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North Korea: Another Country

3.58  ·  Rating Details ·  219 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
Depicted as an insular and forbidding police state with an “insane” dictator at its helm, North Korea—charter member of Bush’s “Axis of Evil”—is a country the U.S. loves to hate. Now the CIA says it possesses nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, as well as long-range missiles capable of delivering them to America’s West Coast.

But, as Bruce Cumings demonstrates in thi
Paperback, 256 pages
Published November 30th 2004 by The New Press (first published 2003)
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25th out of 26 books — 35 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 585)
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Jul 20, 2012 Valarie rated it it was ok
Shelves: educational, asia
I hate leaving a book unfinished, but after reading the first half of this very long editorial, I couldn't justify the time it would take to read the rest. Published in 2003, a lot of the information in this book is outdated or irrelevant - not the author's fault, but something to consider before you pick it up. The writing itself varies, from personal opinions, to mocking world leaders, to random tangents and the occasional helpful take on history. Cumings keeps trying to connect the United Sta ...more
Mark Desrosiers
Dec 03, 2007 Mark Desrosiers rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who thinks they know anything about North Korea
Shelves: history
You will learn little about North Korea from reading the American press. Or the European press. Or National Geographic. Or the North Korean press. You will learn lots here, a thorough backwards-chronology demolishing of myths by a scholar who clearly thinks the country is weird, tragic, and sometimes hilarious, but always fully comprehensible. Essential and illuminating. Here's one central argument:

"Those who live a particular history know it in their bones, both because they have to, and becaus
Apr 23, 2010 Cheryl rated it liked it
Interesting inside view of what the root of the problems between America and North Korea actually are. Also, I believe people's perspective of North Korea as one of the "axis of evil" countries will be changed by reading this. It becomes discouraging to me as an American to learn more and more about how little we practice what we is not okay for Saddam Hussein to use chemical weapons upon people, but it okay for the U.S. It is okay for us to have nuclear weapons pointed at North Kore ...more
Dec 16, 2009 Velvetink rated it really liked it
Awesome. Debunks the standard propaganda about Korea.To understand where and why Korea is where it is now is to look back to "the holocaust that the North experienced during the Korean War [1959-53:].” & holocaust is not an exaggerated term...for instance the number of napalm bombs dropped there outnumbered the Vietnam war. It cannot be understood apart from a terrible fratricidal war that has never ended, the guerrilla struggle against Japanese imperialism in the 1930s, its initial emergenc ...more
May 07, 2016 Cody rated it it was ok
This was a difficult book for me to enjoy, owing to a variety of reasons. Firstly I'll start out with what I liked about it. Mr. Cumings has written an academic analysis diving into what really drives North Korea as a country (at least in his eyes). He supports his arguments with a number of good analytical sources, which I found fair, however his opinions on North Korea as a whole I found deeply disturbing. When I picked up this book I was hoping for an objective view of what makes the hermit k ...more
Oct 10, 2010 Noah rated it liked it
I feel like Cumings has a pretty constant thread in most of his work - every valid point he makes is undermined by either a totally unsubstantiated analytical comment or questionable research. For instance, he is harsh on the West's reporting on N. Korea, which I can generally understand, but he then claims that the N. Korean media is completely trustworthy and reliable. I don't care how sympathetic you are to the Kim dynasty...their national news service is ridiculously self serving and untrust ...more
May 03, 2015 Eric rated it really liked it
As someone who's only knowledge of North Korea came from American high school textbooks, I felt I have a more rounded perspective of the country after reading this book. The author aims to counter the American media's one-sided depiction of the country as an "axis of evil" by providing a more detailed story of the country beyond the headlines.

