The Impossible State: Book Review

October 12, 2016

The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future is Victor Cha’s analysis of the most mysterious country in the world today.  The book contains insights into the history, culture, and politics of North Korea and is primarily focused on the time since the Kim family took control of the country.

impossiblestateIt is really difficult to imagine that North Korea even exists in modern times. Thanks to the Lil’ Kim family, the country is so backwards that it makes the first world look like something out of Star Trek.  I knew a bit about North Korea’s situation when I started reading, but Victor Cha does an excellent job of providing an in-depth look into the causes behind North Korea’s abysmal economy, human rights, and freedoms.  His assertions are always well supported and thoroughly explained in a language that should be accessible to thoughtful adult readers.

Indeed, Cha’s writing style is generally very fluid.  Some sections of the book, especially those relating to more detailed economic and political analysis can be a bit dry, but that is to be expected.  Some sections may be a bit more difficult to get through, but the whole picture is important in understanding the Hermit Kingdom.  Some of the most interesting sections revolve around the Kim family itself and the internal struggles and drama behind the scenes.

Despite the family’s iron-fisted control over the country and constant propaganda campaign, there are some indications that North Koreans are receiving real news thanks to modern technology and smuggling from South Korea and other countries.  Cha considers the possibility of the Kim regime collapsing and the difficulties that such an event would pose for South Korea.  Cha also dedicates a fair amount of time to an explanation of the complicated relationship between North and South.

The Impossible State is a must read for anyone who is interested in learning more about North Korea.  The story of North Korea’s recent history is really like a train-wreck in the sense that it is fascinating and horrifying at the same time.  If anything, The Impossible State will make readers aware of some of the worst conditions for living on the planet today.

Rating: 5/5

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