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Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  12,611 Ratings  ·  1,053 Reviews
Famously referred to as one of the "Axis of Evil" countries, North Korea remains one of the most secretive and mysterious nations in the world today. In early 2001 cartoonist Guy Delisle became one of the few Westerners to be allowed access to the fortress-like country. While living in the nation's capital for two months on a work visa for a French film animation company, ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Drawn and Quarterly (first published November 15th 2002)
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69th out of 2,263 books — 5,368 voters
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5th out of 86 books — 385 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Feb 25, 2008 Lilburninbean rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Paul Bryant
Just seen the news about Sony's movie The Interview and now I'm thinking - Uh oh - I hope this review doesn't get hacked and bring Goodreads down with it! Because really, all I am trying to do is to lower the international temperature and turn those tears to smiles as we present a short musical selection we like to call


President Obama (dressed as a Mother Superior) :

Have you met my good friend North Korea,
The craziest nation on earth?
You'll know it the minute you see it,
Jan 09, 2012 Grace rated it it was ok
It was ok. The subject matter and observations were pretty fascinating. But I LOATHED the artist's tone, and it was distracting. I found him to be disrespectful and xenophobic. Yes, I said disrespectful and I meant it. Sure, the North Korean government is responsible for some of the worst human rights violations in the world, and they deserve to be criticized. But the author chose to go there, chose to do business with them, and chose to allow the money he is getting paid for his work there to e ...more
Pramod Nair
Jul 14, 2015 Pramod Nair rated it really liked it
Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea - originally published as 'Pyongyang' in French - by Canadian cartoonist Guy Delisle, is a travel memoir presented in a graphic novel format. The book presents the author’s personal experiences at 'Pyongyang', the capital of North Korea during his two months stay in 2001 working as a coordinator between a French animation company and SEK studio in North Korea. During this stay every movement of Guy Delisle was constantly accompanied and monitored by the state ...more
Guy Deslisle's 'Pyongyang' provides a rare and interesting look at the nation of whispering prisoners. Deslisle was an animator before he started making comics, and oddly enough, North Korea has been a world leader in cell animation for decades. This meant he was one of the few westerners to live the surreal life in Pyongyang, spending two months on a work visa.


Animation is one of its more unlikely export success stories, but North Korea's richest domestic crop is fear and paranoia. What with t
Nov 19, 2008 Clickety rated it liked it
Reading this about the same time I read Persepolis 2 got me thinking about the differences between the experiences each author had traveling/living in another country. In Persepolis 2, the characters are a hodgepodge of flavors; in Pyongyang, there are two types: foreigner and native.

Delisle seems blissfully unaware of his own prejudice and selfishness, which was what really made the book ring true. I mean, honestly - everyone thinks that his or her own belief system and way of life is "right."
Lady Jayme,
May 06, 2008 Lady Jayme, rated it it was amazing
This book is a true account of a French animator (Guy Delisle) who travels to North Korea to oversee a cartooning project. Since North Korea is one of the most closed nations on earth and is run by a totalitarian government, this insight into North Korean life is amazing and somewhat shocking. This is a graphic novel and Delisle’s drawings are simple but fun. The lack of freedom is at times heartbreaking, but there are plenty of humorous moments. Delisle also throws in some facts about the world ...more
Aug 06, 2016 Ivan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic-novels
Bit different than other graphic novels I read. There is no classical storyline, plots twists or punchline.This is kind of memoir from one of not many foreigners who had visited North Korea and brief window into bleak realty of country surgically removed from the rest of the world.
Apr 12, 2015 Estelle rated it did not like it
I rated it 2 stars at first simply because I felt bad hating something a friend had lent me... But I've gotta be honest, so this is getting a 1 star and a spot on my "hated list".

I didn't even bother finishing it, I was just too annoyed by the author's tone, his racist and misogynist remarks and the very poor humor.
This is not for me at all and I'd much rather be reading something else.

Give it a try if you're curious (Delisle seems to be a very popular graphic novels writter) and see for yourse
Aug 04, 2016 Negativni rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Guy Delisle je u Sjevernoj Koreji radio kao posrednik između francuske produkcijske kuće za animacije i sjevernokorejskog studija koji im je radio manje zahtjevnu animaciju. Proveo je dva mjeseca u Pyongyangu, a u istoimenom stripu je zabilježio svoje dojmove.

