The Broken Bridge: Report From Literary North Korea

Contributing editor Stephen Morison Jr. recently traveled to areas of China and South Korea with hopes of entering North Korea and meeting writers living in a country where all art is political. While he never set foot on North Korean soil, he was able to talk to some authors and scholars who offer insight on the reach of the Communist state.

Morison, who lives in Amman, Jordan, has contributed a number of articles that offer insights into international writing communities, including  "Demilitarized Zone: Report From Literary Vietnam" (September/October 2009), "Censored Stories: Report From Literary Myanmar" (November/December 2008), "Chinese Characters: Report From Literary Beijing" (May/June 2008), and "The Poets of Kabul: Report From Literary Afghanistan" (November/December 2006).

The author in front of the China-North Korea Friendship Bridge in Dandong, China.

Tourists looking into North Korea through binoculars from the Broken Bridge in Dandong, China.

North Koreans as seen through rented binoculars from the Broken Bridge.

The shell of a bomb dropped along the
Yalu River during the Korean War.

The statue of a calligraphy brush in Seoul, South Korea.

The border of Dandong, China, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

The Joint Security Area between North and South Korea.

The cover of a biography of a Korean professional wrestler who performed in the United States in the early 1950s, while the Korean War was being fought. The DPRK-published memoir is an example of state-translated North Korean writing.

Kang Chol Hwan, a North Korean defector and writer whose grandfather was arrested in Pyongyang for "political crimes" in 1977, when Kang was nine. Despite his age, Kang was imprisoned with the rest of his grandfather's household in the Yodok labor camp for ten years. "Everybody in North Korea lives in fear of being arrested and sent to a labor camp," Kang says. "Russia and China have both changed, and North Korea is captured between them. The only way the leaders maintain power is through fear."