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North of the DMZ: Essays on Daily Life in North Korea
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North of the DMZ: Essays on Daily Life in North Korea

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  264 ratings  ·  26 reviews
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 th ...more
Paperback, 346 pages
Published April 24th 2007 by McFarland & Company (first published January 1st 2007)
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Nothing to Envy by Barbara DemickEscape from Camp 14 by Blaine HardenThe Aquariums of Pyongyang by Kang Chol-HwanThe Orphan Master's Son by Adam JohnsonPyongyang by Guy Delisle
Books on North Korea
17th out of 69 books — 302 voters
A Capitalist in North Korea by Felix AbtEscape from Camp 14 by Blaine HardenNothing to Envy by Barbara DemickThe Real North Korea by Andrei LankovA Capitalist in North Korea by Felix Abt
North Korea Reading List
19th out of 22 books — 22 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,418)
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Megan
This started out strong. It really did. Except for the badly Photoshopped cover, I was enjoying it, and filing facts away just in case I ever find myself becoming the Benevolent Exalted Joyful Leader of some small impoverished nation. (There are so many things to consider, and it's wise to do your dictatorial research ahead of time, or employ a minion to do it. You don't want to flub anything.)

I really enjoyed the level of detail presented in the first half of the book, which, although un-source
...more
Yoonmee
I want to provide a disclaimer that I'm still learning more about North Korea, so I can't really assess this book as a scholar or even as a hobbyist. While Lankov provides some really fascinating information about North Korea, I can't say I completely agree with his political views. (I got a little tired of the snarky remarks made about South Korean leftists and liberals.) Also, I'm not sure how up to date some of the information he provides is -- this isn't the place to try to verify all his fa ...more
Jennifer
This is mixed review because it needed a better editor. I liked the idea of essays and he has a clear groupings, the right length and content but they don't tell you when the essay was written or if it was updated in 2007 publishing. The author has a long history of following North Korea, from 1984 to 2007, and it makes a difference to the reader to know what time periods he is discussing. He does have an unique background to compare the Soviet experience with the North Korean one and his musing ...more
Xorosho
Lankov is a Russian national who, while at university in the USSR, spent a year as an exchange student in North Korea. This sparked a lifelong fascination with the world's most eccentric dictatorship - well, I say lifelong, Lankov's not dead yet, but he's spent twenty-five years studying the country now and that's not the kind of thing you get over. This book is a collection of essays originally published in some newspaper somewhere covering topics from the national flower (naturally, it's somet ...more
Kimberly Schlarman
In Nothing to Envy, Barbara Demick occasionally cited North of the DMZ: Essays on Daily Life in North Korea by Andrei Lankov. In my quest for more knowledge on North Korea, I decided to read Lankov's book too. While North of the DMZ provides a lot of excellent information on North Korea, it is not nearly as readable as Demick's book. Andrei Lankov is a Russian scholar who studied in North Korea in the '80s when the Soviet Union and North Korea were allies. Lankov currently writes a column for Th ...more
La Petite Américaine
This book is a decent place to start if one wants to learn more about North Korea (although I think Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynastyis much better). However, most of the information in the first third of the book can be found on online travelogues.

Two stars have to come off for his conviction that the two Koreas will be united one day soon and for his nonchalance about human rights abuses in that country. Reunification is not guaranteed, especially i
...more
Zinger
Oct 18, 2011 Zinger rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
This book had a systematic approach to explaining North Korea that I thought was very useful. Each chapter had a series of essays touching the main topic of the chapter. I loved the authors side remarks pointing out the absurdity of logic most of the policies have.

This is a nation that really does everything wrong as far as individual liberty is concerned, but still the regime survives. This book explains why. It has been subsidized by Soviet Russia and communist China, and now by South Korea th
...more
Aaron Schlafly
I read this book shortly after reading "Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea" by Barbara Demick, which I also really enjoyed very much Both books are very interesting, at least for me, since I lived in South Korea for seven years and always found the contrast between North and South Korea quite amazing. However, where the other book is written by an American and includes more intimate stories about a few individuals in a smaller city, this book touches on many smaller subjects, mostly ...more
Gali
My main problem with this book was the fact that it read as if it had been written for middle schoolers. I understand that most of these essays (if they can be called that, given how short they are and how limited their content is) were articles written for a publication read mostly by non-native speakers, still they could have been edited to fit higher standards.
Trey Howard
Russian author Lankov brings us an insiders look (as close as a foreigner can get) to North Korea. Lankov studied in North Korea during the 1980s, and his familiarity with North Korea and Korean culture in general is readily apparent.

