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This is Paradise!: My North Korean Childhood

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  712 ratings  ·  96 reviews
This is Paradise! is a shocking and moving portrayal of scenes of every day life in North Korea, a secretive and brutal nation. Hyok Kang writes of the public executions, the labor camps and mines, the punishment for "anti-social behavior," the secret watching of Beijing television, and the spies everywhere who help enforce the regime. When the famine comes, so does death ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published July 5th 2007 by Little, Brown Book Group (first published January 1st 2004)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Marija S.
This book reads as a mixture of Orwell, Nazi camps, a totalitarian regime so grim and its indoctrinations so blunt they would be grotesquely funny, save for the real, suffering people. That is what North Korea is, at this very moment in time.

Not many people are or wish to be aware of this. Leave aside post WW2 politics, Korean ("the forgotten") war, lunatic ruling dynasty, constant fear of North's nuclear programs and how it would be nice if North and South walked under one banner at the next O
...more
Jim
There were three things that were particularly surprising about this book.

The most startling thing was just how perfectly the North Korean government's brainwashing worked. I knew it would work, but not to the extent that it actually does. By cutting off all outside media and suppressing all dissent, they got these starving people that were boiling bark and dying of hunger left and right to believe that, although things were bad, they lived in the most prosperous country in the world!

They actual
...more
Leslie
Wow. I really didn't know how to rate this, as it is just a very plain, open and honest recounting of what it is like to grow up in North Korea. How does one rate these life experiences? But I think the author was able to convey the stark realities of indoctrination, suffering and poverty very effectively without being sensational. He just told it like it was and that was sufficient.

There are many things in this book that I wish I had been aware of long before now, and I will definitely have my
...more
Laura Lam
Rating: 4.5 stars

This was the selection for our second book group meeting, which is now called The Granite Literary Society (because Aberdeen is made of granite and because I was so amused by the horrible punny subtitle my friend came up with--"where we don't take books for granite!").

Before reading this, I, like many others in the world, knew very little of Noth Korea, other than that they had nothing while Kim Jong-Il owns every film every made, and that it's very difficult to get in and out o
...more
La Petite Américaine
May 23, 2008 La Petite Américaine rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Intelligent People
Recommended to La Petite Américaine by: Picked it up in Switzerland 2 days ago
Despite the hilarity of "Do you have any idea how fuckin' busy I am, Mr. Hans Blix?" there is no one I'd rather see hanging from a rope than Kim Jong-il ... and I'm against the death penalty!

I admit, I have a strange fascination with North Korea, and I love reading the autobiographies of those who lived there. It's fascinating material, an Orwellian nightmare in existence today. Consider:

--Some 23,301,725 people believe that the USA started the Korean War and that North Korea won, thanks to the
...more
Donnie
Clearly life in North Korea is terrible beyond imagination. This book attempts to give us a personal account of the realities of living under the North Korean regime, and I guess it accomplishes its task well, but as book, it just didn't do it for me. I found the translation to be annoying and somewhat trite. Also, it stayed entirely on the surface. It was hard to identify with the story, as the narrator seemed to race through his account of his life, speeding through subjects like famine, impri ...more
Kim
Wow, this book is amazing. It's a true story and chronicles the life of a young boy who grew up in North Korea and eventually escaped. For someone who (shamefully) knew very little about the living conditions in North Korea... just that things are bad... this was truly eye opening. I think it's important for who's concerned about human rights abuses to take the time to read this.

The book is actually extremely readable -- written at an elementary school level. It's just the words and pictures th
...more
Sine Morris
A child's perspective makes all the difference. The stories from his North Korean childhood are amazing. We see the propaganda, the harsh school life, the struggle to find food. His resilience and his natural skepticism is so potent and intriguing that it makes for fantastic reading. Stories of catching rats and how to survive the devastating famine still lingers in my mind.

The things that really struck me about his memories are the excerpts from his school textbooks, the self criticism sessions
...more
Ape
Continuing on the current fascination with North Korea, this is another read. As I've said before, I don't think anything can compare with Barbara Demick's book on the subject, but this is an interesting enough personal account of living under the regime. Hyok was 'lucky' enough to flee North Korea with his parents whilst still a child so you can hope that he can enjoy the bulk of his life in freedom. Compared to some of the other people I've read about, this is a different perspective as he was ...more
Graeme
A decent read and interesting to hear about North Korea from the point of view of somebody who grew up in the DPRK.

