A Rogue, a Pariah and All In Between
Andray Abrahamian is uniquely qualified to write a book on North Korea and Myanmar, having lived and taught in Rangoon and been a frequent visitor to Pyongyang. He sees Myanmar’s defining condition as “fracture” caused by the country’s daunting ethnic and religious diversity, while for homogenous North Korea, the central problem is external “division” from South Korea and the external threat of the South’s ally, the US.
Burma’s founder, Aung San, negotiated a unified state that has been in low-grade civil war ever since. North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung, started a war to unify the country but, after defeat, had to live with a Cold War that continues still. These founders’ legacies came together in an extraordinary convergence around the year 2010, when Aung
San’s daughter emerged from decades of house arrest to become a national leader, and in the same year Kim Il Sung’s grandson was announced to the world as heir apparent. Aun San Suu Kyi received the Nobel Peace Prize and became a darling of the international community — until the tragedy of the Rohingya crisis threatened to return Myanmar to “pariah” status. Kim Jong Un was mocked, feared and written off as crazy — until a sudden turn of events now makes it appear likely he will hold summits as a statesman with the presidents of South Korea and the US.
North Korea and Myanmar continue to surprise us, in large measure because of the limits of our understanding of and access to them. Abrahamian has made a major contribution to filling that gap.
North Korea and Myanmar: Divergent Paths By Andray Abrahamian Mcfarland, 2018, 246 pages, $39.95 (Paperback)