This unique book, now fully updated, provides a comprehensive overview of all aspects of life in North Korea today. Drawing on decades of experience, noted experts Ralph Hassig and Kongdan Oh explore a world few outsiders can imagine. In vivid detail, the authors describe how the secretive and authoritarian government of Kim Jong-un shapes every aspect of its citizens' lives, how the command socialist economy has utterly failed, and how ordinary individuals struggle to survive through small-scale capitalism. Weighing the very limited individual rights allowed, the authors illustrate how the political class system and the legal system serve solely as tools of the regime.
The key to understanding how the North Korean people live, the authors argue, is to realize that their only allowed role is to support Kim Jong-un, whose grandfather founded the country in the late 1940s. Still a cypher, Kim Jong-un, as did his father before him, controls his people by keeping them isolated and banning most foreigners. North Koreans remain hungry and oppressed, yet the outside world is slowly filtering in, and the book concludes by urging the United States to flood North Korea with information so that its people can make decisions based on truth rather than their dictator's ubiquitous propaganda.
Ralph Hassig is an independent consultant and retired adjunct professor of psychology at the University of Maryland University College. Kongdan Oh is a Senior Asia Specialist at the Institute for Defense Analyses and an invited columnist for the Asia Times.
Table of Contents
Contents Preface to the Second Edition Chapter 1 Introduction: Land of Illusions Chapter 2 The Country of the Three Kims Chapter 3 The Struggling National Economy Chapter 4 The Emerging People’s Economy Chapter 5 Propaganda, News, and South Korean Soap Operas Chapter 6 Public Declarations and Private Thoughts Chapter 7 The Human Rights Deficit Chapter 8 Silent Defectors Chapter 9 Faint Light at the End of the Tunnel Notes Index About the Authors
What People are Saying About This
A must-read for serious students of North Korea. The wealth of information peels back layers of mystique to provide a genuinely understandable glimpse of the inner workings of Kim Jong-il's North Korea. The chapter on the Kim family is absolutely essential to understanding why North Korea is the unique nation that it is. It should be required reading for American policymakers.
James A. Kelly
Kongdan Oh and Ralph Hassig—analysts of unique experience and depth—look behind North Korea's bluster, blasts, and missiles to the eroding country they hide. The authors shine a light on the country's people—from dictator Kim Jong-il and his privileged inner circle to the millions of Koreans who struggle through desperate lives of hunger, want, and fear. That this system has changed in recent years makes the book especially timely and invaluable for making sense of an inflammatory and unpredictable rogue state.
An extraordinarily penetrating look behind the walls of North Korea's secretive society by two renowned specialists who identify the cracks developing in the ideological, economic, and political foundations of this totalitarian system.
Richard C. Bush
Ralph Hassig and Kongdan Oh have opened a peephole through the locked door that is North Korea. They draw on their deep knowledge of the country and extensive interviewing of refugees to provide a rich and textured picture of the life of a people who are victims of their leaders’ megalomania. New insights and information spring from every page.