Released on 26 March 2015.

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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

3.98 based on 682 ratings & 135 reviews on


A non-fiction thriller by international bestselling author Blaine Harden (Escape from Camp 14) that explores the world's most repressive state through the intertwined lives of two North Koreans, one infamous, one obscure: Kim Il Sung, the former North Korean leader and No Kum Sok, once the state's youngest jet fighter pilot.

Shortly before the Korean War ended, No Kum Sok met Kim Il Sung, who congratulated him for his flying skill and his courage. A few months later, No Kum Sok stole a Soviet-made MiG-15 and flew it to a US airfield in South Korea.

Beginning with the arbitrary division of Korea in 1945 and ending two months after the shaky armistice that halted combat in the Korean War, The Great Leader & the Fighter Pilot is an ambitious and gripping book which digs deeply into the character of the Kim family dictatorship.

At once an irresistible adventure story and an authoritative guide to the notorious state, it explains why North Korea remains so isolated, why it created and maintains a vast gulag of concentration camps, and why it is still so angry at the western world.

In the media

Harden weaves the story of No, the pilot, and Kim, the tyrant, into a fascinating retelling of a tale from the early years of the Cold War . . . No's life, the heart of the book, captivates.
New York Times
A riveting book that makes the history of North Korea accessible to the general reader.
Wall Street Journal
Harden delivers another page-turner about a North Korean who got out alive, despite staggering odds, in this real-life thriller that unfolds during the Korean War . . . Harden weaves together narratives of "Great Leader" Kim Il Sung and No Kum Sok, who harbored a childhood dream of coming to the U.S., even though "at 19 he became the youngest jet fighter pilot on either side of the Korean War." . . . With access to No and newly released intelligence, Harden presents fresh insights into North Korea.
Publishers Weekly