For a meatier and more informative read try Barbara Demick's 'Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea'. It's got a much more thorough treatment of North Korea's history and politics.
Eric
Compared with "Nothing to Envy", this title is even more direct and powerful as it re-tells the childhood of one boy through the microscopic view of his own eyes. He used very light language but this just made his escape story even more remarkable, and shows how far one can go in order to survive.
Lisa
Definitely not as compelling as Nothing to Envy, but still a good, to the point account of living in the world's bastard step child, North Korea.

This focuses on a village closer to the Chinese border so while there are a lot of similarities to NtE, it's interesting to read different accounts.
Saturday's Child
This one I found difficult to read for two reasons. The first is that people are still living in circumstances just like the author. The second was the the style of writing which I found to be a bit scatty (it did not seem to flow well).
Hatice
Very interesting insight of the North Korean life especially during the famine from the eyes of a little boy. Definitely worth to read!
Damian Duffy
A very straight-forward, simply written book telling little anecdotes about the author's life in, and subsequent escape from, North Korea.
I found it a fascinating and somewhat chilling read. The author almost casually mentions how people will be killed if they do this or that, and the number of people in his school who die during the famine.
There are no politics as such to understand - the book is written very much from the point of view of someone on the ground. The author's belief that South K
...more
Steve
In common with other accounts of life in North Korea, this book paints a pretty bleak and often harrowing narrative about starvation, corruption, executions, prisons and people who have to do anything and everything in order to survive the horrors of the regime in the 1990s. Hyok Kang is not a particularly nice person, his father even less so, but the nice people are dying on the platforms of the train stations. To survive, eventually they leave for the South, via China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Th ...more
Harry Rutherford
Or to give it its full, bookshop-friendly title: This is Paradise! My North Korean Childhood, written by Hyok Kang with the French journalist Philippe Grangereau, and translated by Shaun Whiteside.

When I was looking for books from North Korea for the Read The World challenge, I was quite surprised I could only find two actually by North Koreans. The DPRK is such a bizarre Cold War relic that you might think there would be more interest in it. I guess reading about North Korea just doesn’t seem a
...more
Momo
Despite a far from low number of North Korean refugees currently living in South Korea (or other places where they can reveal their identity without worrying about being repatriated), I've only been able to find two autobiographies of such refugees, and this was one of them.

Overall, it gave me exactly what I was looking for: a glimpse into what daily life of an average North Korean citizen is like. It paints a somewhat surreal picture of a modern dystopia. There were many times when I thought, w
...more
Jacob
A very plain (open and honest) account of a young man who grew up in suburban/rural North Korea and escaped as a teenager. The book is basically a collection of stories he told a journalist about his life, loosely organized by topic or timeline and with some effective commentary from the young man interpreting some of his experience. It's quite readable and not long (~160 pages), and worth learning about the tactics used by a totalitarian and socialist regime. In my opinion, one of the biggest h ...more
Yun Zhen
I think the scariest part about reading this book is to know that it is all real and still happening now somewhere on our world. It gives us a glimpse of life into North Korea, not the elaborate lies they put on in Pyongyang for the rare tourist, but real, cruel, hard life in rural cities. Where the ridiculous policies of the Kim dynasty has turned the place into a living hell. People have no food to eat (with UN rations being siphoned by those with more authority), the land has dried up (due to ...more
Esmeralda Rupp-Spangle
Definitely a must read for people interested in personal stories from North Korea. I personally enjoyed Nothing To Envy; Ordianry Lives in North Korea quite a bit more, but that was written by a WRITER, retelling the stories she extracted verbally from refugees, and not written as a firsthand account by a refugee in their own words. It's a different experience- a good one though.

The book is written fairly well. It's not a literary masterpiece, but it's not simple or clunky. The story is, of cou
...more
Christina
Don't take the three stars as a lack of enthusiasm -- I enjoyed reading this book a lot. Or, I guess 'enjoyed' isn't the right word. I'm glad I read this book.

