Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know? The Strange Allure and Elusive Reality of North Korea

John Lie, University of California, Berkeley

Sandra Fahy, Marching Through Suffering: Loss and Survival in North Korea. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015. 272 pp. $40 (cloth/e-book).

Hazel Smith, North Korea: Markets and Military Rule. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. 394 pp. $90 (cloth), $33 (paper), $26 (e-book).

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Lady Caroline Lamb famously called Lord Byron “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” In describing North Korea, Hazel Smith replaces “dangerous to know” with “sad,” but she, like Sandra Fahy, seeks to recuperate the ultimate humanity of North Koreans. Both Smith and Fahy have spent considerable time in North Korea or with North Koreans, and they convey the contemporary dynamics of North Korea without relying on the ready-made caricatures and stereotypes that dominate in the West (and the rest)...