The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot: The True Story of the Tyrant Who Created North Korea and the Young Lieutenant Who Stole His Way to Freedom

Author(s): Blaine Harden

History | Biography | Gifts for Him

Harden tells the story of how Kim Il Sung grabbed power and plunged his country into war against the United States while the youngest fighter pilot in his air force was playing a high-risk game of deception--and escape. As Kim ascended from Soviet puppet to godlike ruler, No Kum Sok noisily pretended to love his Great Leader. That is, until he swiped a Soviet MiG-15 and delivered it to the Americans, not knowing they were offering a $100,000 bounty for the warplane (the equivalent of nearly one million dollars today). The theft--just weeks after the Korean War ended in July 1953--electrified the world and incited Kim's bloody vengeance. During the Korean War the United States brutally carpet bombed the North, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians and giving the Kim dynasty, as Harden reveals, the fact-based narrative it would use to this day to sell paranoia and hatred of Americans. Harden gives us a heart-pounding escape adventure and an entirely new way to understand the world's longest-lasting totalitarian state.


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If you're looking for a book to learn more about the Korean War this is the book for you! While I'm not usually one to enjoy books about military or political strategy, I poured through this book in two days! At first glance this book appears to be simply about a North Korean fighter pilot who escaped to the South. But it's also a history of Kim Il Sung's rise to power, the roles that Russia and China played in the Korean War to help the North. Highly recommended! Manda, The Book Grocer

Blaine Harden formerly served as The Washington Post s bureau chief in Nairobi, Warsaw, New York, Seattle, and Tokyo. He covered civil wars in sub-Saharan Africa, the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, and the breakup of Yugoslavia. He was also a local and national reporter for The New York Times, as well as a writer for The New York Times Magazine. He is the author of three other books: Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent, A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia, and Escape from Camp 14. Africa won a Pen American Center citation for first book of nonfiction. Escape from Camp 14 was a New York Times and international bestseller published in twenty-eight languages. He lives in Seattle."

General Fields

  • : 9780670016570
  • : viking
  • : viking
  • : March 2015
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Blaine Harden
  • : Hardback