Author “James Church,” a career diplomat with years of experience in Asia, including, one assumes, North Korea, sets his second mystery starring Inspector O of the Ministry of People’s Security, in the country’s capital of Pyongyang. Though O is an Inspector, he, like those he works with, has no idea who is really in charge of the investigations to which he is assigned. For Inspector O, the best approach has always been to keep his head down, do what he is told, try to laugh at the absurdities, and close his eyes to the atrocities. Hidden Moon continues the story of O’s life after The Corpse in the Koryo, and readers who have read that novel will have a decided advantage as they read this one. A shocking robbery at the Gold Star Bank, the first ever in Pyongyang, challenges the Ministry and Inspector O, especially since O is not called to deal with it until a week after it has happened.
Category Archive for 'North Korea'
Author “James Church,” a former western intelligence officer with “decades of experience” in Asia, including, presumably, North Korea, provides a stunning and profoundly interesting portrait of “real life” in this secretive and sometimes paranoid country. Inspector O, the main character in Church’s novel, works for the North Korean Ministry of People’s Security, but even at the level of inspector, he has no idea why he is assigned many of his tasks, nor does he know why he is often sent from the capital, Pyongyang, to outposts like Manpo and Kanggye on the Chinese border. All he knows is that his camera never has batteries that work, that finding a cup of tea is sometimes impossible, and that he does not rate a thermos. He expects to be tailed and spied upon, and he is accustomed to having his living quarters searched. He can trust no one, and he must constantly watch his own back to ensure that he does not accidentally discover information about crimes that he does not even know exist.
Author Ha Jin, who was born in the People’s Republic and lived there until he left to attend college in the United States in 1985, offers a unique perspective on Chinese culture, different from that which appears in most “Chinese” novels written for an American audience. Setting this novel primarily in a POW camp in South Korea, where Chinese and North Korean troops, captured by US and South Korean soldiers, have been separately interned during the 1950s war, Ha Jin focuses on the different attitudes each group has toward home, country, and each other. Through Yu Yuan, a young soldier from the Chinese Communist army, Ha Jin shows how differently Yuan evaluates his life and his obligations but how similarly he holds to ideals of friendship, justice, honor, and love.