Inside North Korea's Theocracy deals with Jang Song-thaek (Chang Sŏng-t'aek), the uncle of the current ruler of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, who had Jang executed in December 2013. The author, Ra Jong-yil, is a former South Korean ambassador to the United Kingdom and Japan and hence one of the highest-ranking officials in the South Korean civil intelligence. Both the Korean original and the English translation have the word “theocracy” (sinjŏng) in the title. Ra explains that he uses this word “in a slightly different way”: he does not mean that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is ruled by a church hierarchy, but rather that the ruler of the country is venerated there as a living god.

The book is organized into eight chapters, with a preface. The chapters are arranged in more or less chronological order, telling the story of Jang's rise to power through his...

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