STARRED REVIEW
March 17, 2015

A famous defection’s influence

By Blaine Harden
The tactics may have changed, but the intent remains the same: North Korea is a mysterious, insular country that above all loathes the United States. Today, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un retains his tight grip on power through imprisonment and purges. His threats against the United States include missile testing and computer hacking. But Kim’s modern-day machinations simply mirror the early actions of his grandfather, Kim Il-Sung, who took control of North Korea following World War II and established the Kim family dynasty. Blaine Harden’s new book, The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot, describes the formation of that dynasty and offers one explanation for why North Korea hates the U.S.
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The tactics may have changed, but the intent remains the same: North Korea is a mysterious, insular country that above all loathes the United States. Today, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un retains his tight grip on power through imprisonment and purges. His threats against the United States include missile testing and computer hacking. But Kim’s modern-day machinations simply mirror the early actions of his grandfather, Kim Il-Sung, who took control of North Korea following World War II and established the Kim family dynasty. Blaine Harden’s new book, The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot, describes the formation of that dynasty and offers one explanation for why North Korea hates the U.S.

Part of that hatred lies with the fighter pilot referenced in the book’s title. On September 21, 1953, North Korean fighter pilot No Kum Sok flew a Soviet MiG-15 out of his country, landing it in the hands of Americans based in South Korea. No became an instant celebrity, not only for his defection, but also for delivering a MiG-15 to the U.S. military, which set about studying its design and technology. In fact, the Pentagon was so anxious to get its hands on a MiG-15, it had earlier offered a $100,000 bounty to anyone who delivered a plane. No collected the reward. But to this day, No, an octogenarian living in Florida, claims he had no knowledge of the reward when he defected.

As for the “Great Leader” Kim Il-Sung, embarrassment over the defection and the U.S. carpet-bombing of North Korea during the Korean War fueled a hatred for America that continues today.

If you are intrigued by the enigma that is North Korea, a reading of The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot will supply valuable explanation and context for why its current leader behaves so badly.

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The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot

The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot

By Blaine Harden
Viking
ISBN 9780670016570

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