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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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The Northern Region of Korea

history, identity, and culture

Sun Joo Kim is a professor of Korean history at Harvard University. She is the author of Marginality and Subversion in Korea: The Hong Kyongnae Rebellion of 1812. The other contributors are Mark E. Caprio, Donald N. Clark, Bruce Fulton, Jang Yoo-seung, Ju

Through the use of storytelling, linguistic analysis, and journal entries from turn-of-the-century missionaries and traveling Russians in addition to many varieties of unconventional primary sources, the contributors creatively explore unfamiliar terrain while examining the culture, identity, and regional distinctiveness of the northern region and its people.

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Offspring of Empire

Koch'ang Kims and the Colonial Origins of Korean Capitalism 1876-1945

by Carter J. Eckert

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Over the Mountains Are Mountains

Korean Peasant Households and Their Adaptations to Rapid Industrialization

by Clark W. Sorensen

Clark Sorensen presents a description of the economic and ecological organization of rural Korean domestic groups and an analysis of their adaptation to the changes brought about by Korea's rapid industrialization.

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Peasant Protest & Social Change in Colonial Korea

The period from 1876 to 1946 in Korea marked a turbulent time when the country opened its market to foreign powers, became subject to Japanese colonialism, and was swept into agricultural commercialization, industrialization, and eventually postcolonial revolutionary movements. Gi-Wook Shin examines how peasants responded to these events, and to their own economic and political circumstances, with protests that eventually shaped the course of postwar revolution in the north and reform in the south.

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