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

by Alfonso Mangubat

I’ve always been a fan of North Korean documentaries, having watched many on the Discovery channel and the National Geographic channel.

So to finding this graphic novel on one of the top 50 graphic comics to buy and seeing it on sale on Amazon, I just couldn’t pass up the chance to buy it. When my copy arrived, I quickly devoured the comic with enthusiasm and interest.

After months of waiting, my copy of Pyongyang: A Jouney in North Korea had arrived!


Famously referred to as one of the “Axis of Evil” countries, North Korea remains one of the most secretive and mysterious nations in the world today. In early 2001 cartoonist Guy Delisle became one of the few Westerners to be allowed access to the fortress-like country. While living in the nation’s capital for two months on a work visa for a French film animation company, Delisle observed what he was allowed to see of the culture and lives of the few North Koreans he encountered; his findings form the basis of this graphic novel.

Guy Delisle was born in Quebec City in 1966 and has spent the last decade living and working in the South of France with his wife and son. Delisle has spent ten years, mostly in Europe, working in animation, an experience that taught him about movement and drawing. He is now currently focusing on his cartooning. Delisle has written and drawn six graphic novels, including “Pyongyang,” his first graphic novel in English. Read reviews: Goodreads


Comparing the documentaries that I’ve watched and this graphic novel, the similarities aren’t too far off. Both expose the total indoctrination and the full extent of the cult of personality that is deeply embedded within North Korean society.

Likewise, the comic also points out social stratification within the society, where despite the rigidity of socialism, vestiges of capitalism are evident and are most likely embedded within the upper levels of society.

Reading Pyongyang brought me back to days when I was busy reading everything about History, the Cold War and my usual forays on Wikipedia. It was a good experience that helped me understand this part of the world better.

The artist, Guy, has no qualms in drawing this part of the world for what it truly is, oftentimes providing an honest opinion of his beliefs and his own comments on his day-to-day experience in this misunderstood and impoverished capital.

After having read Pyongyang, this was a refreshing addition to my growing comic book collection. I love the satire, the simple art but also the rich dialogue.


Inasmuch as I want to really expound on the society of North Korea, I feel it best that reading Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle will educate you much better than my words. So if you happen to see a copy in any bookstore, go ahead and don’t pass up the opportunity. ☁

Editor’s note: This review was originally posted on Manila Traveler and Bookworm.


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