Kongdan Oh and Ralph Hassig. North Korea in a Nutshell: A Contemporary Overview. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2021, pp. 280, $34. ISBN 9781538151389 (hardback).

AuthorKuri Sravan Kumar
Published date01 December 2022
Date01 December 2022
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Review 253
Kongdan Oh and Ralph Hassig. North Korea in a Nutshell: A
Contemporary Overview. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Lit-
tlefield, 2021, pp. 280, $34. ISBN 9781538151389 (hardback).
DOI: 10.1177/09735984221132103
North Korea is created as a side effect of the World War II and it is
always been in news for the regime, human rights, missiles, and others.
In recent times, the books on North Korea are multiplying and this book
covers the discourse of North Korea in both chronological and topical
and provides a concise overview of North Korea. It tries to locate several
questions on North Korea from the discourse of North Korean defectors.
This book consists of nine chapters with a brief discussion of fifty topics
and a conclusion chapter.
The authors Kongdan Oh and Ralph Hassig are leading experts in
North Korean studies. Both the wife and husband are authors of North
Korea through Looking Glass (2000) and The Hidden People of North
Korea: Everyday Life in the Hermit Kingdom (2009). The author
Kongdan Oh promised her father that she works on the ‘Korean
In the first chapter, ‘Geography and History: A Troubled Land’, the
authors find ‘three questions’ in the creation of North Korea: Korea’s
liberation, separation of Korea, and Kim Il-sung taking control of North
Korea (p. 14). The authors argued that the ‘Kim regime has one set of
answers to these questions, whereas the rest of the world has another’
(p. 14). However, both answers are contradictory to one another.
In the second chapter, ‘Leadership: The Kim Dynasty’, the authors
tried to understand Kim’s dynasty rule. The authors underline that Kim
Il-sung founded a nation and use Confucianism to control the nation, and
despite Kim Il-sung’s failures his ‘political position was unassailable’
(p. 26), and North Koreans considered him ‘like the gods of many
religions’ (p. 28). The authors explore the myth of ‘three generals of
Mount Paektu’ (p. 32), which is used by the regime to claim that Kim
Jong-il is a military genius and argued that Kim Jong-il ignored the
economic condition of the state and promoted ‘military-first policy’ (p.
32), and ‘lead the life of a capitalistic fat cat’ (p. 33), and Kim Jong-un’s
position is ‘politically secure than ever’ (p. 37).
The authors claimed that Kim uses the instrument of reward and
punishment; and by predicting the future, authors define, ‘no reason to
believe that North Korea will be anything other than the kingdom of the
Kim family’ (p. 38).

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