cover image Separated at Birth: How North Korea Became the Evil Twin

Separated at Birth: How North Korea Became the Evil Twin

Gordon Cucullu. Lyons Press, $24.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-1-59228-591-4

A regime as hermetic and seemingly incorrigible as the North Korean dictatorship doesn't easily lend itself to complex and probing analysis. This lightweight treatment is a case in point. Ex-Pentagon official and Fox News commentator Cucullu offers the usual indictment of North Korea as a failed gulag state where millions starve under the absurd personality cult of Kim Jong-Il, a""berserk animal"" who must be""put down"" because of his nuclear ambitions and involvement in terrorism. He gives an extremely cursory rundown of this now-familiar litany, and, like many other writers, doesn't quite know what to do about Kim's volatile and dangerous regime except issue plaintive appeals to China to help coax the beast into exile. He is much more interested in the""good twin"" South Korea, where he spent several years observing first-hand some crucial periods of political turmoil. He devotes much of the book to a critical appreciation of the South, especially of the Park dictatorship of the 1960s and 1970s, whose model of state-supervised capitalist development made the country an economic powerhouse while, he contends, laying the groundwork for democracy. Cucullu is sometimes insightful, but generally indulgent towards the South Korean military and implacable toward Jimmy Carter, whom he excoriates for his human-rights driven antagonism toward Seoul and allegedly fawning behavior during a 1994 peace mission to Pyongyang. His unabashedly partisan account derides the work of revisionist historians like Bruce Cumings while barely discussing the issues they raise, thus saving room for lumps of extraneous autobiography and tear-jerking salutes to Korean War vets. The result is a colorful but shallow and idiosyncratic take on some of the most vexed problems of international relations.