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The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters
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The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters

3.9  ·  Rating details ·  1,610 Ratings  ·  178 Reviews
Understanding North Korea through its propaganda: A newly revised and updated edition that includes a consideration of Kim Jung Il's successor, Kim Jong-Un

What do the North Koreans really believe? How do they see themselves and the world around them?

Here B.R. Myers, a North Korea analyst and a contributing editor of The Atlantic, presents the first full-length study of t
Paperback, 217 pages
Published December 20th 2011 by Melville House (first published January 26th 2010)
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The Cleanest Race is a short but very interesting and informative book on North Korea, and its unique approach to its subject makes it an important one. Most available books on world's most reclusive country tend to analyze its history and political system; many are stories of defectors who managed to escape. But there's perilously little material focused on North Koreans as a society - how is it different from other societies of this world, and how is it similar? How do North Koreans see their ...more
Huma Rashid
Sep 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My fascination with North Korea is well known; I've read just about every book on the subject, which was why picking this up was a no-brainer. And the text did not disappoint.

The author painstakingly walks readers through an exhaustive look at North Korean cultural mythology, and examines the cults of personality built up around Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un. Not only does he examine these cults of personality, he explains why, precisely, it is that they work to sway the masses. He
Feb 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
I picked this up because I read some reviews praising it as a guide outlining why North Korea is NOT like Communist regimes. Which was news to me -- I'd always thought it to be a USSR-derived satellite. It turns out that NK has a truly unique, and disturbingly understandable, personality cult that encourages its citizens to prioritize naivete, innocence, and childhood.

The best parallel I can make is: imagine a cult that basically convinced a population to go back to Adam and Eve in Eden. A singl
A cultural/social analysis of North Korean myth-history and propaganda.

The underlying theme, taken from the title, is the portrayal of the Korean people as a 'clean' or 'pure' race. They are simultaneously brilliant, precious, clean, and childlike, but they are also weak and infantile. Therefore, the need the protection of their Dear Maternal Leader. They lead the eternal struggle against the contamination and corruption of other races and the American imperialists, which are described as half-J
Dec 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"If we did not know that Iran is an Islamic state, it would forever baffle us, no matter how good the rest of our intelligence might be." Myers succinctly and persuasively lays out why the US seems to be similarly baffled by North Korea. What is North Korea? Is it a crazy mix of traditional Confucianism and Marxist-Leninism? If only. The real answer is far weirder and much more disturbing. The North Koreans adopted and amped up the propaganda world-view of the Japanese colonial regime (without t ...more
Jul 24, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
there's something slightly unhinged about Professor B.R. Myers, whose vitriolic takedowns of North Korean 'juche' philosophy have the character of a personal attack--until you learn that Professor Myers is a long-time Korea expat, and surrounded by a culture that notoriously comes off as 'highly emotional' to many Americans and certainly almost all Japanese, Myers himself resorts to loyalty-demonstrating 'takedowns' of unKoreanness in N.K. propaganda as well as forces in his adopted country he d ...more
Jun 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
I liked B.R. Myers's takedown of literary fiction way back when and was game to give this a try, even though it's on a totally unrelated topic, namely, the political and national mythology of North Korea. The general idea is that it's a mistake to see North Korea as the last bastion of hardline Stalinism. Instead, their militant and isolationist stance is the result of a bizarre mythos of racial purity. Over several generations of political turmoil, and encouraged by Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il, ...more
Absolutely fascinating look at North Korea's self-image. The author skillfully presents the argument that North Korea's attitude of themselves as a pure, clean race - constantly in danger of contamination by everyone outside their borders - is what fuels the ability of the Kim dynasty to stay in power. The Kims are maternal figures, protectors of the childlike populace, and Myers' copious quotes from propaganda that is seen by domestic eyes bears out that thesis. What they see, and what is trans ...more
Jun 05, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dprk
The first thing that must be understood about The Cleanest Race is that it is an opinion piece. Myers has extensively researched the topic, as he spares no pain to remind the reader, and he's well-educated, as he stresses to the reader, and then he launches into his premise: the "left" and the "right" are entirely wrong about how to interpret the caprices of DPRK because they don't understand DPRK is entirely motivated by racial purity.

I think this is an interesting perspective to consider, sure
Ronald Schoedel
For years, I have wondered if the people of DPRK could possibly believe in the propaganda of the Kim regimes. I wonder no more. This book takes a look at the domestic propaganda (as opposed to KCNA-type propaganda disseminated for foreign consumption), and what it presents is sad, frightening, and seemingly way over the top, yet absolutely true. I used to listen to DPRK propaganda on the radio, and obviously was not swayed by its fantastical claims. If you've ever read or heard this sort of stuf ...more
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“A personality cult comes into being when a one-man dictatorship presents itself as a democracy. The goal is to convey the impression that due to the ruler’s unique qualifications and the unanimity of the people’s love for him, his rule constitutes the perfect fulfillment of democratic ideals.” 1 likes
“Paranoid nationalism may well be an intellectual void, and appeal to the lowest instincts—there is nothing in North Korean ideology that a child of twelve cannot grasp at once—but for that very reason it has proven itself capable of uniting citizens of all classes, and inspiring them through bad times as well as good ones.” 0 likes
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