The best North Korea books 📚

Browse the best books on North Korea as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Immovable Object: North Korea's 70 Years at War with American Power

Immovable Object: North Korea's 70 Years at War with American Power

By A.B. Abrams

Why this book?

I love A.B. Abrams as a writer because he can look at a subject and see what others have failed to see. I read his book only after completing my own, and I’m sorry I missed it. Immovable Object tells a fascinating story, recounted in few other places, of how North Korea has not only helped other peoples fight for national liberation but has achieved what no other post-colonial country has ever accomplished: the ability to stay the hand of an aggressive US empire by developing a credible retaliatory nuclear threat.
From the list:

The best books to understand the DPRK

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Book cover of A Capitalist in North Korea: My Seven Years in the Hermit Kingdom

A Capitalist in North Korea: My Seven Years in the Hermit Kingdom

By Felix Abt

Why this book?

Abt, an entrepreneur who lived in North Korea for seven years, challenges the myths and misconceptions about the DPRK that flourish in the West, not only among people who are inclined to believe the East Asian state is a hell on earth, but also among those who are apt to overlook its failings. I really liked this book. It is clearly written and the pace is brisk and engaging.

From the list:

The best books to understand the DPRK

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Book cover of In North Korea: First Eyewitness Report

In North Korea: First Eyewitness Report

By Anna Louise Strong

Why this book?

Strong was a US journalist who reported on Communist movements for 40 years, beginning in the 1920s. In 1949 she travelled to Korea to report on the birth of the new North Korean state. I love this book because it offers an on-the-ground view of why the state was created and what its founders were trying to accomplish—invaluable for understanding the country today.

From the list:

The best books to understand the DPRK

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Book cover of Your Republic Is Calling You

Your Republic Is Calling You

By Young-ha Kim, Chi-Young Kim

Why this book?

Imagine for a moment that you receive an email that states the following: “Liquidate everything and return immediately.” Now imagine you are a North Korean spy who has lived in South Korea for almost twenty years, and after your handler disappeared more than a decade ago, you’ve heard nothing. Until this email. Is it real? Or has the South Korean CIA found you out and is trying to trick you? What about your wife and your daughter, both completely unaware of your true identity? Your Republic Is Calling You takes place entirely in a single day of this unfortunate spy’s…

From the list:

The best mysteries/thrillers by writers of Korean origin

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Book cover of Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History

Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History

By Bruce Cumings

Why this book?

Cumings’ books on Korea—there are a number of them—could fill every spot on a list of the five best books to understand the DPRK. Cumings is the leading Western expert on Korean modern history, and Korea’s Place in the Sun is the best place to start. I love every one of Cumings’ books, and this one especially. He is a superb writer and doesn’t pander to established opinions.

From the list:

The best books to understand the DPRK

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Book cover of Friend: A Novel from North Korea

Friend: A Novel from North Korea

By Nam-Nyong Paek, Immanuel Kim

Why this book?

This one is set in North Korea and is by a sanctioned North Korean writer. As a result, there is no criticism directed at the North’s restrictive society and on the surface it isn’t at all political. Instead, it shows the mundane existence of a judge and his wife, ordinary people who work hard to contribute to the development of the nation. It seems to be about traditional values, and the rising prevalence of divorce is seen as a problem. Those of us who follow Korea rarely get this kind of insight into what life in the North is really…

From the list:

The best books about contemporary Korean society

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