Kako tehnologija napreduje s njom se razvija i reklamna industrija, tako da nam sve više vidike zaklanjaju raznim plakatima, a predviđa se da će u skoroj budućnosti plakati biti "inteligentni" i interaktivni, znat će tko im se približava i
Jul 31, 2008 angela rated it it was ok
Shelves: graphic-novels
I have to agree with some of the other reviews that call Delisle on his racism and misogyny. It wasn't even the kind of over-the-top, look-at-how-ridiculous-I-am-being, poking-fun-at-racism kind of racism that I've come to expect from so-called comedians and authors today. It was plain, old boring thinly veiled racism and misogyny. Objectifying women, calling them bitches, calling Korean children "monkeys", generalizing about "these" countries and all of Asia as if there is no diversity to be fo ...more
Adalira Morningstar
This book should be renamed to A Journey of a Fucking Asshole because the author is an insufferable, racist, whiny dickbag of colossal proportions.

I think I finally snapped after the author talks about how people in North Korea are going without food, only to turn around and complain that he's gaining weight from the oily food they serve him at his hotel. How the fuck can you be so insensitive to complain about being so well fed while others literally starve around you? How do you draw that and
Apr 21, 2013 Diane rated it really liked it
I've been trying to read more books about North Korea because of recent news events. This is an interesting memoir by a Canadian artist who was sent to Pyongyang for his animation work. (Apparently a lot of animation is now done in Asia.) Delisle has a Western viewpoint, and he shares his cynicism about the endless propaganda and nationalism that is promoted in North Korea. Being a foreigner, he has several privileges that the citizens don't, such as access to more food and electricity, but ever ...more
Christopher Pulleyn
Apr 01, 2008 Christopher Pulleyn rated it really liked it
Recommended to Christopher by: Kaitlin Grott
I have a real interest in the very secretive communist country of North Korea and this illustrated book was a very original and suitably quirky way of providing the reader with an insight into the life of a foreign worker in NK's capital city Pyongyang.

The book was really easy to pick up and read, although a little hard to put down with a lack of clear chapter divides. Considering that photographs and reports of the country are so heavily censored and restricted, Delisle very creatively illustra
Mar 15, 2008 serena rated it did not like it
Go read Lilburninbean's review. She pretty much does an excellent job summing up.

I forced myself to finish this graphic novel and felt like smacking the guy upside the head... Boo hoo hoo, poor French Canadian dude has to spend a few months in North Korea, living what is a very good life and eating very well compared to other North Koreans, but whining through it. Acting like a pretty standard spoiled, holier-than-thou Westerner. It is a poor, unenlightening account that doesn't bring you any cl
Nelson Zagalo
Jan 29, 2016 Nelson Zagalo rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comic
Esta semana escrevi para o IGN um texto* sobre a diferença entre contar histórias baseadas na realidade e na fantasia, defendendo que o facto de basear as histórias numa “verdade”, não as torna mais relevantes. O que digo aí não podia assentar melhor no problema com que me deparei ao ler "Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea", um livro de banda desenhada escrito por Guy Deslile, no qual relata os dois meses que passou na Coreia do Norte a trabalhar num filme de animação.

“Pyongyang” revela-se uma
Oct 18, 2015 Didi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who like graphic novels set abroad.
I finished this during the Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon in October 2015. This is the second Delisle graphic novel I've picked up. I enjoyed The Chronicles of Jerusalem a lot more than this one. I was lucky to have read it in French so I must say the tone of this graphic novel is a bit too snide at times. I found the information on North Korea very interesting and the artwork is really good too. Dells is definitely a very creative artist of graphic novels. However he should have toned down the sarca ...more
I wanted to like this. I expected to like this, honestly. I tried, I really did, but I just couldn't. I really enjoy graphic novels, I enjoy them when they are non-fiction, and I have been wanting to read travel memoirs since it's am unexplored and fascinating topic for me. This should have been a good fit.

The art was enjoyable in a simplistic way and there was a moment or two I smiled at a bit. I did learn a nit about North Korea that I didn't already know, which is always a plus. It did make m
Jose Luis
Un libro espectacular por el entorno en el que se desarrolla la historia, pero sin mucha historia que contar. El autor narra de forma anodina una sucesión de cosas en su mayoría anodinas, durante su estancia en el territorio más anodino (a la fuerza) del planeta. Lo importante que se extrae es lo que no se cuenta, lo que uno entrevé atando los cabos sueltos que el autor muestra desordenados.

Tres estrellas van por conseguir estar ahí, soportarlo, y atreverse a contarlo. Las dos que faltan llegarí
Aamil Syed
I've seen a couple of films about life in North Korea and one of them even had stuff about residential areas of Pyongyang and the villages outside. So none of what Delisle lists in this comic was surprising to me. But he has a really good way of making the story really personal and pepper it with some astute observations, like his observation about the thickness of the frames of the portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il or the fact that everyone wears a pin with pictures of the leaders.

