What’s Really Going On with North Korea

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.”


Photo credit: giladr


Tom Sullivan
Tom C Sullivan7 years ago


johan l.
paul l7 years ago

Had North Korea had more money available, all pictures of Kim would be replaced by enormous statues!
His whole family should not have been allowed to live.
Never mind growing up and promoted to leadership positions!
Shame on the North Korean elite!
The poor North Koreans who are law abiding citizens have no say in the matter and are absolutely petrified of saying anything against this atrocious regime!

Donald MacDonald
don MacDonald7 years ago

Thanks Charlene...I have to say its a real breath of fresh air to see that there are so many seeing the truth behind the lies and deception.


Thomas Lee B.
Thomas Lee B7 years ago

"Possibly unhinged"? How can there be any doubt? North Korea starts shooting, then accuses the shot of plotting war. Anybody who plasters a whole country with pictures of himself several stories tall is obviously not normal.

John Joubert Jr
John Joubert7 years ago

Mr. Ralph Sutton states with conviction that N. Korea is a major supplier of arms to countries like Syria and Iran. Countries he then confidently identifies as sworn eneimies of America. These seem to be commonly accepted staements yet I am very interested in seeing any real evidence that this is actually the case. What seems more likely to me is that these so called truths about N. Korea being part of some "axis of evil" is in fact just more disinformation created by our ever present media disinformation machine. For example here is a very common truth I hear all the time. The president of Iran has stated clearly that there was no holocaust during WW2. In fact I have seen the actual correcly translated text of the speech from which this "truth" was created as well as a rarely televised interview where his true point was made. His point was not that 6 million Jews were not killed by the Nazi regime but that other ethnic groups were also killed in huge numbers, the Gypsies for example, and given this where was the worlds concern for creating a state for those surviving peoples. He was trying to make a point about how unfair it was for Palestine to be summarily destroyed to create a modern Isreal. He was not denying the holocaust, he was trying to make a more sophisticated point. Unfortunatly it is more useful to spread the disinformation. My point? What can we truely believe from our so-called "free press". Check your facts. Find the truth..it is out there to find.

Cheryl Andersen
Cheryl Andersen7 years ago

What are the signs of the last days of this planet according to Christ...wars, rumors of wars, people crying peace, peace but there will be no peace, famines and earthquakes all over the world, "the sea and waves roaring"...we worry about nuclear weaponry, but should be more concerned about our relationship with God. North Korea's stance right now is indicative of the prophecies of the Bible regarding a plethora of wars and rumors of war just before the return of Christ. As Christ prophesied, this time of earth's history will have disasters never seen before on this earth. Man is not in control and we cannot change North Korea no matter what we do. It is up to God. Prayer would be the best response.

Judith V.
Judith Valente7 years ago

The military knows more about you than YOU do!

Lynn C.
Lynn C7 years ago


Ralph R Sutton
Ralph R Sutton7 years ago

Back to the subject. North Korea, according to many economists is on the verge of collapse and that makes the insane leaders very dangerous for the entire world, not just South Korea. The only power they have is their military and their use of that power is the major reason for their economic troubles. With their backs to the wall, they are going to strike out with the only power they have and that is their military. The wealth of South Korea is a tempting prize for the North and one that could potentially extend the life of the North Korean regime.

If you think for one moment that North Korea would be no threat to us if we pulled out of the South and let them do whatever they wanted to, you are sadly mistaken. North Korea is a major supplier of arms and nuclear technology to sworn enemies of the US; Iran and Syria just to name two and those two are major suppliers of arms to terrorists all over the world.

The next provocation may be the last straw for South Korea; they've taken just about all they are going to take. Judging from the rhetoric coming from the North, the latest visit by a high ranking Chinese official has had little or no effect on getting the North Koreans to take a less aggressive posture.

We have an obligation to protect not only ourselves, but the rest of the world as well. It is not an option I like, but standing around doing nothing is not an option either.

Barrie F.
Barrie F7 years ago

re Charlene R
- - - -
quote: 'Do you realize what happens with the dollars you spend for gasoline? Most of the oil comes from Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is the largest contributor to the terrorists, around the world. The terrorists are being funded by the Saudis and fighting our soldiers. In essence, our soldiers are being killed by our gas dollars.'
- - - -

And does everyone also realize that all Saudi oil wells are protected by American military bases?

Sounds like a snake eating its tail to me, America is devouring itself.