• North Korea Confidential

  • Private Markets, Fashion Trends, Prison Camps, Dissenters and Defectors
  • By: Daniel Tudor, James Pearson
  • Narrated by: Derek Perkins
  • Length: 4 hrs and 45 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (92 ratings)

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North Korea Confidential

By: Daniel Tudor,James Pearson
Narrated by: Derek Perkins
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Publisher's Summary

**Named one of the best books of 2015 by The Economist**

Private Markets, Fashion Trends, Prison Camps, Dissenters and Defectors.

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 "theater state" even as it pays little more than lip service to the wellbeing of the overwhelming majority.

With this profoundly 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 the lives of those who survived forever.

A lawless form of marketization 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.

In seven fascinating chapters, the authors explore what life is actually like in modern North Korea today for the ordinary "man and woman on the street." They 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 neighboring China, and textual accounts appearing in English, Korean and Chinese sources. The resulting stories reveal the horror as well as the innovation and humor which abound in this fascinating country.

©2015 Daniel Tudor & James Pearson (P)2018 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved

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Interesting portrait of North Korea marred by awful pronunciation

Interesting take on the modern North Korean society and economy that provides a more nuanced picture of the country than many sources. The narrator is generally good, but his pronunciation of Korean terms is laughably awful. I’m living in South Korea now and could barely understand what he was saying, ridiculous rising tones on random syllables, like he’s trying to read Korean words with some ‘40s era Hollywood stereotypical “east Asian” accent. Even basic terms like “Kim Jong Il” are mispronounced with strange intonations and rising stresses. It’s distracting and takes away from an otherwise good narration, especially when a 15 minute primer on the pronunciation of Korean transliterations prior to recording would probably have cleared up the more glaring issues. Otherwise a refreshing and informative take on aspects of the country rarely discussed in the west.

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intresting ,but the final analysis is flawed

Good book has some interesting facts,but the authors' final argument is that the government of Pyongyang will reform and embrace a market economy, but if that were the case the DPRK would of done that already.

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  • Adrian J. Smith
  • 09-11-20

Readable and eye opening expose on North Korea

North Korea Confidential is an amazingly effective book. For those unfamiliar with North Korea, it will dismantle your preconceived notions. For the more committed North Korea followers, it may provide something new. All this it does within a concise and highly readable narrative.
Tudor explores the North Korean state in the form of the economy (a private market, wild west capitalism), the penal system (pretty bad regardless), the political system (ultimate power is the shadowy OGD) and new trends, including fashions, Whiskey and luxury items.
As a keen North Korea follower, I have previously read on the history of North Korea, this concerns itself mainly with the present. We learn that a very different economy has emerged in North Korea to the command economy one would assume would exist in a Stalinist state. Private markets operate and follow Adam Smith's invisible hand much more so than the State's highly visible hand. The book concludes that the last attempt to reign in private markets was the disastrous currency reform of late 2009.
One of the most fascinating pieces is the organization of the DPRK, wherein the key organ of power, according to Tudor, is the Organization and Guidance Department, the shadowy OGD. This is revealed to be without a discernible head, wherein several power brokers compete. Kim Jong Un may not be as all powerful as people assume. The DPRK is indeed an Oligarchy, and the main organ through which the competing factions operate is the Organization and Guidance Department, established in 1946, but turned into an organ of power by Kim Jong Il in the 1970s. It was through the OGD that Jang Sung Taek was likely felled from power, and many other key decisions were likely made.
Interesting are the emerging trends, with Pyongyang becoming home to newly minted millionaires, luxury cars appearing and new fashion trends that buck the trend of the otherwise austere dystopia people imagine it to be.
As with all things North Korea, nothing is as clear as one would think, but this book provides more light than the sensatonalist media coverage.
What does one take home from North Korea Confidential? New insights and some rays of hope. North Korea is far from a Worker's Paradise, but change is happening, and hope is very much alive.
The narration is lively, with an academic like voice, and keeps one interested, a greater pleasure to listen to than to read, though I did read it last year.

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  • Lena h.
  • 06-29-21

Best book so far about DPRK

This proved the most objective, informative book about DPRK that I've ever read. I strongly recommend this book. Very well narrated, too.

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  • Elliot
  • 12-30-21

Captivating

Couldn’t turn this one off. Kept me very interested, but didn’t go too in depth for a beginner. A good all rounder to introduce you.