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Book review

November 11, 2019 November 2019 No Comments

The Great Successor 

Having two very interesting books on hand at once is a real bonus.

 Anna  Fifield’s ‘The Great Successor – the secret rise and rule of Kim Jong Un’ had arrived first so I decided to read it before ‘Searching for Rewi Alley’. 

Anna Fifield has extensive Asian experience, she currently works out of Beijing as the Bureau Chief for the Washington Post and previously was the Bureau Chief for the  Financial Times working from Seoul.  She has visited Pyongyang six times and is the recipient of the Shorenstein Journalism Award for outstanding reporting on Asia which all makes her well placed to write this book.

This book has been deeply researched and impeccably sourced. Anna has located scores of formerly ranking North Koreans who had fled to other countries when it was obvious that they were falling out of favour – a terminal problem in North Korea. She located the minders who posed as Kim’s parents during his time incognito as a student at the International School in Switzerland. Realising that knowing too much they would probably  be eliminated on return to North Korea they fled to the American Embassy when Kim’s time in Switzerland ended.

Anna also found the  two school friends he made in Switzerland and even the Japanese sushi cook from the Kim Jong Il palatial residence.

The opening chapters trace how the Kim Jongs had come to power – and maintained it. Then of how Jong Un gains favour to succession over his older brother and of his subsequent unusual upbringing. 

His father’s death at a relatively early age bought Kim into power as a very young man with many considerably older advisors. He set about establishing his position by ruthlessly eliminating those who he saw as possible problems, regardless of some of then being uncles.   

He was faced with the  immediate problem of a prolonged drought which had decimated the rice crop, a problem which he simply ignored leading to millions of people starving to death. He ensured the army’s support by feeding them and cracked down on any citizens who dared to question by introducing vicious punishments for there being even a suggestion of disloyalty. 

The book then closely follows his reign, Anna warns about being taken in by his strange appearance and seemingly at times odd behaviour.

 She assures that he is very smart, a meticulous forward planner with everything done with a reason and ruthless. He is an expert at playing off much more powerful leaders. He is going to be the world’s problem for some time.

      A very readable and informative book. And now on to hopefully enjoy ‘Searching for Rewi Alley’

                                                                        Mike Beckett

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