I’d been meaning to read some non-fiction about North Korea. I have one book on Kindle and there are others but this one struck my fancy through recommendations. And it was the right call. This one rocks.
As much as I enjoy a Battle Cry of Freedom-esque long history tome, I prefer something slimmer to give me an entry level view on a subject. That’s Anna Fifield’s work right here. She does a great job of pulling back the curtain to the Hermit Kingdom and its rulers, separating fact from fiction and giving the reader at least some understanding of what actually goes on in North Korea and where the country is heading under Kim Jong Un.
The history stuff is covered with just the right amount of detail to give me passing knowledge on how the state of North Korea came to be, particularly under Kim Il Sung. But more than that, it gave as accurate and honest of an accounting as to how the royal family (of a socialist paradise) actually functions. There’s no sensationalism, in part because there is no need but also because it gets away from the truth. There’s no way to know who exactly Kim Jong Un is but reading this helped me understand what molded him and what that might mean for the future.
Also, I really appreciate Fifield leaning on a thesis I’ve read from other North Korean experts…Kim Jong Un doesn’t want to destroy the world. He’s accumulating nuclear weapons so he’s not deposed by the US or China or South Korea. The fear of replacement is what seems to drive him and his predecessors to be antagonistic towards western powers and frenemy China.
That’s not to say Fifield is defending him. There are human rights abuses on practically every other page. But it does mean that the reader has a better understanding of how North Korea actually works. All in a concisely written, readable account that I would recommend to anyone.