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

Viking. 2015. 288p. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780670016570. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698140486. HIST
OrangeReviewStarIn September 1953, North Korean fighter pilot No Kum-Sok flew his Soviet built MiG-15 jet across the demilitarized zone and defected to U.S. forces in South Korea. Journalist Harden (Escape from Camp 14) tells the fascinating story of No's life from his birth in Japanese-controlled Korea up to his life as a retired engineer in Florida. However, the main focus is the Korean War years and No's motivations for defecting. Readers will also find interspersed throughout a complementary biography of former dictator Kim Il-Sung, which helps to place No's experience into the larger context of North Korean events. No didn't understand that his defection made him rich, as the U.S. government had promised $100,000 for anyone who could deliver a MiG-15. This caused new complications for No after he arrived in America.
VERDICT An enjoyable read that is highly recommended for those interested in Cold War or North Korean history, or for anyone who likes a strong narrative. Readers who enjoy this book might also appreciate No Kum-Sok's A MiG-15 to Freedom.
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