Brian Reynolds Myers

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Brian Reynolds Myers
Born Brian Reynolds Myers
1963 (age 54–55)[1]
New Jersey, U.S.
Nationality American
Other names B.R. Myers
Alma mater Ruhr University
University of Tübingen
Occupation Associate professor
Organization Dongseo University[2]
Busan, South Korea
Known for The Cleanest Race (2010)
A Reader's Manifesto (2002)

Brian Reynolds "B.R." Myers (born 1963) is an American journalist and associate professor of international studies at Dongseo University in Busan, South Korea, best known for his writings on North Korean propaganda. He is a contributing editor for The Atlantic and an opinion columnist for the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Myers is the author of Han Sǒrya and North Korean Literature (Cornell, 1994), A Reader's Manifesto (Melville House, 2002), The Cleanest Race (Melville House, 2010), and North Korea's Juche Myth (Sthele Press, 2015).

Early life and education

Myers was born in the U.S. state of New Jersey, spent his childhood in Bermuda and his youth in South Africa, and received graduate education in Germany.[3][4] He earned an MA degree in Soviet studies at Ruhr University (1989) and a PhD degree in Korean studies with a focus on North Korean literature at the University of Tübingen (1992). Myers subsequently taught German in Japan[4] and worked for the Mercedes-Benz Beijing Liaison Office in 1996.[5]


Before his appointment at Dongseo University, Myers lectured in North Korean literature and society at the Korea University's North Korean Studies Department.[6] He also taught globalization and North Korean literature at the Inje University Korean Studies Department.[7]


Opinion columns

Myers’ opinion columns for the Atlantic, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal generally focus on North Korea, which he says is not a Marxist-Leninist or a Stalinist state, but a "national-socialist country."[8] He has also commented on the common view of the ROKS Cheonan sinking in South Korea with regard to its perception in North Korea.[9]

Book reviews

His book reviews have included denunciations of American historian Bruce Cumings,[10] American author Toni Morrison,[11] American author Denis Johnson,[12] and South Korean novelist Hwang Sok-yong.[13] His most recent major review was an invective against American novelist Jonathan Franzen's celebrated novel Freedom.[14]


Myers' Han Sŏrya and the North Korean literature: The Failure of Socialist Realism in the DPRK (1994) was adapted from his 1992 dissertation at the University of Tübingen and published as the sixty-ninth volume of the Cornell East Asia Series.[15]

A Reader’s Manifesto: An Attack on the Growing Pretentiousness in American Literary Prose (2002) was developed from his critical review essay of the same name published in the Atlantic in 2001.[16]

The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters (2010) is a discussion on North Korean propaganda, contending that North Korea under Kim Jong Il was guided by a "paranoid, race-based nationalism with roots in Japanese fascism."[17] Myers asserts that the North Korean political system is not based on Communism or Stalinism, and he contends that the official Juche idea is a sham ideology for foreign consumption and intended to establish Kim Il-sung's credentials as a thinker alongside Mao Zedong.[18] Myers also claims that post-Cold War attempts to understand North Korea as a Confucian patriarchy, based on the filial piety of Kim Jong-Il and the dynastic transfer of power from his father, are misguided and that the North Korean leadership is maternalist rather than paternalist.[19]

Reception and criticism

Myers’ book The Cleanest Race has been challenged by several academic critics, most notably including historian Charles K. Armstrong of Columbia University and historian Suzy Kim of Rutgers University.[20] South Korean literary critic Yearn Hong Choi also regards the thesis of Myers' Han Sǒrya and North Korean Literature as erroneous:

How can Myers say that he [Han Sǒrya] is not a socialist realist? How can Myers say that Han's thought is not compatible with communist ideology? I can understand Myers’s views on orthodox socialist realism, yet I see socialist realism abundantly present in North Korean literature: North Korean writers still advocate socialist realism. Myers simply does not interpret socialist realism as they do.

