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The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia [Kindle Edition]

Andrei Lankov
4.7 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (3 Kundenrezensionen)

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In his accessible and refreshingly fair-minded new book, Andrei Lankov does a fine job of making sense of the world's most inscrutable is a commanding overview of the country's politics and society, and a significant contribution to policy debates in the United States and South Korea. International Affairs Journal Lankov offers a nuanced picture of this secretive country, drawing on his own experience and the North Koreans he has interviewed. Clare Debenham, THE [ The Real North Korea ] provides an extraordinary insight into a state that defies conventional categories of tyranny. Oliver Kamm, The Times This is the best all round account of North Korea yet. Aidan Foster-Carter, Times Literary Supplement [Lankov's] book is an important curative to the unhelpful gaggle of pundits who describe nuclear-armed North Korea as "irrational" or an impenetrable "black box" Christian Oliver, Financial Times There is no better road map in English than this wise, anecdotally rich and entertaining book. Richard Lloyd Parry, The Times Superb,.. An engaging blend of scholarship, reportage and memoir, offers striking details about daily life in a country reminiscent of George Orwell's '1984'. new York Times Book Review [A] probing, clear-eyed study Lankov's is one of the best and most accessible recent accounts of this seemingly outlandish nation. Publishers Weekly


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.


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 6755 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 302 Seiten
  • ISBN-Quelle für Seitenzahl: 0199964297
  • Verlag: Oxford University Press, USA (10. April 2013)
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • Text-to-Speech (Vorlesemodus): Aktiviert
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Nicht aktiviert
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 4.7 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (3 Kundenrezensionen)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: #138.423 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop)

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Excellent 5. September 2013
Von Markusnik
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
The author impresses with a deep unterstanding of the situation in North Korea, derived from his long experience with North Korean politics. The last third of the book - the possible future solutions for North Korea - are the most interesting part.

To be highly recommended for everybody who wants to get a good historical and political insight into North Korea.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Great 18. August 2014
Von Hank
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
Well written book which gives insight in all aspects of this mysterious country. Author never stops amazing with detailed insights and personal experiences. What a strange place to live, really makes you feel sorry for it's poor people.
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1 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
The information in this book is most interesting. Mr. Lankov's view of and perspective on the country are certainly not what we read in the press or what ones would ever think our government leaders are seeing or understanding. However, that being said, I could not agree with him more! I find this book most educational. What Lankov writes simply makes sense to me, when you put two and two together. His arguments and rationale are 5-star. However, the chapters seem to repeat themselves in places throughout. Because I am so fascinated by the subject matter, I couldn't help but finish reading the book, as I wanted to glean as much information as is available in those pages. Still, the writing itself could have been a bit less rambling in the flow of the book; hence, I gave the book 4 stars. NEVERTHELESS, it is certainly a must-read!
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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.3 von 5 Sternen  76 Rezensionen
77 von 84 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Excellent analysis, horribly edited 25. April 2013
Von DinDC - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
I agree with the generally positive comments this book has received here and elsewhere. Anyone looking for an up-to-date and trenchant analysis of North Korea would be very well served by this volume.
My criticism is directed at Oxford University Press for their truly incompetent editing. I don't think there is a single paragraph that does not contain some grammatical error or stylistic howler--subject-verb disagreement, confused tenses, wrong use of articles, garbled syntax, you name it. I'm amazed that a house of OUP's reputation should let a sloppy job like this out its doors. And this isn't just carping grammarianism on my part. The mistakes are so egregious and frequent that they detract from the author's otherwise solid analysis and arguments. The fact that Mr. Lankov is not a native English speaker is not the issue. It was his publisher's job to clean up his prose and make him look better than he does here. In this, the chief responsibility of any publisher to an author appearing under their name, Oxford failed Mr. Lankov miserably.
24 von 24 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Brilliant and timely 7. April 2013
Von Prufrock - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition
This book is the newest, most timely, and the most well-informed book on North Korea that has been published. The author is a scholar with a world reputation living and teaching in Seoul. He speaks fluent Korean and has even lived in the North. Anyone who can't understand the seeming irrationality of the North (and that includes almost everyone including myself) will find this book fascinating and compelling. Lankov argues that the North Korean leadership acts quite rationally. They have in the past been rewarded for their bad behavior by the West and have done a remarkable job in manipulating their enemies for their own benefit. And of course, stirring up troubles outside a country's borders is always an effective tool for stifling internal dissent. The book also includes a history of North Korea that puts their current practices in context. And it reads very well.
29 von 31 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A discussion of several different possible scenarios from a real NK expert 17. April 2013
Von Steven D. Ward - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
There are some good books out there about the Korean peninsula written by professional journalists, historians, and policy wonks. The problem is that while they may be consumate professionals in their respective professions, few are what I'd consider real experts on North Korea. There are a handful that do fit this category, but these precious few seem hesitant to go on the record putting themselves out there to hypothesize and speculate about what may be going on now as well as what both the near and distant future may have in store. Andrei Lankov does just that in this new book.

