"There is, quite simply, no journalist in any language who has done more to unearth and tell the astounding story of Kim Jong Un than Anna Fifield. The Great Successor slashes through myths to yield the first essential and vivid biography of the man and his era."Evan Osnos, author of Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China
"Anna Fifield owns the North Korea story today in a way that few other journalists, myself included, have ever been able to claim mastery over this most elusive subject."Barbara Demick, author of the bestselling Nothing to Envy
"Intelligent, insightful, sometimes comic, and also worrying: Anna Fifield has written a vivid, compelling, and, above all, illuminating portrait of a rogue family's rule over the world's most reclusive nation."General David Petraeus (US Army, Ret.), director of the CIA when Kim Jong Un became leader
"With a journalist's eye for detail and with the gift of a storyteller, Anna Fifield has written the quintessential bible on Kim Jong Un. No one working to solve the North Korean puzzle should let The Great Successor sit on a bookshelf; it's a must-read."Ambassador Wendy R. Sherman, former undersecretary of state for political affairs and author of Not for the Faint of Heart: Lessons in Courage, Power, and Persistence
"An important, riveting, and detailed account of the rise of Kim Jong Un. Anna Fifield, who is an intrepid reporter and a lively writer, breaks important new ground in The Great Successor. Drawing on a broad array of sources, including remarkable defector accounts, she paints a disturbing portrait of a country fueled by heady delusions of military strength; a potent, bizarre ideology; an unflinching devotion to nuclear weapons; and a disturbing addiction to crystal methamphetamine. Spoiler alert: be prepared for a lot of gore."Evans J.R. Revere, senior advisor with the Albright Stonebridge Group and former senior state department official with 50 years of experience working on Korea
"I loved reading Anna Fifield when she had the Korea beat for the Post, and now she has outdone herself with the first English language biography of the most opaque and mysterious leader in the world. Carefully crafted from her reporting with additional research, field work, and exclusive interviews with those close to and in the Kim family, The Great Successor peels back the layers to reveal Kim Jong Un's psyche and the ominous future of the country over which he presides. A must read for the general and expert reader!"Victor Cha, Korea chair at the Center for International and Strategic Studies and author of The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future
"The Great Successor shows how a pudgy young heir to tyranny-using fratricide, nuclear terror, crony capitalism, and strategic flattery of a vain American president-has become a sure-footed Machiavelli for the twenty-first century. In this devastating portrait of the latest dictator named Kim, Anna Fifield expertly dissects North Korea's first family of despotism."Blaine Harden, author of Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West
"The Great Successor is a tour de force of reporting. Anna Fifield has penetrated the secrecy and myths surrounding Kim Jong Un to provide a remarkable, multi-layered portrait of North Korea's youthful and enigmatic leader. The ruler depicted in this book, which is based on Fifield's interviews with an impressive range of people who have had contact with Kim or experience inside his system, plus insights gleaned from her own travel as a journalist in North Korea, is not the bomb-throwing 'rocket man' so often mocked and caricatured. Instead, Kim Jong Un comes across as smart, ruthless, diplomatically savvy, and determined to survive at all costs. An essential guide to understanding the man who could well be in charge of North Korea for decades."Mike Chinoy, former CNN senior Asia correspondent and author of Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis
"A vivid portrait of an ambitious, paranoid young dictator."AXIOS
"A compelling mix of biography, cultural history, and political intrigue."Kirkus, Starred Review
"I'm in awe of the author's devotion to the people searching for freedom."Thae Yong Ho, North Korean Deputy Ambassador to the United Kingdom, who defected in 2016
"More than a biography; The Great Successor is also an important portrait of a nation that will present enormous challenges to the world."Nicholas Kristof, New York Times
A journalist experienced in reporting from Asia penetrates the secrecy of North Korea about as well as humanly possible.
Fifield, the current Beijing bureau chief for the Washington Post and former Tokyo chief for that publication, focuses on Kim Jong Un, the third consecutive leader from the same family to subjugate the citizenry since the partition of Korea after World War II. The author has no direct access to Kim Jong Un (very few do), who was only 27 when he succeeded his father as supreme leader. Because of the outlandish and relentless North Korean government propaganda about the divine origins of the family's three generations, treating the leaders seriously can seem like an exercise in dishonesty. In addition, the cartoonish physical appearance of Kim Jong Un often gives rise to cruel satire. Refreshingly, Fifield avoids the temptation to treat him less than seriously. Despite his presiding over a police state, the malnutrition of most North Koreans, the bluster, and the "decrepit kleptocracy that was his inheritance," Fifield understands that the young despot has improved conditions for the citizenry. Partly due to the spotlight that President Donald Trump has shined on him, the North Korean dictator has received sustained attention on the global stage, a phenomenon that the author documents beyond the superficial daily headlines. Most of Fifield's sources have justified reasons to despise the North Korean family dynasty, but her strong journalism skills allow her to separate the wheat from the chaff of biased sources. At times, she brings herself into the narrative, but she does so judiciously. There is some comic relief with the entrance of such odd characters as former professional basketball player Dennis Rodman, who "loved the adulation he received" when he visited North Korea. Fifield is also good at explaining the personal obsessions that define Kim Jong Un's dual-level dictatorship, with the top level reserved for the North Korean supporters upon whom he has bestowed lavish wealth.
A compelling mix of biography, cultural history, and political intrigue.