Free ePUB The Impossible State Author Victor Cha –

It has probably become apparent by now that I am fascinated with North Korea and how such an isolated country can still exist in this world of ever increasing abilities to communicate with people from around the globe I write this review from my couch in Chengdu, China, where I just got off Skype with my parents who live in Idaho, have emailed several friends back in the States and caught up on world news via a variety of online newspapers I know what I am talking about when it comes to being connected Recently, I reviewed Escape from Camp 14 which was a memoir of one man s time in the horrific camps of Northern Korea The Impossible State is quite a different look at the country taking an in depth approach to everything from the history of the country to detailed looks at each of the Kim family members who have ruled throughout the last decades to the economy as it is today and why it can t sustain itself.See the rest of this review and at Former director for Asian Affairs in the NSC under George W Bush discusses his perspective on North Korean affairs, and how, in his view, that state has survived for so long Chapter 1 brings up some of the usual images of North Korea constant brownouts, dilapidated buildings, paranoid security and overwhelming propaganda Chapter 2 discusses the Cold War legacy of North Korean policy, and how Kim Il Sung s domestic policy was heavily influenced by central planning and Stalinist buildup of heavy industry Also convincingly brings up the concept of juche , how North Korea clings to its legitimization of military strength and economic autarky, and the implications of Korean nationalism Chapter 3 brings up some of the sensational elements of the Kim dynasty, while Chapter 4 moves to a series of economic disasters failed infrastructure projects, inability to respond to exogenous shocks which led to the famine of the 1990s and general deprivation right after Thankfully, he has no time for useful idiots to defend the regime s excuses Later chapters move to the country s military situation and nuclear development, focusing on how even the obsolete artillery massed along the border could damage Seoul, and how the regime is unlikely to accept an India deal where it would be accepted as a nuclear weapons state The nuclear weapons are leverage, and they know it and if the country didn t have them, why would anyone ever pay attention to them, except out of mockery Cha proposes a general method of strategic patience not too dissimilar to Obama s thinking, but with additional focuses on negotiation, sanctions, and preparing for unification when the collapse comes, though the date cannot ever be predicted Quick, accessible to a general audience, and a good introduction to one faction of American policy approaches towards North Korea Doesn t use as many non English sources as I d like, but that s a goal for another book. A Meaty, Fast Paced Portrait Of North Korean Society, Economy, Politics And Foreign Policy Foreign AffairsThe Definitive Account Of North Korea, Its Veiled Past And Uncertain Future, From The Former Director For Asian Affairs At The National Security CouncilIn The Impossible State, Seasoned International Policy Expert And Lauded Scholar Victor Cha Pulls Back The Curtain On This Controversial And Isolated Country, Providing The Best Look Yet At North Korea S History, The Rise Of The Kim Family Dynasty, And The Obsessive Personality Cult That Empowers Them He Illuminates The Repressive Regime S Complex Economy And Culture, Its Appalling Record Of Human Rights Abuses, And Its Belligerent Relationship With The United States, And Analyzes The Regime S Major Security Issues From The Seemingly Endless War With Its Southern Neighbor To Its Frightening Nuclear Ambitions All In Light Of The Destabilizing Effects Of Kim Jong Il S Recent DeathHow This Enigmatic Nation State One That Regularly Violates Its Own Citizens Inalienable Rights And Has Suffered Famine, Global Economic Sanctions, A Collapsed Economy, And Near Total Isolation From The Rest Of The World Has Continued To Survive Has Long Been A Question That Preoccupies The West Cha Reveals A Land Of Contradictions, One Facing A Pivotal And Disquieting Transition Of Power From Tyrannical Father To Inexperienced Son, And Delves Into The Ideology That Leads An Oppressed, Starving Populace To Cling So Fiercely To Its Failed LeadershipWith Rare Personal Anecdotes From The Author S Time In Pyongyang And His Tenure As An Adviser In The White House, This Engagingly Written, Authoritative, And Highly Accessible History Offers Much Needed Answers To The Most Pressing Questions About North Korea And Ultimately Warns Of A Regime That Might Be Closer To Its End Than Many Might Think A Political Collapse For Which America And Its Allies May Be Woefully Unprepared This was a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging read written by a former adviser the George W Bush, whom was party to the ongoing negotiations with the DPRK to abandon it s weapons programmes and westernise itself As opposed to the majority of books on North Korea, the Author does not focus solely on the extraordinary personality