Cover of Guns, Guerillas, and the Great Leader by Benjamin R. Young
Guns, Guerillas, and the Great Leader
North Korea and the Third World
Benjamin R. Young


April 2021
232 pages.
from $28.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503613294
Paperback ISBN: 9781503627635
Ebook ISBN: 9781503627642

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Far from always having been an isolated nation and a pariah state in the international community, North Korea exercised significant influence among Third World nations during the Cold War era. With one foot in the socialist Second World and the other in the anticolonial Third World, North Korea occupied a unique position as both a postcolonial nation and a Soviet client state, and sent advisors to assist African liberation movements, trained anti-imperialist guerilla fighters, and completed building projects in developing countries. State-run media coverage of events in the Third World shaped the worldview of many North Koreans and helped them imagine a unified anti-imperialist front that stretched from the boulevards of Pyongyang to the streets of the Gaza Strip and the beaches of Cuba.

This book tells the story of North Korea's transformation in the Third World from model developmental state to reckless terrorist nation, and how Pyongyang's actions, both in the Third World and on the Korean peninsula, ultimately backfired against the Kim family regime's foreign policy goals. Based on multinational and multi-archival research, this book examines the intersection of North Korea's domestic and foreign policies and the ways in which North Korea's developmental model appealed to the decolonizing world.

About the author

Benjamin R. Young is an Assistant Professor in Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness at Virginia Commonwealth University. He has previously taught at Dakota State University and the U.S Naval War College. He received his PhD in 2018 from George Washington University and was also a member of the 2018-2019 CSIS NextGen Korea Scholars Program. His research primarily revolves around East Asian studies, Cold War international history, security studies, and international relations.

"By calling attention to relations with the Third World as a critical component of North Korea's developing national identity, Guns, Guerillas, and the Great Leader offers a significant and refreshing contribution to understanding the historical development of North Korea that moves beyond the familiar narrative of an emerging state situated amongst China and the Soviet Union in the Cold War context."

—Hanmee Kim, Wheaton College

"Benjamin R. Young's book is beautifully written, thoroughly researched, and absolutely eye-opening. Guns, Guerillas, and the Great Leader provides an unprecedented look into the causes and consequences of North Korea's struggle for international influence."

—Mitchell Lerner, Ohio State University

"North Korea has been an isolated nation since the 1990s, but interestingly Young points out odd relics of a time the so-called Hermit Kingdom reached out to the world, such as Kim Il Sung Avenue in Mozambique's capital Maputo. For the casual Korea watcher this book is a surprise: it shows the country's story hasn't been all bad."

—Frank Beyer, Asian Review of Books