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This is Paradise!
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This is Paradise!

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  1,103 Ratings  ·  132 Reviews
Hyok Kang was eighteen when he escaped from North Korea, a country locked away from the outside world. This personal, illustrated account of school days in a rigidly communist institution and everyday life with his family and community provides a rare glimpse of this secretive nation.
His shocking and moving portrayal bears witness to this spirited young boy's resilience a
Paperback, 224 pages
Published July 5th 2007 by Abacus (first published 2004)
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Jul 05, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Marija S.
Nov 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs, non-fiction, prk, asia
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 --
La Petite Américaine
May 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Laura Lam
Dec 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, nonfiction, war
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
May 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
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).
Kirsten T
3.5 stars. Short, interesting, and readable, with stars deducted for a somewhat unreliable narration. Some points:

A) I love escape narratives with all the passion of a 19th century Protestant housewife reading about the secret debaucheries of escaped Catholic nuns. If you break away from Scientology, or bigamous Mormonism, or any dictatorship or radicalized regime, I want to read about it!
B) I want to believe.
C) North Korea is horrible, and I have no doubt that the picture the author paints o
Mar 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: bookclub
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
This book was so interesting that I finished it in a day. It is a frank look into North Korean life through the eyes of a child, offering a unique perspective. Written in clear prose, the book is simultaneously educational and deeply engrossing. I liked how a large portion of the book was dedicated to Kang's journey and eventual settlement in South Korea, seeing him learn to adapt to life in this very different country. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in memoirs and/or North a ...more
Oct 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Casper Van
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great first hand description of life in North Korea during the time of the Great Famine. Features many descriptions and analyses of the workings of life and society in North Korea, which makes the reader understand better how the country functions and how its citizens try to maintain themselves. Recommended!
Apr 27, 2012 rated it liked it
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.
Nov 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: north-korea
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.
Jun 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Very interesting insight of the North Korean life especially during the famine from the eyes of a little boy. Definitely worth to read!
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I find it so healthy to read about a place that is often so demonized. The story allowed for an honest account of life growing up in North Korea. Friendship, family, dreams, and survival humanize the experience that is often talked about so dismissively. I found the account fascinating to read. I do wish that there was more attention to the setting. I would have loved to imagine what the place must have looked like. I also would have enjoyed a little slower ending where there was more than one c ...more
Sally Bennett
Feb 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shocking...disgusting...heart-rending...but with a happy ending. It was quite difficult to read some of the story because those of us outside of their border cannot honestly come up with just how horrible it can be to grow up in North Korea. You can't make that stuff up. And, for me, what brought it home was knowing that the author is only three years older than my eldest child. And the same year that he was running for his life, hiding in China, I was in China as a tourist with my two kids. The ...more
Wendelle So
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: great
this account could be divided into three parts: how a young North Korean boy and his family unit managed together to scrape together a life of normalcy and routine under the North Korean regime before the famine; a terrifying account of life firsthand during the famine; and their flight into China and finally, South Korea.

The author's circumstances while living in North Korea were already a bit special and relatively privileged, coming as he did immediate ancestry that had voluntarily migrated f
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such an eye opening and heart breaking book. Educated me on one of the most secret and scariest countries in the world.
Will be looking into more history and ways to help the refugees of North Korea
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
May 11, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nelson Lourenço
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Nome do Livro em Português: "Aqui é o Paraíso!: Uma infância na Coreia do Norte"

O livro muito interessante e que recomendo!!!


"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
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
Dec 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
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
Yun Zhen
Jan 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Das Buch wurde mit Hilfe eines französischen Journalisten geschrieben.
Das hat mit Sicherheit die Art des Buches beeinflusst, macht es aber nicht weniger authentisch. Aber vermutlich wird deshalb nicht nur das Leben als solches beschrieben, sondern auch vieles etwas mehr erklärt.
Wobei man das, was in diesem Land vorgeht, eigentlich nicht erklären kann.

Der Stil ist sachlich und etwas distanziert - etwas was ich auch schon bei anderen Büchern erlebt habe, die von unfassbaren Dingen berichten. Verm
May 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Oct 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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The Armchair Trav...: * *This is Paradise* discussion 8 12 Feb 08, 2015 07:08PM  
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