cult of the Kim Dynasty The Author prefers to focus instead on the regimes ideology, akin to Fascsim and or extreme Nationalism the economy, Increased market Liberalisation since 2002 and a willingess on the part of the DPRK to concede that it cannot support it s own people , and the regimes on off affair with China The Author also examines the practical and theoretical underpinnings of the North Korean Juche , and identifies that whilst the official state ideology of self reliance is an oxy moron as it continues to be bailed out by China Russia, the World Food Programme, and has received aid from Japan and the USA, the imposition of the rigid state doctrine from the previous Dear Leader , relegates the leadership of the DPRK into extracting what it can from foreign partners merely to survive The theory of the Juche negates the possibility of putting anything other than the military first The Author also identifies that the key reason for the continued existence of this failed state, is the power struggle and global insecurities of the competing powers engaged in the Six Party talks In essence, a unified Korea with a market economy and relative political and social liberty, would pose an ideological threat to Communist China Whilst a nuclear war on the DMZ is an option best left unexplored, the existence of North Korea acts as a useful bulwark for China against the raging Liberal Democratic regime in the South Thus, the reason for the continued existence of the DPRK is not due solely to the iron grip that the regime has over it s people, but is due, in the main, to it s border relationships with South Korea China and Russia No , no less The book has made for timely reading in light of the acession of the Great Successor in North Korea, Kim Jong Un is an unknown quantity, having been reportedly educated in the West , and now the young and inexperienced leader of an ossified museum piece bound up in it s rhetorical and strategic contradictions The predictable Nuclear tests and rocket launches have continued, as have the demands from the leadership of the DPRK for Six Party talks, against a backdrop of continued sanctions, food aid, clandestine Chinese Aid, and the suspension of the South Korean Sunshine Policy The Author indicates that this plethora of contradictory messages programmes, and sanctions is the raison d etre of the DPRK and the key reason as to why it still exists to this day In essence, until an international concensus can be reached on what to do about the North Korean problem , both the circular narrative, and the existence of the DPRK is assured by pure luck and not judgement This condemns not only the Korean Peninsula to further insecurity, but also punishes the civilians living within the North whom are bound to venerate the very ideology which is the cause of their crippling condition. I went back and forth on 3 or 4 stars for this, but I think 3 is the honest appraisal.This is a very interesting take on the history and culture of North Korea, generally from a foreign policy standpoint The author was involved with various diplomatic negotiations with North Korea, and was an advisor on East Asia for George W Bush The book has a ton of great information on the early history of the DPRK, its relationships with its neighbors, and the bizarre personality cult that follows the Kim family through three generations of authoritarian rule.There are two reasons it does not earn the extra star One is the organization The book leaps around from subject to subject in a jarring manner at times, and often a subsection of a chapter should clearly have been its own chapter This doesn t affect the veracity or relevance of the information, but DOES make following the train of thought difficult at times.The second reason is the apparent total lack of editing Not in terms of word choice and sentence structure, but in consistency I suspect that this book was written in smaller chunks over a long period, and then stitched together at a late stage in the process It s hard to explain exactly what I mean, but there is one example in particular.In 2010, the DPRK fired artillery shells at a ROK island called Yeonpyeong The author describes the incident, analyzes the fallout, and moves on Further into the book, he will mention it in passing, which makes sense But the way he refers to it is very odd He will say, the incident where North Korea fired on a South Korean island or in 2010, when North Korea used artillery to attack a small island in South Korea , etc Why not call it the Teonpyeong Incident Or the island shelling incident Something that shows a continuous link with the previous text I think this proves that he did not write the book in order, but combined smaller writings It s not a major point, I guess, but it shows a certain lack of care That, or a lack of respect for the reader to remember something that happened 2 chapters ago.So, with caveats, I do recommend this book I will warn potential readers that is can be very dense at points A great deal of economic detail, and the minutiae of diplomacy But if you are willing to skim a tiny bit, it is packed full of great information on a country that is rapidly becoming very