The Aquariums of Pyongyang

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The Aquariums of Pyongyang
Aquariums of Pyongyangs book cover.jpg
Author Kang Chol-hwan
Pierre Rigoulot
Translator Yair Reiner (English)
Kang Chol-hwan (Korean)
Genre Memoir
Publisher The Perseus Press
Publication date
2000 (France)
November 22, 2001
(United States)
Media type Print (Hardcover and paperback)
Pages 238
ISBN ISBN 1-903985-05-6
OCLC 59531886

The Aquariums of Pyongyang, by Kang Chol-hwan and Pierre Rigoulot, is an account of the imprisonment of Kang Chol-Hwan and his family in the Yodok concentration camp in North Korea.[1][2]

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. As 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 execution.

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 attempts to seek asylum before escaping to South Korea.

The most recent publication, in 2005, includes an account of his meeting former U.S. President George W. Bush.[3] 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "THE AQUARIUMS OF PYONGYANG: Ten Years in a North Korean Gulag". Publisher's Weekly. July 30, 2001. Retrieved November 5, 2013. 
  2. ^ Tristan Abbey (December 10, 2005). "Aquariums of Pyongyang". The Stanford Review. 
  3. ^ "President George W. Bush welcomes Chol-hwan Kang". 2005-06-13. Retrieved 2010-06-15.