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The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia Hardcover – Apr 2013


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 283 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA (April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199964297
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199964291
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 2.8 x 16.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 109,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

In his accessible and refreshingly fair-minded new book, Andrei Lankov does a fine job of making sense of the world's most inscrutable state...it is a commanding overview of the country's politics and society, and a significant contribution to policy debates in the United States and South Korea. (International Affairs Journal)

Lankov offers a nuanced picture of this secretive country, drawing on his own experience and the North Koreans he has interviewed. (Clare Debenham, THE)

[ (Oliver Kamm, The Times)

This is the best all round account of North Korea yet. (Aidan Foster-Carter, Times Literary Supplement)

[Lankov's] book is an important curative to the unhelpful gaggle of pundits who describe nuclear-armed North Korea as "irrational" or an impenetrable "black box" (Christian Oliver, Financial Times)

There is no better road map in English than this wise, anecdotally rich and entertaining book. (Richard Lloyd Parry, The Times)

Superb,.. An engaging blend of scholarship, reportage and memoir, offers striking details about daily life in a country reminiscent of George Orwell's '1984'. (new York Times Book Review)

[A] probing, clear-eyed study Lankov's is one of the best and most accessible recent accounts of this seemingly outlandish nation. (Publishers Weekly)

About the Author

Andrei Lankov is Professor of History at Kookmin University in Seoul, South Korea. A native of Leningrad, he studied in North Korea as an exchange student. His books include North of the DMZ: Essays on Daily Life in North Korea, and From Stalin to Kim Il Sung: The Formation of North Korea, 1945-1960.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Geoff Crocker on 27 Feb. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Andrei Lankov’s history and analysis of North Korea is written in an interesting, accessible and engaging journalistic style. He paints a dire picture of contemporary life there. He offers prognoses for the future of North Korean society, and examines policy options for the rest of the world. Along with other authors on North Korea, he argues that the regime is rational, although in a Machiavellian sense, and the people more content than they were. This rationality is however very domain specific, and neither enlightened nor overall. He elsewhere presents the people as seriously oppressed.

Minor quibbles are that the text is often repetitive, the argument at times goes round in circles, and Lankov uses the cumbersome device of referring to himself as ‘the present author’, and then writing in the third person.

There is good coverage of the Kim dynasty and some of the general population, but insufficient coverage of the elite in between the two. Who are the people who devised Juche philosophy, or the people apparently capable of developing nuclear technology almost independently? Where did they come from, and whence their skills? How does the Kim dynasty interact with this elite? It matters, because it poses the question of whether the regime would simply collapse without the Kims, or whether an extensive power elite really controls the Kims and the country.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Koetzsch on 27 July 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Andrei Lankov does a fine job in showing what works in North Korea and what doesn't and what we might expect to happen in the next 20 years or so.

The North Korean government is often portrayed as a bunch of loonies or the world's last rogue state. When you start reading the book you will quickly discover that it is anything but that. The author starts off with detailing how well Kim Il-Sung took over the country and what an excellent job he has done economics-wise. Lankov is fairly straightforward in his opinion on the matter. Having lived in Pyongyang also helps.

Chapter Two deals with the transformation of the economy under Kim Jong-Il, not that the chap desired for that to happen, I suppose. What strikes me so hilarious about this chapter is that North Korea is now probably more of a market economy than quite a few of the states of the European Union. I am not surprised that the country's present Government would like to go back to `the good old days' of the 1980s, but the author shows how well that would work.

The nuclear issue and how well it can be used to prise aid out of `the West' is dealt with at length.

The most interesting bit of the book I found the author's thought on North Korea in the next 20 years. There are also several scenarios on how the North and the South might find together. You will have to decide for yourself how likely you find any of these. I would agree with the author that the present system in North Korea will go with a bang rather than reform gradually, but I think that many of his figures are too low. German unification in 1990 was estimated to cost anything up to 800 bn Deutschmarks (roughly 400 bn Euro). So far the German government has spent about ten times as much.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
North Korea is a far closed and hermetic country. Hard, very hard to find out dsomething reliable about this controversial country. Lankov provides clear and sensible explanations about the mentaslity of the rulers of this country. HE achieve this goal by adopting the point of view of the countries of this área. Lankov is far away of steriotypes and provides a new, refreshing view of this country armed with nuclear weapons. To read this book is neccessary to adquire some understanding of North Korea.
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Format: Hardcover
If, like me, you've ever found yourself looking at all the bizarre news and thinking "WHAT ON EARTH IS ALL THAT ABOUT!?", this is the book for you.

Not only has the author impeccable credentials but he explains all of the dynamics, history and rationale of the Pyongyang Regime very clearly and concisely.

A fascinating read.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There is so much propaganda about North Korea on both sides of the DMZ that it is hard for the novice on this subject to choose one book that explains everything in a realistic way, but this is it. The author presents the impartial facts in a digestible format and makes predictions on what will happen to NK that are sound and based common sense and a much deeper knowledge of the Korean psychology than most Western politicians can fathom. The "unpredictable" actions of NK leaders become entirely predictable when you understand what motivates them. Korean culture, both north and south, is hard for the Western mind to grasp but this book helps the reader to understand the mindset. Why for example do South Koreans ignore the presence of death camps just a few hundred km north of their border - most South Koreans don't even know they are there and those that do are in denial. Left-wing South Koreans of a certain generation admire, even revere the NK leadership, so how can this be when it is obvious that the Kim dynasty has failed their people so completely. The explanations for conundrums such as these are all in this book, which is both authoritative and accessible.
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