important to the world stage, yet is one we know almost nothing aboutEdited I would like to add that there was a bit of an embarrassing amount of Bush defense in the book The author seemed desperate to explain why Bush had done absolutely everything right, and how he couldn t understand why anyone could possibly doubt the president s motives Keeping in mind that the events in question happened well after the disastrous Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns, and the possible deliberate misinformation given by the executive branch in defending the invasion of Iraq, in particular Bush had, by this point, hardly shown himself to be some amazing foreign policy planner I don t know why Cha seems so blind to this I don t expect the guy to rant about Bush or anything, but he goes out of his way to express his mystification at any doubt towards the president s actions. I ve never been big on nonfiction, preferring mostly to learn about make believe worlds and characters over the real world and its notable figures But North Korea, in all its infinite secrecy and horror, holds a monopoly in my mind, and after seeing this book featured on The Colbert Report, I decided to give it a go There isn t much else to be said here, other than that this is without a doubt the definitive source of information on nearly every aspect of North Korea from its formation to present day, subjects ranging from the country s foreign policy and on and off but mostly on nuclear program to its well documented but still hopelessly shadowy human rights record The author, who had several years of experience working directly with or perhaps accurately, against North Korean delegates on the NSC, goes into remarkable detail in every chapter, to the point where some areas were downright tedious to get through, rife with endless statistical information All said and done, though, I m a firm believer in the know thy enemy rule, and this account of the world s largest prison is a must read for anyone seeking information about it, beyond the sensationalist scraps of info published on the news. A Comprehensive book, the second book in my Korea series An education.It would be interesting to know how many diplomats that have worked with North Korea have any hair left Regardless if Pyongyang was cornered or backed itself into their current pathetic state it is clear to even their allies that the North simply does not understand the modern world or basic tenants of diplomacy Those seem to have receded after sung.A great book primarily because the author is impassioned working towards ending the stalemate and helping the North Koreans I found the first part of the book to be my favorite only because it developed the history and tale of North Korea The chapters on sluggish diplomacy are well developed but maddening Very happy to see we have such highly informed people delicately working this issue.The author is well informed in all things North Korea and makes references to how pop culture views the North s leaders South Park movie It s such an odd thing that this country still exists as it does to this day the children today learn to conjugate past future tenses with we killed Americans and we will kill Americans and yet under Sung the country was better off Beyond the fact that the founding father of North Korea spent all of his childhood not in North Korea the most telling lesson on North Korea is that when Khrushchev emoted that Stalin was a tyrant monster Kim reacted very badly in that he idolized that man and had hoped to recreate so much of Joseph s ideal in the North It simply reveals so much That the Chinese and Russians have ramped up their engagements with Seoul only further tells how left behind Pyongyang really is holding on to the old ideal and the personality cult of Kim Il sung. If you re interested in North Korea who isn t this is a comprehensive look at everything about it, its history and its future There are tons of fascinating tidbits about the Hermit Kingdom, from the funny North Korean negotiators are apparently quite fond of quoting from Gone With the Wind in the midst of intense discussions to the horrifying babies born in North Korean gulags are sometimes killed by tossing them all into a crate right after birth and simply letting them starve to death The author was President Bush s North Korea adviser and it s pretty clear that a he knows about this subject than probably anyone else b he is, understandably, not the greatest book writer uses tons of cliche phrases and c he is annoyingly determined to remind you how great George W Bush was on this issue, anyway and how the nefarious media doesn t give him his due Those latter two prevent me from giving it than a liked it rating, but I m still very glad I read it and learned a lot. I found few books on North Korea in the rather large two floor Barnes and Noble store in my neighborhood, and this was the only one in the Current Affairs section So this definitely fills a need, all the given how much North Korea is currently in the news Cha says his purpose in the book was to give Americans needed context by telling us of North Korea s history, the rise of the Kim family dynasty the