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The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un, Bright Sun of the Twenty-first Century

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4.16  ·  Rating details ·  1,248 ratings  ·  152 reviews
The behind-the-scenes story of the rise and reign of the world's strangest and most elusive tyrant, Kim Jong Un, by the journalist with the best connections and insights into the bizarrely dangerous world of North Korea.

The Great Successor is an insightful quest to understand the life of Kim Jong Un, one of the world's most secretive dictators. Kim's life is swathed in
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Kindle Edition, 288 pages
Published June 11th 2019 by PublicAffairs
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Nenia ⚡ Aspiring Evil Overlord ⚡ Campbell

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First, a shout-out to PublicAffairs publishing, which, looking at the jacket for this book, appears to be a Hachette imprint. I've received three advance copies from them and so far, all of them have been both meticulously researched and fascinating to read-- not an easy feat in a media environment where click bait snags you more readers in the public sphere. THE GREAT SUCCESSOR was no exception (I'm counting it as part of the three), so
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Dimitri
Sep 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-history
Every book on North Korea walks its own path, but largely follows the route marked by the Kim dynasty, which has written the post-war history of the half peninsula. Still, it's nice to see Anna Fifield skip to the head of the line to focus on the third ruler, Kim Jong-Un, world's darkest source of inspiration for "things you can accomplish before you turn 35".

He was raised in splendid isolation, but not singularly groomed for the succession, until his brother fell from grace. The family elders
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Kristina
Anyone interested in North Korea should read Anna Fifield’s excellent The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un. The only problem with this book is its too long subtitle, even though it appropriate in a snarky humorous way.

Fifield’s book covers the reign of the Kims, starting with the beginning: Kim Il Sung’s rise to power during World War II and how Russia appointed him ruler, thinking he would be a good little puppet leader. Unfortunately for the
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Brenda Evans
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In August 2014, the world was hoping that 26-year-old Kim Jong Un, the newly anointed leader of North Korea would be a reformer. His third generation, family dynasty was at risk with a young Kim Jung Un without military or government background. The world was skeptical he had the skills to succeed.

Great Successor provides a detailed history of the three generations of the Kim Dynasty: the grandfather, Kim II Sung, his son, Kim Jong II, and his grandson, Kim Jung Un. The ruling regime used all
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Peter Beck
Oct 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: published-2019, korea
Trump’s North Korean Boyfriend

Donald Trump has demonstrated a clear preference for strongmen like Russia’s Vladimir Putin over strong women like Germany’s Angela Merkel, but the only dictator Trump boasts that he “fell in love” with is the most ruthless of all: North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

Don’t let our snarky titles fool you. “The Great Successor” is the most important book on North Korea published in years. Backed by interviews with defectors and shadowy intel types, the “Washington Post’s” Anna
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Madeline
Jun 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was curious to learn more about Kim Jong Un, since he is quite a mysterious character. Even so, I'm not really sure what I expected from this.. maybe more of a character study? However, this is a very detailed and expert account of Kim Jong Un's life, from birth up to the 2018/19, as he begins his next phase for North Korea, after they achieved nuclear weapons. This is a great option if you want to learn about North Korea and the regime, since Fifield goes through a lot of history, and is very ...more
Daniel Simmons
Having read (with appreciation) many of Anna Fifield's WaPo articles on North Korea over the past several years, I was looking forward to her book-length take on Kim Jong Un. As a result I was disappointed by the surprisingly superficial and distractingly snarky treatment she gives her subject here -- and although I learned a few fascinating nuggets of new information (for example, details about the whereabouts of Kim Jong Nam's long lost sister, or the lengths to which North Korean cleanup ...more
Casper Veen
Jul 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books on North Korea I have read in years. Very well researched and as complete as a biography of Kim Jong Un can get. Based on many interviews and a lot of research, recommended to anyone interested in the North Korean leader.
Grumpus
Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The grumpus23 (23-word commentary)
Unique insight into the North Korean Kim family of dictators with a focus on the life of and brutal ascension of Kim Jung-Un.
Mal Warwick
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Kim Jong Un is thirty-five years old now, but he's been the designated leader of his country since the age of eight. People decades older than him have been sucking up to him all his life. He is "five feet, seven inches tall, and his weight is estimated to be about three hundred pounds." The man has at least thirty-three homes; "his main compound in northeast Pyongyang covers almost five square miles." And since he has followed in the footsteps of his tyrannical grandfather and father, it should ...more
Randal White
I thoroughly enjoyed this peek behind the curtain into North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un.
The author has covered the Korea beat for many years, with the Financial Times and the Washington Post. Her extensive knowledge of the area is obvious in her writing. She has been to North Korea a dozen times. She also interviewed people who have escaped from North Korea.
Fifield covers the entirety of Kim Jong Un's life so far. From his early childhood to the present time. And the time before his rule,
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Geoffrey
(Note: I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley)

