Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee--A Look Inside North Korea
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THE STORY THEY COULDN'T HACK: In this rare insider’s view into contemporary North Korea, a high-ranking counterintelligence agent describes his life as a former poet laureate to Kim Jong-il and his breathtaking escape to freedom.
“The General will now enter the room.”
Everyone turns to stone. Not moving my head, I direct my eyes to a point halfway up the archway where Kim Jong-il’s face will soon appear…
As North Korea’s State Poet Laureate, Jang Jin-sung led a charmed life. With food provisions (even as the country suffered through its great famine), a travel pass, access to strictly censored information, and audiences with Kim Jong-il himself, his life in Pyongyang seemed safe and secure. But this privileged existence was about to be shattered. When a strictly forbidden magazine he lent to a friend goes missing, Jang Jin-sung must flee for his life.
Never before has a member of the elite described the inner workings of this totalitarian state and its propaganda machine. An astonishing exposé told through the heart-stopping story of Jang Jin-sung’s escape to South Korea, Dear Leader is a rare and unprecedented insight into the world’s most secretive and repressive regime.
of goods. “Death by Firing Squad to Those Who Disobey Traffic Rules!,” “Death by Firing Squad to Those Who Hoard Food!,” “Death by Firing Squad to Those Who Waste Electricity!,” “Death by Firing Squad to Those Who Cut Military Communications Lines!,” “Death by Firing Squad to Those Who Hoard State Resources!,” “Death by Firing Squad to Those Who Spread Foreign Culture!,” “Death by Firing Squad to Those Who Gossip!” I hadn’t realized that there had been so many new regulations introduced in our
takes care of Kim Jong-il’s personal needs, through entities such as the Joy Division.” Chang-yong leapt up in surprise. I thought it was in reaction to my mentioning the “United Front Department,” so his next question threw me off completely. “Joy Division?” he exclaimed. “That thing where Kim Jong-il sleeps with girls? But your friend here is a man! You’re not saying that Kim Jong-il sleeps with men?” His heavy northern emphasis on the last syllable was even more pronounced, and both
brutal ideological training camp, where you relearn the only truth that matters in North Korea: that loyalty to the Dear Leader buys renown, and disobedience brings death. The person from whom I first began to understand the Kim Du-nam backstory was a general whose father had lost authority as a consequence of Kim Il-sung’s unseen fall from power. Although it was he who told me the story, he too seemed to fear Yodok. “No stranger must know this story. Don’t write it down: just know about it.
the veins on her pale neck. Her delicate skin looked translucent, a sheet of glass that seemed to reveal her kindness. Every time she smiled, her eyes closed in the shape of two small crescent moons like innocence itself. But, in her small soft face, her upturned nose hinted at an inner defiance that might sting like a bee if provoked. “What did your fiancé say? Is he Chinese?” I asked. She waved at the box of buns. “I’ve already eaten, you have them all. Yes, he’s Han Chinese. He said it was
fighting a cultural war on two fronts. The work of Office 101 was never confined to a single genre or medium. It employed speeches, video, music, and other forms of cultural expression—all under the names of South Korean or foreign authors—that could be used to infiltrate and influence the values of Koreans. In April 1998, for example, four months before the start of my work at UFD, Office 101 Section 1 (Newspapers) produced an article that received praise from Kim Jong-il. The piece was