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Book Reviews Child of Conflict: The Korean-American Relationship, 1943-1953. Edited by Bruce Cumings. Seattle, Washington: University of Washington Press, 1983. xiv, 328 pp. Index. $22.50. This book is a collection of papers delivered at two conferences on KoreanAmerican relations held at the University of Washington in 1978 and 1980. The authors are all Americans. Bruce Cumings, the editor, is a Korea specialist, as is John Merrill. The other contributors are more broadly based in diplomatic history , though most have written on Korean-American relations before. Their background enables them to fit Korea into the wider context of American-Asia policy, something which has not always been done by Korea scholars working by themselves . The volume is the product ofnew research in the emerging diplomatic and military documents of the Korean War period, revealing much of what went on behind the scenes in the formulation of American Korean policy and, what is more important, the world view of the American government at that time. Bruce Cumings' introduction is the keystone of the book. It is a tour d'horizon of American foreign policy in Korea, based on the new documents as well as his years of research and insight into Korean politics. Cumings sees the evolution of American policy in Korea as part of a worldwide shifting from internationalism (1915) to containment (1947-1949) to "rollback" (1950). Our Korea policy reflected these shifts, and the shifts help explain the conflicting signals which were received in Korea up to the outbreak of the Korean War. For example, by 1947, the U.S. military occupation force was eager to leave Korea. In that year the Joint Chiefs of Staff decided that the defense of Korea was not a vital strategic interest, and yet they also felt that the United States should continue to aid South Korea for moral reasons and because of American prestige: "... to lose this battle would be gravely detrimental to U.S. prestige, and therefore security, throughout the world." This was an early statement of the American commitment to the success of the South Korean regime in a competition with the North; that is, to Korea as a symbol. As Charles M. Dobbs has written in The Unwanted Symbol, Korea was more important for symbolic than for practical reasons. And it is this symbolic value of Korea to the Americans which Kim II-sung failed to grasp. Cumings goes on to outline the process by which the United States extricated itself from the 96BOOK REVIEWS peninsula: United Nations involvement, elections, and the creation of a "legitimate " regime in the south. He covers the differences of opinion within the U.S. government over whether the United States really had abandoned Korea or whether there was still an underlying moral commitment in 1949-1950. On this point, since the Americans could not agree among themselves, it is no wonder that the North Koreans misread the signals. It is interesting to note that the United States drew up contingency plans to meet a North Korean invasion (in case it came as the last U.S. troops were boarding ships) as early as 1949. United States/United Nations police action to restore the 38th parallel was one option. Again, this was despite the U.S. military opposition: it was the civilian leadership in Washington which appeared to assume that American power was sufficient for any and all occasions. The fall of China later in 1949 brought a new sense ofurgency to the issue of containment in Asia. In its long-term planning, the State Department sought ways to raise bulwarks against further communist expansion. Given the loss of China, Americans began looking toward a reconstructed Japan as the main element in our Asian containment policy. In Japan, this changing American attitude toward Japanese power was reflected in what is called the "reverse course": occupation policies designed to restore Japanese capitalism, to suppress labor organizations and leftist activity, and to raise "self-defense forces" notwithstanding Article IX of the new Japanese constitution. Thus Japan assumed a role in containment. Japan was on the minds of hard-liners who wanted to see a "rollback" of communism , too; some even envisioned the restoration of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1529
Print ISSN
0145-840X
Pages
pp. 95-101
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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