North Korea: Another Country

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Depicted as an insular and forbidding police state with an "insane" dictator at its helm, North Korea—charter member of Bush's "Axis of Evil"—is a country the U.S. loves to hate. Now the CIA says it possesses nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, as well as long-range missiles capable of delivering them to America's West Coast.

But, as Bruce Cumings demonstrates in this provocative, lively read, the story of the U.S.-Korea conflict is more complex than our leaders or our news media would have us believe. Drawing on his extensive knowledge of Korea, and on declassified government reports, Cumings traces that story, from the brutal Korean War to the present crisis. Harboring no illusions regarding the totalitarian Kim Jong Il regime, Cumings nonetheless insists on a more nuanced approach. The result is both a counter-narrative to the official U.S. and North Korean versions and a fascinating portrayal of North Korea, a country that suffers through foreign invasions, natural disasters, and its own internal contradictions, yet somehow continues to survive.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Died-in-the-wool American patriots and the Republican Party's faithful will receive little comfort in reading Cumings' critical study of U.S. policy toward North Korea. First, Cumings (history, Univ. of Chicago; The Origins of the Korean War) reviews some of the dirty aspects of an essentially unknown American war in Korea. He next proceeds to suggest the commission of American atrocities and follows with a plausible set of reasons for North Korea's rejection of 50 years of Japanese colonial rule, another 50 years of American hegemony, and the existence of a powerful South Korea. The current administration receives a devastating critique for the American retreat from the 1994 Framework Agreement with North Korea, their suggestion of a preemptive strike against North Korean nuclear facilities, and their desire for the overthrow of the North Korean government. Cumings concludes that the North Korean leadership of Kim Il Sung and his son, Kim Jong Il, is not lunatic in nature but predictable and deeply rooted in historic Korean culture. North Korea will be uncomfortable reading for some, but it is a necessary corrective to prior American media conditioning. Recommended for all libraries.-John F. Riddick, Central Michigan Univ. Lib., Mt. Pleasant Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565849402
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 11/28/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 851,277
  • Product dimensions: 5.24 (w) x 7.48 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Table of Contents

1 War Is a Stern Teacher 1
2 The Nuclear Crisis: First Act and Sequel 43
3 The Legend of Kim Il Sung 103
4 Daily Life in North Korea 128
5 The World's First Postmodern Dictator 155
6 Beyond Good and Evil 177
Recommended Reading 208
Notes 210
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2006


    A primer for apologist literature on North Korea. Bruce Cumings insists that much of the hoopla that has incurred terrible relations between North Korea and United States. Correctly ascertains the nature of North Korean leadership-they are not crazy. His conclusion is that North Korea is a neo-Confucius state bent on traditional Korean values under the title of 'Juche.' Mr. Cumings believes that the nature of Kim Jong Il is a benevolent brilliance, while I'd interpret as malevolent Machaevellianism.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2006

    Lively read

    Bruce Cumings' writings are often depicted by right-wing Republicans as apologist literature for North Korea. I think some of this is true, but as Cumings demonstrates the situation in Korea is much more complex than just good (America and South Korea) and villains (North Korea's Kim Jong Il). Cumings is not naive about the totalitarian North Korean garrison state of Jong Il and his successor to the throne, Jong Nam. Cumings shows that the leadership in North Korea are not a bunch of quacks or 'nuts,' they are quite rational, making them maybe more dangerous. Before Bush let open his mouth about the 'Axis of Evil,' North Korea was prepared for much more peaceful relations with the West. An interesting dichotomy in this book appears as Cumings argues that North Korea believes in traditional Korean values or 'Juche' as it is called by them. It is a return to neo-Confucianism. Very well written with a little bit too much solipism and apologism with some of North Korea's less-than-savory activities.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2005

    Critical Search for Truth

    North Korea is perhaps one of the most misunderstood countries/regimes in the world today. Not that it's not a militaristic garrison is, but THERE IS AN ENTIRE HISTORY AS TO WHY IT IS THAT WAY and this book is a great tool for understanding why and how. Bruce Cummings does an excellent job of gathering information much of it 'from the horse's mouth' of US leaders and generals. From the occupation of the Korean Peninsula by Imperial Japan in World War 2, the guerilla war waged by the communists to fight and defeat the Japanese, the US role in dividing the nation and installing into power in the South of those who had openly and aggressively collaborated with the fascist occupation, through the Korean War with the US, the aid of the Chinese people to the Korean people, the threats of nuclear holocaust by the US, the complete destruction of the North by US bombs and napalm that resulted in the deaths of between 2-3 million people. The author also goes through the history of the founder of the North--Kim Il Sung, and his son--Kim Jong Il. Cummings brings the reader up to date and also puts the entire history into perspective and place in today's whole Orwellian Bush-dubbed 'Axis of Evil' and the war on the world spiralling crusade. Highly reccommended for students, professors and anyone wanting to know the world based on materialist and physical reality.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2005

