“A meaty, fast-paced portrait of North Korean society, economy, politics and foreign policy.” -Foreign Affairs
The definitive account of North Korea, its veiled past and uncertain future, from the former Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council
In The Impossible State, seasoned international-policy expert and lauded scholar Victor Cha pulls back the curtain on this controversial and isolated country, providing the best look yet at North Korea's history, the rise of the Kim family dynasty, and the obsessive personality cult that empowers them. He illuminates the repressive regime's complex economy and culture, its appalling record of human-rights abuses, and its belligerent relationship with the United States, and analyzes the regime's major security issues—from the seemingly endless war with its southern neighbor to its frightening nuclear ambitions—all in light of the destabilizing effects of Kim Jong-il's recent death.
How this enigmatic nation-state—one that regularly violates its own citizens' inalienable rights and has suffered famine, global economic sanctions, a collapsed economy, and near total isolation from the rest of the world—has continued to survive has long been a question that preoccupies the West. Cha reveals a land of contradictions, one facing a pivotal and disquieting transition of power from tyrannical father to inexperienced son, and delves into the ideology that leads an oppressed, starving populace to cling so fiercely to its failed leadership.
With rare personal anecdotes from the author's time in Pyongyang and his tenure as an adviser in the White House, this engagingly written, authoritative, and highly accessible history offers much-needed answers to the most pressing questions about North Korea and ultimately warns of a regime that might be closer to its end than many might think—a political collapse for which America and its allies may be woefully unprepared.
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About the Author
Victor Cha served in the White House as Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council from 2004 to 2007. He currently holds the D. S. Song-KF Chair in Government and Asian Studies at Georgetown University and is a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
Table of Contents
A Note on the Korean Text ix
Glossary of Acronyms and Abbreviations xi
1 Contradictions 1
2 The Best Days 19
3 All in the Family 64
4 Five Bad Decisions 110
5 The Worst Place on Earth 162
6 The Logic of Deterrence 212
7 Complete, Verifiable, and Irreversible Dismantlement (CVID) 247
8 Neighbors 315
9 Approaching Unification 386
10 The End is Near 427
What People are Saying About This
“Ask those who deal with national security what worries them most and at the top of the list or near it you’ll always find North Korea, a place about which we know little to nothing. That’s why Victor Cha’s book is so valuable.”
“The Impossible State is provocative, frightening, and never more relevant than today as an untested new leader takes charge of the world’s most unpredictable nuclear power.”
“A powerful portrait of one of the world’s most troubled and troublesome countries [and] a fascinating, behind-the-scenes account of recent American foreign policy by a leading official. . . . A must-read combination for anybody interested in Korea, east Asia, or global security more generally.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book covers everything about North Korea and the international problems on the peninsula. I have read many books on the topic and this is the best overall read filled with personal details negotiating with North Korea as well as working in government policy. It is easy to read, well organized and insightful. The stories of meeting real people involved in the six party talks make it more easy to understand the complexities of a very difficult situation. The author is straight forward and honest. I am glad my wife told me about it. Highly recommended.
Incredile insight into an incredibly isolated people...and a regime that appears to have no end in sight. The research and personal knowledge of Cho made this the most captivating read I've had in a long time. A great follow-up to this one is The Aquariums of Pyongyang.