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North Korea: beyond charismatic politics

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This original, pathbreaking study of North Korea’s political history and culture sheds invaluable light on a country long cloaked in impenetrable mystery for the West. Leading scholars Heonik Kwon and Byung-Ho Chung begin by tracing Kim Il Sung’s rise to power during the Cold War. They show how his successor sponsored the production of revolutionary art to unleash a public political culture that would consolidate Kim’s charismatic power and his own hereditary authority. The result was a legacy of performative politics and symbolic power that sustains North Korean leaders’ sovereignty to this day. In defiance of the instability to which so many revolutionary states eventually succumb, the durability of charismatic politics in North Korea defines its exceptional place in modern history. Kwon and Chung make an innovative contribution to comparative socialism and postsocialism as well as to the anthropology of the state. Their unique work is essential for all readers interested in understanding North Korea and East Asia writ large, the role of art in society, and the possibilities of political culture.

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