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Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty Paperback – January 10, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Under different circumstances, North Korea could be the subject of a Marx Brothers satire, with the elements of a pompous, ego-driven patriarch, a worshipful population, and a general aura of fantasy and illusion. But North Korea has a superbly equipped million-man army and an expanding nuclear weapons program. So this comprehensive examination of this totalitarian society and the two men who have dominated it is often terrifying. For a quarter century, Martin has covered North Korea while working for the Baltimore Sun, the Asian Wall Street Journal, and Newsweek. Using newly available material from Russian and Chinese sources, Martin offers surprising insights into the career and character of both Kim Il-Sung and his son, Kim Jong-Il. He strives, albeit with moderate success, to unveil the reality from the mounds of myth and distortions with which both men have surrounded themselves. But Martin's account is most chilling in his descriptions of contemporary North Korean society. And yet, as Martin eloquently illustrates in this important book, the control of the Kim dynasty may well be tenuous. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader is, from all I have read, simply the best book ever written about North Korea. Relying largely on extensive interviews with defectors, Martin portrays North Korean life with a clarity that is stunning, and he captures the paradoxes in North Korean public opinion. (Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Review of Books)

Martin's massive book provides as useful a set of insights into life in North Korea as can be found anywhere. (L.A. Times Review)

As an AP correspondent covering South Korea in the 1970s, I learned quickly how difficult it was to discover any reliable information about that secretive, threatening regime to the north. Brad Martin's book is testimony to the thoroughness of his work, and the high level of his ability as a journalist and researcher.

North Korea is one of the least known, least understood countries in the world. Its leaders have always been enigmas, both frightening and fascinating, but almost impossible to decipher. Again today, it becomes vitally important that we do both, yet there is almost nothing of importance being written about the subject. Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader is important, as well as fascinating. The research is impeccable, the writing excellent. This is a major and timely contribution, and essential to anyone who hopes to deal sensibly with a vital region of the world.

(Terry Anderson, former AP correspondent and author of Den of Lions)

Brad Martin's Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader, a careful, penetrating analysis of North Korea, is more than just a book. Given the levels of secrecy which surround the Pyongyang regime and the danger it poses to its neighbors, Martin has rendered a considerable service to us all. (Bestselling author, David Halbertstam)

Brad Martin's book on North Korea is at once enlightening and frightening. It is lucid in writing, balanced in analysis, and comprehensive in its meticulous research and anecdotal evidence. The detailed exposition of the narrow life of luxury and the devious character of the 'Dear Leader,' Kim Jong-il, is scary. So is the description of North Korea as a corrupt, secretive, stagnant fief of the Kim family. Brad Martin, with his long years as a Pyongyang-watcher, is eminently qualified to write a book that should strip away any illusions America and the West have about Kim's dangerous regime. (Richard Halloran, former correspondent for The New York Times in Asia and Washington, D.C.)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 896 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 2 edition (January 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312323220
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312323226
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #351,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bradley K. Martin has covered Korea and other parts of Asia as a journalist since 1977 and has worked as bureau chief for The Baltimore Sun, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and Asia Times. At Bloomberg News he was chief North Korea watcher. He has made seven reporting trips to North Korea, a degree of access to the secretive country that few American journalists can match. He began his involvement with Asia by studying Chinese language and Asian history as an undergraduate at Princeton University and went on to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand before beginning his reporting career on The Charlotte Observer. He has taught journalism as a visiting professor at Ohio University, Louisiana State University, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and, currently, California State University, Fresno. He is working on a new book and divides his time between homes in Japan and Hawaii.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

134 of 142 people found the following review helpful By Johnnie B. on January 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really loved this book. Bradley Martin is a reporter who has extensively travelled in North Korea and has met many of the Kim regimes ruling caste members. He paints an intriguing portrait of North Korea.

There are many chapters, but they basically break into three categories. These deal with the rise of the Kim regime, life in North Korea, and the future of North Korea. There is certainly overlap, but these are the primary categories.

The most difficult chapters are certainly those dealing with the rise to power of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. I say this because, as Martin freely admits, there are very complicated mythologies surrounding these characters. Mr. Martin goes on the assumption that there is a nugget of truth in all myths and tries very hard to find them. As an example, there is a myth that Kim Il Sung was the most important anti-Japanese guerilla leader who nearly single handedly ejected Japanese forces from Korea. After detailed and exhaustive research, the author shows that Kim was a moderately important guerilla leader who threw his lot in with the Soviet Red Army after being defeated by Japanese forces. In this way, Mr. Martin develops what could be the most accurate picture we have of the Kims' early days. If he is found to ever be wrong, it wont be for not trying hard.

The next set of chapters revolve around everyday life in the DPRK. He gets his information partially through his trips there, but more importantly through defector testimony. Needless to say, life in the Workers'Paradise sucks. There is little food (unless you are a high level party member) and there is a constant risk you will offend someone and wind up in a prison camp. Not much we dont already know, but Martin reveals much that is new.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Kobayashi Maru on March 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Unfortunately, in the 21st century, nobody on the planet can afford to be ignorant about North Korea. If you had to read just one book on the country, this would be it.

I picked up this book with some trepidation. At 868 pages (including over 100 pages of excellent end-notes), it is heavy in more ways than one. Nonetheless, despite strange looks from my wife (why did you bring *that* to the beach?), I found myself drawn to finish it - wanting to soak up the next chapter of detailed firsthand testimony and thorough research that Brad Martin has laid out.

Both Korea-watching 'newbies' (like myself) and longtime experts on the peninsula will find plenty here on which to reflect. In a similar vein, it would be difficult and unfair to pigeon-hole the book as kow-towing to left or the right. Although Martin reveals his liberal leanings in some of his conclusions, he has given the reader enough first-hand material to make up her mind on her own

As a longtime journalist, Martin takes pains to mostly keep his own opinions and analysis in the background, letting the enormity of the North Korean regime gradually sink in with the reader - as it appears to have done over the course of Martin's career-long involvement with the recluse nation. At several points, after reading a "just the facts ma'am" chapter, I almost wanted to scream: "you've been watching these guys for 25 years Brad, tell us what YOU think and what we should do!" But Martin carefully builds a body of knowledge in the reader as a prerequisite to his informed, high level analyses.

North Korea is a complex, inscrutable country, and Martin has done a great job of bringing its horrors and the twisted internal logic of the Kims to light.
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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Driver9 on August 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
An extraordinary glimpse into one of the world's last Stalinist military states. Nearly impossible to penetrate and with little credible information getting out (except for high level intelligence), Bradley Martin tells an amazing story of a very important and dangerous place. To make things worse for a serious investigative writer, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il have created a high octane, no holds barred cult of personality for both father and son which make it extremely difficult to separate out the real story. He deserves a creat deal of credit for this undertaking and it is far and away the best and most informative work on the DPRK to be found in English.

What I also admired about this book was Martin's restraint and his willingness to portray the actual facts, including positive ones. Granted, there is not a great deal of good news coming out of Pyongyang in the last few decades. And it would be tempting to paint both Kims as evil incarnate. Indeed, our own government has presented a two-dimensional cartoon like vision of a planetary bad guy. More of such counter-mythology is not helpful in understanding this complex and dangerous society. I was amazed at the amount of information Martin was able to pull together and the complex portrait he was able to present.

Unfortunately, the people who could most benefit from reading this book will probably never go near it. One aspect of the book I appreciated was the comparison between today's ultra-marxist state and the early Choson dynasty which governed Korea for nearly 600 year until the Japanese invasion in the 1890s. North Korea has almost completely replicated the Ancient "Hermit Kingdom" that remained closed to outsiders for centuries.
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