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Dear Leader von Chin-sŏng Chang
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Dear Leader (2014. Auflage)

von Chin-sŏng Chang

MitgliederRezensionenBeliebtheitDurchschnittliche BewertungDiskussionen
2891571,054 (4.09)6
"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 expose; 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"--… (mehr)
Mitglied:SamanthaD-KR
Titel:Dear Leader
Autoren:Chin-sŏng Chang
Info:London : Rider Books, 2014.
Sammlungen:Deine Bibliothek
Bewertung:****
Tags:goodreads import

Werk-Details

Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee--A Look Inside North Korea von Jang Jin-sung

  1. 10
    Im Land des Flüsterns von Barbara Demick (sagoldberg)
  2. 10
    Flucht aus Lager 14 von Blaine Harden (sagoldberg)
    sagoldberg: Another personal narrative of a North Korea refugee
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Best for:
Those interested in learning more about the recent history of North Korea from an inside perspective, set against the suspense of someone seeking asylum.

In a nutshell:
Jang Jin-Sung rose high within the North Korean ruling class as a poet, but eventually fled the country.

Worth quoting:
A lot, but I listened while running so didn’t have a chance to take note.

Why I chose it:
I stumbled across Michael Palin’s show about his visit to North Korea (https://www.natgeotv.com/me/michael-palin-in-north-korea/videos/michael-palin-in...) and realized I know next to nothing about life in North Korea.

Review:
This is an interesting book.

The book opens with a description of Jang being summoned for an audience with Kim Jong-Il, and just that is enough to realize we are not operating in a realm of what we would consider normality. The phone call comes in the middle of the night with no information other than a place to meet by 1AM. Jang is then driven with others in circles before boarding a train at a private railway station, being instructed to sleep for the two hour ride, then boarding a boat to an island, where the meet with Kim’s … dog. And Kim as well.

From there, the description of North Korea grows. At times it matches the very little I know about North Korea - the hunger, the inability to choose one’s own career - but also it fascinates me. There was an entire department of people who were allowed to view South Korean popular culture (books, poems, newspapers) so they could take on the voice of a South Korean, write books and poems praising North Korea, then distributing it through illegal means within South Korea as a form of propaganda.

Jang is relatively lucky from a young age - he is accepted to a performing arts school for music, but eventually is tutored by a famous poet and wins an award from the leader that includes, essentially a favor. Jang asks that he be allowed to pursue a career in writing instead of the required musical performance / composing career that his education would insist. The leader decrees it, and so Jang becomes a writer. And a very successful one, considering that meeting with Kim Jong-Il described up top happened when he was in his late 20s.

Due to sharing some of the South Korea materials with a friend, and the friend then losing those materials, Jang and his friend decide to run. We know, given he is writing this book, that Jang is ultimately successful, but the how — and the uncertainty around his friend — remains. The experience Jang shares is utterly harrowing. In some ways, he is very lucky in the people he encounters, but others either ignore him outright or actively threaten him with a promise to report him to the authorities.

Interspersed within what could work solely as an escape book is a description of North Korea, including Kim Jong-Il’s taking power from his father, the extreme poverty and danger in the provinces; and the challenges of everyday life in North Korea. He shares one story of returning to visit his home after living in Pyongyang for many years and discovering it changed, including so many laws and rules that, if broken, result in a quick public ‘trial’ and immediate execution.

Obviously one cannot learn all about one country from just one memoir, but this one was engrossing, fascinating, and heartbreaking.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep it (audiobook) ( )
  ASKelmore | Apr 13, 2021 |
Expectedly, this read as propaganda - but interesting all the same. ( )
  wetdryvac | Mar 2, 2021 |
Malala Yousafzai once wrote, “There is no greater weapon than knowledge and no greater source of knowledge than the written word.” I really couldn't think of any better words to describe Jang Jin-Sung's incredible story, who like Malala, had his human rights stripped from him. "Dear Leader" is a clear example of the written word being turned into a powerful weapon against the DPRK. This book has truly opened my eyes to the severe injustices that the people in North Korea face on a daily basis and the corruption that is rooted at its core.

After reading more and more about the stories of refugees, I feel like a little hobbit in a beautiful green patch of land, sitting in my comfortable hobbit hole, enjoying creature comforts, taking almost everything for granted and not realising just how very lucky I am.

