304 pages, 9.25 × 6.5 × 0.94 in
March 17, 2015
Penguin Publishing Group
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 0670016578
ISBN - 13: 9780670016570
Read from the Book
INTRODUCTIONPlayers and GameIThe man who would become the Great Leader stood on an indoor mountain of chemical fertilizer. Snow-white, stone hard, and two stories high, the mound of ammonium sulfate was eye candy for the masses, a symbol of the good life on offer from Comrade Kim Il Sung. Without fertilizer, people in North Korea go hungry, and some starve. It is true now, and it was true on February 22, 1948, when Kim had men cut the fertilizer flat on top, rig up a sound system, and conscript an audience. Three rings of soldiers, each armed with a Soviet-made submachine gun, protected the man atop the huge pile of fertilizer.The stage was socialist realism writ large, as straightforward as it was brutal: Support Kim Il Sung and eat. Challenge him, and his men will sort you out, using guns and muscle from the Soviet Union.Kim was thirty-five years old that day, but he looked younger, with smooth cheeks, short black hair, and a snug-fitting Mao suit. He had been back on the Korean Peninsula for just two and a half years, having spent much of his life fighting the Japanese in Northeast China. He had not yet purged, jailed, exiled, or executed all his political rivals. It would be another year before he had the gall to call himself the Great Leader and another decade before he would package himself as “the sun of mankind and the greatest man who has ever appeared in the world.”But he was getting there. His control of the police and the army was absolute. State-owned newspapers
From the Publisher
From the New York Times bestselling author of Escape From Camp 14, Blaine Harden tells the riveting story of Kim Il Sung's rise to power, and the brave North Korean fighter pilot who escaped the prison state and delivered the first MiG-15 into American hands
In The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot, New York Times bestselling author Blaine Harden tells the riveting story of how Kim Il Sung grabbed power and plunged his country into war against the United States while the youngest fighter pilot in his air force was playing a high-risk game of deception—and escape.
As Kim ascended from Soviet puppet to godlike ruler, No Kum Sok noisily pretended to love his Great Leader. That is, until he swiped a Soviet MiG-15 and delivered it to the Americans, not knowing they were offering a $100,000 bounty for the warplane (the equivalent of nearly one million dollars today). The theft—just weeks after the Korean War ended in July 1953—electrified the world and incited Kim’s bloody vengeance.
During the Korean War the United States brutally carpet bombed the North, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians and giving the Kim dynasty, as Harden reveals, the fact-based narrative it would use to this day to sell paranoia and hatred of Americans.
Drawing on documents from Chinese and Russian archives about the role of Mao and Stalin in Kim’s shadowy rise, as well as from never-before-released U.S. intelligence and interrogation files, Harden gives us a heart-pounding escape adventure and an entirely new way to understand the world’s longest-lasting totalitarian state.
About the Author
Blaine Harden formerly served as The Washington Post’s bureau chief in Nairobi, Warsaw, New York, Seattle, and Tokyo. He covered civil wars in sub-Saharan Africa, the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, and the breakup of Yugoslavia. He was also a local and national reporter for The New York Times, as well as a writer for The New York Times Magazine. He is the author of three other books: Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent, A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia, and Escape from Camp 14. Africa won a Pen American Center citation for first book of nonfiction. Escape from Camp 14 was a New York Times and international bestseller published in twenty-eight languages. He lives in Seattle.
Praise for The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot"Blaine Harden takes us on a fascinating journey deep into the dark origins of the North Korean state, leavened by a stirring account of one young man's courageous quest to escape it. Thoroughly transporting."—Daniel James Brown, New York Times bestselling author of The Boys in the Boat“Harden delivers another page-turner...weav[ing] together narratives of ‘Great Leader’ Kim Il Sung and No Kum Sok, who harbored a childhood dream of coming to the U.S., even though ‘at 19 he became the youngest jet fighter pilot on either side of the Korean War...’ With access to No and newly released intelligence, Harden presents fresh insights into North Korea.”—Publishers Weekly "By contrasting these emblematic figures [Kim Il-Sung and No Kum Sok], Mr. Harden has produced a riveting book that makes the history of North Korea accessible to the general reader."—Wall Street Journal“I could not put this book down. The interwoven stories of Kim Il-Sung and MiG fighter pilot No Kum Sok are carefully researched and artfully told. Harden shows how each man played the system to achieve his lifelong goal—in Kim's case, the creation of a personality cult and oppressive regime, and in No's case, defection from it. Harden succeeds in offering a unique lens on North Korean history and politics that offers something for both the general and expert readership.”—Dr. Victor Cha, Professor of Government and Director of Asian Studies, Georgetown University; forme