During my recent trip to Korea, I was fortunate to have dinner and moderate quantities of alcohol with several other K-bloggers, including The Marmot, The Flying Yangban, Oranckay, The Drambuie Man (also a S. Dakota native), and Professor Andrei Lankov, who is working on a book on the Korean War, based on material from old Soviet archives. Oranckay picked a restaurant where I had some of the best kalbi I’ve ever eaten, and Robert knew of a beautifully restored old house where we had drinks, and where the lovely Marmotess joined us. Lankov is renowned for his dark sense of humor and inexhaustible knowledge of North Korea, and he didn’t disappoint.
It had to be one of my life’s most interesting conversations, and of its more interesting points was a discussion with Oranckay about North Korea’s hot new propaganda novel, “Barrel of a Gun,” which gives a fictionalized account of North Korea’s negotiations with the Clinton Administration. Here is a must-read New York Times review.
The novel “Barrel of a Gun,” for example, released in 2003, is an official “historical” work about how Mr. Kim’s iron resolve forced the Clinton administration to its knees in 1998. “Excellency,” the American negotiator says at the end of the book, groveling shamelessly before his North Korean counterpart, “you are also a mighty superpower.”
“I like the sound of that,” the North Korean answers with a chuckle and a sharp look. Then he lays down the law. The Americans want to inspect some caves for evidence of a nuclear program? Perhaps a “visit” can be arranged – if 700,000 tons of food are first delivered in atonement for the “strangulatory” blockade of the country. (If you ever wondered why Pyongyang allows food aid to be distributed with the Stars and Stripes on the bags, there’s your answer.)
This novel needs to be translated into English for the insight it will provide us about how North Korea views its negotiations with the United States. If anyone out there in academia is interested in providing a grant to translate it, drop me a line.