An original, authentic take on the fissures developing behind North Korea’s totalitarian facade.

NORTH KOREA'S HIDDEN REVOLUTION

HOW THE INFORMATION UNDERGROUND IS TRANSFORMING A CLOSED SOCIETY

A crisp, dramatic examination of how technology and human ingenuity are undermining North Korea’s secretive dictatorship.

Baek, a fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard, synthesizes diverse research, including her own monitored visits and interviews within the hidden diaspora of successful defectors, to produce a comprehensible academic study attuned to the human toll of North Korea’s oppressive regime. Despite the authorities’ determination to punish any rebellion, the author argues, “over the past two decades there have been cracks in the state’s control over the dissemination of information among citizens.” A horrific famine in the 1990s necessitated tolerance for informal markets, which later established smuggling routes for new technologies like USB drives and smartphones. This both fed and was amplified by the stream of defections to China and South Korea, which continued in spite of the cruelties the regime directed toward defectors’ families. Baek looks at the challenges faced by those who flee: “When defectors cross into China, their minds are opened and their worlds change.” Her interviews with such individuals buttress her thesis that the new wave of information sharing serves as inspiration, despite the state’s intrusive surveillance. She documents smuggling methodologies and the material that North Koreans desire, ranging from South Korean pop music and films to religious texts and Voice of America–style news broadcasts as well as Japanese DVD players and inexpensive radios, all available on the black market. Since North Korean society has a strict caste system, Baek argues that this amplifies the forbidden desires among less favored citizens to question the government and ultimately pursue a better life, despite the strong tendency to conform within an authoritarian state. Baek’s writing is clear and patiently structured, which makes her interviewees’ accounts of brutal treatment and the inner revelations caused by smuggled media seem more urgently affecting.

An original, authentic take on the fissures developing behind North Korea’s totalitarian facade.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-300-21781-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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