I like
Nov 25, 2014 Aviva rated it did not like it
I see a lot of quibbling here about whether or not the author is an asshole. Mostly it's along the lines of "he called the water delivery woman a bitch; he's an asshole" vs. "no he didn't and no he isn't." And so on. Y'all are missing the point* -- he's an epic, amoral, complicit asshole just for taking the job in the first place. The reason for widespread boycotting of North Korea, even by aid organizations, is that economic activity doesn't help the people. Bringing economic activity to North ...more
May 12, 2009 Caroline rated it it was ok
Shelves: comics, nonfiction
A lot of interesting observations, but not much insight, in this comic-book-memoir. Guy Delisle was a French-Canadian cartoonist, working for an animation company in North Korea. As a rare Western glimpse inside that country, the book is valuable, and Delisle's spare cartooning creates a feeling of other-worldly bleakness. But as a story, there's not much to it, and Delisle and his European friends come off as bitter, smug jerks who joke constantly at the expense of their Korean guides and inter ...more
Claudio Salvetti
North Korea stands there, in the real world, a world in itself full of lies and contradictions. Like a work of Science Fiction where some ideas are carried to the last consequences.
Delisle is not the best guide, often disrespectful and xenophobic, his most profound observation is:
At a certain level of oppression, truth hardly matters, because the greater the lie, the greater the show of power. And the greater the terror for all.
However, this kind of works gets you into thinking about the world,
Aug 27, 2016 Martin rated it really liked it
You don't have to want to travel to Pyongyang to read this book. In fact, it's probably better you don't go there (and there includes North Korea in general). I read this book to learn about that country's history and to get a better understanding of the reality 'over there', and thanks to Delisle's little vignettes, it's Mission Accomplished.

Delisle's travelogues* all have the same qualities: they are informative without being pretentious; they're often funny; they're super easy to read and get
Not bad. The graphics are good. But having said that, Guy Delisle's work fails to shed any new light about the life of people living in North Korea. It might have been a revealing work when it was first published but almost all the things mentioned in the book about North Korea could be found easily on the internet in present times.

Being a cartoonist, Guy Delisle visited North Korea for 2 months on a work visa to supervise the animation of a children's cartoon show.

And yes, it also seem to me
Zach Danielson
Oct 18, 2010 Zach Danielson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Zach by: Kevin
This graphic novel is the autobiographical story of Canadian Guy Delisle's visit to North Korea, where he worked for two months as a consultant for an animation company. It's a very interesting view into this famously closed country, even if his experience is carefully controlled by the regime.

Delisle approaches everything with a dry, sarcastic sense of humor. The narrative takes frequent side trips to offer historical context, commentary, and pictoral musings.

He can be funny, but he can also
Jan 11, 2011 Hans rated it liked it
I remember a comment by Viktor Frankl about how the humor in the concentration camps was a form of "gallows humor", which best describes what it feels like when joking about North Korea. This book is essentially a travelogue about probably one of the most drab and yet bizarre places a westerner could possibly visit. The black and white penciling capture the drab while the drawing style captures the bizarre. Though there isn't much of a storyline, other than the author's quirky observations on th ...more
Nov 04, 2007 Mateo rated it it was amazing
When I was a little kid, we read comic books like Archie and Jughead or Dennis the Menace--innocent reads for innocent kids. Later, we--wait. I just have to interrupt myself to say this: Is there any way that Archie and Jughead were not totally gay? I mean, totally, completely, flamingly homo gaius maximus? Because, look, here you have two incredibly well-chested hotties in Betty and Veronica, walking around in miniskirts and hippie beads, and meanwhile A. and J. are hanging out with each other ...more
Jul 18, 2007 Pete rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: travellers, people who want to travel
Shelves: indiecomics
I don't remember much about the movie "Lost in Translation," but what I do remember is that it did do a good job of capturing that mixed sense of loneliness and exoticism found through travel and exploration. That's the same thing that I really like about "Pyongyang."

Written through from the perspective of a visiting French-Canadian animator, this book gives you a sense of his daily life there, what he's allowed to see and not to see. As an American, this account was especially interesting as it
Mar 13, 2014 Sarah rated it liked it
This was a fascinating look into visiting contemporary-ish North Korea, and I'm definitely interested in Delisle's other graphic novel travelogues. I'm docking a star because some of Delisle's reactions to his surroundings were unexpectedly lacking in empathy, and his contempt for the regime occasionally bled into contempt for the people who live at its mercy. In particular, his deliberate baiting of his handlers and his mean little fantasy of pouring water over the head of the hotel worker task ...more
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Born in Quebec, Canada, Guy Delisle studied animation at Sheridan College. Delisle has worked for numerous animation studios around the world, including CinéGroupe in Montreal.

Drawing from his experience at animation studios in China and North Korea, Delisle's graphic novels Shenzen and Pyongyang depict these two countries from a Westerner's perspective. A third graphic novel, Chroniques Birmanes,
More about Guy Delisle...

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