The 2013 Cyril Black International Book Forum to Focus on North Korea

Feb. 1, 2013 9:52 a.m.

North Korea's veiled past, its culture, economy and foreign policy are the subject of the 2013 Cyril Black International Book Forum to be held at 4:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, in Friend Center, Room 006, at Princeton University.

The forum features Victor Cha, whose book, "The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future," was published in April 2012. The event is free and open to the public, presented by the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies and co-sponsored by the University's Center for International Security Studies. 

The event will be followed by a book signing and a public reception. Books will be available for purchase by check or cash. No credit cards.

[Media who would like to attend should RSVP by Feb. 10 to Carole Frantzen at or 609-258-7497.]

Cha, an expert on North Korea, is the D.S. Song Chair in the Department of Government and School of Foreign Service and director of Asian studies at Georgetown University and a senior adviser and Korea chair at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. He is also a former director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council where, as an adviser to President George W. Bush from 2004-07, he received two Outstanding Service Commendations.

In "The Impossible State," Cha pulls back the curtain and provides an engaging look at North Korea's history and the rise of the Kim family dynasty and the obsessive personality cult that empowers them. The book illuminates the repressive regime's complex economy and culture, its record of human-rights abuses, and its relationship with the United States, and analyzes the regime's major security issues — from the seemingly endless war with its southern neighbor to its nuclear ambitions — all in light of the destabilizing effects of Kim Jong-Il's recent death.

How this enigmatic nation-state — one that regularly violates its own citizens' rights and has suffered famine, global economic sanctions, a collapsed economy and near total isolation from the rest of the world — has continued to survive has long been a question that preoccupies the West. Cha reveals a land of contradictions, one facing a pivotal transition of power from tyrannical father to inexperienced son, and delves into the ideology that leads an oppressed, starving populace to cling so fiercely to its failed leadership.

With personal anecdotes from the author's time in Pyongyang and his tenure as an adviser in the White House, this authoritative and accessible history offers much-needed answers to the most pressing questions about North Korea and ultimately warns of a regime that might be closer to its end than many might think.

Cha has been interviewed by national news outlets, including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox and PBS, and has written on North Korea for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Financial Times, the Los Angeles Times and USA Today.  His other books include "Beyond the Final Score: The Politics of Sport in Asia" (2011) and "Alignment Despite Antagonism" (2000). 

The forum will be introduced by PIIRS Director Mark Beissinger. Discussants are Thomas Christensen, the William P. Boswell Professor of World Politics of Peace and War, professor of politics and public and international affairs, Woodrow Wilson School, and director, China and the World Program; G. John Ikenberry, the Albert G. Milbank Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School; and Gilbert Rozman, the Musgrave Professor of Sociology.

The Cyril Black International Book Forum is held in honor of the late Cyril Black, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished Professor of History and International Affairs Emeritus at Princeton. Black was the director of Princeton's Center of International Studies from 1968 to 1985 and a member of the University faculty for 50 years.

Contact Carole Frantzen at or 609-258-7497 for more information.