Korea’s Place in the Sun: A Modern History
Cumings’s riveting history of modern Korea challenges much received wisdom. Rejecting the verdict of Western historians who support Japan’s "modernizing role" in Korea, he characterizes the Japanese occupation (1910-1945) as a callous colonization that fostered underdevelopment, crushed dissent and suppressed indigenous culture. Director of Northwestern University’s Center for International and Comparative Studies, the author is highly critical of the U.S. military occupational government (1945-1948), which he blames for bolstering the status quo and laying the groundwork for one of Asia’s worst police states. Popular resistance in South Korea, he emphasizes, ultimately transformed an authoritarian regime into a relatively democratic society, while the North, which he has visited extensively, remains a cloistered, family-run, xenophobic garrison state. Yet, drawing on recent scholarship, Cumings argues that North Korea was never a mere Soviet puppet but instead resembled more autonomous communist nations, such as Yugoslavia. His incisive concluding portrait of Korean Americans presents a hardworking, upwardly mobile yet insular, ambivalent group, "in the society but not of it." This spirited, vibrant chronicle is indispensable for understanding modern Korea and its dim prospects for reunification. Photos. Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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