Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Not crazy, but crafty and cornered is the verdict of this probing, clear-eyed study of the world's most irascible dictatorship. Lankov (From Stalin to Kim Il Sung), a historian at Seoul's Koomkin University, traces the entrenchment of North Korea's uniquely totalitarian brand of communism, with its backward and inefficient state-run economy, all-encompassing police state, hostility to outside influences, and hysterical worship of despot Kim Il-Sung and his descendants. Yet he discerns an underlying rationality to the regime, especially as its economy has reverted to illegal private markets after the crisis and famine of the 1990s. North Korea's leaders, he argues, cannot undertake Chinese-style capitalist reforms for fear that opening the system would lead to their overthrow and reunification with South Korea; their only option, he contends, is to continue using nuclear threats and Machiavellian diplomacy to extort foreign aid to prop up the regime. Drawing on his experiences living in the country and extensive contacts with North Korean exiles, Lankov's perceptive account registers the country's dysfunctions, and the adaptations ordinary people make to ease them. Lankov's is one of the best and most accessible recent accounts of this seemingly outlandish nation, and the book eschews North Korea's lurid stereotypes to reveal a stunted normalcy. Agent: Andy Ross, the Andy Ross Agency." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"[A] probing, clear-eyed study of the world's most irascible dictatorship. Lankov's is one of the best and most accessible recent accounts of this seemingly outlandish nation, and the book eschews North Korea's lurid stereotypes to reveal a stunted normalcy."
-Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"The Real North Korea is one of the best books about this isolated republic to appear in years. Andrei Lankov draws on three decades of experience to write a deeply informed, thoughtful, fair-minded and highly readable account of 'life and politics' in North Korea, from day one to the present. His policy recommendations for dealing with the nuclear problem, for a South Korea waiting impatiently to inherit the North, and for the eventual end of this regime as we know it, are cogent and full of something rare in discussions about this irascible country: common sense."
-Bruce Cumings, Chair of the History Department at the University of Chicago, and author of Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History
"Lankov explains how North Korea's survival imperative combined with South Korea's success compels the regime to persist in internally rational but self-isolating behavior that only further deepens its quandary. North Korea is the Galapagos Island of nation states, and Lankov provides clear analysis of how the regime has survived despite steep odds, why the leadership cannot change, and why it must."
-Scott Snyder, Senior Fellow for Korea Studies and Director of the Program on U.S.-Korea Policy, The Council on Foreign Relations
"The Real North Korea presents a detailed and careful analysis of a country that has been difficult for many to understand. Andrei Lankov, one of the world's top North Korea scholars, provides a fascinating look at the internal dynamics and motivations that drive North Korea. Few scholars of North Korea have the experience and insight of Andrei Lankov, and this book will be required reading for all who wish to better understand the actions of the DPRK."
-Terence Roehrig, Professor in National Security Affairs and Director of the Asia-Pacific Studies Group at the U.S. Naval War College and author of Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. Nuclear Umbrella
"Lankov offers a highly readable book and a unique perspective that yields a knowledgeable, sardonic, acerbic and not entirely dispassionate view of North Korea. The author also dishes up a rare treat, mostly unfound in books of this genre: common sense and humility about the North's future, a theme from beginning to end."
"Andrei Lankov has written a wonderful introduction to North Korean history and North Korean studies in The Real North Korea. Historians and researchers in other specialties -- particularly involving the history of the Communist world -- will find it a good introduction to the peculiarities of North Korea. Policymakers and staffers in Washington will find a sober-minded, realistic, and -- given the author's personal background as a Soviet academic -- very different take on North Korea than the standard media line. Highly recommended."
--History News Network
"The book, an engaging blend of scholarship, reportage and memoir, offers striking details about daily life in a country reminiscent of George Orwell's 1984." -- The New York Times Book Review (Editor's Choice)
"The book has the feel of a particularly fascinating college class taught by an elbow-patched luminary. The syllabus ranges from labor camps to nuclear diplomacy...offering both the academic consensus and Lankov's take...Readers will come away with a solid understanding of what's happening in North Korea and why. Lankov illuminates large patches of that North Korea-shaped black hole." --The Washington Post
North Korea is widely regarded as one of the most repressive and dangerous nations in the world--the last Stalinist regime on earth. Yet despite its manifest importance--particularly its potential for destabilizing East Asia--North Korea is notoriously one of the most difficult regimes in the world to study. A black box to most, the regime appears to be fundamentally irrational and unstable. How can it survive? In A Country, Not a Bomb, Andrei Lankov draws from years of research and his own access to North Koreans to provide a genuinely informed and accessible overview of North Korea, from its origins in 1945 to the present. Given its confrontational foreign policy, its nuclear ambitions, and its paranoid leadership cadre, this incredibly poor nation has remained on the front pages ever since the end of the Cold War. Lankov, who is fluent in both Korean and English, will explain how the regime actually functions and why it has achieved a modicum of stability despite its bizarre mix of Stalinist totalitarianism and hereditary monarchy. Along with covering North Korea's foreign and nuclear policies, the book will also explain how its ruling class actually rules and how ordinary North Koreans live. Perhaps most surprisingly, a grass roots market society is emerging, and Lankov traces how this has happened. Lankov has conducted many interviews with North Korean emigres, so his understanding of both the regime and life under it is remarkably well informed. It will be the definitive account.
In November 2010, President Barack Obama claimed during his state visit to India that India has "already emerged" as a great power. His view is shared by many world leaders who believe that India's impressive economic and industrial growth and potential, its professional and modernizing military, its rapidly increasing ties with the United States and other armed forces in the extended region, and its expanding soft power presence in the world (information technology prowess, Bollywood films and music) are evidence of the country's inevitable rise. However, there is more to India's story than unimpeded forward progress, as Bharat Karnad explains in India's Rise. Based on extensive interviews with civilian and military policymakers, this book provides a sobering examination of the country's obvious deficits in hard power capabilities, its overly bureaucratized system of government, and other systemic constraints that are exacerbated by policy infirmities, unacceptable levels of poverty, political and social fragmentation, corruption, and conspicuously poor governance. Karnad maintains that India must make radical improvements in addressing those deficits, capitalize on opportunities economically to co-opt the neighboring states and forge security relationships with countries in the Indo-Pacific region, and deliver good governance at the grassroots. If India follows Karnad's recommendations, it may well achieve its aspirations on the world stage.
About the Author
is Professor of History, Koomkin University (Seoul). He was born in 1963, in Leningrad in what was then the Soviet Union. He also has studied in North Korea as an exchange student. Then he taught at universities in Russia and Australia, and was Associate Professor at Australia National University (ANU) before moving to Seoul where he now lives with his family.
Table of Contents
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