The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia

The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia

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By (author) Andrei Lankov

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  • Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
  • Format: Hardback | 288 pages
  • Dimensions: 156mm x 235mm x 28mm | 567g
  • Publication date: 2 May 2013
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0199964297
  • ISBN 13: 9780199964291
  • Illustrations note: black & white plates, colour plates
  • Sales rank: 45,448

Product description

Andrei Lankov has gone where few outsiders have ever been. A native of the former Soviet Union, he lived as an exchange student in North Korea in the 1980s. He has studied it for his entire career, using his fluency in Korean and personal contacts to build a rich, nuanced understanding. In The Real North Korea, Lankov substitutes cold, clear analysis for the overheated rhetoric surrounding this opaque police state. After providing an accessible history of the nation, he turns his focus to what North Korea is, what its leadership thinks, and how its people cope with living in such an oppressive and poor place. He argues that North Korea is not irrational, and nothing shows this better than its continuing survival against all odds. A living political fossil, it clings to existence in the face of limited resources and a zombie economy, manipulating great powers despite its weakness. Its leaders are not ideological zealots or madmen, but perhaps the best practitioners of Machiavellian politics that can be found in the modern world. Even though they preside over a failed state, they have successfully used diplomacy-including nuclear threats-to extract support from other nations. But while the people in charge have been ruthless and successful in holding on to power, Lankov goes on to argue that this cannot continue forever, since the old system is slowly falling apart. In the long run, with or without reform, the regime is unsustainable. Lankov contends that reforms, if attempted, will trigger a dramatic implosion of the regime. They will not prolong its existence. Based on vast expertise, this book reveals how average North Koreans live, how their leaders rule, and how both survive.

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Author information

Andrei Lankov is Professor of History at Koomkin University in Seoul, South Korea. A native of Leningrad, he studied in North Korea as an exchange student. His books include North of the DMZ: Essays on Daily Life in North Korea, and From Stalin to Kim Il Sung: The Formation of North Korea, 1945-1960.

Review quote

[A] probing, clear-eyed study Lankov's is one of the best and most accessible recent accounts of this seemingly outlandish nation. Publishers Weekly

Table of contents

INTRODUCTION ; PART 1. THE SOCIETY KIM IL SUNG BUILT AND HOW HE DID IT ; PART 2: TWO DECADES OF CRISIS ; PART 3. THE LOGIC OF SURVIVAL (DOMESTICALLY) ; PART 4. THE SURVIVAL DIPLOMACY ; PART 5. WHAT TO DO ABOUT THE NORTH? ; PART 6. BEING READY FOR WHAT WE WISH FOR ; CONCLUSION