“This book casts light on the North Korean hermit state. The author is an expert on the subject and it shows. Not only does he offer a wealth of information about the country but he´s also able to draw on personal experience from his time as a high ranking member of the U.S. delegation which...”see full review » see other reviews »
“This book casts light on the North Korean hermit state. The author is an expert on the subject and it shows. Not only does he offer a wealth of information about the country but he´s also able to draw on personal experience from his time as a high ranking member of the U.S. delegation which deals with North Korea (the six-party talks). The author organizes the book around a number of themes. First he explains how North Korea after a rather good start has mismanaged its economy. Then he catalogs the misdeeds the communist regime has committed against its own citizenry (and the world) and why it´s very difficult to deal with it. He also shows why the regime is probably close to collapse and why that makes it very dangerous. Finally the author explains how difficult the reunification will be. The world must not forget the plight of North Koreans and I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the subject.”Kristinn Valdimarsson wrote this review Wednesday, May 30, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Victor Cha is a professor at Georgetown University, and was a member of the National Security Council under George W. Bush, with an emphasis on Asia, and North Korea. He left government service in 2007.
This is an interesting book. Though I didn’t learn anything really new about North Korea, Cha provides an insider’s account of negotiating with the North Koreans.
He points out that US intelligence has less information on the leadership of North Korea than any other country in the world (only Jimmy Carter met both Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il). Bush was the first president to meet a North Korean defector, and he used his Bully Pulpit to talk about human rights abuses under the regime. To date, there have been 21,000 defectors, the majority are women.
Cha doesn’t see an Arab Spring in the North’s future anytime soon—a “Youthquake” potential, since young people aren’t unemployed (technically), and the country uses conscription to keep the young busy and off the streets, such as they are. Also, the downtrodden populations don’t revolt during the worst of times, only when things are starting to get better, which they are not in the North. When you can’t feed yourself, it’s hard to think of political revolution. The government Public Distribution System rations 1500 calories per day, which is less than the U.N.’s minimum requirement. The country spends $1 per person per year on health care (illustrating how silly the arguments are that we need to spend on health care. How much less--$1 per year? Who among us knows the correct amount we “should” be spending?).
Cha predicts that the 45th president will have to content with a major governance crisis in North Korea before he leaves office. One area where Cha changed my mind is what is the ultimate solution to the North Korean problem: nuclearization, human rights, etc. It’s unification with the South, which is either going to be gradual or sudden, a soft or hard landing, as they say. I think this correct, and even though China may not want it, the status quo is intolerable. Although the cost will be tremendous, probably more than East and West Germany’s, the price is worth paying to get rid of the “worst of the worst.” Thought-provoking read.