The Cleanest Race

The Cleanest Race

How North Koreans See Themselves--and Why It Matters

Book - 2010
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Random House, Inc.
Understanding North Korea through its propaganda

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 the North Korean worldview. Drawing on extensive research into the regime’s domestic propaganda, including films, romance novels and other artifacts of the personality cult, Myers analyzes each of the country’s official myths in turn—from the notion of Koreans’ unique moral purity, to the myth of an America quaking in terror of “the Iron General.” In a concise but groundbreaking historical section, Myers also traces the origins of this official culture back to the Japanese fascist thought in which North Korea’s first ideologues were schooled.

What emerges is a regime completely unlike the West’s perception of it. This is neither a bastion of Stalinism nor a Confucian patriarchy, but a paranoid nationalist, “military-first” state on the far right of the ideological spectrum.

Since popular support for the North Korean regime now derives almost exclusively from pride in North Korean military might, Pyongyang can neither be cajoled nor bullied into giving up its nuclear program. The implications for US foreign policy—which has hitherto treated North Korea as the last outpost of the Cold War—are as obvious as they are troubling. With North Korea now calling for a “blood reckoning” with the “Yankee jackals,” Myers’s unprecedented analysis could not be more timely.

Baker & Taylor
In an account that has already been presented to the U.S. State Department, a North Korea analyst and contributor to Atlantic Monthly argues that Kim Jong Il guides his regime through a paranoid, race-based nationalism with roots in Japanese fascist thought, in a book that includes over 50 illustrations and photos.

Book News
Myers, who has a PhD in North Korean studies from the U. of Tübingen in Germany and now directs the International Studies department of Dongseo U. in South Korea, has written a compelling account of the leadership narrative created in North Korea, demonstrating how the cult created in North Korea is not to be equated with Confucian ideals, but in some ways is closer in tenor to the cult of the emperor in Japan. Summarizing the texts, paintings and other images, and songs used to perpetuate the leader's cult, Myers contextualizes and explains North Korean propaganda and its subtext, including North Korea's sense of superiority and its anti-intellectualism. The text offers a clear picture of the peculiar worldview of this profoundly inward-facing country, its character and continuous subtle alterations, and its under-appreciated ramifications in world affairs. Well-illustrated, the volume includes a group of color plates as well as the smaller b&w images that appear throughout. Annotation ©2012 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

& Taylor

Argues that Kim Jong Il guides his regime through a paranoid, race-based nationalism with roots in Japanese fascist thought, in an account originally presented to the U.S. State Department.

Publisher: Brooklyn, N.Y. : Melville House, c2010
ISBN: 9781933633916
Characteristics: 200 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. (some col.) ; 23 cm


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