North Korea Confidential
by Daniel Tudor & James Pearson
Tuttle Publishing, 2015. 192 pgs. Nonfiction
There are lots of ideas about how North Korea functions. Many people picture them as a country that mindlessly worships an unstable dictator, is on the verge of starvation, and regularly detonates nuclear bombs. However, North Korean citizens are perhaps more similar to us than we may realize, despite their difficult circumstances. Through seven chapters about markets, leisure, power, crime, fashion, communications, and social division, Tudor and Pearson discuss day to day life and how people are making do in such a restrictive society.
Korean history and culture fascinates me, and while I’ve easily learned a lot about the South, understanding the isolated North is much more difficult. It was interesting to learn about how North Koreans have adapted to their restrictive government (mostly bribery and gray market transactions), and how life has changed over the decades since the Korean War. So often books about North Korea focus on the negative aspects (of which there are many), and while this book by no means ignores them, I think it gives a more balanced account of day to day North Korean life. I found it quite enlightening, so it’s an easy recommendation from me.