Cover Image: Becoming Kim Jong Un

Becoming Kim Jong Un

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Member Reviews

I took a break from lighter reads at the beginning of May in favor of reading this biography about Kim Jon Un, written by a former CIA officer. This is an excellent look at the myth and origin story his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, created, his father’s rule, his transition to power, and how the Hermit Kingdom operates using propaganda, fear, and torture to maintain control.

Would I recommend it? Yes—especially if you’re interested in North Korea. It’s written in a really approachable way that isn’t dry.
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Former CIA analyst and current Brookings Institute Scholar, Jung H. Pak, has written the best guide for understanding Kim Jong Un and modern North Korean policy. The book would be highly useful in courses on international security, military affairs, comparative politics, and current events. Very useful for students of foreign policy and military and security studies.
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About as good an insight into one of the world’s most secretive, dangerous, and enigmatic leaders as one could fine.
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This is a decent wrap up of what's out there on Kim Jong Un but don't expect any new nuggets. Last year I read The Great Successor by Anna Fifield, Beijing bureau chief at the Washington Post, who wrote a similar piece about Kim Jong Un and it was much richer and interesting. This feels drier and more academic but was stronger on the geopolitics and history.
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Superb examination of the North Korean leadership. Provides extensive background of North Korean leaders before Kim Jong Un. Provides excellent context to our current strained relationship with North Korea.
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A good read, but doesn't really cover any new ground. Most of this has been covered, many times before. North Korea still remains a mystery to the rest of the world.
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Becoming Kim Jong Un: A Former CIA Officer's Insights into North Korea's Enigmatic Young Dictator by Jung H. Pak is a history of North Korea to include the current regime of Kim Jong Un.  Pak has held senior positions at the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. She is a senior fellow and the SK-Korea Foundation Chair in Korea Studies at the Brookings Institution’s Center for East Asia Policy Studies, where she focuses on the national security challenges facing the United States and East Asia.

For readers who have tried to stay up to date on North Korea and its leadership, it is discouraging that each new book repeats the same information.  It is the same handful of interviews from people who have escaped to South Korea.  Even book of personal accounts repeat these same stories to help fill the pages.  Even those who have lived there are so compartmentalized that their view is limited.  Western visitors see an idealized view of the country even though obviously fake.  Reports of executed officials are later retracted as they appear in public.  Executions by dogs make headlines, but later are unsupported.  Execution by mortars and anti-aircraft guns, however, may be true.  It is difficult to determine what is real and what is propaganda in a very closed society. 

Serious crimes in North Korea punished by the three generation rule.  Essentially if someone is convicted of a serious crime he will pay for the crime along with his children and grand children.  Likewise, anyone wanting to read the latest on North Korea will also have to endure the three generation rule.  To learn about Kim Jung Un, one must also read about Kim Il-sung and Kim Jung-il.  This helps with setting up the conditions of the country but also helps fill the pages.  Pak's book also follows this trend but does shed a little new light on Kim Jong -un  and his methods of rule and the former rising star of North Korea Kim Yo-jong, a woman holding extraordinary power in the regime. 

Pak's insight and experience adds much to the otherwise previous information.  New information however remains sparse.  Even with North Korea keeping itself in the headlines, little is known about the country.  The problem with North Korea is much like the parable of the five blind men and the elephant.  Each man touches part of the elephant -- the trunk for one, the tail for another and so forth. Each of the five men has a partial picture of the elephant and it is not until they all come together that a clear picture emerges.  For North Korea, we have visitors who present one picture, defectors another picture, satellite imagery an other, analysts, like Pak, provide another picture.  Still we are missing many key pieces to form the full picture.  Although Becoming Kim Jong Un is the most up to date and arguably the most accurate picture of the country we have, much is still missing.  Still, Pak's work is a large step forward in understanding and putting the pieces we have together.
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A very impressive eye opening look at Kin jong un.Historical facts a view of his personality the threat he presents.informative full of important facts a book that is an important read for today’s world.#netgalley#randomhouse
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Becoming Kim Jong Un drew me in with the title, cover, and description. I knew next to nothing about the North Korean leader besides what craziness I heard via various news outlets. 
This book was almost exactly what I expected and wanted from a book with that kind of title. It's a book that begins with a cultural history lesson about North Korea from it's creation and I don't mean that in a boring way. It's a really interesting look into the country with such an intense history. 
Then we learn about the leaders of North Korea and their personal histories up through Kim Jong Un. 
In the final section there is an attempted analysis of Kim Jong Un as a person and character with his goals and expectations. Then it takes a sharp turn into U.S. politics and foreign policy regarding North Korea. 
The first two sections were so interesting and the writing was very well done. At times the short little tid bits read like a collection of stories (very terrifying and uncomfortable, nightmarish stories). At time I laughed out loud-not because it was funny-but because with my U.S. history and upbringing it sounded absolutely as insane and unreal. 
The final section brought the book down for me a lot. I picked up the book because of my interest in understanding and learning about Kim Jong Un. It became very preachy about the future of dealing with North Korea. I agree that is important, but I feel like that belongs in an afterword or something. I would have enjoyed a better summary of Kim Jong Un at the end instead of U.S. focus. 
I still really enjoyed this book and would recommend to anyone with interest in foreign leaders and who they are.
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This is a must-read book for anyone who cares about world peace.  It's obvious that the author really has his finger on the pulse of this tyrant, giving us all a reason to watch him with caution.
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I received an advance copy of this book. It is well written and provided a lot of detailed information and history. I would recommend this book. The information was presented well and easy to understand. The writer held the readers attention and it was an interesting book
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