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Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  1,580 Ratings  ·  139 Reviews
Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader offers in-depth portraits of North Korea's two ruthless and bizarrely Orwellian leaders, Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il. Lifting North Korea's curtain of self-imposed isolation, this book will take readers inside a society, that to a Westerner, will appear to be from another planet. Subsisting on a diet short on food grains and lon ...more
Paperback, 874 pages
Published January 10th 2006 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published October 15th 2004)
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Mar 14, 2015 Sandy rated it it was amazing
After I read Nothing to Envy, a book about six ordinary people in North Korea, I was even more intrigued about this secretive country. I reserved Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader at the library. I was so surprised to see a 700-page book (with 100 pages of footnotes) waiting for me. No way would I read such a thick book, but I decided to check it out anyway and maybe skim parts of it. Wrong. I am reading every page and can't wait to get back to it every chance I get. Bradley Martin is ...more
Aaron Arnold
Dec 21, 2013 Aaron Arnold rated it it was amazing
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that most Americans think of North Korea as a wacky punchline, if they think of it at all. This is really unfortunate because North Korea has such a sad story, like Haiti-level sad. Of course, since North Korea is one of the most secretive societies on Earth, if not the most, it's difficult for anyone to really try to educate themselves on it, but Bradley Martin has done an astonishing amount of research, and if anyone qualifies as a "North Korea expert ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
So the new Pope recently went to South Korea and, with his haloed head turned towards the North, uttered a solemn prayer for peace and reconciliation. He was probably dreaming of something similar to what his predecessor John Paul did, in Europe, bringing down communist states with papal visits and prayers said out loud among ecstatic crowds.

I do not think it'll be the same with North Korea, however. For out there, they have the same type of religions as the Pope. If Christians have the triumvir
Mar 28, 2012 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brian by: goodreads
Shelves: on-nook
(3.0) Tried to fit 3 or 4 different books into one, and it suffered

My primary criticism of this book is that Martin didn't stay focused on one project. He starts off with a tertiary source historical account of North Korea since World War II. That's fine, and he adopts a very objective tone, citing arguments on both sides of many unanswered questions (at least in the West) about North Korea's policies and leaders. We then shift into defectors' narratives, along the lines of Nothing to Envy: Ordi

Under different circumstances, North Korea could be the subject of a Marx Brothers satire, with the elements of a pompous, ego-driven patriarch, a worshipful population, and a general aura of fantasy and illusion. But North Korea has a superbly equipped million-man army and an expanding nuclear weapons program. So this comprehensive examination of this totalitarian society and the two men who have dominated it is often terrifying. For a quarter century, Martin has covered North Korea while

Aug 03, 2011 Erik rated it really liked it
A few months ago, I reread 1984 and wondered whether such a society could survive. The answer is yes. Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il have done it. The personality cult is indeed a cult. It's like the whole nation is David Koresh's compound. We are not going to know the full truth about North Korean life until it falls, but until that happy day, Martin has set the standard for books about this crazy country. He has synthesized everything from the ghost-written memoirs of Kim Il-Sung to the testimony ...more
This was the other book recommended to me at the same time as The Cleanest Race, but it took me much longer to get to just because of its size. Almost a thousand pages, though admittedly with nearly a hundred pages of footnotes, took a bit for me to work up to, but I'm glad I did and I recommend this book to anyone whose view of North Korea is formed mostly by Best Korea memes and pictures of Kim Jong-il looking at things.

The main impression that Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader gav
Dec 13, 2011 Nicholas rated it it was ok
Despite being flawed in certain aspects, Martin's work is an interesting one. Even though it brings us "new" information from the northern wasteland of the Korean peninsula, at times I found this book hard to read. Is the DPRK totalitarian? Certainly. Is the DPRK's economy dead? Without question. These questions were never in doubt. To this, I feel Mr. Martin has only added a level of gossip as to why this has occured. Are defectors testimonies important? Certainly. However can a junior officer' ...more
Apr 19, 2012 Daniel rated it liked it
This is an interesting read. Unfortunately, it lacks structure. The author jumps back and forth from biographies of the Kims, history of North Korea, observations and reflections from his journeys, interviews with refugees and anecdotes. Most of the chapter titles don't tell you anything at all about what the chapter is going to be about. Generally, the book follows a chronological order, but I found that there are many things in between that I was not very interested in and had rather skipped. ...more
Aug 14, 2013 Stefanie rated it really liked it
This is a good informative book about North Korean history, economy, politics and especially the Kim family up to the year 2004. It gave me many insights, I had not had before. It also thoroughly tried my patience. The first seven to ten chapters seemed to drag out endlessly in a much too detailed description of the Korean War and the utterly irrelevant experiences of the author's uncle as an American soldier in it. Add to that a much too detailed account of Kim Il-sungs early life as a partisan ...more
Dec 07, 2010 Jeff rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A very good book, albeit with a few flaws that keep it off my list of elite-level nonfiction. This is a topic I've wanted to learn more about for a while and certainly filled in some gaps in my historical and cultural knowledge.

