Book Offer May Signal a Shift in North Korea

Associated Press

It’s “the book you have been waiting for,” a full-page advertisement in the New York Times proclaimed: two volumes on Kim Jong Il, “great hero, great leader” and heir apparent in North Korea.

Observers say the full-page splash may signal a momentous shift within North Korea, ruled for 40 years by Kim Il Sung.

“It appears that Kim Il Sung is trying to inflate the image of his son as his successor,” Prof. Donald Zagoria of Hunter College in New York said.


Kim Il Sung, 72, has built up a personal cult verging on a state religion. He is the first ruler of a Communist nation to attempt to pass on power to his son, who is 42.

Declaring that “Korea has given birth to one more great hero,” the recent ad in the New York Times trumpeted: “Great leader, Kim Jong Il, the book you have been waiting for now on sale.”

Volume I offers stirring chapter titles such as “Great Aspirations Beyond the Campus,” “A Soaring Tower in the Flower Garden of Literature and Art” and “The Lodestar Has Risen.” All in 308 pages, for $10, with Volume II to follow in February.

The ad said the English-language book was published by Sorinsha in Japan.

“This book would put a lot of Americans to sleep,” said Zagoria, a specialist on North Korea.

More than 1,000 books about Kim Il Sung and his son are said to be in the catalogue of Pyongyang’s Grand People’s Study House, a library. However, this was the first U.S. promotion of a book on the younger Kim, and it was noteworthy that he was described as “great leader,” a title heretofore reserved for the father.

Another American expert, who insisted on anonymity to avoid offending his Korean contacts, said the ad probably was aimed at “domestic consumption.”

Such ads are prominently displayed in a museum built to “glorify” Kim and his family, he said.

“The ordinary North Koreans cannot differentiate paid advertisements from news reports,” he explained. “Consequently, the ads in prestigious newspapers such as the New York Times are held up to them as though they were reports on their glorious leaders with pictures for all the Americans to read.”