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Book Reviews197 citizens, in a polity that has been promoting a sense of "national community" based on Korean ethnic unity? How can victims' varied efforts to overcome such traumatic experiences be acknowledged and understood when the state abstracts (redirects) their experience in new grand narratives? The "contentious " issues invested in the Kwangju event have spilled over into the polarized politics in Korea. Today, it is still possible to hear the echoes of the Kwangju Uprising in the nation's turbulent politics—its left-right ideological split, anti-communism, dictatorship and resistance, regional imbalances, and presence of foreign forces—as well as in more personal memories expressed in the pages of a diary. Hong Kal Stanford University Han 'guk hyandae minjok undong yôn 'gu—haebang hu minjok kukka kônsôl undong kwa t 'ongil chanson [The Modem Korean Nationalist Movement: The Movement to Establish a Nation-state in the Post-Liberation Period and the United Front] by So Chungs ôk. Seoul: Yôksa pip'yôngsa, 1991. 678 pp. Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. Won 14,000 In recent years several scholars, including Kathryn Weathersby (Soviet Aims in Korea and the Origins ofthe Korean War, 1945-1950: New Evidencefrom Russian Archives, Cold War International History Project, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 1993) and Pak Myông-nim (Han'guk chônjaeng ûi palbal kwa kiwón [Outbreak and Origins of me Korean War], Seoul: Nanam Ch'ulpan, 1996), have put forth illuminating new accounts of the critical five-year period in modern Korean history between liberation in August 1945 and the outbreak of war in June 1950. They have clarified and, to a significant degree, contradicted the findings that stimulated a generation of scholarly attention to this topic: Bruce Cumings' The Origins of the Korean War I: Liberation and the Emergence ofSeparate Regimes, 1945-1947 (Princeton, 1981). In some ways, Sô Chung-sôk's Han'guk hyandae minjok undongyôn 'gu—haebang hu minjok kukka kônsôl undong kwa t 'ongil chanson (The Modern Korean Nationalist Movement: The Movement to Establish a Nation-state in the Post-Liberation Period and the United Front) can pass as the first systematic response to Cumings by a Korean scholar. Like Cumings , So seeks to probe the workings of political and social forces in the first three years of post-liberation Korea in order to account for national division in 1948, which set the stage for civil war in 1950. (So has recently provided a much shorter second volume covering the 1948-50 period.) And like Cumings , Sô Chung-sôk attaches great importance to the fissures in the political 1 98The Journal ofKorean Studies climate when examining post-liberation Korea as a whole. One could conceivably view this work, then, as a valuable supplement to Cumings in that it provides a comprehensive effort to digest and analyze the massive amount ofpublished material written in Korean during the liberation period—sources which Cumings employs in smaller amounts. But it would be a mistake to view Sô's work as simply a rejoinder to Cumings, for this shift in focus from the American to the Korean perspective amounts to a fundamental reordering of the interpretive paradigm. So presents a refreshingly different method to approaching this topic. After Cumings' seminal first volume came out in the early 1980s, scholars tirelessly re-examined liberation Korea from the new angle that Cumings had provided—that of placing greater responsibility for the Korean War on the American Occupation. This caused quite a stir in Korean academic and political circles because it diverged considerably from the government-promoted, standard view, which blamed Russian and North Korean intrigues for setting off the sparks that led to fratricidal civil war. Cumings' new paradigm was largely embraced by Korean historians and political scientists, who continued to dig deeper into the political and social circumstances of this period but rarely deviated from the new standard perspective that focused on the American (and to a lesser degree, Soviet) Occupation and the Left-Right conflict among Korean political forces as the primary causes of events leading to war. So presents a breakthrough in the study of the liberation of Korea in two notable...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1665
Print ISSN
0731-1613
Pages
pp. 197-208
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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