Their book is based on more than 200 interviews with defectors, and it paints a picture of a restless populace, increasingly dubious about the official propaganda. “It would be a gross exaggeration to say that the people support Kim Jong-il,” they write. “Rather, it does not occur to them to oppose him.” North Koreans are too busy trying to survive, and too preoccupied by the tensions of the supposed mighty conflict with America, to be able to think about much else.
Mr. Myers also cautions against the idea that the West can persuade North Korea to shed its nuclear weapons. Mr. Kim “cannot disarm and hope to stay in power,” he writes. At the same time, he notes, “blue jeans will not bring down this dictatorship.” Any signs of serious unrest, he observes, will encourage Mr. Kim to raise the level of the tension with the West, and possibly do something rash with his nuclear arsenal.