The struggle to survive in North Korea is surveyed in this overview of that secretive country currently in the news.
Chapter by chapter, this useful research source describes the totalitarian government and the family, school, work, social, and political spheres. Bolstered by quotes from defectors and scholars in the field, the author combines telling statistics (though without comparisons that might foster greater understanding) with loaded language such as “paranoid desire” and “slavishly.” The historical background offered is limited to the 20th century, briefly mentioning the Japanese occupation and focusing on the post–Korean War years. There are clear descriptions of the philosophy of juche, the songbun social class system, gray markets, and other aspects of North Korean life. Allen’s (Thinking Critically: Terrorism, 2018, etc.) exposition is clear and well-organized and his information well-documented in web sources that can also be accessed by the reader seeking further information. The design is appealing with legible text broken up with appropriate headings, color photographs, and pullout boxes highlighting and repeating quotations. Sidebars include longer quotations from other sources on subjects such as “Respect for Authority in a North Korean School,” “Schools for Hackers,” and “Crystal Meth as a Diet Drug."
Timely and accessible, this will be a useful addition to school and public libraries. (source notes, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 12-16)