The Aquariums of Pyongyang
|Translator||Yair Reiner (English)|
Kang Chol-hwan (Korean)
|Publisher||The Perseus Press|
November 22, 2001
|Media type||Print (Hardcover and paperback)|
It begins with an introduction by co-author Pierre Rigoulot describing Kang's new life in the Republic of Korea, then continues with a brief history of both North and South Korea since the Korean War in 1953.
It shows how a powerful family with money and material goods has everything taken from them by the Workers' Party of Korea. Kang's family, while of Korean ethnicity, originally lived in Japan before emigrating to the DPRK at the behest of his communist grandmother. When Kang was nine years old, his grandfather was imprisoned for suspected activity against the State. Because the policy at the time[clarification needed] was to incarcerate the immediate family of political prisoners, Kang Chol-Hwan, his grandmother, father, uncle and younger sister Miho were all imprisoned at the Yodok concentration camp #2915. There they suffered and viewed many atrocities over a period of ten years including disease, starvation, torturous punishments and public executions.
In the book, Kang states that, while in the camp, he met Pak Seung-zin, a member of the North Korean football squad in the 1966 FIFA World Cup. He says that Pak and other players had been imprisoned after returning from the tour. However, in the documentary film The Game of Their Lives, Pak and the other players were interviewed and they denied Kang's claim that there had been any retribution.
Following his family's release (presumably upon the death of his grandfather, the original offender against the State), Kang worked in assigned occupations before becoming at risk of again being sent to a concentration camp. The end of the book details his subsequent escape to China and his attempts to seek asylum before escaping to South Korea.
The most recent publication, in 2005, includes an account of his meeting with former U.S. President George W. Bush. Originally published in French in 2000, and translated into English in 2001 by Yair Reiner and later into Korean, it is one of the first published accounts of the North Korean prison system.
- "THE AQUARIUMS OF PYONGYANG: Ten Years in a North Korean Gulag". Publisher's Weekly. July 30, 2001. Archived from the original on November 5, 2013. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
- Tristan Abbey (December 10, 2005). "Aquariums of Pyongyang". The Stanford Review.
- "North Korean Soccer Unveiled". The New Republic. December 9, 2009.
- MacLeod, Calum (November 12, 2001). "Korea boys of '66 are alive and kicking". The Independent.
- Demick, Barbara (June 22, 2002). "1966 World Cup Upstarts Absent but Not Forgotten". Los Angeles Times.
- "President George W. Bush welcomes Chol-hwan Kang". Georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov. 2005-06-13. Retrieved 2010-06-15.