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‘Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea’ by Guy Delisle

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea
(Photo by Jason Garber)

A guest book review by Linda Simensky, PBS’s senior director of children’s programming:

North Korea has been in the news lately. So where do this country and animation intersect? You probably didn’t know there is (or at least was) at least one animation studio there. For an interesting look at North Korea through the eyes of an animator who worked there, check out the graphic novel, Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle (originally published in French in 2003; English version published by Drawn and Quarterly in 2005)

Delisle, a French Canadian cartoonist, was sent by a French animation studio to be an overseas supervisor at Scientific and Educational Film Studio of Korea (SEK) in Pyongyang. In this graphic novel, he writes about his experiences there, both in animation and in his attempts to see North Korea outside the studio.

He has written graphic novels about being an overseas supervisor in Shenzhen and about his time in Burma while his wife was stationed there for Doctors Without Borders. Delisle’s a great artist, and his experiences as an overseas supervisor will seem familiar to many of you. But his insider’s take on Pyongyang is fascinating, and well worth reading in light of current events.

The book is available on Amazon.

  • Jean Pilotte

    All of Guy’s books are great and genuinely entertaining.

    His book about his stay in Burma is also timely as he mentions how foreigners were forbidden from driving near the house where Aung San Suu Kyi was being held (until he found a clever work around that is just brilliant.)

    It’s worth sending Guy into another destination for animation supervision just to read his account afterward.

  • Was my face red…

    All of his books are great but the North Korea one is perhaps the best. Fascinating, informative and a wonderful example of what the cartoon arts can do (I mean as graphic novels, not by enslaving an entire workforce!)

  • Bought and read this a couple of years ago and it was a fantastic journey from cover to cover filled with wit, tragedy and fascinating insights into a mysterious country for many of us.

  • Jmatte

    Bought and read it years ago in its original french version. Both this and Shenzhen are great insight about oversea supervisions. I worked on some projects that were being animated in North Korea at the same time, and some of the incidents he mentioned in the book was reported to us via a third party, so it was great to read his own account. Both very well told and great reads.

    I dare anyone who has read the french version of PyongYang not to burst out laughing or even singing out loud the theme to “Capitaine Flam”.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      From what I’ve heard of it, it’s a pretty cool theme song!

  • Martin

    This is an absolute must as a story, as a work of art and as an inside-look into this paranoid society. I have learned more from his day-to-day experiences than through “serious in-depth” reports you see on the news. This is politics applied in everyday life. This should be a reference for politics students as well as professional journalists.

  • Wow thanks for posting this. Gonna check this out for sure. Linked it to my site.