North Korea is, arguably, the last totalitarian state on earth. It still adheres to a Communist ideology that most other formal Leninist states have abandoned in practice. North Korea expert Andrei Lankov talks about the country from a historical perspective, in particular looking at how North Korea’s totalitarian system ensures that there is little opposition, not just because it cannot be organised, but because many people in the country are so shut off from the outside world that they simply don’t know how bad things are. He also explores the historical roots of Korea’s political system and its quasi-feudal nature.
Author and activist Hyeonseo Lee, who defected from North Korea, looks at the country through her own experience growing up there. She talks about the extreme poverty in the country and its lack of political and human rights, pointing out that it was really only when she left, first to China and then to South Korea, that she was able to start understanding the enormity of the country’s social and political systems.
Elsewhere Odd Arne Westad looks at the long history of Korea-China relations and argues that if you can understand them, you can better understand China’s approach to international relations more generally.
Award-winning historian Bruce Cumings talks about the misconceptions many people still hold about the Korean War (1950-1953), and how they distort our understanding of the current North Korean regime.
Kim Jong-un’s posturing over nuclear weapons is a distraction from more pressing concerns: the extreme poverty and disenfranchisement of his people, says North Korean defector Hyeonseo Lee. She chooses five books for understanding the hermit kingdom.
Before Vietnam, America fought in the Korean War—but its role in that conflict has been far less examined. Award-winning historian Bruce Cumings talks about the misconceptions many people still hold, and how they distort our understanding of the current North Korean regime.
North Korea expert, Andrei Lankov, says that although North Korea is a brutal dictatorship, many people nonetheless manage to lead relatively normal lives. He recommends the best books on North Korea. (NB You can buy all our expert recommendations on North Korea by clicking here.)
Chinese Hegemony: Grand Strategy and International Institutions in East Asian History
by Feng Zhang
Sacred Mandates: Asian International Relations since Chinggis Khan
by Timothy Brook (ed.)
The Annals of King T'aejo: Founder of Korea's Choson Dynasty
by Choi Byonghyon
Tradition, Treaties, and Trade: Qing Imperialism and Choson Korea, 1850-1910
by Kirk W. Larsen
Cold War Crucible: The Korean Conflict and the Postwar World
by masuda hajimu
China has had close political and cultural relations with Korea for centuries and the history of that relationship can shed light on China’s approach to international relations more broadly—including in its imperial past. Yale historian Odd Arne Westad recommends the best books on China, Korea and the relationship between them.