A thoughtful and well-researched book at a time when North Korea's missile and nuclear development increasingly dominates Washington's diplomatic agenda. Buzo, an Australian diplomat-scholar, finds the enigmatic state's origins in the life and personality of Kim Il Sung. First a teenage guerrilla who never finished middle school, Kim came of age as a true Stalinist. Having spent his early life trapped in a Leninist organization that was literally fighting for day-to-day survival, it is not surprising that he developed into a secretive, paranoid leader. In turn, his son (and successor) was brought up in the pervasive aura of Kim's cult of personality. Buzo traces with keen interpretation the skillful ways in which Kim blended communism and nationalism at home and manipulated Moscow and Beijing for diplomatic advantages abroad -- all while American officials saw only Korean weaknesses. He carries the story through the current negotiations between Pyongyang, Washington, Beijing, and Seoul, but does not make predictions, being wisely committed to the principle that prophesy is voluntary folly.