Are you curious to know what life is like in North Korea? Learning about the culture of modern day North Korea is always fascinating, heartbreaking, and surreal. Click the links to borrow these titles and you'll come away with a new understanding of what life is like for North Koreans.
A State of Mind is a 2004 BBC documentary that follows the lives of two girls as they prepare for North Korea's Mass Games:
This documentary allows us to see how privileged North Koreans wish to present themselves to the rest of the world. You get to watch as the film crew follows the girls at home, at school, and as they prepare to perform at the Mass Games, which is a jaw-dropping spectacle of group uniformity and precision.
One of the first books I ever read about life in North Korea was a graphic novel called Pyongyang: A Journey in Noth Korea.
Guy Delisle is a Canadian animator who was sent to North Korea on behalf of his employer. Being an employee, non-American, and cameraless, he was granted a surprising amount of access in Pyongyang. The lack of camera is actually wonderful because as an artist he captures the weirdness of being a foreigner in Pyongyang with clever drawings and an insightful narrative style. Drawn & Quarterly, the publisher, provides a preview of pages from the graphic novel.
I can also recommend Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, which a coworker told me about and I really enjoyed reading. (Thanks, coworker!)
The stories of defectors as they remember their former lives are utterly compelling and impossible to forget. For me, one of the most powerful examples is when a Noth Korean mother is brought to South Korea by her daughter and the mother refuses to believe that South Koreans have enough to eat. She is driven around and told to pick houses at random. Knocking on doors, they explain the situation to the various inhabitants and are given permission to look inside their refrigerators. Upon seeing so much food in so many random households, the mother becomes convinced North Korean propaganda is full of lies.
Our library has a lot of other books about life in North Korea, and I personally intend to read Escape from Camp 14 about Shin Dong-hyuk, the only person known to have escaped from a "total-control zone" grade internment camp in North Korea and lived to tell about it. He now works as a human rights activist, spreading information about North Korean prison camps and his journey to freedom.
For more information about life in North Korea, check out these books: