‘Dear Leader’ by Jang Jin-sung
Published by Rider
Reviewed by Steve Earles
There’s a very telling scene in Max Brook’s ‘World War Z’. The war against the zombies is over and the survivors are reviewing what has happened in the world. The survivors have no idea if North Korea’s dictatorship has survived as they withdrew, once the crisis began, to the safety of their bunkers.
That isolation from the outside world is not fiction, for the North Korean dictatorship and the people they rule, are incredibly isolated from the outside world, existing in their own tunnel vision world. This is a leadership that is responsible for the most terrifying crimes against its own people. A United Nations commission of enquiry found the Kim regime guilty of crimes against humanity, and further, that China’s treatment of Koreans violated international law (the main escape route for North Koreans to South Korea is through China, where they are subject to whatever treatment the Chinese chose to dish out to them)
Jang Jin-sung is a North Korean in exile in South Korea and certainly has the perspective and experience to tell his amazing story. He was actually one of North Korea’s chief propagandists, so he knows how the machine works from the inside out.
Korea could be summed up in nutshell as Stalin’s dictatorship surviving into the 21st century. Truly a chilling thought but the comparison is strong.
Jang’s story is amazing, if it were made into a film, it would be almost impossible to believe but it’s all too true.
The fact that Jang was so high up in the North Korean regime actually kept him in ignorance, it was not until he used his special status to travel back to his hometown that he saw how bad things actually are in North Korea. Jang began to confide in his friend, Hwang Young-min, a composer for the Wangjaesan Orchestra, Kim Jong-II’s court musicians. When the two fell foul of the regime, they felt the full reality of life in Korea, including the vile ‘guilt by association’ decree, where family members for the next two generations are viciously punished and often put to death for the supposed crimes of their relatives (this is totally Stalinesque, witness his treatment of his enemy Trotsky’s family). The story of the pair of friends escape is utter enthralling.
This is a very well written book, very accessible to the reader despite its weighty subject matter.
And finally, it’s an important book, the more people who know Jang’s story, the better.
‘The Bombing of Dublin’s North Strand, 1941’ by Kevin C. Kearns
Published by Gill & Micamillan
Reviewed by Steve Earles
On the night of the 31st of May, 1941, World War 2 came to neutral Ireland, when the north strand of Dublin City was bombed from the air. There had been some other aerial bombing, but nothing on the sheer scale of the night of the 31sy of May.
The tremors from the explosion were felt as far away as Enniskerry. Shops and home in the North Strand were devastated. Overall, an astonishing 2,250 buildings in Dublin were damage, over 40 people were killed, and a 100 serious hurt, with many more wounded, filling the hospitals and morgues. Nearly 2,000 people were made homelss. The Evening Herald newspaper called it a ‘Night of Horror’.
Amazingly, until now, no book has been written dealing specifically with this event, but near the end the 20th century, the Dublin City Archive and Irish Military Archive declassified their documents on the bombing, allowing the writer to compile a very accurate story of the bombing and it’s aftermath, using hard evidence. The real strength of the book is the testimony of the survivors making it an important social document as well as an enthralling read.
That this happened within living memory is incredible and Kevin’s fine book does the event justice.
Highly recommended and available from