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The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future [Paperback]

Victor Cha
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
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Book Description

27 Jun 2013

'We killed Americans.

We are killing Americans.

We will kill Americans.'

North Korean schoolchildren conjugating verbs

In North Korea, citizens found humming South Korean pop songs risk being sent to a gulag for six months of hard labour. Jail sentences are handed out if portraits of the late Kim Jong-il are not properly dusted. Shoot-to-kill orders are in effect for anyone caught trying to cross the Yalu or Tumen Rivers into China.

Yet despite this, an oppressed, starving populace clings fiercely to its new Dear Leader, Kim Jong-un, and signs with the revolutionary slogan WE HAVE NOTHING TO ENVY line the streets of Pyongyang.

So how did North Korea become this Impossible State? What does the future hold for a regime with terrifying nuclear ambitions and a seemingly endless war with its southern counterpart? Former White House adviser Victor Cha pulls back the curtain on the world's most isolated country to provide an unprecedented and timely insight into North Korea's history, present and future.

Frequently Bought Together

The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future + Escape from Camp 14: One man's remarkable odyssey from North Korea to freedom in the West + Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea
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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (27 Jun 2013)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0099578654
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099578659
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.8 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 55,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Engrossing... It offers perhaps the best recent one-volume account of North Korea's history, economics and foreign relations" (The Economist)

"[This] excellent, comprehensive book explains as much as it is possible to explain the nature of this 'impossible state', how it has developed under the Kim dynasty and why it endures as a major thorn in the side of the global community" (Jonathan Fenby The Times)

"This scrupulously researched account provides an alarming insight into how a long-running nightmare for North Koreans could soon become a geopolitical crisis for the rest of us" (Stephen Robinson Sunday Times)

"He uses his first-hand and often surreal experiences of dealing with North Korean officialdom to telling effect in the book. But Cha is also a scholar of Korean and Asian affairs, so can take a historical view of the North Korean problem and set it in its wider international context. [An] impressive analysis" (Richard Cockett Literary Review)

"Provocative, frightening, and never more relevant than today as an untested new leader takes charge of the world's most unpredictable nuclear power" (Andrea Mitchell, NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent)

Book Description

The definitive account of North Korea - the most closed, frightening, enigmatic country on earth - its veiled past and uncertain future.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading 14 Jan 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very good but a bit repetitive, Excellent political information on the background to the fascinating country that is North Korea
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great content, shame about the editing 27 Aug 2013
This is a fascinating book, written by someone who clearly knows his subject. However, it is let down by poor editing - it is very repetitious in places (the same translation of a Korean phrase appears more than once on the same page, for example; a Japanese Prime Minister is introduced, for the first time, by surname, and with no other explanation; reference is made to Kim Jong-Il in both the present tense and the past - clearly the book was updated after he died, but incompletely. I also felt the photos of the author in the White House were out of place in what is meant to be a scholarly work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book 26 Mar 2014
By Raggy
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had recently read Escape from Camp 13, which was a much easier and anecdotal read but this book provides great factual insight into life in North Korea.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Looks Like North Korea's as Bad as we Think !! 7 Mar 2014
Victor Cha's study paints a truly dreadful picture of history's last Cold War outpost. A once industrial powerhouse with a productive economy, North Korea (NK) has fallen from being a successful nation into an almost post-apocalyptic land in a total state of desperation and disrepair.

The Korean people starve as the Kim dynasty resides in total luxury, preventing reform in order to maintain their vice-like grip on power. The reason; Ideology. The clever manipulation of Korean ancestral attitudes (Juche) and a total absence of any alternative opinion other than government allows for this phenomena to continue. Cha states clearly that the leaders prize political control above all other considerations, including reform. The recent ascension of Kim Jong-un details just how important this ideology is to the leadership and their harking back to the golden days of Kim Ii-Sung.

Cha covers many aspects of NK; its history, social development, domestic life and its leadership. He highlights how North Korea initially benefited industrially from Japanese occupation in the Forties and the subsequent Cold War. Kim Il-Sung's flirting with both Red China and the Soviets proved to be very beneficial and helped to rebuild the nation after the Korean War in the Fifties. The North consistently outperformed the South right up until the late Seventies when the South began it's climb to becoming an industrial and technological giant. Today, the two nations could not be more different.

The author goes into great detail about how time is against the Kim dynasty. The nation's failures since the Nineties has led to periodic collapses of the government's food distribution system and when this happens, the authorities have allowed private markets to develop.
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