While the main argument of the book is that North Korean leadership is not crazy, but coldly rational and entirely machiavellian, is getting most of the attention, this is old news to anyone relatively well read on the topic. In my opinion, this work's greatest contribution is the presentation of various scenarios for each stage of the inevitable collapse of the regime.

Just enough history is given in the early chapters of the book to give the reader the proper context for understanding the analysis and intel that soon follows. The problem with any North Korea analysis is that the country is so closed off that it can quickly turn into reading tea leaves. Lankov tackles this head-on by taking the reader by hand and explaining this very problem and going into detail as to why he reads the tea leaves the way he does. Lankov doesn't shy away from making predictions of which scenarios he believes are most likely, but he doesn't ignore the possibility that he might be wrong either. Thus, he also walks us through the other possible scenarios and what would happen if things turn out differently from what he expects.

A similar approach is taken in regards to analyzing how the other countries are dealing/should deal with North Korea. Finally, several reunification/reconstruction scenarios are given in the same manner. The author has the presence of mind to know that just because he has his favorite path, that's not necessarily the path that will be taken, so other models are not neglected.

This is now THE book I will recommend to friends and family that send me panicked emails asking me when I'm coming home every time NK tests a new rocket, or to anyone else interested in knowing what the future may have in store for the Korean peninsula.
17 von 18 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Insightful and sobering analysis of North Korean behavior 12. April 2013
Von Hanhwe Kim - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
To many of us, North Korea's recent behavior seems irrational. The younger Kim (like his father Kim Jong Il) is portrayed as a nuclear armed madman who threatens nuclear war against the US one day and then invites Dennis Rodman the next. Dr. Andrei Lankov's book explains the reason behind this seeming madness and provides an understanding of what is going on with North Korea.

Lankov is a top expert on North Korea. He currently lives in Seoul and teaches at Kookmin University but he had attended Kim Il-Sung University in Pyongyang and had a rare first-hand look at North Korea and its elites. His writings have always been insightful and educating and this book is up to par.

He explains the history of North Korea and how their dysfunctional economy has lead its leadership to resort to nuclear blackmail. He gives a sobering look at why they can not initiate Chinese-style reforms nor afford to give up their nuclear weapons without risking their own survival. The North Korean leaders can not afford to open their people to outside information, since the existence of a prosperous South Korea will destroy their legitimacy. This makes economic reforms patterned after China impossible and condemns their economy to rely upon foreign aid. They can not afford to relinquish their nuclear weapons, or give up their nuclear blackmail and provocations against South Korea because if they do so, they will lose control over the distribution of any aid and concessions donors provide. The Orwellian nightmare that the North Korean leadership has created is their only solution for survival.

The options for South Korea and the US are limited since no stick is big enough to scare them (as hardliners wish), and no carrot is sweet enough (as those who support dialog wish). Retaliation (military or diplomatic) will only lead to escalating brinksmanship. Attempts at dialog will lead to broken promises. These patterns have become familiar over the last decade and current crisis. Lankov shows that such patterns, however strange and difficult to understand, are actually rational and calculated moves that insure the survival of the Kim dynasty and the elites. For these elites, it is a matter of Machiavellian survival - they realize if they do not hang together, they will hang with their children from lamp-posts.

