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Korea's Twentieth-Century Odyssey

Michael E. Robinson

For more than half of the twentieth century, the Korean peninsula has been divided between two hostile and competitive nation-states, each claiming to be the sole legitimate expression of the Korean nation. The division remains an unsolved problem dating to the beginnings of the Cold War and now projects the politics of that period into the twenty-first century. Korea’s Twentieth-Century Odyssey is designed to provide readers with the historical essentials upon which to unravel the complex politics and contemporary crises that currently exist in the East Asian region. Beginning with a description of late-nineteenth-century imperialism, Michael Robinson shows how traditional Korean political culture shaped the response of Koreans to multiple threats to their sovereignty after being opened to the world economy by Japan in the 1870s. He locates the origins of both modern nationalism and the economic and cultural modernization of Korea in the twenty years preceding the fall of the traditional state to Japanese colonialism in 1910. Robinson breaks new ground with his analysis of the colonial period, tracing the ideological division of contemporary Korea to the struggle of different actors to mobilize a national independence movement at the time. More importantly, he locates the reason for successful Japanese hegemony in policies that included—and thus implicated—Koreans within the colonial system. He concludes with a discussion of the political and economic evolution of South and North Korea after 1948 that accounts for the valid legitimacy claims of both nation-states on the peninsula.

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A Korean Confucian Way of Life and Thought

The Chasongnok (Record of Self-Reflection) by Yi Hwang (Toegye)

Translated, Annotated, and with an Introduction by Edward Y. J. Chung

Yi Hwang (1501–1570)—best known by his literary name, T’oegye—is one of the most eminent thinkers in the history of East Asian philosophy and religion. His Chasŏngnok (Record of self-reflection) is a superb Korean Neo-Confucian text: an eloquent collection of twenty-two scholarly letters and four essays written to his close disciples and junior colleagues. These were carefully selected by T’oegye himself after self-reflecting (chasŏng) on his practice of personal cultivation. The Chasŏngnok continuously guided T’oegye and inspired others on the true Confucian way (including leading Neo-Confucians in Tokugawa Japan) while it criticized Buddhism and Daoism. Its philosophical merit rivals T’oegye’s monumental Sŏnghak sipto (Ten diagrams on sage learning) and “Four-Seven Debate Letters”; however, as a testament of T’oegye’s character, scholarship, and teaching, the Chasŏngnok is of greater interest. The work engages with his holistic knowledge and experience of self-cultivation by articulating textual and historical material on various key doctrines and ideas. It is an inspiring practical guide that reveals the depth of T’oegye’s learning and spirituality.

The present volume offers a fully annotated translation of the Chasŏngnok. Following a groundbreaking discussion of T’oegye’s life and ideas according to the Chasŏngnok and his other major writings, it presents the core of his thought in six interrelated sections: “Philosophy of Principle,” “Human Nature and Emotions,” “Against Buddhism and Daoism,” “True Learning,” “Self-Cultivation,” and “Reverence and Spiritual Cultivation.” The bibliography offers a current catalogue of primary sources and modern works in Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and English. As the first comprehensive study of the Chasŏngnok, this book is a welcome addition to current literature on Korean classics and East Asian philosophy and religion. By presenting T’oegye’s thought-provoking contributions, it sheds new light on the vitality of Confucian wisdom, thereby affording scholars and students with an excellent primary source for East Asian studies in general and Confucian studies in particular.

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The Last Days of Kim Jong-il

The North Korean Threat in a Changing Era

Bechtol, Bruce

North Korea has remained a thorn in the side of the United States ever since its creation in the aftermath of the Korean conflict of 1950û1953. Crafting a foreign policy that effectively deals with North Korea, while still ensuring stability and security on the Korean Peninsula-and in Northeast Asia as a whole-has proved very challenging for successive American administrations. In the wake of ruler Kim Jong-il's death in December 2011, analysts and policymakers continue to speculate about the effect his last years as leader will have on the future of North Korea.

Bruce Bechtol, Jr. contends that Kim Jong-il's regime (1994-2011) exacerbated the threats that North Korea posed, and still poses, to the world. Bechtol explains how North Korea presents important challenges on five key fronts: its evolving conventional military threat, its strategy in the Northern Limit Line (NLL) area, its nuclear capabilities, its support for terrorism, and its handling of the succession process.

Bechtol's analysis clears up the persistent mystery of how Kim Jong-il's dysfunctional government in its final years was able to persist in power while both presenting a grave danger to its neighbors and setting the stage for the current government. This work addresses issues important for policymakers and academics who must deal with those in power in North Korea.

