×
Capsule Review

The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un

In This Review

The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un
The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un
By Anna Fifield
PublicAffairs, 2019 336 pp. Purchase

As the younger son of his father’s third wife, Kim Jong Un was an unlikely heir to the North Korean throne, but from the regime’s perspective, he turned out to be a brilliant choice. He has taken over his grandfather and father’s dynastic cult of personality; reportedly killed, imprisoned, or brought to heel the senior advisers he inherited; maintained the system of hereditary political castes and the gulag; tightened the country’s borders; heightened surveillance of ordinary citizens; restored some economic dynamism; fostered a small moneyed class of supporters; pushed forward missile and nuclear weapons testing; evaded global sanctions; resisted Chinese pressure; and run rings around two U.S. presidents. To figure out how Kim has done it all, Fifield tracked down his aunt and uncle, who run a dry cleaning shop in the United States; interviewed his schoolmates from Switzerland; spoke with the business partner of Kim’s assassinated half brother, Kim Jong Nam; and visited North Korea 11 times. The North Korean system, Fifield concludes, is strong enough to last for a long time. The biggest questions concern the state of the economy and Kim’s health. If he survives to hand power to a fourth generation, the man Fifield labels “the most Machiavellian figure of our time” will have achieved a remarkable feat. 

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.

Continue