But in the long run, Lankov predicts that change will have to come to North Korea from the bottom-up. The underground economy of markets, private plots growing food, the unauthorized trade with China are growing and are a matter of survival for the non-elites of North Korea and even the lower levels of the party members. The nomenklatura can not control these markets or censor the information that is flowing in with Chinese consumer goods.

However, the road to liberation for the North Korean people will be long and difficult. While there is little South Korea, the US and the rest of the world can do to disarm North Korea's nukes, there is much that can be done to help ease the inevitable transition. Lankov's level-headed analysis teaches the rest of us what we can do about North Korea and what we can not. Hopefully, we will find the fortitude to live with what we can not change, the courage to change what we can and the wisdom to tell the difference.
9 von 9 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen The best book about contemporary North Korea 16. Juli 2013
Von Richard Lloyd Parry - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
However horrible and intractable the problem of North Korea, we console ourselves with the assurance that at least we know what is going on in there. A country of starving and brainwashed zombies who pitifully believe themselves to be living in a socialist Utopia. A crazed leader bent on launching a war against his enemies. (At least he doesn't have any way of actually delivering his collection of ramshackle nuclear warheads!) One of the achievements of this brilliant and accessible book is to prove each of these complacent assumptions disastrously wrong.

Andrei Lankov is a child of the Soviet Union, a former resident of Pyongyang, and an academic historian who has established himself as the pre-eminent foreign analyst of North Korea. With dry wit and the authority of personal experience, he describes a country subtler, more complicated, and more bizarrely fascinating than the totalitarian lunatic asylum familiar from the news. "North Korean leaders actually know perfectly well what they are doing," he writes. "They are neither madmen nor ideological zealots, but rather remarkably efficient and cold minded calculators, perhaps the best practitioners of Machiavellian politics that can be found in the modern world."

As an exchange student in the North Korea of the 1980s, Lankov witnessed at first hand a dictatorship which made Stalin's Russia look permissive. After the collapse of the USSR yanked away its economic props, half a million people died from famine. But there was a secondary effect, whose consequences are still being felt today: outside the biggest cities, the state - formerly a brutal and overwhelming presence - withered away like the flesh from the bones of the starving.

As industry, agriculture and the state distribution system failed, people walked away from their idled factories to grow what they could on tiny garden plots, and buy and sell the surplus. Officially, the markets were a grave offence against socialism, but the local enforcers were at it as vigorously as anyone. Despite intermittent attempts over 15 years, the capitalist genie has never been lured back into the bottle, and North Korea has changed forever.

Hundreds of thousands of people have crossed and re-crossed the porous border with China for trade, work, and marriage (these days, those who are caught spend no more than a few months locked up, rather than a lifetime in a gulag). A new generation of entrepreneurs bring back with them DVD players and discs of South Korean television. Many families have a computer, and miniature memory sticks which can contain a library of smuggled books and films. The result is a "the slow-motion erosion of the Kim family dictatorship" whose eventual demise, Lankov insists, is a matter of historical inevitability.

How exactly it will happen is another question. Kim Jong Un won't go to war, because he would be crushed, but no one can attack him because of his conventional artillery and nuclear warheads (which he could deliver not by missile, but in the form of a "trawler bomb", concealed in a civilian ship in Tokyo Bay or San Francisco). There are no signs of serious economic, let alone political, liberalisation - far from sealing its doom, the refusal to reform is the secret of the regime's remarkable survival.

Allow North Koreans a whiff of freedom, and their appetite for it will become uncontrollable. "The human rights and the like might be a great idea," Lankov quotes one apparatchik saying. "But if we start explaining it to our people, we will be killed in no time."

The best strategy, then, is not to isolate with sanctions but to increase North Korea's exposure to the outside world with exchanges, foreign university places, and investment. The change, when it comes, is likely to be sudden and violent, rather than "velvet"; the problems of integrating the impoverished, damaged Northerners into the rich South, and the "de-Kimification" of their society will be vast. "North Korea might look perfectly stable on one Monday morning only to become a chaotic mess by Friday afternoon," Lankov writes. "We should therefore brace ourselves for a long, winding, and, occasionally dangerous drive." There is no better road map than this wise, anecdotally rich and entertaining book.
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