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An International Enigma

Vyjayanti Raghavan

By Anjaly Thomas
Niyogi Books, New Delhi, 2016, pp. 235, Rs. 350.00

VOLUME XL NUMBER 9 September 2016

North Korea never fails to amaze. It is the only country that has managed to fool all its people for all the time and has silenced them so completely even in this age of internet explosion. Anjaly Thomas confirms this in her book There are No Gods in North Korea. She visited that country for five days, under considerable personal risk. She has made an honest attempt to present the facts about North Korea without embellishment. About the people she says, ‘It seemed everyone had their own version of their country and one couldn’t blame them for their beliefs. Truth be told, how were they to know otherwise? Let us not argue that they could read, watch TV or use the internet, because none of this was an option.’ About her own trip she says that when she arrived there she wondered, ‘Is this really happening? Why am I here? Am I actually here?’ She adds that even by the time one is ready to leave one may not have found all the answers. DPRK (official name for North Korea) continues to haunt and amaze you. That’s the kind of enigma North Korea is. Any information about North Korea until now has been largely of western provenance and therefore suspect. However, Thomas corroborates much of it. Realizing that she could not have gained entry into that country as a writer, Thomas literally put her life in peril and pretended to be an elementary school teacher. All went well till she was asked to address some schoolchildren during a visit to an elementary school which had been included as part of the tourist group’s itinerary. WHAT HAPPENED THERE? Had she been found out she could well have become ‘a sitting duck’. North Korea is known for its concentration camps which are black holes for lesser offences. Thomas refers to North Korea as a ‘grand illusion’ with a belief system that is quite different. The only gods that exist are the two ‘Great Leaders’ the country has had so far—Kim Il Sung (God No 1) and his son Kim Jong Il (God No 2). Hence the title of the book. The current ‘Great Leader’, Kim Jong Un, is the third in the line. But it’ll be a long time before he joins the other two to form a Korean Holy Trinity. Though Thomas’s travels within North Korea was ...

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