June 03, 2020

“Tyranny of the Weak”: The row engulfing North Korean studies
The book, which examines DPRK foreign policy in the Cold War, has come under fire for its sourcing

As some of our readers are aware, the sleepy field of North Korean studies is now engulfed in a major controversy which, as time goes by, looks increasingly serious. NK News has already written about the emerging problem, and perhaps it is time to explain briefly what has happened and why our field is in such disarray.

In 2013, Cornell University Press published a book by Dr. Charles Armstrong, a professor at Columbia University, and a well-known specialist on North Korean history. The book, titled ‘Tyranny of the Weak’, was meant to be a general review of the North Korean foreign policy since the 1950s. The work was initially met favorably, and many people, including myself, recommended the book as a systematic and readable introduction to the subject. But worrying problems began to emerge with the book soon after, and as time went on, the situation looked increasingly bizarre.