There is no more society closed off from the world today then North Korea. Not even Burma or Syria rival the level of control found in the country. From an intelligence perspective, North Korea is one of the hardest to penetrate. What can be seen from satellites is only a small portion of that which is buried deep underground in 11,000 tunnels and caves. With the death of Kim Jong-il in December 2011, it has become more paramount than ever to understand this mysterious country. In his new book, THE IMPOSSIBLE STATE: North Korea, Past and Future (Ecco), former Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council Victor Cha argues that North Korea is in an untenable and combustible situation—one that the next U.S. president will have no choice but to confront.


How did North Korea become the Impossible State? How has it survived when many others have long since collapsed? How could the leadership have made so many poor decisions? Why don’t people rise up against the injustices? What does the leadership ultimately want? Drawing upon his academic and policy expertise, as well as details of his time on the ground in Pyongyang, Cha outlines the history, ideology and mission of North Korea’s leadership to explain why the regime may be closer to its end than many think.



Victor Cha is the former Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council, where he served as an advisor to the President from 2004-2007. The recipient of two Outstanding Service Commendations during his tenure at the White House, Cha is also the award-winning author of Alignment Despite Antagonism and Beyond the Final Score: The Politics of Sport in Asia. His writing has appeared in Foreign Affairs, International Security, and Political Science Quarterly, among other journals. As an expert on North Korea, he has been interviewed on many national news outlets, including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, PBS News, and he has written on the topic for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Financial Times, the Los Angeles Times, and for USA Today. Cha currently holds the D.S. Song Chair in Government in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.