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The Hidden People of North Korea: Everyday Life in the Hermit Kingdom Hardcover – Sep 24 2009

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Authors Hassig and Oh hit it out of the park again: a must read on North Korea Nov. 9 2009
By Merrily Baird - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The ever-growing community of government officials, scholars, and ordinary citizens concerned about North Korea has cause to celebrate the issuance of "The Hidden People of North Korea" by Ralph Hassig and Kongdan Oh. A decade ago, in publishing "North Korea through the Looking Glass," this husband and wife team established themselves as leading observers of North Korea. "The Hidden People" reaffirms that status by showcasing their superb ability to synthesize a vast amount of information without policy bias. At the same time, the strengths of Hassig and Oh in sorting out signs of change and training a powerful light on the fault lines between illusion and reality provide the raw material for others to judge whether North Korea can long survive as we currently know it.

"The Hidden People" is divided into nine chapters. Chapters 2 through 8 focus on Kim Chong-il, his family, and his leadership style; the economic system as it operates in theory and is lived by people on an every day basis; the government's crumbling control of the information environment; human rights issues; and the growing number of defections. Neither the final chapter, "The End Comes Slowly," nor any other offers a significant focus on the strategic questions with which policymakers most often grapple. In this regard, there is very limited attention paid to the country's dependence on weapons of mass destruction, its willingness to proliferate WMD technology, and its inclination (or lack thereof) to abide by disarmament agreements. This matters little, however, because numerous other authors have addressed these issues.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Understanding a Closed Society Feb. 15 2010
By Robert G. Rich, Jr. - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is the most authoritative and complete report yet available outside the hermit kingdom on life in North Korea. I have known "Katy" Oh for some years as a top American analyst of Korean issues, and this husband and wife product is a tour de force indeed considering how difficult the subject. With this deeper understanding at hand, perhaps we will hear fewer simplistic assumptions about the North in the future. The Hassigs persuasively suggest that the foreign aid we and South Korea have provided actually served to help prolong the regime. As one of those who predicted Kim Chong-il's reign would be short after the death of the Great Leader, it is clear to me now why so many of us were wrong, and why this anachronistic closed totalitarianism may well even survive his own death. Highly readable, thorough, and well written.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Useful but flawed June 20 2013
By John Martin - Published on
Format: Hardcover
When reading any book, especially one that is politically sensitive such as this one, it is important to know the biases and views of the authors. In this case one of the authors (and I think the primary one) is a native of South Korea and carries the prejudices and biases of many ROK people toward the North. The other author is her husband and presumably shares her basic views toward the DPRK.

That said there are three problems with the book that one should consider. First of all it is dated, having been written some five years ago. A lot has happened in the DPRK in these years, including the death of the leader and the establishment of a new one. Thus most of the book is concerned with the rule of Kim Il Sung and especially Kim Jong Il. The second problem is that much of the information comes from defectors who have their own biases. There is no first hand account or life there by objective persons. Finally there is the biases of the authors.

However this book is still worth reading as it does give some insights into live in this mysterious land. Such a reading should be combined with reading other, more recent and objective works such as North Korea in Transition.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Misleading Jan. 11 2012
By Robert K. Klimt, Jr. - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is supposed to be a book about life in North Korea. Instead it is a hodge-podge of statistics, the living conditions of the leadership, how bodyguards are selected and about three hundred pages of other ramblings. I was very disappointed in this book as I hoped for a look into the actual living condition's and lifestyle of average North Koreans. If I had wanted a statistical and economic briefing of the country, I would have called the state department.
most useful for essays April 10 2014
By Jesse Sor - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book of all the North Korean books is the most useful and easy to use to write essays, and understand things quickly without being bogged down on details.