This is a book less on the geopolitical drama on the Korean Peninsula, and more a series of glimpses into the life of the average North Korean; the small details of a culture which flesh out our understanding of 60+ years of tension. There are many books on the cul
...more
Hanna
As a Russian living in Australia, Andrei Lankov is probably the only English speaking author capable of writing anything reasonably nuanced about North Korea. He spent a few years living there himself and speaks the language fluently. His Soviet upbringing gives him a more realistic perspective on the ideology of the North Korean state and the motivations and priorities of regular citizens. The only other English language book worth reading on North Korea is "Comrades and Strangers" and autobiog ...more
Nathan
The fact that this was written in 2006 hampers it a bit just because so much has happened since (ramping up of the nuclear program, the death of Kim Jong-il and rise of Kim Jung-un). The format is also a bit grating because it is made up of what were originally published as single articles. I don't know how much editing/revision was attempted, but there does seem to be a lot of repeated information (especially "factoids" being mentioned over and over). Despite these drawbacks, lots of great info ...more
Cor
North of the DMZ is a series of short essays, so it is easily digestible. However since the essays were written at different times and collected together later they can be repetitive.

This was my first book on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and it was all new to me. However, I think if I had a bit more background in the subject I would have found this book a bit too shallow.

The author has an interesting perspective, having come of age in the USSR, he frequently makes enlightening co
...more
Chad
A wealth of interesting, completely non-footnoted, lightly sourced information about daily life in North Korea.
Sort of have to take the author's word for it, I guess.

(It's been a while since I read it-- there may have been some footnotes, but I distinctly remember being underwhelmed by the extent to which it's just The Author Saying Things. I don't remember doubting the veracity of what he was writing all that much, it just seemed sort of an uncomfortable lapse for a non-memoir, somewhat academi
...more
Whitney
This book was a really interesting read. I knew almost nothing about North Korea before I started. The author really seemed to capture the essence of the country. My one complaint is the being a Soviet, he didn't take into account the Asian view of things. There were some things described in the book that were extreme (because N Korea is extreme in everything), but in a way smaller form is the way they would do things in S Korea or Japan. That was the only thing though and I would recommend this ...more
Valarie
This is basically a collection of articles the author wrote for another publication, and very little work was put into making them a comprehensive book. There is quite a bit of repetition, and the transitions are sloppy (or nonexistent) because of this. Still, this book is full of good information for anyone researching the realities of living in North Korea. I would recommend it only for people very interested in the subject.
Valentin Ivanov
It is repetitive at times, although that is to be expected from a book, which is essentially a collection of essays.

However, it describes well the North Korean life and situation and, in my opinion, outlines the most important developments that are leading to the inevitable collapse of the Northern regime.
Michael
A very insightful and detailed collection of essays describing the workings of life and politics in North Korea. I very much enjoyed reading this book. Also at the end of the book there is quite a huge list of other books which are recommended to the reader on North Korea of which I will be interested to look for.
Chris Barber
With refreshing wit, Lankov shows how the citizenry of North Korea have been successfully coping with their uniquely brutal and dysfunctional society for decades and explains how the end may very well be near. Knocked off a star for poor editing and iffy grammar.
Kylewong
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aniko
the first part is typical for orientalizing 19th century travel books: tidbits of exotica. there are some useful chapter in the second part, though.
Joe Harris
In light of the current sabre-rattling from Pyongyang, this survey of life in North Korea is interesting, if a bit dry.
Dorrie
This is poorly organized and repetitive, the other books I've read on NK are much better.
Dave
A collection of accounts from DPRK, that whilst inspiring as a whole the narrative lacks cohesion.
Krisna Partawindu
Nice Book, really open my eyes from North Korea
Diane
Some interesting info, but not well-written.
Stephanie Macomber
Stephanie Macomber marked it as to-read
Nov 26, 2014
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Andrei Lankov is a North Korea expert and professor of history at Kookmin University in Seoul. He graduated from Leningrad State University and has been an exchange student at Pyongyang Kim Il-sung University.
More about Andrei Lankov...
The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia The Dawn of Modern Korea: the transformation in life and cityscape From Stalin to Kim Il Sung: The Formation of North Korea 1945-1960 Crisis in North Korea: The Failure of De-Stalinization, 1956 Корея: Будни и праздники

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