To North Koreans, the Kims are more than just leaders. Kim Il-Sung is the country's leading novelist, philosopher, historian, educator, designer, literary critic, architect, general, farmer, and ping-pong trainer. Radios are made so they can only be tuned to the official state frequency. "Newspapers" are filled with endless columns of Kim speeches and propaganda. And instead of Christmas, North Koreans celebrate Kim's birthday--and he presents each child a present, just like Santa.
The regime that the Kim Dynasty has built remains technically at war with the United States nearly a half century after the armistice that halted actual fighting in the Korean War. This fascinating and complete history takes full advantage of a great deal of source material that has only recently become available (some from archives in Moscow and Beijing), and brings the reader up to the tensions of the current day. For as this book will explain, North Korea appears more and more to be the greatest threat among the Axis of Evil countries--with some defector testimony warning that Kim Jong-Il has enough chemical weapons to wipe out the entire population of South Korea.
Lankov traces the impact of Soviet reforms on North Korea, placing them in the context of contemporaneous political crises in Poland and Hungary. He documents the dissent among various social groups (intellectuals, students, party cadres) and their attempts to oust Kim in the unsuccessful August plot of 1956. His reconstruction of the Peng-Mikoyan visit of that year the most dramatic Sino-Soviet intervention into Pyongyang politics shows how it helped bring an end to purges of the opposition. The purges, however, resumed in less than a year as Kim skillfully began to distance himself from both Moscow and Beijing. The final chapters of this fascinating and revealing study deal with events of the late 1950s that eventually led to Kim s version of national Stalinism. Lankov unearths data that, for the first time, allows us to estimate the scale and character of North Korea s Great Purge.
Meticulously researched and cogently argued, Crisis in North Korea is a must-read for students and scholars of Korea and anyone interested in political leadership and personality cults, regime transition, and communist politics."