Cover image for The impossible state : North Korea, past and future
The impossible state : North Korea, past and future
Cha, Victor D., 1961- , author.
First Ecco paperback edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Ecco, 2013, ©2012.
Physical Description:
xiv, 534 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm
Looks at the nation of North Korea, its history, social conditions, and place in world politics as it stands today and where it is likely to end up in the future.
General Note:
Reprint. Originally published: ©2012.

"With a new epilogue by the author"--Cover.
Contradictions -- The best days -- All in the family -- Five bad decisions -- The worst place on Earth -- The logic of deterrence -- Complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) -- Neighbors -- Approaching unification -- The end is near -- Epilogue: The new normal: unpredictable.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS935.5 .C47 2013 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
DS935.5 .C47 2013 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
DS935.5 .C47 2013 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
DS935.5 .C47 2013 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
DS935.5 .C47 2013 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
DS935.5 .C47 2013 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



"A meaty, fast-paced portrait of North Korean society, economy, politics and foreign policy." -Foreign Affairs

The definitive account of North Korea, its veiled past and uncertain future, from the former Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council

In The Impossible State, seasoned international-policy expert and lauded scholar Victor Cha pulls back the curtain on this controversial and isolated country, providing the best look yet at North Korea's history, the rise of the Kim family dynasty, and the obsessive personality cult that empowers them. He illuminates the repressive regime's complex economy and culture, its appalling record of human-rights abuses, and its belligerent relationship with the United States, and analyzes the regime's major security issues--from the seemingly endless war with its southern neighbor to its frightening nuclear ambitions--all in light of the destabilizing effects of Kim Jong-il's recent death.

How this enigmatic nation-state--one that regularly violates its own citizens' inalienable rights and has suffered famine, global economic sanctions, a collapsed economy, and near total isolation from the rest of the world--has continued to survive has long been a question that preoccupies the West. Cha reveals a land of contradictions, one facing a pivotal and disquieting transition of power from tyrannical father to inexperienced son, and delves into the ideology that leads an oppressed, starving populace to cling so fiercely to its failed leadership.

With rare personal anecdotes from the author's time in Pyongyang and his tenure as an adviser in the White House, this engagingly written, authoritative, and highly accessible history offers much-needed answers to the most pressing questions about North Korea and ultimately warns of a regime that might be closer to its end than many might think--a political collapse for which America and its allies may be woefully unprepared.

Author Notes

Victor Cha served in the White House as Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council from 2004 to 2007. He currently holds the D. S. Song-KF Chair in Government and Asian Studies at Georgetown University and is a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Over the past two decades, North Korea has survived despite abandonment by its Soviet benefactors, the death of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, economic collapse, and massive starvation. This reclusive state found a way to endure these difficulties while simultaneously developing nuclear weapons. To explain how this happened, Cha (government & Asian studies, Georgetown Univ.; Beyond the Final Score: The Politics of Sport in Asia) thoroughly examines North Korea's history, ideology, economics, society, and foreign relations. Additionally, Cha argues that North Korea's government will soon collapse because of foreign and domestic pressures, accelerated by the recent death of Kim Jong Il. The regime's demise in the next few years, he says, will create serious challenges for northeast Asia and the United States. Cha supports his claims with a mix of evidence and speculation based on his experience as the former director of Asian Affairs at the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration. VERDICT This is essential reading for all North Korea watchers. Cha merges his analysis with personal stories from his experiences as a negotiator in the Six-Party Talks, which makes this an informative and enjoyable read for anyone with an interest in the topic.-Joshua Wallace, South Texas Coll. Lib., McAllen (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

A Note on the Korean Textp. xi
Glossary of Acronyms And Abbreviationsp. xiii
1 Contradictionsp. 1
2 The Best Daysp. 19
3 All in the Familyp. 64
4 Five Bad Decisionsp. 110
5 The Worst Place on Earthp. 162
6 The Logic of Deterrencep. 212
7 Complete, Verifiable, and Irreversible Dismantlement (CVID)p. 247
8 Neighborsp. 315
9 Approaching Unificationp. 386
10 The End is Nearp. 427
Epilogue: The New Normal: Unpredictablep. 465
Acknowledgmentsp. 469
Notesp. 473
Indexp. 511