North Korea is poised at the crossroads of history. Which direction will its leader take?
Throughout the world, oppressive regimes are being uprooted and replaced by budding democracies, but one exception remains: The People's Republic of North Korea. The Kim family has clung to power for three generations by silencing dissidents, ruling with an iron fist, and holding its neighbors hostage with threats of war. Under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, North Korea has come closer than ever to creating a viable nuclear arsenal, but widespread famine and growing resistance are weakening his regime's stability.
In The Hermit King, Asian geopolitical expert Chung Min Lee tells the story of the rise of the Kim Dynasty and its atrocities, motivations, and diplomatic goals. He also discusses the possible outcomes of its aggressive standoff with the world superpowers.
Kim Jong Un is not a crazed "Rocket Man" or a bumbling despot; he has been groomed since birth to take control of his country and stay in power at all costs. He is now at a fateful crossroads. Will he make good on decades of threats, liberalize North Korea and gain international legitimacy, or watch his regime crumble around him? Lee analyzes the likelihood and consequences of each of these possibilities, cautioning that in the end, a humanitarian crisis in the region is all but unavoidable. The Hermit King is a thoughtful and compelling look at the most complicated diplomatic situation on Earth.
Korea analyst Chung Min Lee (Fault Lines in a Rising Asia) delivers a crisp examination of the rise and reign of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. According to Lee, the "ruthless and smart" Kim wants to do the impossible: Modernize North Korea's economy without sacrificing his supremacy or the nation's growing nuclear arsenal. Lee's insightful pr cis of the Kim clan's violent history reveals the extent to which the family has relied on executions, forced labor, and torture as tools of political oppression, and his breakdown of the current power structure is vital to any genuine understanding of the regime. Even as Kim scores prestige points domestically and internationally for his summit meetings with President Trump, Lee writes, the infallibility of the Kim dynasty has largely vanished from the hearts and minds of North Korea's elites, who have learned to fend for themselves in the country's informal jangmadang, or free market, system. Gaming out scenarios for the collapse or survival of the regime, Lee cogently assesses the political and military interests of the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia, and Japan. Though he sees President Trump's overtures to Kim as doing more harm than good, Lee believes that "freedom and democracy" are "the weapons of mass destruction Kim Jong Un fears most." This is an excellent summation of one of the world's most complex geopolitical flash points.