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The Cleanest Race

How North Koreans See Themselves — and Why it Matters

For years, North Korea watchers who speak no Korean have been confidently telling the world what motivates Kim Jong-Il. But in The Cleanest Race, B.R. Myers, a North Korea analyst and contributing editor of the Atlantic Monthly, presents the first full-length study of the North Korean worldview. In a lavishly illustrated work that draws on extensive research into the regime’s domestic propaganda, including films, romance novels and other artifacts of the personality cult, Myers analyzes each of the country’s official myths in turn—from the notion of Koreans’ unique moral purity, to the myth of an America quaking in terror of “the Iron General.” And in a groundbreaking historical section, Myers also traces the origins of this official culture back to the Japanese fascist thought in which North Korea’s first ideologues were schooled.

What emerges is a regime completely unlike the West’s perception of it – neither a bastion of Stalinism nor a Confucian patriarchy, but a paranoid nationalist, “military-first” state on the far right of the political spectrum. Given that North Korea is now calling for a “blood reckoning” with the “Yankee jackals,” Myers’ unprecedented analysis could not be more timely.

B.R. MYERS is an American-born, German-educated scholar currently teaching North Korean literature in South Korea. He is the author of A Reader’s ManifestoAn Attack on the Growing Pretentiousness in American Literary Prose. He is also a contributing editor to The Atlantic Monthly, and a frequent contributer to both NPR and The New York Times.

”Myers has cracked the code of the xenophobic histrionics emanating from Pyongyang.” CBS News

”Brilliant and provocative.” The New York Review of Books

”North Korean propaganda (the other pillar of which is a sort of race-based nationalism) is surprisingly effective at engendering ”a significant degree of mass support,” B.R. Myers writes in The Cleanest Race, the definitive book on the subject.” —The Atlantic

”Electrifying… finely argued and brilliantly written… The illustrations in this book are an education in themselves.” —Christopher Hitchens, Slate

”Provocative… A fascinating analysis.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times

A ”scary” ”close reading of domestic propaganda” that ”goes a long way toward explaining the erratic behavior and seemingly bizarre thought processes of Dear Leader Kim Jong Il.” The Wall Street Journal

”Myers’s painstaking research provides a key to unlocking the ever-elusive North Korean mindset.” Newsweek

”Provocative and important.” —Bradley K. Martin, The New Republic

“A fresh approach…. There are few books that can give the world a peek into the Hermit Kingdom. The Cleanest Race provides a reason to care about how those in North Korea see themselves and the West. It is possibly the best addition to that small library.” —Andrei Lankov, Far Eastern Economic Review

”B.R. Myers insists that the ongoing support of the North Korean public for the regime doesn’t reflect any great faith in communism. Instead, he argues, it is rooted in a kind of paranoid racial nationalism adapted from the Japanese fascism that flourished before World War II…. Myers feels that the racialism at the heart of the regime’s ideology will sustain it even as it fails to provide the prosperity it promises.” —Laura Miller,

“[A] fascinating cultural survey…. A sharp and smart introduction to one of the world’s most secretive societies.” Publishers Weekly

”Sharply written… remarkably perceptive.” Asia Times

”Interesting take; fascinatingly bizarre…. a must-read for anyone interested in Korea.” The Complete Review

”The text offers a clear picture of the peculiar worldview of this profoundly inward-facing country, its character and continuous subtle alterations, and its under-appreciated ramifications in world affairs.” —Reference & Research Book News, Inc.

”Myers renders great service to the global foreign policy establishment with his lucid and well-documented psychological profile of the North Korean polity.  If only it were made mandatory reading for all the stakeholder leaders, particularly the American establishment, who feel compelled to deal with North Korea.” —Senator Mike Gravel, US Senate 1969-1981


Morning Edition: ”North Korean Launch Grabs World’s Attention”

All Things Considered: ”Who Comes After North Korea’s Kim Jong Il?

All Things Considered: ”Questions Emerge About Post-Kim Era in North Korea”


The Wall Street Journal: ”North Korea on the Edge”

The Atlantic: ”The Korea Trap”

The Wall Street Journal: ”Pyongyang’s True Ideology; North Korea is No Communist State”

The New York Times: ”North Korea Will Never Disarm”

The New York Times: ”To Beat A Dictator, Ignore Him”


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