The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves--and why it Matters

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Melville House Publishing, 2011 - History - 217 pages
7 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-On


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 ofThe 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.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - xuebi - LibraryThing

The Cleanest Race is a new and much-needed assessment of North Korea and its domestic propaganda. The domestic propaganda, which focuses on race-based nationalism - namely that the Korean people are ... Read full review

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

User Review  - Nelson Minar - Goodreads

Interesting read on internal North Korea propaganda and what it tells us about the mindset of the country's leaders. Terrifying, of course, particularly the "we are a noble pure race" stuff derived ... Read full review

About the author (2011)

B.R. Myers was born in New Jersey and raised in Bermuda, South Africa and Germany. He has a Ph.D. in North Korean Studies from the University of Tübingen in Germany. His books include Han Sorya and North Korean Literature (Cornell East Asia Series, 1994) and A Reader’s Manifesto (Melville House, 2002). At present he directs the international studies department at Dongseo University in South Korea. In addition to writing literary criticism for the American magazine The Atlantic, of which he is a contributing editor, Myers regularly contributes articles on North Korea to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and academic publications.


From the Hardcover edition.

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