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Becoming Kim Jong Un

Understanding North Korea’s Young Dictator

Jung H. Pak

‘The young dictator comes under close scrutiny in this intelligent account’ Sunday Times

When Kim Jong Un became the leader of North Korea in 2011, many expected his rule to be short. Years later, he remains the unchallenged dictator of a nuclear rogue state with weaponry capable of threatening the West.

In this behind-the-scenes look, former CIA analyst and North Korea expert Jung H. Pak reveals the explosive story of Kim Jong II’s third son: the spoilt and impetuous child, the mediocre student, the ruthless murderer, the shrewd grand strategist.

  • Publication date: February 24, 2022
  • ISBN: 9780861542529
  • RRP: £10.99
  • Pages: 336
  • Publication date: March 18, 2021
  • ISBN: 9781786077165
  • RRP: £20.00
  • Pages: 336
  • Publication date: March 18, 2021
  • ISBN: 9781786077172
  • RRP: £6.99
  • Pages: 288


‘Excellent… Former CIA analyst Jung H. Pak cuts through the regime’s opacity and the fog of gossip.’

Los Angeles Times

‘Jung H. Pak has managed to shed more light on the current North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, than virtually anyone… An important book, both for the professional expert and for those who simply want to gain insight into the “hermit kingdom” and its enigmatic leader.’

James Clapper, former US Director of National Intelligence

‘The young dictator comes under close scrutiny in this intelligent account.’

Sunday Times

‘[Becoming Kim Jong Un] could be the most definitive account of North Korea’s supreme leader.’


‘[An] expert assessment… An insightful analysis of perhaps the world’s most dangerous dystopia.’

Kirkus Reviews

‘How did a lazy, basketball-loving kid become the world's shrewdest tyrant by the age of twenty-six? Jung H. Pak's brilliant analysis strips away Kim's cult, bluster, and caricature to reveal a mind that is quite chillingly rational, with a rat-like cunning for out-smarting his enemies, be they close family members or nuclear-armed states. Easily the most insightful portrait of the man behind the propaganda.’

D. B. John, author of Star of the North

‘Jung Pak exudes the authority and glamour of the spook.’

The Times

‘Jung H. Pak’s sober but absorbing portrait of North Korea’s leader should be the starting point for any scholar, journalist, or policymaker trying to make sense of the most dangerous regime on earth. Pak ties together biography, national security analysis, and policy prescription with the precision one would expect from a scholar and former intelligence officer.’

Michael J. Green, former Asia adviser to President George W. Bush, and director of Asian studies at Georgetown University

Becoming Kim Jong Un is the most complete account to date of a dictator who has too often been caricatured by the public. Highly readable, thoughtful, and dispassionate, this book offers important insights into an enigmatic leader who will shape the destiny of not only the Korean Peninsula but of the Northeast Asian region and the world. It’s the next best thing to receiving a top-secret CIA briefing.’

Sue Mi Terry, former CIA analyst and former Korea director at the National Security Council

‘Cogently and concisely treating a broad sweep of issues central to North Korea, Dr Pak makes an essential contribution to the collective understanding of one of the world’s most dangerous and complex problems. It is must-read for the expert and casual observer alike.’

Mark Lippert, former US ambassador to South Korea and Trustee, The Asia Foundation

Jung H. Pak

Jung H. Pak is a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. She was previously a senior analyst for Korea at the CIA. She received her PhD from Columbia University and studied in South Korea as a Fulbright Scholar.

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