After a year of trading colorful barbs with the American president and significant achievements in North Korea's decades-long nuclear and missile development programs, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared mission accomplished in November 2017. Though Kim's pronouncement appears premature, North Korea is on the verge of being able to strike the United States with nuclear weapons. South Korea has long been in the North Korean crosshairs but worries whether the United States would defend it if North Korea holds the American homeland at risk. The largely ceremonial summit between US president Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, and the unpredictability of both parties, has not quelled these concerns and leaves more questions than answers for the two sides' negotiators to work out. The Korean Peninsula's security situation is an intractable conflict, raising the question, "How did we get here?"
In this book, former North Korea lead foreign service officer at the US embassy in Seoul Patrick McEachern unpacks the contentious and tangled relationship between the Koreas in an approachable question-and-answer format. While North Korea is famous for its militarism and nuclear program, South Korea is best known for its economic miracle, familiar to consumers as the producer of Samsung smartphones, Hyundai cars, and even K-pop music and K-beauty. Why have the two Koreas developed politically and economically in such radically different ways? What are the origins of a divided Korean Peninsula? Who rules the two Koreas? How have three generations of the authoritarian Kim dictatorship shaped North Korea? What is the history of North-South relations? Why does the North Korean government develop nuclear weapons? How do powers such as Japan, China, and Russia fit into the mix? What is it like to live in North and South Korea? This book tackles these broad topics and many more to explain what everyone needs to know about South and North Korea.