Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle
Published by Drawn & Quarterly


In 2001, cartoonist Guy Delisle spent two months in North Korea to work on a children’s television show.  While in North Korea, Delisle had a rare opportunity to see what life is really like in this secluded, dark Communist society.  This graphic novel is Delisle’s account of what he experienced during those two months.

I’m feeling fairly lukewarm about Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea so this post will be on the shorter side.

I can’t put my finger on it, but something about this book just didn’t click for me.  I was intrigued by the fact that Delisle got into North Korea in the first place, I’m very interested in North Korea, and I love the graphic memoir concept which seems to be more and more popular these days.  And while the book was good, I just wasn’t wowed by it.

Delisle’s story was interesting, the art was well done, and I felt like I really got a feel for what he experienced while he was in North Korea.  So I think a lot of people will enjoy this one.  But for whatever reason, it fell flat for me.

Just don’t let my one little opinion stop you from picking up this book!  As so few people in the world have had the opportunity Delisle was given to get a look inside this country – the book is valuable for that alone.  While it wasn’t the right book for me, I can’t say others shouldn’t try it out.


12 thoughts on “Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle”

  1. I’m very interested in this, even if there isn’t much of a story (which is what it sounds like) what other opportunity will I, or really anyone else, get to see what happens in NK?

    even the cover art looks creepy, in that “smiling is part of our job, and we love it because we’re told we should love it!” kind of way.

    1. Yes, the cover is absolutely creepy. If you’re interested in learning more about North Korea, I’d recommend reading a book called “Nothing to Envy”, it is nonfiction by a journalist who interviewed North Koreans who fled the country.

  2. That’s funny: I really enjoyed this one! But I also read it before reading Nothing to Envy…I wonder if the comparison made this one feel flat?

    1. I think you may have nailed it, Eva. I was thinking about Nothing to Envy a LOT as I was reading this book and just feeling like it couldn’t possibly compare. Comparing nonfiction/journalistic type book with a graphic memoir might not be a fair comparison, but I couldn’t help it. Nothing to Envy was just so much better, in my opinion.

      1. I agree that Nothing to Envy set a really high bar! I’m glad I read Pyongyang first…that’s why I haven’t been too interested in his book about Burma, since I’ve read Emma Larkin’s awesome stuff already.

  3. Too bad this wasn’t better for you! I liked it but I can see how that sort of slice-of-life narration, which doesn’t necessarily have a lot of profound stuff to say about the country, could be unsatisfying.

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