Through countless hours interviewing North Korean defectors ranging from average citizens to members of the ruling Kim family, deep research, and her own experiences traveling to the “Hermit Kingdom,” as a journalist, Anna Fifield has crafted an incredibly in-depth work about Kim Jong Un and the country he rules as Supreme Leader.

For starters, “The Great Successor” cuts right into the mix of mystery and absurd myth that has surrounded
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Paul
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even with her intimate knowledge, Fifield is able to distance herself from her subject and present an objective look at a man who has been endlessly caricatured. Especially in the places when Kim steps on the international stage with two Americans who have had their share of past dalliances, Dennis Rodman and Donald Trump.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to take a clear and absorbing look into The Hermit Kingdom and its enigmatic leader. What this book does the best is invest in
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AC
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
A good journalistic view of the current state of North Korea, with a fascinating analysis of KJU. Very readable (at times even gossipy) but based on first-hand knowledge of the country and good first-hand sources. Author, writing in early 2019, was still too optimistic about Trump, imo. She treats him as if he were sane — which is questionable, even dubious. Otherwise, a useful read.
Craig
Jul 22, 2019 rated it liked it
3.0 flat. There was a lot of glowing praise for this book. I remember someone on Deep State Radio saying that they'd been highlighting something interesting on nearly every page. I'd heard other flowery praise for it as well, and to be honest, from Anna Fifield's reporting, expected a pretty amazing book. It might be so for someone without their head in the Korea game, but if you follow the Peninsula, read what's out there, and follow Anna's reporting, then there's actually not a whole lot ...more
Daniel
Aug 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a fascinating, peculiar family dynasty. This is the story you won’t ever get from the media.
Ren
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
I loved this much more than one might expect to love a biography of what's known about Kim Jong Un. You also may not expect it to be a page-turner, but amazingly, it is.
Deb
Dec 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is compelling and well-researched book that tries to piece together a portrait of Kim Jong Un, one of the most reclusive leaders in the modern world. The author relentlessly pursued connections with everyone she could who has ever come in contact with the current leader of North Korea. Defectors, school mates, family sushi chef and diplomats were her sources, and she created a picture of a calculating, intelligent and focused individual who will take any measure necessary to ensure his ...more
Anatl
This book biggest selling point in my opinion is that it is very au courant leading up to pretty recent meetings between Trump and Kim Jong Un. Most of the books I've read on North Korea focused on the "March of Suffering" when many North Koreans faced starvation. The North Korea described here shows improvement in some standards of living, including a burgeoning middle class and a rich elite class that can enjoy some decidedly capitalistic pleasures. Fifield also tries to draw a profile of Kim ...more
Scott Martin
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(Audiobook) With apologies to the original XX spokesman, but this book is a biography of the life to date of “the Most Interesting Man in the World”...with interesting being somewhat of a loaded term. The third member of the Kim Family Dynasty to rule North Korea, even for a country as deliberately mysterious and opaque as North Korea, Kim Jong Un is an unknown quantity on the international stage. Almost nothing was publicly known about the man until his sudden appearance onto the world stage in ...more
Schuyler Wallace


The mysterious North Korea, under the leadership of cartoonish Kim Jong-un, is particularly of interest to me. It has always seemed to be similar to a drunk on a skateboard, demanding the right of way while appearing to be headed for a painful spill at any minute. That’s a sight that will be spectacular to witness.

