SEOUL, South Korea — I’m now reading an advance copy of Andrei Lankov’s upcoming book, "The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia," due out from Oxford University Press on May 8.
It’s an incredibly detailed and timely insight into North Korean society. The Russian historian, who lived in Pyongyang as an exchange student in the 1980s, lays out how the government established — and continues to maintain — a tentacle-like reach in the everyday lives of North Koreans.
The country, he writes, has even surpassed the level of control that the Soviet Union witnessed under Stalin.
To make his point, Lankov offers sample questions from a math textbook. Can you solve these brain-numbing dilemmas?
During the Fatherland Liberation War [North Korea’s official name for the Korean War] the brave uncles of Korean People’s Army killed 265 American Imperial bastards in the first battle. In the second battle they killed 70 more bastards than they had in the first battle. How many bastards did they kill in the second battle? How many bastards did they kill altogether?