- Hardcover: 530 pages
- Publisher: Ecco Pr (3 April 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0061998508
- ISBN-13: 978-0061998508
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 4.1 x 22.9 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 771 g
- Customer Reviews: Be the first to review this item
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The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future Hardcover – 3 Apr 2012
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"Cha demonstrates an intimate familiarity with the regime's contradictions. . . . The thesis is clear: the world's most closed-off state needs to open up to survive, but breaking its hermetic seal may well precipitate its demise."--The New Yorker
"A meaty, fast-paced portrait of North Korean society, economy, politics, and foreign policy by an expert who has studied the regime as a scholar and interacted with its officials."--Foreign Affairs
From the Back Cover
The definitive account of North Korea, its veiled past and uncertain future, from the former Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council
Though it is much discussed and often maligned, precious little is known or understood about North Korea, the world's most controversial and isolated country. In The Impossible State, seasoned international-policy expert and lauded scholar Victor Cha pulls back the curtain, providing the best look yet at North Korea's history, the rise of the Kim family dynasty, and the obsessive personality cult that empowers them. He illuminates the repressive regime's complex economy and culture, its appalling record of human-rights abuses, and its belligerent relationship with the United States, and analyzes the regime's major security issues—from the seemingly endless war with its southern neighbor to its frightening nuclear ambitions—all in light of the destabilizing effects of Kim Jong-il's recent death.
How this enigmatic nation-state—one that regularly violates its own citizens' inalienable rights and has suffered famine, global economic sanctions, a collapsed economy, and near total isolation from the rest of the world—has continued to survive has long been a question that preoccupies the West. Cha reveals a land of contradictions, one facing a pivotal and disquieting transition of power from tyrannical father to inexperienced son, and delves into the ideology that leads an oppressed, starving populace to cling so fiercely to its failed leadership.
With rare personal anecdotes from the author's time in Pyongyang and his tenure as an adviser in the White House, this engagingly written, authoritative, and highly accessible history offers much-needed answers to the most pressing questions about North Korea and ultimately warns of a regime that might be closer to its end than many might think—a political collapse for which America and its allies may be woefully unprepared.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
If you want to know more about North Korea (it has a somewhat surprising history, as the richer Korea for much of the Cold War) this is a great book to start with. It covers what we know and points out there is much we do not. The chapter on human rights in North Korea is very moving, as it relates the terrible conditions that can exist for people in North Korea.
As a minor correction, the book incorrectly lists one of the locations for some of the Japanese (Ichikawa Shuichi and Masumoto Rumiko) who were kidnapped by North Korea. The book says "were going to the beach in Fukushima, on the very southern tip of of Japan, to watch the sunset". Fukushima is not the southern tip of Japan, and it should be Kagoshima on Kyushu.
I knew nothing of the history of North Korea or anything about its people. Even today I just thought of North Korea as a weird place with really weird leaders. And as scary because these weird people could possibly blow up a lot of the U.S.. So I was grateful to learn so much more from this book.
"The Impossible State" is not strictly speaking a linear history of North Korea. Cha moves back and forth in his narrative between the present, the recent past and the remote past, capturing the history of North Korea and the evolution of U.S. policy toward Pyongyang and its leaders. The historical narrative is detailed but accessible to the general reader. It traces how North Korea, which thanks to outside aid was both economically and militarily stronger than the South after the Korean War, but has since become a basketcase dependent on the threat of nuclear war to avoid being ignored altogether. Cha is to be praised for taking an unblinking look at why Pyongyang cannot afford to negotiate away its nuclear weapons capabilities, and why economic reform of its moribund economy might be the undoing of its authoritarian government. Cha is also clear-eyed about the potential costs to South Korea of a Korean peninsula that unifies in the manner of East and West Germany.
Cha's narrative can be repetitive in places, and he not unnaturally feels compelled to defend the record of the Bush administration in its dealings with North Korea. However, these features are minor blemishes in a very insightful book on North Korea, recommended to the general reader and the student.
Victor Cha is a former diplomat and his interest and expertise shows in this truly well-write book. I would say that if you choose to read one book about North Korea, this would be one of the top candidates to read. Truly excellent.