— Yearn Hong Choi[21]

Russian historian Andrei Lankov, however, found Han Sǒrya and North Korean Literature to be "very interesting"[22] and favorably reviewed The Cleanest Race as taking a "fresh approach" on North Korea.[23] Lankov also says Myers' work is "informative."[24]

Felix Abt, a Swiss business affairs specialist who lived in North Korea for seven years, describes Myers' claims in The Cleanest Race as "flawed" and "shaky". Abt wrote that it was "rather absurd" to describe Juche as "window-dressing" for foreigners.[25]

Personal life and politics

Myers is married to a South Korean woman and lives and teaches in South Korea. Politically, Myers is a supporter of the Green Party of the United States, veganism, and animal rights.[4]


See also


  1. "Myers, B. R., 1963-". Lawrence Public Library Catalog. Retrieved February 1, 2010. Myers, B. R., 1963-<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Dongseo 114". Dongseo University. Retrieved February 1, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Rosett, Claudia (August 30, 2002). "How Dare He! Reviled Critic Gets the Last Word". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 24, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Kim, Sun-jung. "The Remarkable B. R. Myers Revealed". Korea JooAng Daily. Retrieved January 20, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Karen K. Smith. “KS Contact Info for Brian Myers?” 20 November 2008. (Accessed February 1, 2010)
  6. 북한학과 (Puk’an hakkwa; North Korean Studies Department). Korea University. (Accessed February 1, 2010)
  7. 2006학년도 1학기 강연내용 (2006 School Year First Semester Lecture Content). Korea University. (Accessed February 1, 2010)
  8. “The Constitution of Kim Jong Il.” Wall Street Journal. 1 October 2009. (Accessed February 1, 2010)
  9. Myers, Brian Reynolds (2010-05-27). "South Korea's Collective Shrug". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. “Mother of All Mothers: The Leadership Secrets of Kim Jong Il.” Atlantic. September 2004. (Accessed February 1, 2010)
  11. B.R. Myers. “Mercy!” Atlantic. January/February 2009. (Accessed February 1, 2010)
  12. B. R. Myers. “A Bright Shining Lie.” Atlantic. December 2007 (Accessed February 1, 2010)
  13. B. R. Myers. “The Caged Bird Sings.” New York Times. 8 September 2008. (Accessed February 1, 2010)
  14. B. R. Myers. “Smaller Than Life Atlantic. October 2010 (Accessed October 15, 2011)
  15. “Han Sŏrya and North Korean Literature.” Bibliothekskatalog Tübingen. Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen. (Accessed February 1, 2010)
  16. B. R. Myers. “A Reader’s Manifesto: An Attack on the Growing Pretentiousness in American Literary Prose.” Atlantic. July/August 2001. (Accessed February 1, 2010)
  17. “Book Discussion with Author B. R. Myers.” North Korea International Documentation Project. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. (Accessed February 1, 2010)
  18. "Immersion in propaganda, race-based nationalism and the un-figure-outable vortex of Juche Thought: Colin Marshall talks to B.R. Myers, author of The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why it Matters". Retrieved 2010-04-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Bunch, Sonny (2010-06-01). "North Korea's Cultural Shackes. The Cleanest Race by B.R. Myers". Policy Review. Hoover Institution (161 (June–July 2010)). Retrieved 2014-12-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Charles K. Armstrong, “Trends in the Study of North Korea,” Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 70, 2011; and Suzy Kim, "(Dis)orienting North Korea," Critical Asian Studies, Vol. 42, No. 3, September 2010.
  21. Yearn Hong Choi. Review of Han Sǒrya and North Korean Literature. World Literature Today. Vol. 69. No. 1. Winter 1995. p. 230. JSTOR. (Accessed February 1, 2010)
  22. “Andrei Lankov. KS Re: Contact Info for Brian Myers?” 21 November 1998 (Accessed February 1, 2010)
  23. Andrei Lankov. Review of The Cleanest Race. Far Eastern Economic Review. 4 December 2010. (Accessed February 1, 2010)
  24. Lankov, Andrei (2013). The Real North Korea. Oxford University Press. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-19-996429-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Abt, Felix (2014). A Capitalist in North Korea: My Seven Years in the Hermit Kingdom. Tuttle Publishing. pp. 62–63. ISBN 9780804844390.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Myers, B.R. (April 1, 2009). "To Beat a Dictator, Ignore Him". New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Myers, B.R. (May 28, 2009). "North Korea Will Never Disarm". New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Myers, B.R. (February 11, 2010). "The Cleanest Race". BookTV. C-SPAN.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links