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Laying Claim to the Memory of May

A Look Back at the 1980 Kwangju Uprising

Linda S. Lewis

The Kwangju Uprising--"Korea's Tiananmen"--is one of the most important political events in late twentieth-century Korean history. What began as a peaceful demonstration against the imposition of military rule in the southwestern city of Kwangju in May 1980 turned into a bloody people's revolt. In the two decades since, memories of the Kwangju Uprising have lived on, assuming symbolic importance in the Korean democracy movement, underlying the rise in anti-American sentiment in South Korea, and shaping the nation's transition to a civil society. Nonetheless it remains a contested event, the subject still of controversy, confusion, international debate, and competing claims. As one of the few Western eyewitnesses to the Uprising, Linda Lewis is uniquely positioned to write about the event. In this innovative work on commemoration politics, social representation, and memory, Lewis draws on her fieldwork notes from May 1980, writings from the 1980s, and ethnographic research she conducted in the late 1990s on the memorialization of Kwangju and its relationship to changes in the national political culture. Throughout, the chronological organization of the text is crisscrossed with commentary that provocatively disrupts the narrative flow and engages the reader in the reflexive process of remembering Kwangju over two decades. Highly original in its method and approach, Laying Claim to the Memory of May situates this seminal event in a broad historical and scholarly context. The result is not only the definitive history of the Kwangju Uprising, but also a sweeping overview of Korean studies over the last few decades.

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The Making of Korean Christianity

Protestant Encounters with Korean Religions, 1876-1915

Sung-Deuk Oak

A major catalyst for the growth of Korean Christianity occurred at the turn of the twentieth century when Western missionaries encountered the religious landscape of Korea. These first-generation missionaries have been framed as destroyers of Korean religion and culture. Yet, as Sung-Deuk Oak shows in The Making of Korean Christianity, existing Korean religious tradition also impacted the growth and character of evangelical Christianity. The melding of indigenous Korean religions and Christianity led to a highly localized Korean Christianity that flourished in the early modern era. The Making of Korean Christianity sorts fact from myth in this exhaustive examination of the local and global forces that shaped Christianity on the Korean Peninsula.

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The Making of the First Korean President

Syngman Rhee's Quest for Independence, 1875-1948

Young Ick Lew

The only full-scale history of Syngman Rhee’s (1875–1965) early career in English was published nearly six decades ago. Now, in The Making of the First Korean President, Young Ick Lew uncovers little-known aspects of Rhee’s leadership roles prior to 1948, when he became the Republic of Korea’s first president. In this richly illustrated volume, Lew delves into Rhee’s background, investigates his abortive diplomatic missions, and explains how and why he was impeached as the head of the Korean Provisional Government in 1925. He analyzes the numerous personal conflicts between Rhee and other prominent Korean leaders, including some close friends and supporters who eventually denounced him as an autocrat.

Rhee is portrayed as a fallible yet charismatic leader who spent his life fighting in the diplomatic and propaganda arena for the independence of his beleaguered nation—a struggle that would have consumed and defeated lesser men. Based on exhaustive research that incorporates archival records as well as secondary sources in Korean, English, and Japanese, The Making of the First Korean President meticulously lays out the key developments of Rhee’s pre-presidential career, including his early schooling in Korea, involvement in the reform movement against the Taehan (“Great Korean”) Empire, and his six-year incarceration in Seoul Prison for a coup attempt on Emperor Kojong. Rhee’s life in the U.S. is also examined in detail: his education at George Washington, Harvard, and Princeton universities; his evangelical work at the Seoul YMCA; his extensive activities in Hawai‘i and attempts to maintain prestige and power among Koreans in the U.S. Lew concludes that, despite the manifold shortcomings in Rhee’s authoritarian leadership, he was undoubtedly best prepared to assume the presidency of South Korea after the onset of the Cold War in the Korean Peninsula.

Essential reading for anyone with an interest in modern Korean history, this work will serve as a lasting portrait of one of the pivotal figures in the evolution of Korea as it journeyed from colonial suppression to freedom and security.

Young Ick Lew is a former Chair Professor of Korean Studies, Graduate School of International Studies, Yonsei University in Seoul. Currently, he is T. H. Elema Chair Professor of Korean history at Handong Global University in P’ohang and a senior counselor to the Syngman Rhee Institute, Yonsei University.

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Marginality and Subversion in Korea

The Hong Kyongnae Rebellion of 1812

by Sun Joo Kim

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The Melodrama of Mobility

Women, Talk, and Class in Contemporary South Korea

Nancy Abelmann

How do people make sense of their world in the face of the breakneck speed of contemporary social change? Through the lives and narratives of eight women, The Melodrama of Mobility chronicles South Korea's experience of just such dizzyingly rapid development. Abelmann captures the mood, feeling, and language of a generation and an era while providing a rare window on the personal and social struggles of South Korean modernity. Drawing also from television soap operas and films, she argues that a melodramatic sensibility speaks to South Korea's transformation because it preserves the tension and ambivalence of daily life in unsettled times. The melodramatic mode helps people to wonder: Can individuals be blamed for their social fates? How should we live? Who can say who is good or bad? By combining the ethnographic tools of anthropology, an engagement with prevailing sociological questions, and a literary approach to personal narratives, The Melodrama of Mobility offers a rich portrait of the experience of compressed modernity in the non-West.