The storytelling is a little sparse and dry, and I think I prefer the book I read prior to this about North Korea, Escape From Camp 14. Written by a biographer, that book was more detailed and more of an emotional punch in the gut. But, This Is Paradise! served its purpose well, and I'm glad I read the two books close together -- they pro
...more
Nelson Lourenço
Nome do Livro em Português: "Aqui é o Paraíso!: Uma infância na Coreia do Norte"

O livro muito interessante e que recomendo!!!

Quotes:

"Cada pessoa é um afluente da longa memória do mundo. Insubstituível como experiência e como testemunho. E ao mesmo tempo sinal da singular comunhão que a todos integra, para além do sofrimento e do ruído dos combates que tantas vezes nos dilaceram, na alegria e na tragédia da muito frágil condição humana."

"Em Unsong, dizia-se que um boi ou uma vaca valia mais do qu
...more
Jen
Wow - this was a huge eye opener for me and when my girls get old enough this will be on my list of books that I want them to read. I think everyone should read this to learn what life is really like in North Korea. We have no idea what goes on there, the suffering, brainwashing... it is a completely different world. Kim Jong Il has got to be one of the most evil men in the world the way he controls his people through threats of death and the way brainwashes them to the point that they worship h ...more
Jennie
Kang grew up in the last 80s and 90s in North Korea. Originally, his family was relatively well off because they had chosen to stay in North Korea instead of being repatriated to Japan. In addition to receiving funds from Japanese relatives, they were favored by the North Korean leadership for their patriotism in staying.

The book starts covering general day to day life. By Western standards, the rich Kang family is poor. Kang talks about day to day life-- how he often slept at his grandparents h
...more
Vicki
This book will stand out for me in my PRK reading list for the examples he uses from schoolbooks (really, almost hilariously absurd propaganda, including an anecdote that amounts to Kim Il-Sung teaching a teacher that 1+1 does, in fact, equal 1) and for Hyok Kang's facility for drawing.

But. His family was well-off in North Korea, and he routinely recounts the ways that they broke the law and got away with it because of a family connection to the Kims. Also his dad seems to be a total asshole --
...more
Manshui
Oct 12, 2008 Manshui rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Shelves: 10th-grade
Set in a time period and state where constant brainwash, spies, growing famine, and incaceration for labour and re-education camps takes place comes the autobiography teller of this book, Hyok Kang, who barely survived as a North Korean and a refugee in the most secretive state of the world, known as North Korea. North Korea has led no easy roads as socialism, communism, dictatorship, and Kim Il-Sung's ideology of the juche or self-suffiency continuously flourished. Kang tells a tale of his brut ...more
Januario
Hyok Kang, as the author of this book, has beautifully told the tale of his struggles in North Korea. As a young child, he learned that in the world that he existed in, he must fight for himself. In North Korea, citizens are forced to work in labor camps and any source of media other than documents of the Great Leader are banned. North Koreans are forced to forever be loyal to Kim Jung Il II, the godly figure of their world. The childhood that Hyok Kang describes is one of the significant accou ...more
Gali
From the style of writing and its relative simplicity, it's clear that the ghost writer who helped Hyok Kang decided to stay true to the North Korean's style, and overall that seemed like a good thing as it gave the account more credibility. The story itself, alas, does not present anything new or enlightening to anyone who has done a bit of research on North Korea. The final chapter about life in South Korea and the discriminations that North Korean refugees face there is definitely a good incl ...more
Christie
A very gripping read told by someone who grew up in North Korea and escaped. The book includes comics done by the author that depict scenes from his life told in the book. They are partly funny, and partly sad. The end of the book is a bit bittersweet, but unfortunately realistic.

I think North Korea is a horrible, but fascinating place. I hope the government falls so the poor North Koreans can be relieved of their suffering!
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The Armchair Trav...: * *This is Paradise* discussion 8 10 Feb 08, 2015 07:08PM  
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  • Escaping North Korea: Defiance and Hope in the World's Most Repressive Country
  • Long Road Home: Testimony of a North Korean Camp Survivor
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  • Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History
  • The Tears of My Soul: The True Story of a North Korean Spy
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  • Jia
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