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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.
The Chasongnok (Record of Self-Reflection) by Yi Hwang (Toegye)
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.
The North Korean Threat in a Changing Era
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.
A Look Back at the 1980 Kwangju Uprising
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.
Protestant Encounters with Korean Religions, 1876-1915
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.
Democracy and the Politics of Representation in South Korea
In this sweeping intellectual and cultural history of the minjung ("common people's") movement in South Korea, Namhee Lee shows how the movement arose in the 1970s and 1980s in response to the repressive authoritarian regime and grew out of a widespread sense that the nation's "failed history" left Korean identity profoundly incomplete.
The Making of Minjung captures the movement in its many dimensions, presenting its intellectual trajectory as a discourse and its impact as a political movement, as well as raising questions about how intellectuals represented the minjung. Lee's portrait is based on a wide range of sources: underground pamphlets, diaries, court documents, contemporary newspaper reports, and interviews with participants. Thousands of students and intellectuals left universities during this period and became factory workers, forging an intellectual-labor alliance perhaps unique in world history. At the same time, minjung cultural activists reinvigorated traditional folk theater, created a new "minjung literature," and influenced religious practices and academic disciplines.
In its transformative scope, the minjung phenomenon is comparable to better-known contemporaneous movements in South Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. Understanding the minjung movement is essential to understanding South Korea's recent resistance to U.S. influence. Along with its well-known economic transformation, South Korea has also had a profound social and political transformation. The minjung movement drove this transformation, and this book tells its story comprehensively and critically.
Syngman Rhee's Quest for Independence, 1875-1948
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.