The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: An Earthly Paradise for the People by M. V. Singh is one of the many dozens of books I brought back from my trip in 2011. I have already reviewed several of them and I am afraid that this review will end up sounding identical to all the others. This is no surprise, as literary diversity is not a North Korean forte. The author, ostensibly an Indian by the name of M. V. Singh, should if my prejudices be known, have a greater command of the English language than that shown by the sloppy job between these two covers. The text reads like a substandard translation, with one of the more obvious clues being the misuse or nonuse of definite articles. There is either a superfluous usage of the definite article, or instances where no article is provided where one would definitely be needed. An Indian author, even one where English was not his or her first language, would know the correct application of the word the in context. Thus I have reason to believe this book was not written by the credited author.
Why is the DPRK an earthly paradise? Singh is high on rhetoric but low on any actual proof. But (s)he offers this:
“Pyongyang is a beautiful city with charming people. I found a smile on the lips of everyone.
“The credit for this goes entirely to the great leader President Kim Il Sung and His Excellency dear Kim Jong Il. The happiness of the Korean people reflects the great leader’s idea of making the DPRK an astoundingly progressive country in the world and his love and solicitude for the people.”
An Earthly Paradise was overwrought with adoring godlike praise for then President Kim Il Sung and his chosen successor, son Kim Jong Il. This is typical of political literature–the only literature–from the DPRK. Honorific titles used extensive terminology which was repeated ad nauseam, with no mention of either Kim’s name ever escaping the long-winded glorified lead-in.
Readers of North Korean literature find sentences filled with wholly unnecessary words and phrases (such as “in the world”, above) and writers manage to fill pages by saying the same things over and over again, using the same words just rearranged. It can make a very boring read, although the first twenty pages of An Earthly Paradise sped by. The slowest moments were those paragraphs laden with political babble which made no sense at all without any antecedents:
“The Juche-based theory on the revolution expounded by the Juche idea is a revolutionary theory which answers the questions raised in the revolutionary practice of the Juche era.”
Juche and revolution(ary) were used three times each in that sentence and I still have no idea what it all meant. Repetition led to several eye-rolls in the chapter entitled “Independent National Economy”. That phrase in quotations was used to comic excess in every single paragraph. What was Singh doing, trying to fill up the pages, akin to a student writing an essay in really large double-spaced script in order to make it appear longer?
The godlike, even Christ-like qualities of both Kims are reported again and again, and the people of the DPRK should put their faith in the omnipotent and omniscient Father and Son:
“Mt. Myohyang which had wrongly been used for many decades has come to boast of its beauty after liberation of Korea and is now distinguishing itself in the world as the true beauty spot for the people, as a paradise on the earth, under the benevolent sunshine of the great leader President Kim Il Sung and his Excellency dear Kim Jong Il.”
“The great President Kim Il Sung and His Excellency dear Kim Jong Il always find themselves among the people, sharing joys and sorrows with them, regard their strength and wisdom as the most powerful and valuable assets in the world, and set the example of solving all problems by relying on them.”
I await to see what kind of paradise the place is now that neither the Great Leader President Kim Il Sung nor His Excellency Dear Leader Comrade General Kim Jong Il is around any more.