Saturday, December 4, 2010

Books on North Korea

This is a selection of titles with a particular focus on North Korea:
  • Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick. North Korea is Orwell's 1984 made reality: it is the only country in the world not connected to the internet; Gone with the Wind is a dangerous, banned book; during political rallies, spies study your expression to check your sincerity. After the death of the country's great leader Kim Il Sung in 1994, famine descended, and Nothing to Envy - winner of the 2010 BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction - weaves together the stories of adversity and resilience of six residents of Chongin, North Korea's third-largest city. From extensive interviews and with tenacious investigative work, Barbara Demick has recreated the concerns, culture and lifestyles of North Korean citizens in a gripping narrative, and vividly reconstructed the inner workings of this extraordinary and secretive country.
  • The Korean War 1950-1953: The Full Story with First-Hand Accounts of the Forgotten War by Brian Catchpole. In June 1950, the North Koreans invaded South Korea. With the horrors of the Second World War still fresh in everyone's minds, US President Truman was reluctant to intervene, but within two weeks, American troops were in action as part of a UN task force. They were soon joined by military personnel from Britain, Canada, Australia, and a dozen other nations, facing 1.3 million Chinese soldiers who poured across the Manchurian border in support of North Korea. Thus began a three-year struggle that saw the world teeter on the brink of a Third World War. Now, sixty years on, Brian Catchpole provides a clear view of the conflict often referred to as "The Forgotten War".
  • North Korean Reform: Politics, Economics and Security (Adelphi Paper No. 382) by Robert Carlin and Joel S Wit. While foreign policy and security concerns have trumped past efforts to reform the North Korean economy, Pyongyang is implementing important economic reforms despite renewed tensions with the United States. This is in response to a leadership debate - between 'reformers' and 'conservatives' over whether Pyongyang's military industrial complex should be scaled back to help ensure the success of reforms - that is fundamentally transforming the country. The direction of these developments reflects strong pro-reform forces in the leadership and could have profound implications for the future of national security policy. But internal struggle over reform could lead to indecision on security and foreign policy issues, including at the nuclear talks. Whether Washington can influence the debate is unclear, but a US policy of engagement could enhance the chances of success for North Korean advocates of reform.
  • The Future of US-Korean Relations: The Imbalance Of Power edited by John Feffer. US relations with North and South Korea have been characterized by profound asymmetries of power and perception which in recent years have led to increased tensions among the three countries. Bringing together twelve prominent experts on US-Korean and US-Pacific relations, this book explores the many dimensions of current and future US foreign policy. Charting new developments in North and South Korea, the contributors examine US-Korean relations through such prisms as nationalism, the media, regional relations and human rights issues. In relating the downward spiral in US relations with the Korean peninsula, the book provides an analysis that runs counter to conventional interpretations, and offers clear and balanced policy recommendations for remedying the crises.
  • Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea under the Kim Dynasty by Bradley K Martin. This book offers in-depth portraits of North Korea's ruthless and bizarrely Orwellian leaders, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. North Koreans have been indoctrinated from infancy to follow unquestioningly a father-son team of despots. Lifting Pyongyang's curtain of self-imposed isolation, this book takes readers inside a society that to an outsider may appear to be from another planet. This fascinating, comprehensive work of history and reportage takes advantage of source material that has only recently become available (some from archives in Moscow and Beijing) to bring the reader up to date on the tensions of today. More than a decade in the making, this book will for years to come, define a Spartan and stubbornly enigmatic society.

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