As far as the nit-picking:

- I don't usually call for books to be shorter, but this one could have used a bit of trimming. I certainly wanted to read interviews with defectors, but there were so many of them that it started to become repetitive.

- I tend to like my big nonf
Jul 17, 2016 Maureen rated it liked it
This book was so intense. It requires great dedication.

It is so informative. It is so deep in its delving into the Kim dynasty in North Korea. But it takes so long to read!!

For me it is hard to believe and fathom that there is a place on this planet where information is controlled, where people are thrown into prison for random remarks about the leadership or even about daily life. A place where people and their families are put into prison for life, for no crime. Where people are not paid for
Scott Baker
Jul 03, 2016 Scott Baker rated it it was amazing
Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader is the most in-depth, well-researched, and comprehensive study I have read of the Kim Dynasty and North Korea. I spent 23 years with the CIA, many of those years following the regime, and can attest that there is so much propaganda, myths, and urban legends surrounding this nation and it's rulers that it is often impossible to distinguish fact from fiction. Bradley Martin has done a superior ob in doing just that. His research is impeccable, and I app ...more
Lewis Smith
Dec 25, 2015 Lewis Smith rated it really liked it
This is a great book for anyone wanting to know more about the world's most closed society and its reclusive, absolute dictators. It provides a wonderful, overarching view of Korean history from the days of its monarchy through the Japanese occupation, the victory in World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, right up through the waning days of Kim Jong Il's life. Penetrating the veil of propaganda from both sides, this book tries to give an inside view of the Kim dynasty and the personal lives ...more
Nov 24, 2015 Barry rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, korea
Mr. Martin puts his years of writing practice to good use as he pulls together research and first-hand interviews of North Korean defectors to give readers what appears to be a solid historical account of North Korea. Always engaging, he throws in moments of humor and warmth to make this book seem much shorter than it is. Though he easily could have reduced the number of interviews he adds, at times resorting to a clunky Q/A format, Mr. Martin's writing shines and makes this book a joy to read. ...more
Oct 02, 2014 Nick rated it liked it
I'm torn about this book; it's divided roughly into thirds, with one being very good, one being interesting but dry, and one being pretty boring and pointless. The first third is a biography of Kim Il-Sung, covering from his birth up to his son taking over most of the power in Korea, and this part's easy to recommend as the author gives a interesting and informative history of both Kim and the development of North Korea. After this the book goes into the second section, which is a large batch of ...more
Kyle Geissler
Jul 28, 2015 Kyle Geissler rated it it was amazing
I didn't realize how HUGE this book was when I got it, but I decided to give it a go. I couldn't put it down. I've always been hungry for more information about North Korea. This book satisfied many of my curiosities, but more impressively, opened up many other areas of interest I would like to study in relation to North Korea. It's also a good mix of interviews, anecdotes and straight-up facts. Not sure this is a 5-star book for everyone, but it was for me.
Dillon Font
May 04, 2012 Dillon Font rated it really liked it
This book is THICK and even at my pace, I'm only 650 pages through in about 3 weeks of reading.

Regardless of whether you know/have an interest in Korea/Asia, the details it discusses on a closed, hermetic regime is a fascinating read
Will Ransohoff
Sep 05, 2014 Will Ransohoff rated it really liked it
Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader is a very comprehensive book about the Kim dynasty in North Korea. Starting with Kim Il-Sung's childhood in China, it goes through the tail end of Kim Jong-Il's reign. It doesn't cover the current leader, Kim Jong-Un, but it is a great resource for the country's modern history up to the twenty-first century.

It's also a pretty long book; the author has a good voice and rarely drags his feet, but it can still get a little dry. Still, there was a lot of
May 03, 2014 Jenny rated it liked it
Excellently researched, good interviews, but too many topics all jumbled up. The historical aspects of this very long book were outstanding and something I had not seen. (I read/watch a lot about DPRK) but Mr. Martin probably should have written two to three different volumes. One for the Kim's history, one for the stories of the individual defectors (many of which have been told in their own books,) and one for his own interpretation of the hows, whys and whens of the North Korean future. There ...more
Apr 02, 2016 Sarat rated it really liked it
3.5 Stars. An informative look into the overall history of North Korea.

