Precious little is known or understood about North Korea, the world's most controversial and isolated country. In The Impossible State, international-policy expert and scholar Victor Cha provides the best look yet at North Korea's history, the rise of the Kim family dynasty, and the obsessive personality cult that empowers them. He illuminates the repressive regime's complex economy and culture, its appalling record of human-rights abuses, and its belligerent relationship with the United States, and analyzes the regime's major security issues – from the seemingly endless war with its southern neighbor to its frightening nuclear ambitions.
How this enigmatic nation-state – one that regularly violates its own citizens' inalienable rights and has suffered famine, global economic sanctions, a collapsed economy, and near total isolation from the rest of the world – has continued to survive has long been a question that preoccupies the West. Cha reveals a land of contradictions. One facing a pivotal, disquieting transition of power from tyrannical father to inexperienced son, and a regime that may be closer to its end than many might think – a political collapse for which the West may be woefully unprepared.
Victor Cha is the former Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council, where he served as an adviser to the President from 2004 to 2007. He is the award-winning author of Alignment Despite Antagonism: The United States-Korea-Japan Security Triangle and Beyond the Final Score: The Politics of Sport in Asia. His writing has appeared in Foreign Affairs, International Security, and Political Science Quarterly, among other journals. He currently holds the D. S. Song Chair in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and is a Senior Adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
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Senior Research Fellow, Northeast Asia