Steven Yeun to produce and star in “The Aquariums of Pyongyang”


Yo! I just caught this from Phil over at Angry Asian Man!

Steve Yeun, who stars as Korean American Glenn Rhee on AMC’s hit show The Walking Dead, has just announced his next project: a movie adaptation of Kang Chol-Hwan’s The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years In the North Korean Gulag.

I’ve already described Steve Yeun’s Glenn Rhee as the best contemporary Asian American male portrayal in pop culture, and have been following Yeun’s career for years. He’s been staying busy in the off-season between shooting for The Walking Dead, and was recently announced as the voice of Tony Chu in the upcoming cartoon adaptation of Chew, a witty comic book that uniquely stars a Chinese American protagonist.

I’m excited about Yeun’s involvement in Aquariums for two reasons.


First, Steve Yeun is a talented actor who deserves increasing prominence in Hollywood. That he has finally reached a point in his career where he can start directing his own trajectory towards projects of critical Asian American significance is hugely meaningful.

But second, and I think even more importantly, Aquariums is an important story that deserves to be told. I read this book last summer, and found it compelling, evocative and chilling. It increased my interest in human rights campaigns around the world, and think it belongs on any must-read book list for social activists.

Thousands of men and women — a number impossible to accurately estimate — suffer right now in North Korean prison camps, under deplorable conditions that are so inhumane as to defy belief. They are starved, beaten, tortured, and killed; their suffering is so successfully denied by the insular North Korean lives that the entire fact of their lives are literally erased from history’s memory.

South Korean Americans, and South Korean activists, are deeply impacted by the widespread violation of human rights in North Korea, yet most of the world, and even most of Asian America, continue to turn a blind eye.

The idea that a feature film about North Korean gulags might emerge out of popular American Hollywood is profound. It might, for perhaps the first time, point the harsh glare of the spotlight directly on one of the worst, and too frequently ignored, ongoing atrocities in the world right now.

Kudos to Steve Yeun, for announcing this project, and also for announcing this project. Stay tuned to this blog, as I will definitely be following this project.

More information: Here’s a full link to reports released by the United Nations’ Commission on Human Rights regarding North Korea.  And here’s a link to Aquariums through Amazon. Another great book is Escape From Camp 14.


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