The Great Successor (Hardcover)

The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un

By Anna Fifield

PublicAffairs, 9781541742482, 336pp.

Publication Date: June 11, 2019

List Price: 28.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


The behind-the-scenes story of the rise and reign of the world's strangest and most elusive tyrant, Kim Jong Un, by the journalist with the best connections and insights into the bizarrely dangerous world of North Korea.

The Great Successor is an insightful quest to understand the life of Kim Jong Un, one of the world's most secretive dictators. Kim's life is swathed in myth and propaganda, from the plainly silly--he supposedly ate so much Swiss cheese that his ankles gave way--to the grimly bloody stories of the ways his enemies and rival family members have perished at his command.

One of the most knowledgeable journalists on modern Korea, Anna Fifield has exclusive access to Kim's inner circle: the aunt and uncle who posed as his parents while he was growing up in Switzerland, members of the entourage that accompanied Dennis Rodman on his quasi-ambassadorial visits with Kim, and the Japanese sushi chef whom Kim befriended and who was the first outsider to identify him as the inevitable successor to his father as supreme ruler. She has been able to create a captivating portrait of the oddest and most isolated political regime in the world, one that is broken yet able to summon a US president for peace talks, bankrupt yet in possession of nuclear weapons. Kim Jong Un; ridiculous but deadly, and a man of our times.

About the Author

Anna Fifield is the Beijing bureau chief for The Washington Post. She previously covered Japan and the Koreas for the Post, and was the Seoul correspondent for the Financial Times. She has reported from more than 20 countries and has visited North Korea a dozen times, becoming one of the most authoritative journalists on this impenetrable country. She was a Nieman journalism fellow at Harvard University, studying how change happens in closed societies. In 2018, she received the Shorenstein Journalism Award from Stanford University for her outstanding reporting on Asia.

Praise For The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un

"Anna Fifield owns the North Korea story today in a way
that few other journalists, myself included, have ever been able to claim
mastery over this most elusive subject."—Barbara Demick, author of the bestselling Nothing to Envy

"There is, quite simply, no journalist in any language who has done more to unearth and tell the astounding story of Kim Jong Un than Anna Fifield. The Great Successor slashes through myths to yield the first essential and vivid biography of the man and his era."—Evan Osnos, author of Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China

"Intelligent, insightful, sometimes comic, and also worrying: Anna Fifield has written a vivid, compelling, and, above all, illuminating portrait of a rogue family's rule over the world's most reclusive nation."—General David Petraeus (US Army, Ret.), director of the CIA when Kim Jong Un became leader

"With a journalist's eye for detail and with the gift of a storyteller, Anna Fifield has written the quintessential bible on Kim Jong Un. No one working to solve the North Korean puzzle should let The Great Successor sit on a bookshelf; it's a must-read."—Ambassador Wendy R. Sherman, former undersecretary of state for political affairs and author of Not for the Faint of Heart: Lessons in Courage, Power, and Persistence

"An important, riveting, and detailed account of the rise of Kim Jong Un. Anna Fifield, who is an intrepid reporter and a lively writer, breaks important new ground in The Great Successor. Drawing on a broad array of sources, including remarkable defector accounts, she paints a disturbing portrait of a country fueled by heady delusions of military strength; a potent, bizarre ideology; an unflinching devotion to nuclear weapons; and a disturbing addiction to crystal methamphetamine. Spoiler alert: be prepared for a lot of gore."—Evans J.R. Revere, senior advisor with the Albright Stonebridge Group and former senior state department official with 50 years of experience working on Korea

"I loved reading Anna Fifield when she had the Korea beat for the Post, and now she has outdone herself with the first English language biography of the most opaque and mysterious leader in the world. Carefully crafted from her reporting with additional research, field work, and exclusive interviews with those close to and in the Kim family, The Great Successor peels back the layers to reveal Kim Jong Un's psyche and the ominous future of the country over which he presides. A must read for the general and expert reader!"—Victor Cha, Korea chair at the Center for International and Strategic Studies and author of The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future

"The Great Successor shows how a pudgy young heir to tyranny-using fratricide, nuclear terror, crony capitalism, and strategic flattery of a vain American president-has become a sure-footed Machiavelli for the twenty-first century. In this devastating portrait of the latest dictator named Kim, Anna Fifield expertly dissects North Korea's first family of despotism."—Blaine Harden, author of Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West

"The Great Successor is a tour de force of reporting. Anna Fifield has penetrated the secrecy and myths surrounding Kim Jong Un to provide a remarkable, multi-layered portrait of North Korea's youthful and enigmatic leader. The ruler depicted in this book, which is based on Fifield's interviews with an impressive range of people who have had contact with Kim or experience inside his system, plus insights gleaned from her own travel as a journalist in North Korea, is not the bomb-throwing 'rocket man' so often mocked and caricatured. Instead, Kim Jong Un comes across as smart, ruthless, diplomatically savvy, and determined to survive at all costs. An essential guide to understanding the man who could well be in charge of North Korea for decades."—Mike Chinoy, former CNN senior Asia correspondent and author of Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis