Back in the 1980s, one of my Russian friends who was then in her early 20s, worked as an interpreter at a joint venture between North Korea and the Soviet Union. She was by no means a prude herself …, but she was somewhat shocked by the amount of sexual banter which her female North Korean colleagues engaged in. For the entire summer when the girls were on their own, they tried to learn as much as possible about the sexual habits of the then Soviet youngsters, and also graphically discussed related subjects among themselves. These sex-crazed North Korean girls ….
But that is another story. At least I have your attention.
For the last year, I’ve been waiting to read Dr. Andrei Lankov’s new book, which is about what all the other North Korea books are not about: daily life. It does not disappoint, and I’ve found it hard to close and put down. Lankov acquired much of his material by living in North Korea among the North Korean people. Without minimizing the regime’s repressive nature, Lankov shows us that the North Koreans aren’t really made of diodes and servos after all. At least in Pyongyang where his experiences seem to have been concentrated, life is still … life. By helping us understand the human motivations that drive North Koreans, he helps us to find ways to reach them.
Lankov doesn’t believe North Korea’s problems will be solved as long as Kim Jong Il runs it. He believes in the power of subversion — that North Korea will only change when we expose the ordinary human needs of its people to a world in which so many more of those needs can be met. I strongly agree. But I don’t agree that it can be done without plenty of smuggling, subversive broadcasting, and in the end, violent resistance in some form. Dr. Lankov has graciously agreed to have the Great Regime Change Debate here. Get your own copy and join us, hopefully in about two weeks.