(2005) – If you’re going to read just one of the books recommended here, read this one. If you’re going to read all or some of the books here, start with this one! Probably the most comprehensive, widely available book on the history of North Korea and its leadership. Bradley K. Martin has been to North Korea several times in a journalistic capacity and adds a great amount of personal insight and experience into his biography of the reclusive nation. From the early guerilla days of Kim Il-Sung, the removal of soviet influence and highly productive golden years of North Korea, the early years of Kim Jong-Il and his reckless youth to the eventual succession of Jong-Il and adoption of the songun “military first” policies, to the speculation of where North Korea may be headed next. This is a long read but fascinating at every page. No topic is left uncovered – diplomacy (or lack thereof), sports, education, the nuclear standoff, prison camps, street gangs, class hierarchy, military structure, famine, city living vs. rural living, propaganda and defector interviews. Though published in 2005, this book will hold up for a very long time. A true primer on North Korea.
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