comrades and strangers - Jin Kim ANS 361 Professor...

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Jin Kim ANS 361 Professor Oppenheim Comrades and Strangers The book Comrades and Strangers by Michael Harrold is his memoir of living in North Korea as the first British ever for seven years. Harrold was one of a small group of foreign translators whose work was to improve the quality of the English-language materials prepared by Pyongyang’s Foreign Language Publishing House. In particular, he was responsible to make sure that the English versions of the works of the leaders, both Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, were accurately translated. I thoroughly enjoyed this book because unlike most of the other books on North Korea, which almost always focus on its political and military structures, Comrades and Strangers was full of Harrold’s first hand daily interactions with and insider’s view of North Koreans, taking us literally to the “street level” and reveal what passes for a normal life in North Korea. I thought the best example of this is when Michael was at the Kim Il Sung square where people seemed to be, almost to the point of literal madness, in love with Kim Il sung when he appeared in the square, as Michael describes them “with looks of pure joy on their faces, people –
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both those around me and the thousands in the main part of the square – stretched their arms aloft and jumped up and down the spot” (p37). Any article relevant to the North Korea can tell you that its people literally worship their leader on a daily basis, but only a handful can give real in-person detail and in this case Harrold’s book is at the top of the list. Not many people have experienced life in North Korea like Harrold has and I loved his unique perspective on the people and the environment as well.
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