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North Korea: State of Paranoia [Kindle Edition]

Paul French

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Praise for North Korea: State of Paranoia: 'North Korea's ability to worry and shock remains perhaps the only predictable aspect of the country's behaviour. Paul French's no-nonsense approach to understanding the country's history, political system, ideology and what remains of its decimated economy is one of the best introductions to a country that does all it can to resist outside inspection and comprehension. This is the most accessible starting point for anyone wanting to understand the hermit kingdom.' Kerry Brown, professor and director, China Studies Centre, University of Sydney 'This clear-eyed overview to North Korea's modern history is packed full of fascinating detail. French ably outlines the hermit kingdom's ideology, economic system and haphazard efforts at reform, while simultaneously revealing why pickpockets target Kim Il-sung badges, what the North Korean cabinet's position is on lice and why smoking can be a small act of resistance.' Louisa Lim, Beijing correspondent, NPR Praise for Midnight in Peking: 'An engrossing whodunit... a terrific read' Sunday Times "A compelling mystery story set in a sweeping historical context full of persuasive detail and strongly drawn characters. Keeps the reader enthralled to the end." Jonathan Fenby, Author of The Penguin History of Modern China "MIDNIGHT IN PEKING takes the reader back to 1937 and the brutal unsolved murder of an English schoolgirl in a city and a country on the edge of an abyss. Paul French wonderfully evokes that place in that time and, amazingly, manages to bring some sense of closure to this long-forgotten mystery. This book is an instant true crime classic which grips and hooks from the first page to the last." David Peace, Author of the Red Riding Quartet and included in Granta's Best of Young British Novelists in 2003 "Historian French unravels a long-forgotten 1937 murder in this fascinating look at Peking (nowBeijing) on the brink of Japanese occupation. French painstakingly reconstructs the crime and depicts the suspects ... compelling evidence is coupled with a keen grasp of Chinese history in French's worthy account." Publisher's Weekly


North Korea continues to make headlines, arousing curiosity and fear in equal measure. The world’s most secretive nuclear power, it still has Gulag-style prison camps, allows no access to the Internet and bans its people from talking to foreigners without official approval. In this remarkable and eye-opening book, internationally best-selling author Paul French examines in forensic detail the history and politics of North Korea, Pyongyang’s complex relations with South Korea, Japan, China and America, and the implications of Kim Jong-un’s increasingly belligerent leadership following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il.

As an already unstable North Korea grows ever more unpredictable, antagonizing enemies and allies alike, North Korea: State of Paranoia delivers a provocative and frightening account of a potentially explosive nuclear tripwire.


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 1034 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 482 Seiten
  • Verlag: Zed Books; Auflage: 3 (8. Mai 2014)
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • Text-to-Speech (Vorlesemodus): Aktiviert
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Aktiviert
  • Erweiterte Schriftfunktion: Nicht aktiviert
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: #276.636 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop)

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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.2 von 5 Sternen  42 Rezensionen
20 von 22 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Dense; Not for the Casual Reader 2. Juni 2014
Von Steven M. Anthony - Veröffentlicht auf
I received this book as a galley proofs edition from the publisher in exchange for this review.

The country of North Korea is a fascinating political and economic case study. Any author or analyst taking on the job is faced with the daunting task of accumulating information and data of reasonable reliability and/or accuracy. The author here has done an admirable job of researching and marshaling the information at his disposal. In my opinion, however, he does a poor job of organizing and presenting facts.

While he largely progresses in a linear time frame, parts of the book are organized by topic. The time frame thus becomes confusing as the author moves backward and forward through time within the same chapters, leaving me at times confused. The chapter dealing with the Korean economy is relatively dense and quite frankly, largely over my head. I’m pretty sure I could have grasped most of the theory had I been inclined to grind over it and perhaps consult other references, but that was not why I purchased the book. Some graduate level economists might enjoy and appreciate this substantial section of the book, but I suspect the author’s target audience in this regard is quite small.

I enjoyed and appreciated much more the political discussion and historical perspective provided in the latter sections of the work. I was curious, however, why the discussion of almost every topic cut off abruptly during the first George W. Bush term. There is one short chapter at the end of the book which mentions the accession of Kim Jong-un, but my guess is that the book was written in 2004-2005, dusted off, brought cursorily up to date, and published recently. Barack Obama was mentioned a grand total of once within the body of the work. A book published in 2014, dealing with North Korea, should have more current information than what is contained in this book.
11 von 12 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Ignorance, Insularity, Ideology, and Fear 17. Mai 2014
Von not a natural - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition
North Korea is a nation created by war. In 1945, with the end of World War II, the Korean peninsula was divided into two occupied zones, with the northern zone occupied by the Soviet Union and the U.S. occupying the south. In 1948, under the auspices of the United Nations, a government was formed in each zone, with the nature of political and economic life in each loosely reflecting that which prevailed in the occupying country. Whether or not this division resulted in the formation of two distinct nations, North Korea and South Korea, remains subject to heated contestation. Clearly, in 1950, when North Korea invaded the South, it was invoking its judgment that there was only one Korean nation, which they would unite through force. After back-and-forth victories by both sides, fighting was called to a halt with an armistice in 1953. Since such an armistice, by its nature, is merely a cessation of hostilities during which formal peace terms may be discussed, in a strictly formal sense North and South Korea are still at war, and the demilitarized zone, spanning the 38th parallel that separates them remains a tense and uncertain boundary.

