The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future

The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future

by Victor Cha


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“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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061998515
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/09/2013
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 560
Sales rank: 565,237
Product dimensions: 5.42(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

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

Acknowledgments 465

Notes 469

Index 507

What People are Saying About This

Bob Schieffer

“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.”

Andrea Mitchell

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.”

Gideon Rose

“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.”

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