Academic journal article North Korean Review

Im Dienst Des Diktators: Leben Und Flucht Eines Nordkoreanischen Agenten (Serving the Dictator: Life and Escape of a North Korean Agent)

Academic journal article North Korean Review

Im Dienst Des Diktators: Leben Und Flucht Eines Nordkoreanischen Agenten (Serving the Dictator: Life and Escape of a North Korean Agent)

Article excerpt

Im Dienst des Diktators: Leben und Flucht eines nordkoreanischen Agenten (Serving the Dictator: Life and Escape of a North Korean Agent) By Ingrid Steiner-Gashi and Dardan Gashi, Vienna: Verlag Carl Ueberreuter, 2010, ISBN: 978-3-8000-7450-1, 206 pages.

This book tells us the story of the life of Kim Jong-Ryul, who has been working as a chief purchasing agent directly for the leadership of North Korea for more than 20 years. Written in German by the Austrian journalist Ingrid Steiner-Dashi and her husband Dardan Gashi, it is not a typical biography but more a story about Kim Jong-Ryul's life embedded in the general history of North Korea from the last years of Japanese occupation until today. This approach makes it very difficult for the reader to find the common thread since the story switches back and forth from general developments in the North to Kim's private life experiences. People with no knowledge of North Korean issues might find this approach interesting whereas others could find it hard to discern the facts from the agent's business and private life. Moreover, there are factual errors: the Korean War broke out in June not in August 1950, as stated in the second chapter.

Despite the book's flaws, Kim Jong Ryul has had a very interesting life. Born in 1935, he experienced the Japanese occupation and then the division of Korea, the Korean War, and the rise of the Korean Workers' Party, of which Kim's father was one of the first members in his hometown. A talented student, Kim was sent to the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) to study engineering and the German language. …

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