This book contains a wealth of information for those who want to learn more about North Korea's history, and subsequently how the nuclear crisis came to b
Connor B
Jun 07, 2016 Connor B rated it really liked it
Fantastic book, absolutely necessary for understanding North Korea by merit of the fact that it is critical of both North Korea and America. Too often America gets a free pass (and China and Japan and South Korea, too) in its chaotic and erratic behavior towards North Korea. Just like them, we promise things and then renege; we say one thing and do another; we are violent in speech and action. Cummings illuminates how this element of American foreign policy has complicated and festered the situa ...more
Jan 08, 2015 Renata rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, grownup
I learned a LOT from this. After reading The Orphan Master's Son I realized I know like, nothing about North Korea. And now I know... some things about North Korea. This is a fairly dense read (... also I'm used to reading YA fiction so my bar for "dense" may have been lowered over the years) but it's certainly readable, and it is an intelligent & insightful look at the history of North Korea, particularly focused on the last 50 years or so.

Cumings has a very sympathetic, non-alarmist, non-
Feb 05, 2011 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Bruce Cumings is not an apologist for North Korea, but he does try to counterbalance the picture Americans receive from our lock-step anti-NK media. Kim Il Sung was not a poseur with a made-up history, installed by the Soviets at the end of WWII, he was in fact a well-known guerilla fighter and leader in the 1930s and 40s. Kim Jung Il is not the dissipated playboy depicted in Western media, and the government of NK, for all its faults, has always acted rationally, at least according to its own l ...more
North Korea's isolation makes it a difficult country to understand. It has become an international pariah and bogeyman based on what is unknown as much as is known. Significantly it has continued to totter along defying all pundits predictions of imminent collapse. Cumings takes a new look at Korea putting the DPRK of today into context taking an in depth look at Korean history, culture and politics. The one thing that is pretty clear in all this is that Korea's main protagonist has failed to un ...more
Edmond Luu
Mar 01, 2016 Edmond Luu rated it really liked it
The book is alright. Some pros about this book would be that there is a lot of information about the Korean War, and mostly North Korea. If you are writing a historical essay on North Korea and/or the Korean War, this book is the perfect book to read. A lot of the information in this book are also cited. A complaint that I have about this book is that is doesn't feel like a traditional story book that you would read. While the historical contents of this book are great, there aren't many charact ...more
Anthony Nelson
Aug 29, 2015 Anthony Nelson rated it it was ok
Not sure this is worth reading anymore, unlike Cumings excellent "A Place in the Sun". There is good stuff buried in here, but you have to slog through endless shots at the Bush administration, other scholars, US government officials going back to 1950, etc. Some, perhaps most, may be well deserved, but they seem to be mostly deployed in service of showing Cumings is the only American who understands Korea.
Apr 03, 2015 Steven rated it it was amazing
A fresh perspective for those of use who have only the faintest understanding of this complex country. I think this, plus The Cleanest Race by B.R. Meyers, are must reads. And then to round out everything, read David Halberstam's very thorough and I think disturbing "The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War."

All of it is sobering stuff that we should know.

Feb 16, 2010 Raymond rated it it was amazing
This is the best work on understanding North Korea today. We may not agree with all or any of it but the fact remains that this view should be read and understood.
I read this book each time I prepare for a trip to the Hermit Kingdom and it was helpful to put into a cultural context the events taking place in the DPRK. Cumings knows the territory and his in-country experiences illustrate the larger historical context of the most closed nation on the planet.
I would use this as the text for my co
May 04, 2014 Damien rated it really liked it
If you think you have an informed opinion about North Korea and you haven't read this book, then you do not have an informed opinion about North Korea. Aside from a few minor mistakes having to do with nuclear energy (which do not influence the over-all thesis), this is a good short introduction as to why the DPRK is the way that it is.
Jul 18, 2010 Chris rated it really liked it
contrary to almost all mainstream coverage, north korea is not run by irrational schizophrenics. cumings criticizes where it is deserved (human rights violations, hyperbolic portrayals of korean history by the regime), but he does not acquiesce to those who would characterize any praise as "apologist" (north korean economic superiority over the south until the 1980s, similar life expectancies to any modern country until the famines of the late 1990s).

