JULY 17, 2015
He was the Tammany Hall boss of North Korea, the man who dispensed favors and stayed close to the ruling Kim family, so close he married the daughter of the nation’s founder. He got rich by selling commodities to China: low-end coal and probably the more valuable rare earths. He ran the Ministry of People’s Security. Those gilded connections did not shield one of North Korea’s most powerful men from the wrath of the young new leader, the 30-something Kim Jong-un, and for reasons that no one outside the inner sanctums of Pyongyang knows, Jang Song-thaek suffered a bloody downfall.
On Dec. 12, 2013, two years after Kim took office, Jang, 67, was probably executed by firing squad, his death described in the official media as befitting “human scum,” a man who was “worse than a dog.” There were rumors that he was actually thrown to a pack of attack dogs; these were later discounted. His wife, Kim Kyong-hui — an aunt of Kim who may have given a green light for her husband’s death — survived initially, but reports said she was later poisoned.
The purge of Jang, spectacular even by North Korea’s standards, marked the true beginning of Kim’s regime. But in a tweak of the conventional idea that North Korea is a monolith, the authors of “North Korea Confidential,” Daniel Tudor and James Pearson, both of whom have lived in South Korea, note that personal rivalries have long divided the North Korean elite, and that a shadowy body, the Organization and Guidance Department, may possess even more power than Kim. The exit of Jang, who was North Korea’s most important conduit to its main benefactor, China, and who had built a patronage system of thousands of followers, was a sign, the authors say, of the deadly competition at the top of North Korea. Continue reading
1001 Inventions & Awesome Facts from Muslim Civilization (2012)
by Salim Al-Hassani, et al
Washington, DC: National Geographic Society
“Fruitful information about Muslim civilization in one single book.”
“Do you know that Ibn Sina, a Muslim doctor and philosopher, wrote a medical textbook which influenced the modern one like Gray’s Anatomy?”, “Do you know that Ibn al-Haytham succesfully developed camera obscura, which is a forerunner to the modern camera?”, or “Do you even know that movie Aladdin is based on the folktale about flying carpet of ‘Al’a al-Din?”.
You can find all of those fun and informative facts in this encyclopedia-type of book. Instead of showing some black & white, long paragraphs to reveal information, it comes with almost 100 full-coloured pages. Most of texts are written in colourful square-shaped and bigger font are used to emphasize the keyword of the sentences. Attractive pictures are also included to visualize texts and it makes the book more enjoyable to read. Continue reading