The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters

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Overview

Here B. R. Myers, a North Korea analyst and a contributing editor of The Atlantic, presents the first full-length study of the North Korean worldview. Drawing on extensive research into the regime's domestic propaganda, including films, romance novels and other artifacts of the personality cult, Myers analyzes each of the country's official myths in turn - from the notion of Koreans' unique moral purity, to the myth of an America quaking in terror of "the Iron General." In a concise but groundbreaking historical section, Myers also traces the origins of this official culture back to the Japanese fascist thought in which North Korea's first idealogues were schooled.

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Editorial Reviews

Stephen Kotkin
A U.S.-born, German-trained expert on North Korea, [Myers] reminds us that the regime owes a great deal to fascist legacies of Japanese colonial rule (1905-45), and he brilliantly shows how North Korean novels—books we are lucky not to have to read—are obsessed with the belief that Koreans form a uniquely pure and spiritual race, a worldview also widely held in South Korea, where Myers lives. The author's prose is spirited, even angry.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
A particularly nasty strain of racist propaganda has enabled North Korea's dictatorship to maintain power, according to this fascinating cultural survey. An American-born, South Korea-based instructor of North Korean literature, Myers (A Reader's Manifesto) combines his cultural and linguistic fluency with sharp analysis to throw light on one of the world's most closed-off cultures. Examining North Korean books, news broadcasts, and films, Myers finds that the country's supremacist propaganda can be traced to imperial Japan, which sought to convince Koreans that they were part of the "world's purest race." Myers acidly discredits Western interpretations of North Korea as "hard-line communist" or "Confucian," noting the prevalence of maternal rather than paternal imagery and the societal scorn for the former Soviet bloc. Esoteric cultural markers-e.g., the heavy use of flashbacks in film and literature-are mined for compelling clues to the North Korean sensibility. Myers' greatest feat is his explanation of how the regime has maintained power despite its failures in almost every area of governance-how it has convinced average North Korean citizens that shipments of U.S. food aid, for example, are actually reparations for past "Yankee" crimes. A sharp and smart introduction to one of the world's most secretive societies.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher
"Electrifying... finely argued and brilliantly written."  —Christopher Hitchens, Slate

"Provocative... A fascinating analysis." —Dwight Garner, The New York Times

"[A] scary... close reading of domestic propaganda [that] goes a long way toward explaining the erratic behavior and seemingly bizarre thought processes of Dear Leader Kim Jong Il."—The Wall Street Journal

"Myers' book is worth buying and reading."The Quarterly Review

"The definitive book on the subject." —The Atlantic

"There are few books that can give the world a peek into the Hermit Kingdom.The Cleanest Race provides a reason to care about how those in North Korea see themselves and the West. It is possibly the best addition to that small library of books on North Korean ideology."
—Andrei Lankov, Far Eastern Economic Review

"Myers renders great service to the global foreign policy establishment with his lucid and well documented profile of the North Korean polity. If only it were made mandatory reading for all the stakeholder leaders, particularly the American establishment, who feel compelled to deal politically with North Korea. Maybe then, Myers' wisdom might lead them to adopt the only possibly policy toward North Korea that will work: that of 'benign neglect.'"
—Mike Gravel, US Senate 1969-1981

"In his new survey of North Korean propaganda, The Cleanest Race, B.R. Myers insists that the ongoing support of the North Korean public for the regime doesn't reflect any great faith in communism. Instead, he argues, it is rooted in a kind of paranoid racial nationalism adapted from the Japanese fascism that flourished before World War II.... Myers feels that the racialism at the heart of the regime's ideology will sustain it even as it fails to provide the prosperity it promises."
—Laura Miller, Salon.com

"The text offers a clear picture of the peculiar worldview of this profoundly inward-facing country, its character and continuous subtle alterations, and its under-appreciated ramifications in world affairs." Reference & Research Book News

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781933633916
  • Publisher: Melville House Publishing
  • Publication date: 1/26/2010
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

Pt. I A history of North Korea's official culture 23

Pt. II Understanding North Korean through its myths 59

Mother Korea and her children 71

The parent leader 93

The dear leader 111

Foreigners 129

The Yankee colony 151

Conclusion 163

Notes 171

Bibliography 191

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 17, 2012

    This is the best book I've read on north Korea. If you're looki

    This is the best book I've read on north Korea. If you're looking for a history book on the Korean War, this is not it. What this book is, is an unconventional and insightful look at the poeple and gov't of north Korea, how they look at the world, and how the government maintains control. The book changed how I read news articles on the north. The book flips conventional wisdom on its head, as it pertains to how the US and other nations deal with them. I hope the author updates the book to cover the transition to Kim Jong Eun.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2012

    Good Stuff

    Real on the ground info here about a place thats not
    called The Hermit Kingdom for nothing. The author puts
    up a lot of support for his thesis that North Korea is not
    really a communist dictatorship but a nationalist and
    racial one. Great inside look at how the North's regime and
    its people view themselves and the world.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2012

    Unique look at the DPRK

    A great book for those interested in the mysterious DPRK. It should be noted though that it assumes a certain level of knowledge about the country so it may not suit those new to the subject.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2013

    Very good book, a bit disjointed but the information is good. If

    Very good book, a bit disjointed but the information is good. If you have an interest in North Korea this is a good book that gives you a good foundation for it. 

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2012

    Interesting ,educational

    You can tell the author did a lot of research
    I recommend !!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted April 30, 2014

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    Posted May 3, 2012

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    Posted September 21, 2013

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