North Korean Memoirs: The Life of An American Agent Who Defected to North Koreaby Mark D. Treston
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Journey into the life of a renegade American who decided to defect to the most reclusive and oppressive nation in modern history: North Korea. An American idealist defects to North Korea in the 1970's only to discover the true horrors of this Stalinist state. What happens next would shock even those familiar with authoritarian regimes.
The author, an American Foreign Service worker in china, meets a man by the name of "David". David entrusts the author with his diary and makes the author promise him that the diary will be shown to the world as "evidence of what North Korea is really like". Following this encounter, the author never sees David again.
The author discovers that within the pages of this diary lies an incredible story of defection, survival, and an eventual escape by the man he knows only as "David". After staying up and reading the entire diary, the author is convinced that David's story must be told to the world.
The diary details David's life from his fairly comfortable upbringings, through his rebellious youth, and into his extraordinary decision to defect to North Korea. At first, David enjoys an elevated status in North Korea as a "hero" and a "patriot" of the socialist cause.
During two decades as an English professor at the most prestigious North Korean University, David experiences love, seduction, betrayal, and violence.
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this book should be taken for what it is - a fictional account of an american defector - and not an authoritative account of north korea, its policies, and its people. that said, i liked the premise and the anecdotes of david's daily life, however i was bothered by the poor narratives (namely, the massive reiteration) and the shoddy proofreading process. i believe this book would have been much better in the hands of a good editor or a more seasoned writer.
The extreme conditions of North Korea and he survived to tell about it. 20 years he spent there under the rule of the Kim family, going from teacher to prisoner in the vast work camp system. An amazing diary of life in North Korea - a must read to understand the plight of the Noth Korean people.
This book is in the Genre of Historical Fiction. The story plot follows the life of an American who defected to North Korea in the early 1970's. To understand how someone might want to defect to the 'Hermit Kindgom,' one must put themselves in the shoes of an American intellectual from the Bay Area in the late 1960's and early 1970's. The world was a very different place during that era and the prospects of a healthy and viable democracy in the United States were slim to nil. The character, David, was based on several real individuals who defected to North Korea. The major difference is that no one of that caliber has ever really defected to North Korea. Most of those who defected were American GI's with barely a high school education. It is therefore a lot more interesting to see a character that is educated and worldly and able to climb the social ladder of the mysterious Korean apparatus. The author has tried to make the diary and the character as believable as possible in order to give the story credibility. Sometimes the readers find themselves completely engrossed in the character's thoughts and feelings. The book was well researched and offers readers an in depth look at North Korea from its height to its eventual collapse as a viable nation state. The fact that the Kim dynasty continues to hold onto power can only be understood after reading such a book.
While the story had promise, the execution was less than stellar. The writing itself was clunky and repetitive, and showed little evidence that it had been proofread, much less actively edited. David, the protagonist, was not a particularly sympathetic character, and the tone of the book resembled that of a self-criticism made by a prisoner in a Chinese (or North Korean?) re-education camp. Overall, this was a disappointing read: the storyline was not developed as fully as I'd hoped, and the writing was distractingly bad.
if you want to get an amazing glimpse into the hermit kingdom, where the whims of one bizarre man ARE policy, and where any non-confomity is punishable by death, then read Mr. Treston's book. Even though this book is under fiction, it is hard not to think that Mr. Treston has some real insight into the real North Korea. The more I see on the news, the more I think that this book's author has an inside source or that he has based his story on a real American defector. Fiction or non-fiction, this is a book everyone from politicians to teachers should read if they want to get acquianted with one of the members of the Axis of evil, and the newest nuclear madman on the block.
I bought this book while researching a North Korean documentary about refugees escaping the country into China. This is a moving and chilling account of what is really going on behind the secret curtain in North Korea. The leadership of this country is pure evil with seemingly ill intentions for all, and everyone needs to find out more about that, whether it is from this fictional (but very fact-based) account, or from other resources. North Korea is only going to be playing more and more of a role in global issues to come, so get educated now. Very recommended.
One of the best historical and political novels ever written. It goes quickly and you learn so much, not just about North Korea, but about the entire world. There should be more books like this!
Mark Treston, the author of North Korean Memoirs, writes of a historical fiction with a unique style of narrating as if his excerpts are based on real stories. After the intro, for a moment, it seemed as if Mark were going to directly flashback to David¿s journal; however, readers are taken aback when they observe that the narrator speaks of his past, which indirectly symbolizes Communism in North Korea or the characteristics of Socialism. The narrator¿s early childhood embeds every inch of Communist¿s ideal lifestyle as he grows up in San Francisco. His life is isolated by both of his parents and by his neighbors. It is as if he is brain washed, blinded by the truth. This type of life style shares similarity with the life of the main actor in the movie, ¿Truman Show,¿ where the main actor lives in a world where everyone knows the truth but himself. He is the only one fooled by the filming. Although the narrator is not fooled in this book, he is forcefully kept back by his parents in seeing the world outside of San Francisco. Geographical barrier, which is Pacific Ocean, adds to his desperate feelings to experience the outside world. Furthermore, readers can see the truth easily if they see the comparison between North Korea and San Francisco; Kim Jong Il aided by his regime and the narrator¿s parents. The only source to knowing the outer world is to have deep connections with Chinese immigrants. The author starts out North Korean Memoirs with several literary techniques that serve as partial foreshadowing and profound ideas full of symbolisms. As the story continues, more ideas of communism appear through the narrator¿s mood. The author gives a clue, giving answers to ¿what expectations can communism bear if they are informed that they are allowed to move to an alienated country.¿ In the beginning of chapter two, the narrator is full of excitement. He gets the chance to know all he wants to know about Korea. Yet, everything visible is a mystery to the narrator. This is the same idea in which communists, especially North Koreans, believe in the existence of only five countries: North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, and the United States. North Koreans are so isolated that they have no clue as to what is going on around them or above them. This is the same way that the narrator feels when he leaves San Francisco and moves to South Korea.
Anyone interested in the last Stalinist state must read this book. This book is an easy reader, yet I learned so much. I had no idea what life was really like in North Korea let alone the psychology of a authoritarian regime. What I liked most about this book is that I could relate to the characters and picture the places the author mentions. The author has a real knack for understanding his readers and making his readers want to turn the page.