The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Kang Chol-Hwan and Pierre Rigoulot

In another life (and very infrequently updated blog), I rule with an iron fist, smashing revolution and oppressing peasants. Like my sister and her (unhealthy) interest in natural disasters, I find myself drawn to those who rule nations unilaterally, giving free reign to every crazeball desire their hearts could dream up. Naturally, Niyazov remains at the top of my list of deranged megalomaniacs in terms of sheer over-the-topness, but recently the world lost another of its great and insane despots, Dear Leader himself, Kim Jong-il.

He may not have built a golden statue of himself that revolves to always face the sun, but he did have his own flower (something that my dictatorial self is extremely jealous of), he started a giant rabbit breeding program to end famine in North Korea, and he even made a socialist Godzilla film. Given the alarming rate at which dictators are being killed or are just dying, the world may not see again such flagrant disregard for the constraints of reality. And so, my brain turns this page over to its totalitarian half and a book it read about North Korea to remember the legacy of the man who brought double-bread meat to the hungry people of North Korea. 

Oh dear peasants, I often think gladly about the amorphous nature of the borders of the Independent Republic of Josi. After all, if you are to escape My cruel iron fist, you must first know the way out. And I’m sure that you who have attempted this escape and still live so that I might make examples of you, you are well aware of the vague nature of the borders of this mighty republic and the god-like omnipotence of My secret squad of doom who steal you from your homes in the middle of the night.

Imagine if you were able to find a border and slip away in the dark to a neighbouring country hostile to the IRJ. (Yes, Canada, My steely gaze is firmly fixed on you.) The shame you would bring on yourself and the UN inspectors you would entice into My seat of power! Just the thought of dealing with those pusillanimous bureaucrats is nearly enough to put me off of these delightful and expensive truffles. And to think that My dear friend and loyal ally Kim Jong-il has gone through exactly this. And that the contemptible peon who slipped out of the great Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would spill state secrets in a book! That was written in French with Pierre Rigoulot and translated into English by Yair Reiner! My only hope is that in his too-brief life, sweet Jong-il never had to see this terrible betrayal by a seemingly loyal citizen.

In The Aquariums of Pyongyang, the lost sheep of a citizen Kang Chol-Hwan tells of being sent with his family to a reeducation camp at the age of nine. I personally have a strict policy of keeping children of political dissidents to work in the presidential diamond mine (their little hands are perfect for plucking diamonds out of the earth!), but I can understand why dear Jong-il would have rounded up an entire family for reeducation. Apple and tree and all that. And knowing the great leader of the DPRK, I am convinced that this book is made entirely of lies. Camps like these are to turn those wayward sheep into proper citizens again, not torture them by locking them into tiny boxes for months on end.

And no one in a reeducation camp lacks proper nutrition, forcing them to catch and eat rats and insects. That sort of thing would never take place. The late Jong-il, like Myself, loved his citizens and only wanted the best for them. When we catch our peons doing things like listening to foreign radio, we have no choice but to chase those foreign lies out of their heads. Those outsiders will say anything to destroy our perfect and sacred regimes.

What we have here is a man desperate to smear the good name of a good man. There are no famines in the DPRK. They are completely self-sufficient. Would you deny the words of one of the greatest communists I have ever had the pleasure of dining on heart-stoppingly delicious caviar with? No, this Kang fellow is clearly out to sabotage the decades of hard work put in first by Kim Il-sung and then by his son, My own friend, Jong-il. And now Jong-il is gone, unable to even defend himself against this vicious campaign of hate. These lies must be stopped. Take a moment, citizens, if you value your lives, to send your sympathies to the Republic at this time of great mourning. Keep Jong-il in your hearts, remember all the great and wonderful miracles he has wrought for this world and for his people, and let the DPRK know that they still have allies outside their borders. And then pull the string to extinguish your lone light source. You have wasted enough of My power today.

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