The author definitely did his research, especially into the era of Kim Il-sung, and it's interesting to see the large contrasts in leadership and governance between Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. This in a sense was quite unexpected, as we tend to get the impression that the both leaders operated and acted in a similar fashion when this really wasn't the case at all. I also appreciated the fact that he made an effort to reduc
May 05, 2016 Diane rated it really liked it
I just realized this book took me almost 3 years to finish reading.

There were a few things that stuck out to me the most. First, the rations. Almost everyone knew the exact amount of food, down to the grain of rice, they had consumed. When you are starving, I imagine you do know the exact amount of food available to you. The more affluent defectors didn't know exactly how much food they'd eaten, just that it had been enough.

The defectors' stories really are the best part of this book. There are
Dec 14, 2014 Ellen rated it it was ok
There was a lot more detail in this book than I had bargained for. In addition, the interviews which make up a large part of this book began to be very repetitive - to the point that I started to ask myself why had the author continued to interview folks if he was getting basically the same comments about the two previous members of the Kim family to rule Korea? Still there were plenty of chilling details that make Korea one of the creepiest countries in the world. If you look carefully at the a ...more
Jun 02, 2015 Adli rated it it was ok

Honestly I don’t know what to make of this book, the first time I saw this book I was so eager to read it, and when I read it I felt like ‘meh~’. Then the more I read the book the more I regret the choice. I don’t know, maybe this is more because I’m too lazy to grasp the book or the writing just suck so bad. I mean, compared to Victor Cha’s The Impossible State this book sucks so bad. I just couldn’t ke
Maron Anrow
Apr 13, 2014 Maron Anrow rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle-bought, 2014
It took me over a year to read this book. Bradley Martin was thorough in his research and writing! The book began with information about Kim Il-sung (starting with his childhood) and the Korean war, and then the subsequent chapters spanned many decades, switching between between politics, human rights, and economics. I learned a ton. The book was well written and interesting overall, although I liked the chapters with defector testimony the most. One defector (quoted in this book) said it well: ...more
Czarny Pies
Jun 13, 2015 Czarny Pies rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Korea
Shelves: asian-history
Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader is journalism not history.
Journalists write books based on interviews with liars. Historians write based on unreliable archives. In the case of North Korea, it is impossible to write history and one must rely on journalism.

Writing history on communist regimes is next to impossible. All forms of media are heavily censored. Statistics are falsified. Internal discussions amongst politicians are never documented. What journalists can do is interview defec
Jan 26, 2011 Chris rated it liked it
Jam-packed with information, so it is hard to get through (a good 'bathroom book'); but I definitely learned as much about the Kims and North Korea as I possibly could without actually visiting the peninsula. How interesting that a tiny, otherwise inconsequential nation can keep great powers tied up in knots (and, unlike Al Qaeda, without ever leaving home). Dealing with DPRK is a real catch-22: the strategy of squeezing them through sanctions, thinking/hoping that they will collapse is laughabl ...more
Feb 05, 2011 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Unless you, like me, are concerned about renewed war on the Korean Peninsula and curious about the ability of the ruling Kim dynasty to stay in power while they imprison, starve, and kill their people, you will find this an intimidating, even forbidding read. At 849 pages (with acknowledgments and index) it rivals William Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich for buik. Shirer, at least, had some facts to work with. The Nazis had been defeated, and the Allies had access to voluminous records. ...more
Tom M
Dec 20, 2010 Tom M rated it really liked it
The book was an interesting look into many aspects of North Korea. The author presents a mostly non-biased view to all things North Korea.

Martin begins his book around roughly 1900 with early history of Kim Hyong-jik, the father of KIm Il-sung then proceeds with the history of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. From there, the book bounces around from defector testimony of daily life, politics, matters of economy, and daily troubles of North Koreans from peasants to the elite. The reader is bound to l
Jul 20, 2012 Joe rated it it was amazing
It has been two months to the day that I started this massive book and I now know more about the dictators that I could have imagined or frankly desired to. The research involved in writing a book of this size must be breathtaking but the result is the finest book I have read about a foreigh country. Martin presents us with a full history of the Korea we all know from it's original Japanese invasion, the Japanese defeat in the war, and the division of Korea at the 38th Parallel. The North under ...more
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