Divided Korea: Toward a Culture of Reconciliation; Rogue Regime: Kim Jong Il and the Looming Threat of North Korea

In This Review

Divided Korea: Toward a Culture of Reconciliation

By Roland Bleiker
University of Minnesota Press, 2005
224 pp. $27.95
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Rogue Regime: Kim Jong Il and the Looming Threat of North Korea

By Jasper Becker
Oxford University Press, 2005
328 pp. $28.00
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Two books on North Korea could not be more different. Bleiker, formerly chief of the Swiss delegation to the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission, passionately argues that the prevailing approach of confronting and deterring North Korea will not work. Pyongyang should be treated with respect instead of constantly denounced in offensive terms. He would accordingly have the parties scrap their militarism and turn instead to reconciliation by building "ethics of dialogue and ethics of difference." Needless to say, this search for neutrality means that Bleiker must pull his punches when criticizing North Korea. He is less hesitant in faulting Washington. But since Bleiker completed his manuscript, Pyongyang has declared itself a nuclear state and resisted a return to the six-party negotiations -- developments that make Bleiker's appeal for engagement even less convincing.

Becker, a journalist who has long covered Asia, has a very different view of North Korea -- as an evil slave state ruled by a terrorist bent on becoming a nuclear warlord. In his introduction, Becker spells out in frightening detail the horrors of a war that could result from "failing to rein in a rogue leader who might possess and be willing to use [the country's] nuclear capabilities." He considers it criminal to ignore the terrible suffering the Kim dynasty has forced onto the Korean people. It is still premature to say with certainty what will and what will not work in bringing about a change in North Korea's approach to the outside world. But so far the government there has exploited the concessions offered by others to heighten both its demands and its threats -- a record well documented in Becker's book.