- Nov 12, 2012 11:14 pm
[Book Review] Surprisingly readable – I’d half-expected dense academia or right-wing politicizing (the author is a former Bush administration official), but instead found The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future engrossing, with a great overview of North Korea, new insights into the
diplomatic make-work program 6-party talks, and solid policy takeaways on the importance of increasing outside information flow into the North.
The author pushes a theory, neojuche revivalism (“juche,” itself commonly translated as “self-reliance,” is North Korea’s governing ideology, pg. 410), which seems to have lost some saliency with the death of Kim Jong-il and the changes in personnel and governing structure taking place under his son. According to Cha, the new/updated ideology is a “return to a conservative and hard-line juche ideology of the 1950s and 1960s,” when the North was ahead of the South technologically and economically (pg. 410).
Though the theory sounds mildly interesting, North Korea’s opaqueness means it can’t really be tested, nor does it provide much policy-level utility, especially given the ongoing leadership changes.
The book’s strength is in highlighting the importance of using “all means possible to increase the flow of information from the outside world into North Korea” (pg. 461). Since, “without control of information, there is no [North Korean] ideology,” which means there is no North Korea (pg. 461).
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