"Passionate, cantankerous, and fascinating. Rather like Korea itself."--Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times Book ReviewKorea has endured a "fractured, shattered twentieth century," and this updated edition brings Bruce Cumings's leading history of the modern era into the present. The small country, overshadowed in the imperial era, crammed against great powers during the Cold War, and divided and decimated by the Korean War, has recently seen the first real hints of reunification. But positive movements forward are tempered by frustrating steps backward. In the late 1990s South Korea survived its most severe economic crisis since the Korean War, forcing a successful restructuring of its political economy. Suffering through floods, droughts, and a famine that cost the lives of millions of people, North Korea has been labeled part of an "axis of evil" by the George W. Bush administration and has renewed its nuclear threats. On both sides Korea seems poised to continue its fractured existence on into the new century, with potential ramifications for the rest of the world.
|Publisher:||Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.|
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About the Author
Bruce Cumings is chairman of the history department at the University of Chicago and the author of Korea's Place in the Sun. He divides his time between Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Chicago.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History, Revised based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
I am Korean Some what of a History buff, having said that, I think I am qualified to be critical of this book. As I stated in head line, this book as read in synopsis as well as in review describes Korean status pretty well. How Korea become as known today is- yes- influenced by largely by United States (or in part as some might argue), based on misconception or preconception that stems from an ideal that most western culture bought into, that Japanese colonization of Korea was not only accepted and had participated in large part of Korean modernization. This misconception led to -in my view- U.S occupational forces rule of Korea and actions it took. During its occupation, and in midst of forming new Korean government U.S occupational Forces intentionally or unintentionally, disregarded existence of Interim Korean Government based in Shanghai, China during Japanese colonization. (Koreans had unofficial Government during the war era and through out Japanese occupation after Japanese has toppled Yi dynasty of Cho Sen-name of Korea at the time and had engaged in combat and assassination attempts of Japanese political and military leaders) Yet, U.S occupational Forces still allowed most of Koreans whom politically connected and former Japanese collaborator in power to do their political will, this was done despite most Koreans loathed the idea. Unfortunately, this very notion of former traitors if you will (Japanese collaborator) holds most pristine political power in the South Korea government dominates among the Koreans even to this day, by both South and North alike. Therefore, While It is true that South Korea and people were saved by U.S involvement in Korean war, but it can also argued, if Koreans were left along to be ruled by Koreans without U.S and soviet union¿s occupation forces rule over Korea peninsula, the country may not have divided into two. However, instead of letting most popular and revered leader of that interim government rule the country U.S backed U S educated preacher named lee sung man who also happened to be married to an American woman. which, by doing so United states government knowingly or unknowingly erected a puppet government and followers of lee however lee became dictator, were royal to him and Lee in turn royal to United States, while leaving war criminals of Japanese collaborators in most Koreans mind, to be free and of course free of guilt and most importantly, still with powers that they have enjoyed during Japanese occupation. This phenomenon led most Koreans to despair, and to come to realization of Honor do not pay. Thus, Most Koreans start to abandon time honored traditional value - that is being straight as an arrow when it comes to ethic, royalty to the people and do anything for greater goods then petty personal gain. Koreans as result begin to embrace most capitalistic ideal to the extreme, they become short sighted and started looking immediate gains, and personal gain without regard to others. which resulted in the corruption -of the Korean political arena in general. This phenomenon in turn led to most Koreans to mistrust the public servant. The author is very sharp for someone who is not Korean and does not have extensive Korean history education as do native Korean,and his assessment of Korea in general is in most part very painfully realistic.
The best introduction to Korean history and society on the market.
Selectively detailed almost to a fault. Korea's Place in the Sun is an incredibly long read that I was hungry for but unfortunately, it's also overwhelmingly subjective at times. I strongly recommend familiarizing yourself with ancient and modern Korean history prior to reading this book because Cumings doesn't slow down for the casual reader. Recommended for anyone interested in more than a intro course on Korean history. However, be forewarned that this particular author is controversially subjective in his selective (mis)interpretations of Korean history. His obvious North Korean apologetic stance aside, Cumings makes especially moving descriptions of the Korean war and demystifies the so-called Miracle on the Han economic movement into practical terms. His coverage of the Korean War is eye-opening and certainly the highlight of the book as it is one of his strengths. Ironically, though, I prefer his coverage of the Korean War in this book rather than his most recent title.However biased it may be, this book is exactly what it claims to be: a one volume course on Korean history. it just may not be the most well-agreed upon history out there. Get ready for a level of detail that borders so much on muck-racking that might scare you. Take notes because Mr. Cumings is not afraid to cite his sources, although you might be wondering where the balance is in his arguments.
I read this book several years ago, when a Korean colleague gave it to me. I really knew very little about Korea before reading this. Cumings's book gave me a great foundation - though, I confess, I haven't done much with it since.I remember reading how the USA bombed North Korea in the Korean War - not into oblivion, but into the ground. They just moved the whole country into underground shelters. Cumings tells about the plans of MacArthur to use atomic weapons to force the North to submit. The US would fly mock bombing runs, dropping bombs of the same size and weight as an actual fission bomb, and flying the same pattern they'd use for a real bomb. The real bombs got as far, I think, as Guam, before MacArthur got fired.Cumings also discussed a controversy in Neo-Confucian thought, between Chu Hsi and Wang Yang-ming. Korea kept the faith with Chu Hsi, while China went in the Wang Yang-ming direction, which Korea considered something of a disgrace. It's like Korea considers itself the preserver of true Chinese culture. Sure, lots of the details have faded in my mind - it might have been seven or eight years ago that I read this - but I still remember the impact reading it had on me.