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Book Reviews Korea Old and New: A History. By Carter J. Eckert, Ki-baik Lee, Young lek Lew, Michael Robinson, and Edward W. Wagner. Seoul: Ilchogak, 1990. Pp. iv, 454. This survey of Korean history, including its social, cultural, political, and religious dimensions, covers the entire past, from antiquity to the present. It is a needed and welcome addition to the slowly growing scholarship on Korean studies in the United States, but it requires some changes and additions to become a must-read survey on Korea. This is not entirely a new book. As Edward W. Wagner states in his Foreword, the first part (almost half) of this book is a condensed version of Ki-baik Lee's A New History of Korea, which was translated into English by Wagner in 1984 (Lee is listed as one of the authors). Its second part, which is reviewed here, was written by three historians — Carter Eckert, Young lek Lew, and Michael Robinson — who cover "the tumultuous history of Korea's past century or so" (p.iv). This era has been a subject of burning interest and controversy among historians and other scholars. Authors of historical surveys typically introduce their chosen fields to general readers systematically yet inclusively. It is not easy to write such works, mainly because space restrictions impose on the 199 200Journal of Korean Studies authors difficult choices about what to include and how to do so. General textbooks, although necessary, become easy objects of criticism, and most specialists avoid writing them. But Eckert, Lew, and Robinson have bravely attempted an introductory history from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. Because these three authors have been trained as professional historians in the United States, readers may anticipate several things. First, we would expect their book to incorporate scholarship on Korean studies produced in the English-speaking world. As we know, Korean scholars of Korean history are not usually familiar with scholarly writings beyond the peninsula, Japan, and China. This is partly due to their limited training. Except for a small number, these "inside" historians are able to read Chinese and Japanese, in addition to Korean, but not western languages. One must also mention their chauvinistic attitude toward outside (especially western) historians. They tend to discount and disregard western scholarship on Korea and one cannot expect from them objective, broad, inclusive, and systematic studies. The three authors, who can read Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and, of course English, have a much wider view. They have incorporated scholarly achievements inside and outside Korea for their survey. Second, readers would expect Eckert, Lew, and Robinson to cover well and give a thorough interpretation of Korean history in modern and contemporary times, which has been almost totally ignored by historians inside the peninsula. As Wagner has pointed out, Lee's coverage of the "modern era stopped at 1960" in his work, A New History of Korea (p. iii). Western historians of Korea have been greatly interested in the modern and contemporary period, and have produced remarkable books and articles by using various angles and methods free of nationalistic prejudice. For example, Bruce Cumings' work on the Korean War, and Lee Chong-shik's and Suh Dae-Sook's works on North Korea and the Communist movements could be possible because they were outside the peninsula. Scholars in the peninsula cannot write in a similar way without danger. Because they live in the United States, Eckert and Robinson in particular are expected to write unbiased and rather comprehensive chapters on twentieth-century developments. To this reviewer, they have tried to do so. For example, Robinson has covered well the introduction of leftist ideas and political struggles against the Japanese colonial rule that have been ignored, Book Reviews201 intentionally or not, by "inside" scholars. Eckert also has written a lengthy and competent survey of the post-World War Two era, including liberation, division, war, and especially South Korea's authoritarian regimes and the rise of opposition movements. South Korean historians have avoided frank discussion of this era because of the repressive political atmosphere in which they live. A few flaws, however, bear mention. First of all, Korea Old and New loses the great opportunity to be...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1665
Print ISSN
0731-1613
Pages
pp. 199-201
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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