Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “North of the DMZ: Essays on Daily Life in North Korea” as Want to Read:
North of the DMZ: Essays on Daily Life in North Korea
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  524 ratings  ·  36 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 ...more
Paperback, 346 pages
Published April 24th 2007 by McFarland & Company (first published January 1st 2007)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about North of the DMZ, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about North of the DMZ

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  524 ratings  ·  36 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of North of the DMZ: Essays on Daily Life in North Korea
Mar 21, 2010 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Oct 13, 2010 rated it liked it
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
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
Mar 02, 2013 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Interesting content but needed more depth and a better editor
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 ...more
Oct 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Aaron Schlafly
Oct 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Trey Howard
Dec 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, n-korea, asia
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
May 06, 2013 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Sep 12, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Feb 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lankov saw the last of the "Soviet years" in North Korea as an exchange student, and is one of the very rare people to lend the Russian perspective on NK in the Western press. The book is a collection of articles that were initially published for the Korea Times. Topics range from matters as large as Soviet-North Korean relations to things as small as the Kim il-Sung pins that the population must wear.
Feb 26, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: educational, asia
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.
Diane Henry
Apr 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Because this book is adapted from a series of newspaper column, the essays are often repetitive. That, plus a slightly strange writing style due to either translation issues or the fact that the author is not a native English speaker, rendered this far more difficult to get through than I would have thought.
Thao Hoang
Dec 05, 2017 rated it liked it
I like reading about North Korea. I've read a lot of books about North Korea and this book is one of my least favorite. I like the idea of essays but at times, it feels a little bit too overwhelming to read. Nonetheless, the book does have a lot of information about North Korea so it might be a good read for those who want to get a bit more information about the country.
Mar 06, 2014 rated it liked it
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.
Valentin Ivanov
Feb 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 18, 2012 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Teresa M Brenner
Very through

I've been reading a lot of books on North Korea, and this one is the best so far. It covers every aspect of life in "the hermit kingdom", from the top to the typical citizen.
Chris Barber
Feb 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 09, 2013 added it
In light of the current sabre-rattling from Pyongyang, this survey of life in North Korea is interesting, if a bit dry.
Jun 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
A good collection of essays on life in North Korea from a Russian who has lived in both North Korea and in the USSR.
Krisna Partawindu
Nov 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Nice Book, really open my eyes from North Korea
Apr 10, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: east-asia
the first part is typical for orientalizing 19th century travel books: tidbits of exotica. there are some useful chapter in the second part, though.
Andrew Daniels
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: post-cold-war
Its a light read, full of shocking bits, but in the end, its not a very reliable book, its sort of a collection of rumours and things he's heard, but there is little fact-checking. The author clearly knows very little about Korean history, Soviet history, or history in general, so he's constantly saying random nonsense that he he's heard at some point. Ultimately, all of the reliability issues undermine the book fatally in my eyes, I was not able to just enjoy it, but was irritated by his lack ...more
I recommend this for anyone interested in North Korea. The generally short essays are organized into parts 1 to 18 and cover topics from the social-political order, to the fashion and hobbies of the people; this makes it an accessible book for both research and general interest. It definitely reads like articles at times and this can be good depending on the reader. I do prefer more autobiographical and emotion-centered NF when it comes to history and politics, but I feel like this is a good way ...more
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • 十個詞彙裡的中國
  • Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite
  • Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter
  • The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever
  • Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls
  • Wilderness Days (Boston Jane, #2)
  • Boston Jane: An Adventure (Boston Jane, #1)
  • Forest of a Thousand Lanterns (Rise of the Empress, #1)
  • The Claim (Boston Jane, #3)
  • Song of the Crimson Flower
  • Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice
  • The Cutter Incident: How America's First Polio Vaccine Led to the Growing Vaccine Crisis
  • To Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima
  • The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters
  • Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault
  • A Freewheelin' Time: Greenwich Village in the Sixties, Bob Dylan and Me
  • Sergei Prokofiev: A Biography
  • See You Again in Pyongyang: A Journey into Kim Jong Un's North Korea
See similar books…
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.

Related Articles

Need another excuse to treat yourself to new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our lis...
43 likes · 10 comments