A "close-up look at the cloistered country" (USA Today), See You Again in Pyongyang is American writer Travis Jeppesen's "probing" and "artful" (New York Times Book Review) chronicle of his travels in North Korea--an eye-opening portrait that goes behind the headlines about Trump and Kim, revealing North Koreans' "entrepreneurial spirit, and hidden love of foreign media, as well as their dreams and fears" (Los Angeles Times).
In See You Again in Pyongyang, Travis Jeppesen culls from his experiences traveling and studying in North Korea to create a multifaceted portrait of the country and its idiosyncratic capital city. Jeppesen challenges the notion that Pyongyang is merely a "showcase capital" where everything is staged for the benefit of foreigners, as well as the idea that Pyongyangites are brainwashed robots. Jeppesen introduces readers to an array of fascinating North Koreans, from government ministers with a side hustle in black market Western products to young people enamored with American pop culture. Revealing a complex society, rife with contradictions, See You Again in Pyongyang is an essential addition to the literature about one of the world's most fascinating places.
Novelist and art critic Jeppesen uses a 2016 study tour of Pyongyang and environs as a jumping-off point for a breezy overview of North Korea's political history, various musings on its culture, and a speculative recreation of a typical day in the life of his North Korean travel agent. Perched uncomfortably among journalism, memoir, and pop history, this account is more an impersonal recitation of details than an evocation of inner experience; even a recounting of witnessing police brutality in broad daylight feels oddly detached, and Jeppesen mentions hiding his sexual orientation from his hosts almost as an afterthought. The few moments of feeling are concentrated at the end, leaching urgency and emotional connection from the rest of the narrative. There is some thoughtful interrogation of American journalism on and foreign policy toward the country, but condescension surfaces periodically: Jeppesen repetitively dismisses the public art he encounters as "kitsch" or "unintentional comedic atrocity," sums up a Chinese-inspired interior design as "monkey see, monkey do," and daydreams about someday persuading his tour guide he understands North Korea better than she does. It never becomes clear what has drawn him there except for curiosity about the forbidden. Though this book may appeal to readers seeking a big-picture introduction to the country, those seeking a sense of North Korean life will be disappointed.