I really think you should read Jang Jin-Sung's book, his story of survival and fight for freedom is just incredible. Put down the latest best seller and read something that's really going to stay with you. Everyone needs to hear his story. ( )
  MandaTheStrange | Oct 7, 2020 |
Fascinating for Academics and Casual Readers

Jang Jin-Sung's "Dear Leader" is the best-written account by a North Korean refugee. Not only does it provide valuable academic insights into the North Korean economy and government, but it is also an interesting and engaging book. The book is never hard to read, never short of interest, and never boring.

The book is divided into the three parts. The first part tells how and why Jin-Sung became disillusioned with his government, especially after a visit to his hometown where he saw his childhood friends wasting from starvation. The second part tells about his escape to China in the middle of winter, an exciting journey despite the deprivations of the North Korean refugees Jin-Sung meets. In the third part, he describes his arrival in South Korea after a long and hard road through China, where he is aided by the kindness of strangers. Throughout the book, Jin-Sung provides plenty of fascinating insights into his country.

We learn how Jin-Sung's department created a fictionalized biography of Kim Jong-Il, a process which leads Jin-Sung and his colleagues to believe Kim Jong-Il manipulated his way into his father's role as leader of the country, rather than being handed the keys as many people previously believed. There are interesting anecdotes about the criminal activities of North Korea, including kidnapping and the diplomatic manipulation that followed in the attempts of the outside world to get victims released. In addition, we learn about a large circle of elite citizens who belong to Kim Jong-Il's "Admitted," the Public Distribution System that broke down in the 1990s, and North Korea's hatred of the Chinese government because of the market pressure coming from the northern border. There is a particular focus on the bureaucracy in Pyongyang, particularly Jin-Sung's own propaganda department.

Jin-Sung's life, like that of any North Korean refugee, is full of tragedy and heroism. This account stands out from other memoirs in that it provides more "academic" insights into the country, whereas other memoirs concentrate more on relationships and deprivations. Also unlike other first-hand accounts, "Dear Leader" has a glossary and an excellent index. ( )
  mvblair | Aug 9, 2020 |
Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee-- A Look Inside North Korea by Jang Jin-sung provides an inside look into the North Korea. Jang served as one of the eight poet laureates of North Korea under Kim Jong-Il. Among those duties was the work on the Annals of the Kim Dynasty, where Jang notes, was written by writers and poets and not historians. As part of the protected, privileged, inner circle Jang did not experience the extreme poverty personally, but did encounter it on his trip back to his hometown. Jang’s inside experience makes Dear Leader the Breaking with Moscow of the early twenty-first century.

Most of what happens in North Korea, stays in North Korea. With only twenty-four embassies, there is little intelligence gathering throughout the country. The people have limited access to the media, all of it state owned. North Korea, poor, but with a government capable of monitoring daily lives and activities of it citizens. What it cannot monitor it enforces by threat. Prison camps and sentences for entire families (three generations) are not out of the norm and can be imposed for seemingly minor offences. Jang’s offence was losing a Western book he loaned to a friend. That carried the death penalty.

Jang manages to escape with the friend he loaned the book to and is better prepared to defect than most North Koreans. Once out of North Korea and in China they find that the previous privilege has no benefit in trying to get to South Korea or South Korean help. Throughout his escape he tells those who help him stories of what he witnessed and experienced in North Korea. The main problem he has getting to the right people. China does not want North Korean refugees, but turns a blind eye to importing women to be wive’s of Chinese men. But ordinary North Koreans are seen as a threat to legal Korean communities in China. There is also an interesting experience with Chinese Christian organizations and churches -- which were instrumental in helping latin American refugees in the 1980s.

I have read several books on North Korea and was a bit skeptical about this one. Several defectors have told stories of tremendous hardship and cruelty at the hands of the government or simply of government neglect when the times became difficult. It is with these experiences that people are able to make their case for asylum. South Korea accepts all defectors but the most practical way to escape is through China and then on to the South Korean embassy in Mongolia. Chinese guards the entrance to the South Korean Embassy checking passport of those trying enter. Jang does not disclose how he was able to enter the South Korean compound, but a careful reader or a person familiar with international law will easily figure it out.

All in all a great book and a great story. I did have a difficult time, at first, feeling any sympathy for a man in the inner circle of North Korean power who probably would have remained in his privileged position had his friend not lost a book. Jang, however, does come across as an honest person and sincere in his writing. A very good read about a country little real information is known about. ( )
  evil_cyclist | Mar 16, 2020 |
hinzugefügt von Stbalbach | bearbeitenWashington Post, Blaine Harden (Jun 6, 2014)
 
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"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 expose; 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"--

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