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Movie Migrations

Transnational Genre Flows and South Korean Cinema

Hye Seung Chung and David Scott Diffrient

As the two billion YouTube views for “Gangnam Style” would indicate, South Korean popular culture has begun to enjoy new prominence on the global stage. Yet, as this timely new study reveals, the nation’s film industry has long been a hub for transnational exchange, producing movies that put a unique spin on familiar genres, while influencing world cinema from Hollywood to Bollywood. 
 
Movie Migrations is not only an introduction to one of the world’s most vibrant national cinemas, but also a provocative call to reimagine the very concepts of “national cinemas” and “film genre.” Challenging traditional critical assumptions that place Hollywood at the center of genre production, Hye Seung Chung and David Scott Diffrient bring South Korean cinema to the forefront of recent and ongoing debates about globalization and transnationalism. In each chapter they track a different way that South Korean filmmakers have adapted material from foreign sources, resulting in everything from the Manchurian Western to The Host’s reinvention of the Godzilla mythos. 
 
Spanning a wide range of genres, the book introduces readers to classics from the 1950s and 1960s Golden Age of South Korean cinema, while offering fresh perspectives on recent favorites like Oldboy and Thirst. Perfect not only for fans of Korean film, but for anyone curious about media in an era of globalization, Movie Migrations will give readers a new appreciation for the creative act of cross-cultural adaptation. 
 

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Nation Building in South Korea

Koreans, Americans, and the Making of a Democracy

Gregg A. Brazinsky

In this ambitious and innovative study Gregg Brazinsky examines American nation building in South Korea during the Cold War. Marshaling a vast array of new American and Korean sources, he explains why South Korea was one of the few postcolonial nations that achieved rapid economic development and democratization by the end of the twentieth century. Brazinsky contends that a distinctive combination of American initiatives and Korean agency enabled South Korea's stunning transformation. On one hand, Americans supported the emergence of a developmental autocracy that spurred economic growth in a highly authoritarian manner. On the other hand, Americans sought to encourage democratization from the bottom up by fashioning new institutions and promoting a dialogue about modernization and development. Expanding the framework of traditional diplomatic history, Brazinsky examines not only state-to-state relations, but also the social and cultural interactions between Americans and South Koreans. He shows how Koreans adapted, resisted, and transformed American influence and promoted socioeconomic change that suited their own aspirations. Ultimately, Brazinsky argues, Koreans' capacity to tailor American institutions and ideas to their own purposes was the most important factor in the making of a democratic South Korea. In this first English-language analysis of U.S.-Korean relations after the Korean War using primary sources in both languages, Brazinsky examines the U.S.role in reconstructing South Korea: building a national army, launching economic development programs in the 1960s, and fostering, through exchange programs and building schools, new modes of thinking among intellectuals and students. The American commitment to South Korea extended far behond defending the country against Communist invasion, he argues. It served as a vital proving ground for the superiority of free enterprise and political democracy to contrast with the Communist North. Brazinksky shows that American ambitions were met with a great deal of ambivalence by South Koreans, who, after 35 years of Japanese colonialism, were anxious about new forms of domination by foreign powers. Brazinsky demonstrates how South Koreans adapted, resisted, and transformed American influence and fostered socio-economic change that suited their own aspirations. In leading the country from a poor autocratic society in the 1940s to a prosperous democracy by the 1990s, South Koreans went through a phase of developmental autocracy in the 1960s that paved the way for a sustainable democracy. Brazinsky explains why South Korea was one of the few postcolonial nations that achieved rapid economic development and democratization by the end of the twentieth century. He contends that a distinctive combination of American initiatives and Korean agency enabled South Korea's stunning transformation. Expanding the framework of traditional diplomatic history, Brazinsky examines not only state-to-state relations, but also the social and cultural interactions between Americans and South Koreans. He shows how Koreans adapted, resisted, and transformed American influence and promoted socioeconomic change that suited their own aspirations. In this ambitious and innovative study Gregg Brazinsky examines American nation building in South Korea during the Cold War. Marshaling a vast array of new American and Korean sources, he explains why South Korea was one of the few postcolonial nations that achieved rapid economic development and democratization by the end of the twentieth century. Brazinsky contends that a distinctive combination of American initiatives and Korean agency enabled South Korea's stunning transformation. On one hand, Americans supported the emergence of a developmental autocracy that spurred economic growth in a highly authoritarian manner. On the other hand, Americans sought to encourage democratization from the bottom up by fashioning new institutions and promoting a dialogue about modernization and development. Expanding the framework of traditional diplomatic history, Brazinsky examines not only state-to-state relations, but also the social and cultural interactions between Americans and South Koreans. He shows how Koreans adapted, resisted, and transformed American influence and promoted socioeconomic change that suited their own aspirations. Ultimately, Brazinsky argues, Koreans' capacity to tailor American institutions and ideas to their own purposes was the most important factor in the making of a democratic South Korea.

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