Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea
||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (December 2014)|
Cover of the English-language paperback edition
|Cover artist||Guy Delisle|
|Genre||Graphic novel, memoir|
|Publisher||Drawn and Quarterly|
|Media type||Print (hardcover, paperback)|
Pyongyang documents Delisle's experiences in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, where he stayed for two months. Acting as the liaison between a French animation producing company (Protecrea working for TF1) and the SEK Studio (Scientific Educational Korea) company, he struggles with the difficulties of outsourcing and the bureaucracy of the totalitarian closed state.
The book has 176 pages, two of them drawn by a French colleague ("Fabrice").
Delisle does not expect to return to North Korea, writing: "I don't think I would be welcome there anymore."
Delisle arrives in Pyongyang, bringing, in addition to the items that he was authorized to bring into the country, a copy of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, that he judged appropriate for a totalitarian state, CDs of Aphex Twin, and presents like Gitanes cigarettes and Hennessy cognac.
Delisle encounters former colleagues working at SEK Studio on an adaptation of the Corto Maltese comics. He also meets foreign diplomats, NGO workers in the World Food Programme and businessmen, such as French engineers installing an HDTV transmitter.
During his two-month visit, he stays at the Yanggakdo International Hotel, and visits other foreigners in the Koryo Hotel. Accompanied by his guide, he visits the massive statue of Kim Il-sung, the Pyongyang Metro, the legation quarter, the Diplomatic Club (former Romanian embassy), the Arch of Triumph, the Juche Tower, the International Friendship Exhibition, the USS Pueblo, the enormous Ryugyong Hotel, the Taekwondo Hall, the Children's Palace and the Museum of Imperialist Occupation.
Delisle is surprised by things such as reverse walking, the absence of disabled and elderly people, North Korean music propaganda, the cult of personality for past leader Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il, the required presence of his translator and guide, nearly-expired water from the South, Coca-Cola and kimjongilias. He also notes the extreme level of apparent brainwashing in the citizens of Pyongyang, perhaps prompted by the oppressive atmosphere of the area. When questioned regarding the lack of disabled people in Pyongyang, his guide asserts and seems to genuinely believe that North Korea has no disabled, and that the children of the "Korean race" are all born healthy, strong and intelligent.
New Regency was working on a film version of Pyongyang, with Steve Conrad to write the script and Gore Verbinski to direct the film, and to star Steve Carell, but this was canceled in December 2014 in the wake of threats made by hackers believed to be tied to North Korea to movie theaters over the film The Interview, which mocks the North Korean regime. The film started pre-production in October 2014, and at the time of cancellation was still without a title. New Regency revealed that the scheduled distributor, Fox, pulled out after the incidents with The Interview.
- Rogue statements: Guy Delisle's behind-the-scenes account of life in North Korea's capital almost didn't see the light of day, J. Kelly Nestruck, National Post, September 07, 2005.
- An animator's novel experience: Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea and Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China by Guy Delisle, reviewed by Fraser Newham, Asia Times, 20 January 2007.
- http://deadline.com/2013/01/new-regnency-acquires-pyongyang-gore-verbinski-to-helm-steve-conrad-script/[dead link]
- Albert Brooks (18 December 2014). "Steve Carell's North Korea movie has been cancelled". Toronto Star.