Rogue Regime: Kim Jong Il and the Looming Threat of North Korea

Overview

What happens when a dictator wins absolute power and isolates a nation from the outside world? In a nightmare of political theory stretched to madness, North Korea's Kim Jong Il made himself into a living god, surrounded by lies and flattery and beyond criticism. As over two million of his subjects starved to death, Kim Jong Il roamed between palaces staffed by the most beautiful girls in the country and stocked with the most expensive delicacies from around the world. Outside, the steel mills shut down, the ...
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Rogue Regime: Kim Jong Il and the Looming Threat of North Korea

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Overview

What happens when a dictator wins absolute power and isolates a nation from the outside world? In a nightmare of political theory stretched to madness, North Korea's Kim Jong Il made himself into a living god, surrounded by lies and flattery and beyond criticism. As over two million of his subjects starved to death, Kim Jong Il roamed between palaces staffed by the most beautiful girls in the country and stocked with the most expensive delicacies from around the world. Outside, the steel mills shut down, the trains stopped running, the power went out, and the hospitals ran out of medicine. When the population threatened to revolt, Kim imposed a reign of terror across the country, deceived the United Nations, and plundered the country's dwindling resources to become a nuclear power. Now tiny bankrupt North Korea is using her nuclear capability to blackmail the United States.

Veteran correspondent Jasper Becker takes us inside one of the most secretive countries in the world, exposing the internal chaos, blind faith, rampant corruption, and terrifying cruelty of its rulers. Becker details the vain efforts to change North Korea by actors inside and outside the country and the dangers this highly volatile country continues to pose. Small, podgy and easily overlooked, Kim Jong Il has emerged from the shadow of his father to lead the most successful and dangerous rogue state of our times.

This unique land, ruled by one family's megalomania and paranoia, seems destined to survive and linger on for some time, a menace to its own people and to the rest of the world. But should the nations of the world allow this regime to survive? That's the question with which this book concludes.

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Editorial Reviews

William Grimes
Rogue Regime is not for the faint-hearted. Mr. Becker takes an unblinking look at a dark regime that has made North Korea an international pariah, has elevated its rulers to the status of gods, and through torture and indoctrination reduced its subjects to virtual slaves, three million of whom, according to some estimates, perished during famines in the late 1980's. Mr. Becker puts it harshly: "North Korea can best be compared to a large concentration camp in which the guards and their Gestapo officers are able to live as before but the inmates are slowly being worked to death."
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
One of the few reporters to have firsthand experience of North Korea, veteran Asian correspondent Becker (Hungry Ghosts) adds more nuance to a familiar story that the threat of nuclear arms, as well as the world's fifth largest standing army, are part of an attempt to force the rest of the globe to cater to a mad leader's megalomaniacal world. Becker presents a well-fed, unprepossessing Kim Jong Il running North Korea with a cult of personality unmatched in contemporary history, reducing his population to starving anonymous actors in a bizarre personal psychodrama, where "even the mere idea of internal opposition to Kim's rule is regarded as preposterous." Images of this grim state of affairs-which goes well beyond the Orwellian into the Kafkaesque-have been smuggled out over the past few years; how they came to be is described with rare concision by Becker: the Kim dynasty's poisonous and potent blend of Stalinist doctrine and Korean absolutism found its catalysts, he argues, in the varying ambitions of Japan, China and the U.S. While stopping short of calling for immediate regime change, Becker minces no words in warning that we may now have no way out of a monstrous situation. 16 b&w photos not seen by PW. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
"To paraphrase Tolstoy, all rogue states are rogue states in their own way, but North Korea is the only one to present multiple dangers and on a massive scale." So writes foreign correspondent Becker (The Chinese, 2000, etc.), who reveals that at least one node on the so-called Axis of Evil is a nasty and dangerous place indeed. This isn't news to readers who have followed the curious fortunes of the Kim dynasty, now represented by the despotic Kim Jong Il. Those who haven't given the world's premier rogue nation much thought-apparently including much of the intelligence community-will, however, find Becker's depiction shocking. During a long-lasting famine in the 1990s, for instance, when many North Koreans attempted to sell their children so the kids could be fed, and others killed and ate their compatriots, Kim feasted, drank imported champagne and moved from one palace to another in a fleet of Mercedes limousines. Having raised the cult of personality to hitherto unknown extremes, he demanded absolute obeisance from his people, and anyone who displeased him wound up dead or enslaved. When a party-loyal economist suggested that the Chinese had plenty to eat because peasants worked their own plots rather than collective land, "the secret police came knocking on his door." Stalin never lived so well, and, even though Becker credits Kim with one or two useful if sometimes weird reforms, this eye-opening account makes it abundantly clear that the dictator needs to "be held personally accountable for his deeds at an international tribunal." How that will happen is anyone's guess, though Becker writes that many in the Bush administration advocate military intervention to unseat Kim, perhapsat the risk of North Korea's lobbing nuclear warheads at the U.S. mainland. More geopolitically engaged, but also less titillating, than Bradley K. Martin's Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader (2004). But of much interest to readers who wonder where the next war will be fought.
From the Publisher

