The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future

Victor Cha

Overview: Georgetown University professor and long-time Korea affairs scholar Victor Cha chronicles the history and evolution of North Korean politics, economics, human rights, and foreign relations. Cha also interjects numerous anecdotes from his time as Director for Asian Affairs on the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration, where he was involved with numerous negotiations with North Korea, mostly during the Six Party Talks on North Korea’s nuclear program. His ability to draw on his academic and policy career gives the book narrative for both the scholarly and practitioner communities, but the focus is on history and policy, not necessarily academic theory. Note: an updated version will be released in October.

The main thesis of the book is stated at the outset. Cha argues that a “growing space between the state and the people will cause a crisis of governance and uproot the foundations” (13) of the Kim dynasty that has ruled North Korea since its founding in 1948. Because of this coming crisis, Cha asserts that the 45th president of the United States will have deal with a potentially destabilized North Korea. If this assertion is correct, this book becomes more urgent and important to give scholars and practitioners a sense of North Korea’s place in East Asia, regional actors’ interests, and US policy implications.