This book is a study of industrial labor in North Korea focusing on the first eight years after the Korean War, a time of reconstruction, rapid industrialization, and complete socialization of the economy. Chehyung Kim finds that in North Korea, industrial work uniquely “was elevated to an ideological ethical category, like the nation” (4). However, rather than treat the country as an outlier society he summarizes theories about the nature of labor and the life of work and then places North Korean industrial labor within them. In doing so, the author seeks to normalize North Korea.

The author's study focuses on ordinary citizens—in this case, the workers rather than the state and leadership. This perspective from the factory floor sets it apart from other studies of the industrial development of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The book's most fascinating and original contributions are the stories of “heroic workers” and...

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