"The Impossible State" is a welcome addition to the canon of books on post-WWII Korea because it hews to a middle ground among specialized dissertations on topics such as the North's human rights situation, its propoganda, the recent famine, its political history, the nuclear issue, and its leaders. This book provides an astute and highly readable dissection of the country, how it came to be, how the Kims have cultivated and maintained their grip on power, and what the future portends for a regime whose mere existence in today's world is an affront to every notion of morality, modernity, and human dignity.
In the end, the book's most compelling conclusion is not that the regime's implosion is imminent (as there is general agreement that the question of the country's ultimate fate is not one of fact, but merely timing), but that a bifurcated Korea today serves as a living example of the consequences of political choices imposed on a people. Communism as an ideology may have been proven bankrupt, but its most grotesque manifestation, in the form of North Korea, refuses to surrender to the judgment of history.
The dubious and unwanted benefit of the regime's continued existence is that it serves as a living rebuke to the notion that a political system that subsumes the dignity and aspirations of the individual to the collective (i.e., the state) can ever be legitimate. How galling to consider the tens of millions that had to die in the last century - and continue to die in this one - to affirm what the American Founders deemed self-evident over 230 years ago: that a government which doesn't recognize and preserve its citizens' right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness can never be worthy of them.
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