Foreign Language Bookshop

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Pyongyang, North Korea

Foreign Language Bookshop Pyongyang Reviews

wabat wabat
160 reviews
Foreign Language Bookshop: 'Buy a book or two' Feb 12, 2017
“Books are treasure – house of knowledge and the textbooks for a person’s life” Kim Il-sung

Prior to going to North Korea you will be advised by your tour operator as to what books and reading material you can and cannot take into North Korea. In addition to the type of literature banned by most countries there are two broad types of literature which you cannot take into North Korea – religious material beyond that required for your personal needs and material produced in the west related to the North Korean Leaders, the Workers Party, North Korean politics and history.

You will not come across religious material for sale within North Korea but material on North Korea, the Party and its Leaders is readily available.

Your introduction to North Korean literature will most likely be a copy of the Pyongyang Times and other magazines which you will have found on your flight into Pyongyang.

In another review I noted that Kim Il-sung had over 10,800 works to his name and that his son and grandson – the current leader – were also prolific writers.

Much of the written material you will find has been written by one of the three leaders and is about themselves and their teachings (no sense of modesty here!) and of that written by others, the majority of it is written about the leaders.

It almost goes without saying that everything written in North Korea is subject to strict censorship controls. You will need to bear this in mind as you read it. Of course you have, unlike the general populace, the opportunity to read the other side before you visit North Korea or on your departure.

The majority of foreign language books available are in English but numerous other languages are also reasonably well catered for. While all the hotels we stayed in and most souvenir shops we visited had a selection of good revolutionary and patriotic literature for sale the best place to stock up is in the Foreign Language Bookshop in Pyongyang.

The concept of a foreign language bookshop in most other countries is that it generally sells books imported from other countries as written, in their original language. In North Korea the concept is that they take books written in Korean (and written in North Korea) and translate them in other languages. I don’t recall seeing any books in the shop imported from overseas. If you require the latest Jeffery Archer novel or Mills and Boon bring it in (and out) with you.

The bookshop, located in an austere green coloured building, is a stones throw from Kim Il-sung Square and will almost certainly be a stop on your tour. Like all other shops there is little on the outside to identify it as a shop – no name, no window displays and no grand entrance like those we are accustomed to in other countries.

In addition to selling books and other reading material the bookshop also sells lots of souvenirs like postcards, pins (but not the ones the locals wear), stamps, propaganda posters, cds, dvds, flags and other items.

Prices are very reasonable (they actually want you to buy their offerings) and this sort of literature makes a good memento of your trip. Among other things, I picked up a condensed biography on Kim Il-sung, “Anecdotes of Kim Il-sung’s Life” (volumes 1 and 2 - each around 60 pages), a book entitled “Korea in the 20th Century – 100 significant events” and a “Panorama of Korea” (in colour!). Yes – all of it could be termed propaganda and I really do regret not buying the cd entitled “The General Is As Immortal as the Sun”.

As with all other shops you will be in, purchases must be paid for in hard currency – Euros, Yuan or US Dollars.
Foreign Language Bookshop
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