foreign policy must begin with a firm underst
Christopher Pulleyn
May 30, 2008 Christopher Pulleyn rated it really liked it
This book was fascinating. Not your usual entertaining fiction book, but a factual and insightful look into a very mysterious country. One has to feel a little bit skeptical about the heavily anti-American viewpoint of the author, but in his defense, Cummings has cited numerous references to his arguments about the way America treats North Korea. It is not all one sided though, and I feel this book is a very convincing and believable account of the country that is North Korea, and its relationsh ...more
Jul 03, 2007 Pranjal rated it liked it
Pretty good, basic reading on the subject. Goes into the history of North Korea's establishment and the horrors of the Korean War, as well as present day life in the country. Much more accessible than Cumings' other books, but the awesome detail of his other books is missing. Also there are a couple of inexplicably strange lines, such as his description of sleeping with someone's wife during a homestay as "an unexpected treat", which made me raise my eyebrows a bit. Still, I doubt there's many p ...more
Sherri Molen
Oct 30, 2015 Sherri Molen rated it it was amazing
North Korea: Another Country is very informative for such as easy read. Everyone should read this book!
James Payne
This text needed more thorough editing. A large number of typos, that's fine, but the language and arguments were more rambling than this type of book should be. That's unfortunate, since U.S. evaluations of North Korea that excise hate-filled hyperbole aren't common. Very Bush-Era, would like to read an updated edition.
Feb 08, 2013 Gearoid rated it did not like it
If Cumings has any insight into North Korea, it is lost within the pages and pages of horrifically-dated anti-Bush administration screed that makes up this book. Reads less like the work of a historian and more like several pages of responses in an Internet forum stapled into something resembling a book, complete with errors both obvious and small and vague, arrogant complaints about the state of the Western media. Avoid.
Apr 14, 2008 Ryan rated it liked it
Recommends it for: -dad -expats in korea
Recommended to Ryan by: patrick sullivan
although bruce is certainly a tad bit empathetic at times, he does provide a comprehensive examination as to why this country exists and what the future may look like. i thought it was as much a book about north korea as it is a book about all of korea and it's relationship w/ the usa. -likely one of the best books on the topic available. -thorough sources/well researched/etc. oh yeah, and very interesting.
Mar 17, 2010 Fernando rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in seeing a different perspective on North Korea
A completely different perspective on North Korea than what most Westerners have been exposed to before. Cumings acknowledges the colossal failures of the North Korean regime under Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il ("the author of most of its own troubles") but contextualizes its stance towards the outside world while delivering a readable and occasionally witty concise history.
Stephen Naish
Jan 04, 2014 Stephen Naish rated it it was amazing
Still one of the best introductions to North Korea, its people, its politics and ruling elite. Slightly dated now, but then North Korea is still in a 50's Cold War bubble so really...
Scott Worden
Jun 20, 2015 Scott Worden rated it liked it
Shelves: books-on-korea
As much as I agree that the Western media totally doesn't understand North Korea in many aspects, I also don't feel as if they're a victim as this book portrays them to be. I did learn some new things about Kim il Sung and how North Korea emerged as a country but this was a disappointing read.
Apr 27, 2009 Mark rated it really liked it
Well written. It was an entertaining read for what was supposed to be a scholarly book. The author has a lot of interesting things to say about the subject. I'd like to know more about the subject to be able to judge if his assessments are reasonable and reliable.
I confess to having read this only partially. It was a bit too much polisci for me, not as accessible to me as I would have liked. I do find the topic fascinating, and will seek other sources.
Jan 15, 2012 Calvin rated it liked it
Shelves: history
very useful reference toward these who are curious the economic system and social life of North Korea, the most mysterious country in the world.
Sep 05, 2009 Phil rated it really liked it
A straightforward reality check on where North Korea is today and how it got there. Debunks a lot of media hype about the hermit kingdom.
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