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Posts Tagged ‘North Korea’

Kim Jong-Un’s First Speech, Interpreted as Doggerel

May 16, 2012 | by

On April 15, Kim Jong-Un, the new leader of North Korea, gave his long-awaited maiden speech, on the hundredth anniversary of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, the country’s founder. Befitting the occasion, enormous crowds attended, and male and female soldiers marched with goose-stepping precision.

North Korea-watchers considered it an important moment to gauge the new leader, and he did not disappoint, celebrating the particular take on history that distinguishes North Korea from all other nations.

A full transcript has just been provided by a North Korean website, but for the readers of The Paris Review, a condensed version has been prepared, in poetic form.
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Adam Johnson on ‘The Orphan Master’s Son’

January 24, 2012 | by

On December 19, 2011, one of the main characters in Adam Johnson’s new novel, The Orphan Master’s Son, died. His name was Kim Jong Il. Had Kim lived, he might have approved of the impish, devious, and dangerously mercurial simulacrum that Johnson summons in his epic about modern North Korea, published by Random House this month. He may have been less pleased that an ordinary citizen named Jun Do usurps him as the hero of the book—springing from a labor camp in a doomed quest for freedom.

Johnson, who teaches fiction at Stanford’s Stegner Program and grew up in South Dakota and Arizona, has written about characters caught in dystopian settings before (he is the author of a short-story collection, Emporium, and a novel, Parasites Like Us) but never on such a grand scale or in such unfamiliar territory. Earlier this month I caught up with him by phone to ask how he came to write about North Korea, and about the perils of researching a place about which so little is known. Read More »


On the Shelf

January 4, 2012 | by

A cultural news roundup.

  • RIP Josef Skvorecky.
  • The Adequate Gatsby.
  • Jay Caulfield?
  • Actors Anonymous.
  • The strange mystery of Michiko Kakutani’s Twitter.
  • The strange experience of eating with Marianne Moore.
  • “By two o’clock on New Year’s Day in this Dickens bicentennial year, I already found myself wishing that either he or I had never been born.”
  • Reading North Korea.
  • Martin Luther online.
  • “The endless malleability of digital writing promises to overturn a whole lot of our assumptions about publishing.”
  • The world’s most expensive book?
  • A good year for the Good Book.

    The People’s Favorites

    June 15, 2010 | by

    When Brazil and North Korea kick off this afternoon, it will be a one-sided matchup of, perhaps, the two most fashionable teams in the tournament. Brazil’s Seleçao is the tournament’s most skilled team and, under head coach Dunga, might be also its most disciplined, but international supporters find themselves drawn to the squad less for its status as favorites than for its country's exported image of an enviable Carnival culture—exuberant, indulgent, scintillating, sexy.

    The Hermit Kingdom is a more improbable fan favorite—an unknown team from an unknowable country, “as secretive about its. . . training as about its weapons buildup,” as one newspaper put it. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the North Korean team is, on average, two inches shorter than their South Korean counterparts—a height difference mirrored in still-diverging national averages—and it's hard not to read into that fact the horrific history of growth stunted by North Korean famines.

    North Korea does boast one star—Jong Tae-Se, known as “the People’s Rooney,” a native Japanese who plays in that country’s J-League and who has never lived in North Korea. Off the field, he seems to have what counts as flair among his teammates—traveling with a PlayStation and an iPhone, declaring his desire to play in the English premiership—but in the lead up to the Cup he has also shown himself a model subject of the Kim dynasty, promising a Stakhanovite output of one-goal-per-game. He has also guaranteed that his team will advance over Brazil, Portugal, or the Ivory Coast—showing an even more deluded sense of national purpose. For this, he and his compatriots have been celebrated by just about every media outlet covering the cup—including, even, the normally gimlet-eyed New Republic, with their “Five Things You Don’t Know About North Korean Soccer.” An earlier version of the DPRK team was called "a squad of Charlie Chaplins," and for the next ninety minutes, their great dictator won't be the only one going crazy for these unfortunate tramps. The loyalties of imperious fans run impulsive and contrarian, and sport may be the only form of international relations in which irony can freely reign.