In “The Great Successor,” author Anna Fifield has tackled the unenviable job of attempting to trace a journey that has been long veiled but greatly microscoped, in large part because
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Kurt Pankau
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating look at the history of the rise of Kim Jong-Un that goes into both the "official" history out of North Korea as well as what people outside NK have been able to glean based on interviews with students who went to school with him in Sweden and people who escaped into South Korea or China. Fifield gives a brief overview of the Kim Dynasty and gives context to what has appeared to Westerners as buffoonery and how it actually plays in North Korea. For instance, Kim's black Mao suits and ...more
Larry
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was great. I’ve read everything I can get my hands on about North Korea over the years. This is the first book that I am aware of that covers the years since Kim Jong Un become leader of the Hermit Kingdom. What changes are afoot! Many now call Pyongyang Pyonghattan - although much of that is of course only skin deep. Excellent reporting. Our idiot Dear Leader Trump would be wise to read this to understand the man he “fell in love with”and who writes him “love letters.” Too bad he won’t. ...more
Kirby
Sep 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very comprehensive, well-organized, readable biography of Kim Jong Un, along with an overview of North Korea's political situation and modern history. If you've been following Kim's regime, there is not a ton of new information here, but this is still an informative read. It also presents a more complex portrait of Kim, who is often presented purely as a mad man with his finger hovering over a nuclear button.

I would also note that this book is probably going to be dated in just a few years,
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Lynn
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kim Jong Un now reads biographies on FDR so he can appear as a benevolent leader to his people, including the equivalent to fireside chats. American President Donal Trump is willing to give Kim Jong Un a pass for fatally wounding an American, killing his own brother, and being a fearful dictator who builds nuclear weapons that threaten Guam. This is an interesting book on how Kim Jong Un made it to the leadership and how he has managed to keep it. Well worth reading.
Gabe Varns
Oct 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the best pieces of nonfiction I've read. Not only is it extremely interesting, it offers a very rare expertise on the Kim family that I'm certain could come from only a very small group of people - Anna Fifield being the most prominent. Glad I spent my audible credit on this :)
Bettie
Feb 25, 2019 marked it as maybe  ·  review of another edition


Why is Kim Jong Un so keen on talking to President Trump? Will he give up his nukes? And how did he defy expectations to remain leader of North Korea anyway? Answers, plus lots of new details about his life, in “The Great Successor,” out June 11.
Ariana
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
CRAZYPANTS.
Laurie
Sep 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The plump and oddly coiffed dictator Kim Jong Un seems to make the world laugh. This book will change the mind of anyone who reads it. Fifield, who was a correspondent in North Korea for over a decade, is uniquely placed to reveal the horror of North Korean totalitarianism and un-comic a person Un really is. She talked to sources as varied as his aunt and uncle who raised him while he went to school in Switzerland, the man who was sushi chef for the Kims, who befriended Un when he was a child, ...more
PvOberstein
Jun 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un is being billed as the first English-language biography of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, written by Washington Post reporter Anna Fifield. As someone who spends far too much time in r/NorthKoreaNews, I was intrigued at the promise of unique insight into the aptly named Hermit Kingdom and its ruling dynasty.

Most of the contents of the book, however, will be familiar to anyone who has been closely following
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Anna Fifield is the Beijing bureau chief for The Washington Post. She previously covered Japan and the Koreas for the Post, and was the Seoul correspondent for the Financial Times. She has reported from more than 20 countries and has visited North Korea a dozen times, becoming one of the most authoritative journalists on this impenetrable country.

She was a Nieman journalism fellow at Harvard
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“Kim Jong Chol even found a way to work the Belgian movie star into his school work. "If I had my idea world I would not allow weapons and atom bombs any more," he wrote in a school project while in Bern. "I would destroy all terrorists with the Hollywood star Jean-Claude van Damme.” 0 likes
“Our Respected Mother Who Is Loyal to Our Beloved Supreme Commander Is the Most Loyal among Loyalists.” 0 likes
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