Paul French's extraordinarily informative book North Korea: State of Paranoia was written in hopes of illuminating life in intensely insular North Korea, providing the context needed to understand the sometimes seemingly senseless behavior of this country toward the outside world and, insofar as we can catch an occasional glimpse across its borders, making sense of its domestic policy, as well. Fittingly, French begins his book with disclaimers as to the adequacy of the information used in writing his book. He emphasizes that North Korea is a tightly closed society, a throwback to the days before the fall of the iron curtain, and even by Cold War standards it is remarkably effective at preventing outsiders from learning much of anything about it.

Nevertheless, French manages to produce a geo-political portrait of North Korea that goes a long way toward enabling readers to understand North Korea and the way it functions as a nation and a homeland. As French forcefully reminds use, the material that went into the construction of his depiction of North Korea is meager and, in unknowably numerous ways, may be erroneous. Nevertheless, the coherence of French's characterization, along with the plausibility of his insights, both argue strongly for the veracity and value of North Korea: State of Paranoia.

The observation that I found most unexpected and interesting is that North Korea's efforts to be as secretive as possible have not only prevented outsiders from learning much about them, but they have also made North Koreans, including high-level policy makers, astonishingly ignorant of the world beyond their borders. If North Korea threw open wide and numerous exits to the nations with which it shares borders, South Korea, China, and Russia, the citizens who walked out would find themselves in places so socially and culturally different that fear of the unknown might drive them back. Given that all but the favored few would return to the most abject poverty imaginable, that's some pretty intense fear.

Perhaps the most troubling question for those leaving the North would be just how does one behave in a society where the heavy hand of the juche ideology does not prevail. For those familiar with the leadership principle that organized life in Nazi Germany, juche will be familiar, though it is harsher and much more inclusive. According to juche, as it has evolved from a mix of perversely incompatible elements of Soviet-style Marxism-Leninism and the tradition of Confucian teachings, one should welcome hardship in the name of the nation. This entails not only hunger, disease, and unremitting hard work, but unquestioning obedience to those in authority and embracing the program of the ruling party without so much as intimating alternatives. It's hard to imagine North Koreans making a go of it without ration coupons and detailed instructions as to how they should spend every minute of their time. Never having known a different way of living, the promise of a new life, one that is unmapped and misunderstood, seems terrifying, indeed.

Members of the arrogant and favored elite, however, would be more likely to be humiliated than frightened. The ignorance they have frequently displayed when soliciting foreign investments tells us a great deal about them and their crippling insularity. Their comically ill-informed and failed efforts to encourage investment zones set aside for quasi-capitalist development but without gas, electricity, and infrastructure represent a wholesale misreading of the nature of incentives expected by prospective outside investors with hard currency, and betray the ignorance and apathy of the elite.

Propped up by dwindling but valuable aid from a handful of other countries and international humanitarian organizations, North Korea deteriorates but fails to collapse, though I'm not certain what a collapsed nation looks like. In any case, North Korea's continued survival is welcomed by South Korea, China, and Russia, and wherever else a massive exodus of immigrants from an imploded North Korea might be headed. In the meantime, the North's current military first policy, which it artfully reconciles with juche, drains resources from internal development and, whatever its limitations, enables the North to play its nuclear card in remarkably effective ways. It's a sad irony of international relations that the possession of this one weapon and the rest of the world's uncertainty as to whether they'll use it in a certainly lost, even suicidal cause gives the North clout far in excess of it overall strength.

Imbued with the juche ideology, and never having known anything other than oppression, autocracy, regimentation. and total disengagement from the rest of the world, the ordinary citizenry as prospective reformers can be counted on for little more than an understandably disorganized and transient food riot. Besides, lack of adequate caloric intake and other manifestations of malnutrition to the point of near starvation face North Korean citizens with more immediate concerns than reforming their failed state.

