The memoir of one North Korean's youth. Kang Chol-Hwan was sent to a prison camp at the age of nine for the crime of being
related to his grandfather, who was deemed to be not enthusiastic enough in his support for the North Korean government.
After ten years of eating rats and salamanders to survive, while enduring dehumanizing treatment by a sadistic system, he
was released to rejoin the North Korean populace and work hard for Kim Il-Sung. Instead, he escaped to China, made his way
to South Korea, and began telling all those who would listen about the suffering of North Korea's people under Communism.
The story is told in an almost detached manner, and yet it is very moving. The glimpse it offers into the universal corruption
that has overtaken North Korea (and saved it from total collapse, strangely enough) is a truly valuable insight. This is
among the most interesting books I've read in a while.
This book could be thought of as a left wing counterpart to Pat Buchanan's The
Death of the West. Think of it as "The Death of the Left". Longman does an excellent job of presenting an
unnoticed trend: birthrates are declining everywhere -not just in wealthy countries. Because of this, the long
feared "Population Bomb" of the 1960's has turned out to be an implosion. The result: economic growth is headed for
a demographic brick wall as welfare states collapse and workers become increasingly rare. The book also seeks to scare
leftists into reproduction by pointing out that the religious are out-reproducing them handily and that the future belongs
to those that bother to send children into it. The book has a few weaknesses, such as seeking to absolve the left of
contributing to the problem (through a generally anti-tradition attitude). The book also pays little attention
to the 800 pound gorilla of this issue: birth control. The only thing in common among the disparate regions with declining
birthrates is that people now can prevent pregnancy. This presents a fundamental philosophical dilemma: will people
choose to dedicate their lives to children -or to themselves? We've never been able to choose so easily before; and culturally
we are not yet well adapted to having this power. Well worth reading.