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Hardcover Kim Jong-Il: North Korea's Dear Leader Book

ISBN: 0470821310

ISBN13: 9780470821312

Kim Jong-Il: North Korea's Dear Leader

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Format: Hardcover

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Book Overview

Kim Jong-il has been the subject of intense interest and fear in recent months. He has been demonised as 'Dr Evil' for his nuclear programme which puts Korea on a collision course with the US. For this reason, the world has a stake in understanding this man and his little-known country. This account aims to tell the compelling story of Kim Jong-il and the country he leads, exploring the pressing question of how he manages to hold onto power in a country...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Thin book but an enjoyable read

I have read quite a bit on North Korea, including Breen's book 'The Koreans', so I do not think I learned much new in this fairly thin book. However it was an enjoyable book, marked by Breen's humorous comments and would recommend it to anyone wanting to learn up on not just Kim Jong-il but the whole North Korean system. Breen gives a well-rounded look at Kim from childhood to the present day, all the while providing good context to understand what has shaped the little dictator. He even takes a look at the plight of those at the other end of the North Korean spectrum from Kim Jong-il.

Entertaining reading but not particularly insightful

Michael Breen is well qualified to write about the Korean peninsular, having lived in Seoul for many years, and visiting North Korea several times. Although no scholar (he is a former journalist) Breen is also the author of "The Koreans - Who they are, what they want, where their future lies", an excellent commentary on South Korea. Access to NK is well controlled, and highly fettered; much of Breen's book is based on testimony of NK defectors to the South and conversations with other visitors to the state. Breen has never interviewed the Dear Leader, (although he did meet the Great Leader and relates that he felt that the GL must have been struggling with flatulence!) journalists, especially foreign journalists, being treated with suspicion in North Korea. So in this respect, there is nothing really substantial to the book, and Breen has merely gathered and compiled a series of anecdotes and known facts about the Dear Leader, and added his interpretation of the man. However, I would stress that the lack of hard facts reflect more on the subject of the book, than the author: Breen literally does not have much to work with. Breen discusses Kim Jong-il's early upbringing, quoting from school reports supposedly cited in official books about the Dear Leader. What rapidly comes through from the quotes that Breen uses, much (or all) of the state's writings about its leader smacks of brownnosing and trying to put a positive spin on events. The section about Kim Jong-il's adult life is much more based on hearsay - as Breen acknowledges, there are large sections of the Dear Leader's life about which very little is known. It is known that Kim Jong-il integrated himself to his father, although always remaining in the background, even for a time after his father's death in 1994. Even then, Kim Jong-il did not take his father's title as the Great Leader, instead preferring to use the Dear Leader, playing the dutiful son to the end. As well as relying to an extent on hearsay, Breen also uses the Communist state's own writings - it transpires that the Dear Leader is quite a prodigious author. Although the Dear Leader probably didn't intend it that way, considerable mirth can be found in his works which are quoted by Breen, which cover topics such as movie making (Kim Jong-il is such a movie buff, that as Breen relates, he organized the kidnapping of a prominent South Korean director and his actress ex-wife) and journalism. Breen does at times go overboard in ridiculing the Dear Leader - comments about the "big hair" are rife throughout the book. "Kim Jong-il: North Korea's Dear Leader" is not just a biography, but is also a commentary about North Korea, and how the population and military accepts his, and his father's, leadership of the country despite the dire state in which the average North Korean citizen lives. Despite numerous famines, and despite (or because of) the majority of North Korea's resources being channeled towards the military

North Korea's Dear Leader

Having read several book's on North Korea this is by far the best of the selection. The book covers all of the questions the world is asking about North Korea and gives a fantastic insight into the life and mind of the man running this bizarre country.

Clever without being too simple

Breen's outline of the Dear Leader is approriate for the bizzare, often silly nature of his subject. The author moves back and forth between academic and personal observations, happily mocking the disgusting powers that be in North Korea. I agree with the review who did not like the "Is Kim Jong-Il evil?" chapter. It seemed like filler at one point. I also felt that the end of the book lacked some of the witty writing I found in the very well done introductory part.All in all an enjoyable read- worth the cash for a few insights into a fascinating (but disturbing character).

Outstanding Introduction to an Important Topic

I've been interested in North Korea ever since the nuclear crisis flared up in late 2002. Yet my search for worthwhile books to read about that sad little country has not turned up very much. The literature seems to be divided up into ideological rants about how the Bush administration provoked the new crisis (given the fact that the North Koreans began cheating before Bush was president that makes no sense) or impenetrably dense academic tomes (I noticed a reviewer of Breen's other book sneering at the fact that it is a "popular" book).In my view, I learned a great deal about Kim Jong-Il and the state that he runs by reading Breen's book. I thought the chapters on the North Korean slave labor camps and the one titled "Country of the Lie" were particularly enlightening. I'm starting to perceive North Korea as less a country than a cult and the typical North Koreans as the equivalent of abused children who persist in believing that the "Dear Leader" loves them, even as he lets them starve. This being said the book is not perfect:1. It could have been longer. It was only about 190 pages. I would have liked more information about the nuclear crisis and North Korea's arms and drug dealing enterprises.2. The chapter "Is Kim Jong-Il Evil?" wavers from being highly perceptive to being annoyingly "new age-ish."3. The author makes a few minor errors (understating a number or two by several orders of magnitude and stating that the average North Korean's weight is 16 kilograms -34 pounds which is impossible).Still, I feel that I am far better informed having read this book. I believe it deserves a five star rating even with its faults because it fills such a yawning gap in public understanding of this strange little man and his strange little country.Read it and learn!
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