There is evidence that even with the military first policy in place, North Korea's armed forces are in a state of decline simply because agricultural production and other key components of the economy are in such bad condition. If high ranking officers were to stage a coup, what should we expect? Military personnel participate in all aspects of life in the North, compensating for a worsening manpower shortage. Nevertheless, given that insularity and the juche ideology have stifled the development of intellectual life and the development of science-based technology, those who would replace the current North Korean leadership may not know how to go beyond what exists. Ironically, the North's failures, at least for now, may contribute to insuring continuation of the status quo in a nation created by war and maintained by ignorance, insularity, ideology, and fear.
4 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen A repetitive history of.......... Russia and China? 18. April 2014
Von Elizabeth Ray - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
I was looking forward to reading “North Korea: State of Paranoia” since the country has been a bit of a mystery for many decades. I was hoping to gather some new insight into how and why the country is the way it is.

The book opens with a description of a day in Pyongyang, where one gets up at 6 am and arrives at work around 7:30. French covers various challenges, from the lack of dependable elevator service in the multistory builds to shortages of food, clothing and just about everything else a normal society has. I didn’t find this part exceptionally informative since French writes mostly in very general terms and doesn’t give us any insight at all with an actual North Korean telling us of his story. Given the fact that most people know that North Korea is an extremely poor country, these revelations are not exactly new and would be expect from any poor country.

Next, the guiding philosophy of the DPRK, which is called Juche or self-reliance put forth by Kim Il-sung, is discussed. French is trying to put a label onto the chaotic approach towards governing used by the descendants of Kim Il-sung over the last few decades. However, it seems that once he labels the concept, he then has to add numerous exceptions, since basically these dictators are just doing whatever they feel like. Again, no real insight here, as French spends most of this time describing various aspects of the Soviet Union and China, then saying that DPRK did not follow any of these philosophies.

Chapter 4 rehashes the economics of Chapter 1, adding a lengthy discussion of command and control structure. The author repeats that same concept over and over. Most of the economic data is fabricated anyway, so numbers that are stated are basically useless, but stated and discussed anyway. Chapter 5 focuses on the food and famine crisis.

In chapter 6, we backtrack to 2002 again (something that happens throughout the book), and French tells us about the great reforms that the country is putting forth to combat the famine and economic collapse. Kim goes about getting loans from various governments and later defaulting on all of them. There is a lot of discussion about China and Russia. Some parts of this chapter I found interesting, but there was very little discussion about DPRK: I actually learned more about the Soviet Union.

Recent history is finally visited in Chapter 8, which covers interactions with US presidents from Carter to Bush Jr. We seem to go from Democratic negotiation to Republicans threats. In the end, DMPK got various monies along the way and gave up nothing, so their planned worked. This is probably the best part of the book but there still is a tendency to jump back and forth and repeat. Chapter 9 is a rehash of previous chapters, where French again covers North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and the economy.

When I first saw that this book had 424 pages of text, I was wondering how someone could write that much about a country which so carefully controls information surrounding it. After reading it, I realized that in reality, it can’t be done unless one discusses other countries extensively, provides only distant observations, and repeats oneself over and over again.
4 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen The Curious Land of North Korea 11. April 2014
Von Michael Griswold - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
Paul French in State of Paranoia takes the reader inside North Korea-the political, economic, and sociocultural structure of one of the most reclusive states in the world. Some of the things in this book seem absolutely bizarre such as the probation against smoking in the car because you may not be able to tell if there’s a defect with the automobile. I thought the in-depth section on the economy was particularly instructive, if maybe a little long given its sixty-nine page length. I thought this book did a really good job of putting the reader in the shoes of what life might be like for the average North Korean in a given day.

The trouble with this book or any book on North Korea that I’ve seen is that there really isn’t much to point against much of anything French says in this book since many of the books on North Korea strike along similar themes: the paranoid nature of the leadership, problems with the economy, and its’ role in the international system that has changed from the Cold War founding to present.
1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen This Book Is a Must Read 21. November 2014
Von Thomas John - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
This book is a thorough and scholarly examination of North Korea. My interest in North Korea began to develop after watching the films "A State of Mind" (2004) and "Crossing the Line," (2006), both available on Netflix. From there I read some of the other more anecdotal books concerning North Korea, such as "Nothing to Envy" and "The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia" among others.

The saying (used) to go, "all paths lead to Rome." All serious interest in North Korea will lead to this book, "North Korea: State of Paranoia." The other books were very interesting in discussing and making real the existence, and suffering, in North Korea. This book is not as anecdotal as are the other works (or films). However, this book is scholarly and comprehensive, and helps bring together the stories and observations of the other books and films into the big picture.

What has fascinated me about North Korea are two things. One is that North Korea is the only remaining Stalinist country in the world, i.e., command economy and institutionalized zenophobia. (It is also a monarchy.) The second thing is the ability of a government to thoroughly control its citizens under impoverished and oppressive conditions. This kind of country is what George Orwell had in mind in his 1984. This is a country which is a warning to us in America and elsewhere of what can be if we do not vigilantly protect our freedoms.

If you are seriously interested in North Korea, this book is a must read.
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