North Korea is one of the most troubled societies on earth. The country’s 24 million people live under a violent dictatorship led by a single family, which relentlessly pursues the development of nuclear arms, which periodically incites risky military clashes with the larger, richer, liberal South, and which forces each and every person to play a role in the “theatre state” even as it pays little more than lip service to the wellbeing of the overwhelming majority.
With this deeply anachronistic system eventually failed in the 1990s, it triggered a famine that decimated the countryside and obliterated the lives of many hundreds of thousands of people. However, it also changed life forever for those who survived.
A lawless form of marketisation came to replace the iron rice bowl of work in state companies, and the Orwellian mind control of the Korean Workers’ Party was replaced for many by dreams of trade and profit. A new North Korea Society was born from the horrors of the era – one that is more susceptible to outside information than ever before with the advent of k-pop and video-carrying USB sticks. This is the North Korean society that is described in this book.
The authors interview experts and tap a broad variety of sources to bring a startling new insider’s view of North Korean society – from members of Pyongyang's ruling families to defectors from different periods and regions, to diplomats and NGOs with years of experience in the country, to cross-border traders from neighbouring China. The resulting stories reveal the horror as well as the innovation and humour which abound in this fascinating country.
About the authors
Daniel Tudor graduated with a BA in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from Oxford University. He has lived in Seoul, Korea, for several years, and served as The Economist’s Korea correspondent from 2010 to 2013. His first book, Korea: The Impossible Country, received strong praise. Tudor is a regular columnist for a Korean newspaper, the Joongang Ilbo, and has commented on Korea-related topics many times for the BBC, Al Jazeera, and others.
James Pearson holds a BA in Chinese and Korean from the School of Oriental and African Studies and a Master’s of Philosophy in Oriental Studies from the University of Cambridge. He currently serves as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Seoul, where he covers politics and general news in North and South Korea.