyongyang.

 One sad feature of the book is the rendition of how defectors from North Korea are treated after they manage to escape. When housed together, some are brutal to the others, and they are discriminated against when they take up residence in South Korea. Rather than being readily assimilated, they are isolated into an uncomfortable social niche.

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