From Progressive Book Club: North Korea has attacked a South Korean island with artillery fire, killing at least two South Korean marines and setting dozens of buildings ablaze in what UN Secretary General Ban Ki-mooon called “one of the gravest incidents since the end of the Korean War.” Given the nature of North Korea’s leadership (unpredictable, possibly unhinged, nuclear-armed), this is scary stuff.
To help get beyond the play-by-plays to the deeper context and history of the standoff, The Progressive Book Club has rounded up five of the best books on Korea:
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
“A fascinating and deeply personal look at the lives of six defectors from the repressive totalitarian regime of the Republic of North Korea,” says Publishers Weekly in a starred review. Demick, a former Seoul bureau chief for the LA Times, “weaves their stories together with the hidden history of the country’s descent into chaos, she skillfully re-creates these captivating and moving personal journeys.”
Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty by Bradley K. Martin
“Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader is, from all I have read, simply the best book ever written about North Korea,” Nicholas Kristof wrote in the New York Review of Books. “Relying largely on extensive interviews with defectors, Martin portrays North Korean life with a clarity that is stunning, and he captures the paradoxes in North Korean public opinion.”
Korea’s Place in the Sun: A Modern History by Bruce Cumings
Cumings, a top Korea scholar, offers a “riveting history of modern Korea challenges much received wisdom,” said Publishers Weekly. Newly updated, it’s “indispensable for understanding modern Korea and its dim prospects for reunification.”
This is Paradise!: My North Korean Childhood by Hyok Kang
“This is a rare and precious insight into the most obscure regime on earth through the startled and observant eyes of a thirteen-year-old boy who not only escaped but survived to tell this harrowing yet intriguing tale,” wrote veteran British journalist Jon Snow. “The most penetrating account of life in North Korea I have ever read.”
The Korean War: A History by Bruce Cumings
Booklist: “[Cumings'] historical expertise will be highly informative background material for those watching the current explosive potential of the North Korean situation.”
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