"Becker makes a powerful case for defining Kim once and for all--not as an ordinary, if nuclear-tipped, dictator, but as an extraordinarily skillful tyrant presiding over the worst man-made catastrophe in modern history.... A highly readable narrative that unearths Kim's history, probes his decision-making style and details the grotesque consequences of those decisions. His book is a subtle plea to the world to expand its focus beyond the--admittedly important--nuclear issue to the vast humanitarian catastrophe unfolding under Kim Jong Il's gaze."--Joshua Kurlantzick, New York Times Book Review

"A very timely book.... Not for the faint-hearted. Mr. Becker takes an unblinking look at a dark regime that has made North Korea an international pariah, has elevated its rulers to the status of gods, and through torture and indoctrination reduced its subjects to virtual slaves.... The facts almost defy belief."--William Grimes, The New York Times

"A good new look at North Korea."--Nicholas Kristof, The New York Observer

"One of the few reporters to have firsthand experience of North Korea, veteran Asian correspondent Becker adds more nuance to a familiar story that the threat of nuclear arms, as well as the world's fifth largest standing army, are part of an attempt to force the rest of the globe to cater to a mad leader's megalomaniacal world.... Images of this grim state of affairs--which goes well beyond the Orwellian into the Kafkaesque--have been smuggled out over the past few years; how they came to be is described with rare concision by Becker.... Becker minces no words in warning that we may now have no way out of a monstrous situation."--Publishers Weekly

"Really is required reading. Becker, one of the few Western reporters to spend time in the Stalinist state, details the megalomania of Kim Jong Il--who staffed his palaces with the country's most beautiful women--and the madness of his regime, under which 2 million Koreans have reportedly died of starvation."--New York Post

"Jasper Becker is already known as one of the sharpest observers of contemporary China--and with Rogue Regime he immediately establishes himself as a premier observer, and critic, of Kim Jong Il's North Korea. Readers of this devastating book will be hard pressed to gainsay Becker's assertion that this dynastic dictatorship genuinely empowers evil--or to turn away from Becker's conclusion that only regime change is likely to bring a better life to the millions of ordinary North Koreans suffering under the Dear Leader's rule."--Nicholas Eberstadt, Henry Wendt Scholar in Political Economy, The American Enterprise Institute

"By giving us an engrossing and well-documented examination of the North Korean regime, Becker proves that Kim Jong Il is in a category of tyranny all on his own and that engagement and appeasement only strengthen him. If you care at all about the slow and certain genocide of the North Korean people, he makes a powerful case for why regime change is the only answer." --Suzanne Scholte, President, Defense Forum Foundation

"Jasper Becker has warned us about North Korea, as a journalist with a sharp eye and an historian with perspective. North Korea with its bizarre cult of personality, its failed economy, its crackpot ideology and its relentless pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is a major challenge in the twenty-first century. The reader will learn of the cunning control freaks who run the country. Becker's convincing book will make the task of the apologists for North Korea that much more difficult." --James Lilley, Former American Ambassador to South Korea and China

"Rogue Regime is the companion work to Jasper Becker's Hungry Ghosts, his earlier, well-documented account of 30 million famine deaths in Mao's China. Once again he pulls back a heavy veil of secrecy and reveals the immense suffering of the people of North Korea." --Dean Hirsch, President, World Vision International

"A tough but even-handed treatment of the subject."--Andrew Scobell for Parameters

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195308914
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/9/2006
  • Pages: 328
  • Sales rank: 915,945
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jasper Becker has worked as a foreign correspondent for twenty years, including eleven years based in Beijing. He has written four books on the region, which have been translated into seven languages. His most recent work is The Chinese.

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Table of Contents

Preface: Rogue State

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