    Lots of good historical scholarship, but apologetic

    If Leon Sigal manages to avoid sounding like an apologist for North Korea, Bruce Cumings jumps head first into a lake where everyone but the North Korean itself is responsible for the current state of the DPRK. His musings on the Korean War often seem more like the ramblings of an old man than a scholar attempting to prove a point. He wastes six pages writing about how close the U.S. came to dropping one or even dozens of atomic bombs on the North Koreans (mostly the words of notorious hawks like MacArthur and LeMay). One wonders if this rhetorical device to expose the near-treachery of the American military machine in the Korean War changes the fact that the U.S. did not drop even one atomic bomb during the Korean War (i.e. why spend six pages writing about something that didn¿t even happen?). Cumings, however, is quite thoughtful in writing a book on modern Korean history where his main antagonist is moral absolutism. Through such a filter, there is much to loathe and laugh at since the Korean peninsula became the focal point of Northeast Asian conflict. The power of each state¿s (ROK, DPRK, U.S., Japan, PRC) discourse must be sufficient to counteract the power of the other¿s. In this sense, Cumings draws out the hypocrisy of the West in pointing to North Korea as the sole purveyor of blind propaganda. The West, South Korea and Japan included, has been just as complicit in painting the DPRK as the freak but hideously amplified version of totalitarian communism as the DPRK is of aggrandizing themselves and vilifying the rest of the world. The result today, Cumings argues, is that while the world is caught between moving past and forgetting North Korea, and never forgiving them for being last outpost for Cold War excess, North Koreans are a people ¿who calculate time by the century.¿ In the last century, this has manifested itself in a North Korean mindset which constantly remembers the atrocities of the Americans, Russians, Chinese, South Koreans, and Japanese. However, contrast this with the image of Kim Jong-Il attempting, in fits and starts, to liberalize the economy, to establish friendlier relations with the historic enemies just enumerated, to somehow improve the country he inherited. Kim, Cumings writes, ¿is highly intelligent and very sensitive,¿ and as the figurehead of today¿s most notorious totalitarian regime, must be thinking ¿get me out of here¿ (168, 155). Cumings also stresses that South Koreans are often befuddled to find that North Koreans are ¿normal¿ people just like them (152). Cumings presents here contrasting images of North Korea: the country that time forgot, obliviously stuck in its own embittered past, and the country trying to change itself, to stay competitive with the rest of Asia. How does Cumings reconcile these two conceptions? The answer is he doesn¿t. In some ways, this is a major failing of Cumings¿ book, for he wants us to realize that the North Korean¿s historical memory runs deep, and at the same time he wants us to know that they are normal and regular people like you and me. Can these images be reconciled? Perhaps they easily can, but a policy maker must first decide which of these pictures is more accurate before deciding a course of action. For instance, if the DPRK is a country mired in its own history who cannot forgive the past sins of historical enemies, then perhaps tough measures to denuclearize are in order (bigger sticks, smaller carrots). If, on the other hand, they want to reform, but do not know how, then maybe we should think about helping them (bigger carrots, smaller sticks). Needless to say, Another Country is a frustrating experience if you are looking for clear, methodologically rigorous political science. But if you appreciate a meandering narrative filled with a lot of good, history-based scholarship, and a writer that refuses to come down on either side of what might constitute good or evil outside of a humanitarian ethos (North Korea does have a terri

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2004

    A MUST Read

    Given our seemingly inevitable confrontation with North Korea this book is a must read for every American. We have to ask our American leaders why they don't know the information in this book -- or at least why they pretend not to know -- and why they continue to propel us into another disastrous conflict we can not only avoid, but that we can defuse forever.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2004

    Very Good, Informative book

    Good book on how North Korea works. Leans towards being slightly pro North Korea.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2010

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