Much discussed and often maligned, precious little is known or understood about North Korea, the world's most controversial and isolated country. In "The Impossible State" Victor Cha pulls back the curtain, providing an unprecedented insight into North Korea's history, the rise of the Kim family dynasty, and the obsessive personality cult that surrounds them. He illuminates the repressive regime's complex economy and culture, its appalling record of human-rights abuses, its belligerent relationship with its neighbours and the United States, and analyzes the regime's major security issues - from the seemingly endless war with its southern counterpart to its terrifying nuclear ambitions - all in the light of the destabilizing effects of Kim Jong-il's recent death. How has this enigmatic nation-state continued to survive when it regularly violates its own citizens' inalienable rights and has suffered severe famine, global economic sanctions, a collapsed economy, and near-total isolation from the rest of the world? Cha reveals a land facing a pivotal and disquieting 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 rare personal anecdotes from the author's time in Pyongyang and his tenure as a White House adviser, this engagingly written, authoritative, and highly accessible account 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 - a political collapse for which the Western world may be woefully unprepared.