repressive regime s complex economy and culture Cha is particularly qualified to be a guide A scholar on Korean affairs he has direct policy experience dealing with Pyongyang as the Director of Asian Affairs in the National Security Council from 2004 to 2007 under Bush Cha negotiated with the regime as part of the Six Party Talks on the nuclear issue At times he seemed a bit defensive about Bush s policy, but to me he otherwise read as thorough and fair, and there is an extensive Notes in the back sourcing his facts And even if he s clear eyed about the brutality of the regime, I wouldn t describe him as a hawk he s also aware, and educates the reader, about the reasons to act with caution The book engrossed me from the beginning, especially given Cha displayed both a sense of humor and insight in his first hand observations from the first chapters There were some dry policy wonk only parts, particularly in the chapter about diplomatic efforts surrounding the nuclear issue, but otherwise I found the book fascinating My first surprise I felt I should have known this, but it came as a surprise to me that technically the United States is still at war with North Korea What was negotiated in 1953 was a cease fire not a peace treaty And another shock was learning that the Chinese lost 800,000 lives in the Korean War It was a jolt to learn that North Korean school children learn their grammar with such examples as I kill Americans I killed Americans I will kill Americans Even their arithmetic exercises feature such examples Second surprise was that North Korea was once relatively prosperous compared to it s rival in the South That during the cold war generous aid from both Soviet Russia and Communist China made it both industrialized and gave it a higher standard of living than South Korea, even if now the South has outstripped its GDP by over twenty to one That North Korea is an incredibly repressive regime, arguably the least free nation on earth, was no surprise But a lot of the details of the atrocities committed within and without were a shock I didn t know, for instance, that in an attempt to assassinate a South Korean president, North Korean agents murdered the country s First Lady, or that another attempt killed half of South Korea s cabinet, or that North Korea admitted it abducted over a dozen Japanese citizens to train their agents It s amazing to me that over the decades a full fledged war hasn t broken out Except that the butcher bill could reach a million lives, and as Cha explains, the North Koreans knowing this know they can violate international norms with near impunity, and extort aid to stop rattling their sabers And the chapter dealing with the forced labor camps that rival the concentration camps of Hitler and Stalin for horror are not for the faint of heart I wouldn t say this is necessarily a classic that will be read decades from now, which is why I didn t give it a fifth star I didn t think it was well edited I caught a few typos, some cliched phrases, awkward sentences, and some repeated points that could have been eliminated to make for a tauter book but it is invaluable as an informative book that gives us a sense of an isolated, secretive, and dangerous country and as just published in April of this year up to date. North Korea has been dubbed the worst place on Earth, and as those who ve read accounts of people who have escaped from this bizarre and horrible place know, the moniker is fitting The oppression and menace imposed both internally and externally by the government of North Korea is, thankfully, beyond the imagination of most citizens of other nations.Victor Cha sheds a great deal of light on this darkened corner of the world, in his highly readable if sometimes slightly repetitive review of the history of North Korea, from its foundation in the wake of World War II, through the boom years of the Cold War, when Kim Il Sung played China and the Soviets against each other to support the growth and financial success of his nation relative to the chaotic South, and into the modern day, when Kim s son, and now grandson, use nuclear weapons development as a cudgel against the US and its allies to maintain their power and personal comfort.Cha s experience as a negotiator on the behalf of the U.S government lends his account an immediacy and personal impact that a typical academic might lack, and he brings the underlying drama of otherwise highly formalized and scripted diplomatic negotiations to life.While there are no easy answers for the long suffering people of North Korea, nor for its worried and bullied neighbors, Cha manages to wind up the book on a hopeful note, describing some of the plans that are just being laid into place to deal with the eventual, inevitable downfall of the North Korean regime As Doctor Martin Luther King famously observed, The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice Justice for the murdered and impoverished millions of North Koreans, as well as the regime s victims beyond its borders, will be slow in coming, but there can be no doubt as to its arrival Let us hope that Cha is correct, and that the future for the Korean peninsula is peaceful and prosperous.