Bruce Cumings on Jasper Becker
YAN Hairong <email@example.com>
Fri, 10 Feb 2006 19:55:43 -0600
Bruce Cumings's extensive review on recent two books on North
Korea is very good. Cuming's review goes beyond these two
books, but includes the impact of the Cold-War and Orientalism
in the field of Asian Studies in the U.S. One of the books
reviewed here is by Jasper Becker, who has churned out tons of
stuff about China and whose hatred of North Korea seems as
deep as his hatred of communist China.
Checke the website below for the whole review. I'm pasting the
last paragragh of Cuming's review after the website.
Fear and Loathing on the Pyongyang Trail: North Korea and the
By Bruce Cumings
The general reader, though, has been ill-served time and again
by the American media and pundits passing for experts. Perhaps
the best evidence is found in The New Yorker’s recent articles
on North Korea, which routinely contain blatant errors and
misinformation in spite of that magazine’s legendary
reputation for fact-checking (Ian Buruma gave Becker’s book a
rave review there last summer). That’s because, as with Bush’s
faith-based presidency, it isn’t a question of facts: this is
the Orient, cunning and mysterious, and we can say just about
anything we want to say about it. Kim Jong Il twiddles that
neuralgic spot in our perception where unexamined assumptions
about Asians linger, the same one Wittfogel twiddled (with a
meat ax). True, North Korea presents such an opaque front that
it is hard to remember that 23 million human beings live
there. But when all is said and done the place to begin is not
with them but with us, with that night of our ignorance where
Korea’s alien shapes get draped in the same hue—chafing,
rankling shapes, summoning our worst fears and instincts, and
challenging our best convictions.
This is an expanded and annotated version of a review essay
that appeared in the London review of Books. Posted at Japan
Focus December 12, 2005.
Bruce Cumings teaches in the History Department and the
Committee on International Relations at the University of
Chicago and is the author of North Korea: Another Country (The
New Press, 2003).