I’ve been wanting to understand more about North Korea for a while now, so picked up this book at Kepler’s a bit ago without really knowing anything about it. I’d say it’s an interesting book about a particularly under-reported topic, but not one that you should really put on your reading list unless you’re particularly interested.
The book talks a lot about the current DPRK leadership, and a LOT about the Korean War, American mistakes, and the resulting situation in the country. Cumings leans quite a lot to the North Korean side of the story here, and blames the US for most of the country’s problems today — I found it to be a little over the top.
Having said all that, it’s useful to try to see through how American media reports things and question whether the things that we all “know” to be true really are. In that way, it reminded me a little bit of All the Pope’s Men, which highlights how strongly my views have been shaped by the media.
Anyway, it’s a country that I wish I knew more about, so I’m happy to have spent a weekend with this book. I come away thinking that it isn’t such a crazy regime as we all are told now, but at the end of the day, it’s a small, under-resourced, isolated country that’s pretty scared of the major powers it perceives as aligned against it. In many ways, a scared country is more frightening to me than a basically aggressive one.