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North Korea remains the most mysterious of all Communist countries. The acute shortage of available sources has made it a difficult subject of scholarship. Through his access to Soviet archival material made available only a decade ago, contemporary North Korean press accounts, and personal interviews, Andrei Lankov presents for the first time a detailed look at one of the turning points in North Korean history: the country’s unsuccessful attempts to de-Stalinize in the mid-1950s. He demonstrates that, contrary to common perception, North Korea was not a realm of undisturbed Stalinism; Kim Il Sung had to deal with a reformist opposition that was weak but present nevertheless. Lankov traces the impact of Soviet reforms on North Korea, placing them in the context of contemporaneous political crises in Poland and Hungary. He documents the dissent among various social groups (intellectuals, students, party cadres) and their attempts to oust Kim in the unsuccessful "August plot" of 1956. His reconstruction of the Peng-Mikoyan visit of that year—the most dramatic Sino-Soviet intervention into Pyongyang politics—shows how it helped bring an end to purges of the opposition. The purges, however, resumed in less than a year as Kim skillfully began to distance himself from both Moscow and Beijing. The final chapters of this fascinating and revealing study deal with events of the late 1950s that eventually led to Kim’s version of "national Stalinism." Lankov unearths data that, for the first time, allows us to estimate the scale and character of North Korea’s Great Purge.
In the half century after 1945, South Korea went from an impoverished, largely rural nation ruled by a succession of authoritarian regimes to a prosperous, democratic industrial society. No less impressive was the country's transformation from a nation where a majority of the population had no formal education to one with some of the world's highest rates of literacy, high school graduates, and university students. Drawing on their premodern and colonial heritages as well as American education concepts, South Koreans have been largely successful in creating a schooling system that is comprehensive, uniform in standard, and universal. The key to understanding this educational transformation is South Korean society's striking, nearly universal preoccupation with schooling-what Korean's themselves call their "education fever."
This volume explains how Koreans' concern for achieving as much formal education as possible appeared immediately before 1945 and quickly embraced every sector of society. Through interviews with teachers, officials, parents, and students and an examination of a wide range of written materials in both Korean and English, Michael Seth explores the reasons for this social demand for education and how it has shaped nearly every aspect of South Korean society. He also looks at the many problems of the Korean educational system: the focus on entrance examinations, which has tended to reduce education to test preparation; the overheated competition to enter prestige schools; the enormous financial burden placed on families for costly private tutoring; the inflexibility created by an emphasis on uniformity of standards; and the misuse of education by successive governments for political purposes.
Military Rule in Medieval Korea
Generals and Scholars is the first work in English to examine fully military rule during the Koryo. Although it lasted for only a century, the period was one of dynamic change--a time of institutional development, social transformation, and the reassertion of the civil service examination and Confucian ideology coupled with the flowering of Son (Zen) Buddhism. (When confronted with fundamental matters of rule, however, Ch'oe leaders frequently opted for the status quo and in the end aligned with many traditional civil elites to preserve their power.) The traditional tension between civilians and the military was eased as both came to accept the primacy and necessity of civilian values. Koryo generals, unlike those in Japan, learned they could govern more readily by relying on civil leaders administering a strong central government than on a call to arms. Institutional innovations from this period survived well into the next and Son Buddhism continued to flourish throughout the country.
From "Land of the Morning Calm" to States in Conflict
Contemporary North and South Korea are nations of radical contrasts: one a bellicose totalitarian state with a failing economy; the other a peaceful democracy with a strong economy. Yet their people share a common history that extends back more than 3,000 years. In this comprehensive new history of Korea from the prehistoric era to the present day, Jinwung Kim recounts the rich and fascinating story of the political, social, cultural, economic, and diplomatic developments in Korea's long march to the present. He provides a detailed account of the origins of the Korean people and language and the founding of the first walled-town states, along with the advanced civilization that existed in the ancient land of "Unified Silla." Clarifying the often complex history of the Three Kingdoms Period, Kim chronicles the five-century long history of the Choson dynasty, which left a deep impression on Korean culture. From the beginning, China has loomed large in the history of Korea, from the earliest times when the tribes that would eventually make up the Korean nation roamed the vast plains of Manchuria and against whom Korea would soon define itself. Japan, too, has played an important role in Korean history, particularly in the 20th century; Kim tells this story as well, including the conflicts that led to the current divided state. The first detailed overview of Korean history in nearly a quarter century, this volume will enlighten a new generation of students eager to understand this contested region of Asia.
Korean science is closely related to traditional Chinese technology, but Jeon Sang-woon's A History of Science and Technology in Koreafollows a different course of development. Building on Chinese foundations, Korean scientists, engineers and technicians developed technologies that were adapted to the natural elements, seasons and climate of the Korean peninsula. the writer develops this thesis by considering the creative legacy of Korean practitioners in a number of different areas: astronomy and meteorology ("the sciences of the heavens"), metal, glass and gunpowder ("the sciences of earth and fire"), printing, geography and carography. He concludes with a comparison of science and technology in Korea and Japan, and with a discussion of important scientists active in the Choson Period. The book is filled with new information and arguments, and frequently with deep insights. Much of what the author says will be useful for professional scholars in the history of science and technology and for general historians as well, as it provides topics for academic debate and fruitful research subjects for young scholars. the lavish illustrations support the writer's thesis and are themselves part of Korea's rich artistic heritage.