Friday, 27 December 2013

168/111 - Pyongyang by Guy Delisle

I actually bought this as a Christmas present this year for a couple of people as it looked really interesting so I sneaked a look at it earlier this afternoon. It's an autobiographical graphic novel told by Guy, who is an animator who goes to work in Pyongyang for a few months, and he talks about his experiences living in this slightly mysterious city.

I've had a few conversations about North Korea with people recently and so thought this might be a good introduction to the subject as I know very little about it, save for what I've seen in Team America World Police, which probably isn't all that accurate. In other pop culture references, I also really enjoyed the chapter on North Korea in World War Z where it talks about the North Korean people gradually disappearing into the tunnels under the cities, and the narrator of the chapter wonders whether one day a tunnel to their underground city might burst open and millions of undead will come flooding out. Spooky.

Anyway, Guy talks about some of the different aspects of day to day life living as a foreigner in North Korea, for example that the hotel lights are only lit on his floor, as this is where all the foreigners are staying, whilst the rest of the floors are dark. He talks about how the people are constantly preparing for a war that might break out at any second, and that any day now they hope that they might be reunited with South Korea. He has a guide with him at all times and exploring in areas without his guide is frowned upon. He doesn't ever encounter any really threatening situation or anything really chilling, it's more just the gradual daily things which are so insidious.

I just can't comprehend it, and yet I suppose I have a similarly skewed perspective of the world having grown up in Western Europe, so how would I ever know I'm not the one being brainwashed like the North Korean people? I'm pretty sure there must be some things that I just take in without question, but how is it possible to exist totally outside your culture or outside history?

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