Im Dienst des Diktators: English Translation [1]

Not long ago, a new high-profile North Korean defector emerged with a tell-all memoir of intrigue in Vienna and Austria, which was covered on this blog via an exclusive translation of an interview with the author.  Unfortunately, so far as I know, no plans exist to render this memoir — a new (and potentially vital) source of information — into English.  Thus I am pleased to bring you the first installment in what I hope is a series of sporadic translations of original portions of the text.  Afterwards I’ll say a few words of assessment of the text more generally, since I’ve been chewing on it for about two days now, in between a few other pressing matters.

Im Dienst des Diktators: Leben und Flucht eines nordkoreanischen Agenten p. 34 [translation by Adam Cathcart]:

Chapter 3: Korea Against Korea

On one day which was like any other, the hated Japanese police disappeared from Kim Jong Ryul’s village.  The police post in Hijong was empty, and no sign of the decades-long Japanese presence remained.  In the village people began to prepare to hope that the rumors were true: that the war was over, that Japan had capitulated, and Korea, finally, was free.  On 15 August 1945, the happy news finally came to the 50 inhabitants of Hijong that they could immediately start to celebrate.  Kim Jong Ryul ran around the village and screamed like all other children in the countryside: “The war is over, the war is over!”  With a stupefying joy, on this day what had long been forbidden was now allowed: The hymn of — free — Korea could be sung, the flag raised, and everyone could shout together: “Free!  Free!”  The enthusiasm over the end of the war had hardly concluded when Kim Jong Ryul’s family received the happy news that his father, who had been taken (verschleppte) to Japan was now coming back from his bondage.

No sooner than his father returned, than the first communist strode into little Hijong.  In his joy of having the gift of his long-missed father back by his side, Kim Jong Ryul also recognized that new men in power in the village quickly became strangely alert.  In the orphaned police house, armed peasants now greeted rebel quarters with friendly attitudes, and communist patrols moved more than daily through the village.  From the first day of their appearance, led by those who had returned from the Soviet Union, it was very clear: From this day forward, this [communism] would be the tone.

Translating this full page of German prose reminds me that German tends to be longer than English…

In any case, this excerpt should indicate to interested readers that there is much more to this text than a simple retelling of North Korean arms dealings in Vienna in the 1980s and early 1990s, but that Kim Jong Ryul describes the duration of his life within the embrace of the DPRK.  In particular, Chapter 4 (pp. 52-74) is an in-depth look at the lives of North Korean students in East Germany from 1955-1962, a very significant topic (Kim Jong Il spent a lost year in East Germany in 1960-61 when the wall was about to go up) about which I’ve got a few interesting documents from the Berlin archives and hope to read more.


  1. Please keep me informed on english translations of this book. It sounds fascinating. Thank you so much.

    1. Absolutely, Damen, thanks for your interest. I’m working through the 2/3 section at the moment; lots of details about BMWs and Benzes….There is one section where Kim Jong Ryul is asked to translate some SS documents (p. 60) via the East German SED for, presumably, the leadership in Pyongyang in the late 1950s that is also rather intriguing given the current debates (as in B.R. Myers’ work) on the ideological nature of the regime.

  2. Please add me to your list of interested people who would like to read this book in english. I am very interested in this.

    Thank you!

    1. Will do, Howard. There is much in this book by way of basic North Korea info, and a bit few too many repetitions of “and he could say nothing because people who talk are thrown in the gulag,” but in general this text is full of good information about the life of an individual in the DPRK from the 1940s-1990s.

    1. Jon, apologies for the long delay in responding; I have a student who is supposed to be working his butt off on this project, sending me pdfs of the book from the States while I am in China for me to translate a few pages at a time, but unfortunately that isn’t happening at present. So the best I can do is to refer you to the “search” function on this blog, because I think I’ve translated two or three segments (small ones) of the text, and will have to tackle the rest when I’m back in the States in Jan-Feb. Are you at UIUC? Great school.

  3. Adam, I am interested in purchasing a copy of these memoirs when you have completed the translation. Will you have any for sale? There is a division at UIUC call Dalkey Press. They translate books if that may be of any assistance. Thank you for working on this project.
    Barney Bryson

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