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Publisher's Summary

"Destined to become a classic" (Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking), this harrowing memoir of life inside North Korea was the first account to emerge from the notoriously secretive country - and it remains one of the most terrifying.

Amid escalating nuclear tensions, Kim Jong-un and North Korea's other leaders have kept a tight grasp on their one-party state, quashing any nascent opposition movements and sending all suspected dissidents to its brutal concentration camps for "re-education." 

Kang Chol-Hwan is the first survivor of one of these camps to escape and tell his story to the world, documenting the extreme conditions in these gulags and providing a personal insight into life in North Korea. Sent to the notorious labor camp Yodok when he was 9 years old, Kang observed frequent public executions and endured forced labor and near-starvation rations for 10 years. In 1992, he escaped to South Korea, where he found God and now advocates for human rights in North Korea. 

Part horror story, part historical document, part memoir, part political tract, this book brings together unassailable firsthand experience, setting one young man's personal suffering in the wider context of modern history, giving eyewitness proof to the abuses perpetrated by the North Korean regime. 

©2005 Chol-hwan Kang, Pierre Rigoulot (P)2018 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"A chilling testimony....Freezes the heart and seizes the soul." (Kirkus Reviews)

"A triumph against silence." (Financial Times

"The Aquariums of Pyongyang is one of the most terrifying memoirs I have ever read. As the first account to emerge from North Korea, it is destined to become a classic." (Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking

What listeners say about The Aquariums of Pyongyang

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Riveting!!

Really enjoy this book! The tale was gripping & well narrated. I am moved by the survival imaging and personal insight of the author. This is the 2nd book I’ve read about North Korea, and I find myself so sad for the plight of the people forced to live under this regime. I pray that someday they know true personal freedom.

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Food for Thought

This is a short but compelling account of life in the North Korean gulag, which enslaves hundreds of thousands of it’s people. Getting to know Kang Chol-hwan and his family and their journey made the events of this book very personal. I felt like a member of the family. American leftists nowadays claim they are oppressed and our nation is not free, I believe they should read to this book. There is no government in the West that is oppressive, let alone anywhere near authoritarian like North Korea. Read this and grow up.

1 person found this helpful

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A Masterpiece

I am having a hard time remembering reading another book that was as meaningful to me as this one. it is really easy to dismiss N Korea as a bad place without giving it a second thought, but this dives deeply into what day to day life is like in N Korea and the Gulags, no spoilers, but the ending is wonderful, and ultimate triumph of good v evil.

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Stories from North Korea must be heard.

Read this.
I had read this book years ago, having been stationed in the US military in Seoul, fascinated then to learn more about the isolated north.
Americans and South Koreans are Free to express and tell our histories, but we need to realize what Kang Chol-hwan tells us, that It is important to try and express to the refugee how difficult it is for the free to understand how challenging it is for those from the north to transition after a life of indoctrination and isolation.
Park's reading is compassionate and clear. His English is impeccable with enough accent to add depth to Kang's story.

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Must read

Chilling. Extremely well told. A reality of communism every freedom loving individual should know. Communism only survives at the expense of freedom.

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Heart Wrenching

An excellent example of the dangers of communism, the way it extracts all hope from its unwilling adherents, and why indeed it is important to oppose it in any way possible. Exciting, tear jerking, truly a masterfully composed piece.

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An appalling account of sheer terror told by a survivor

Authentic description of the rule of terror under the North Korean dictatorship
A vivid account of how anyone can be thrown from the frying pan into the fire indefinitely —all based on the whim of the Party, without any explanation
This book is not for everyone. The beatings, systematic starvation, and brain washing of young children is hard to bear. You cannot complete this story without retaining an indelible picture of the destitution, constant state of fear, and consummate hopelessness under which the vast majority of these people live.

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Heartbreaking & appalling

This is the second true story by a N,. Korean "renegade". The depths of depravity are difficult to even realize, and the demented unquenchable power grabs on the backs of human beings should be judged and adjudicated by the UN. I am amazed that these fine men survived & escaped that inhumane exstence . To think in this day & age, treating people like this exists. Simply horr8ble.






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Cannot describe my feelings

I can’t describe to a would be listener how much this book has impacted me. The atrocities these people endured day after day, month after month, and year after year are unimaginable. It leaves a pit in my stomach, feeling unable to do something, anything, to help the North Korean people. I can’t believe our government will not rally the international community to bring about a regime change and subsequent freedom for these people. Very sad indeed. Our government appears to be as afraid of Kim Jong il as much as his country is. This is a very eye opening book.

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very enlightening publication. highly recommend!

loved it! This book gives a rare glimpse into the horrors experienced by a North Korean prisoner in a reeducation camp.