Books: Inspector O and the case of Jon Yong Chol


THE MAN WITH THE BALTIC STARE: an Inspector O Novel, by James Church. New York: Minotaur Books, 2010. 279 pp. Can$29.99, hardcover. ISBN 978-0-312-37292-7. Reviewed by CanKor editor-in-chief Erich Weingartner.


A most unusual document reached us at CanKor early in August. It isn’t unusual for us to receive messages from the Pyongyang-based Korean Committee for Solidarity with the World People. We are obviously on the KCSWP mailing list, and have published a number of their documents right here on the CanKor website. Usually these concern anniversaries or special pronouncements by the DPRK Ministry of Foreign Affairs.Not this time. Attached to the partially garbled email message was a file with an attention-grabbing title: “INTERVIEW WITH THE ARRESTED TERRORIST.” The email explains that Jon Yong Chol had been caught trying to perpetrate the “hideous crime of undermining the supreme dignity of the DPRK at the instructions of the U.S. and south Korean intelligence agencies.” He was subsequently interviewed by domestic and international reporters in Pyongyang on 19 July 2012.

I found it interesting that the DPRK scribes referred to this document throughout as an “interview” although – as you can see from the transcript – the hapless Jon Yong Chol clearly calls it a “confession”. Have DPRK translators become aware that the word “confession” elicits an emotionally negative response and wanted to give this document an air of objectivity? The email underlines repeatedly that the important thing to pay attention to is the identity of the ROK and US puppet masters, not the gullible individual who was close to committing the crime.

Jon’s confession is excruciatingly detailed, naming names, organizations and places. The goal behind a conspiracy to blow up monuments to Kim Il Sung (the “statue demolition society”, purportedly) in order to sow confusion and undermine confidence in the central government’s authority also makes political sense. In other words, if this confession is a fiction, it has been very well researched and made to seem perfectly plausible, at least to the casual reader. Read the rest of this entry »

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