- Korea in the Cross Currents: A Century of Struggle and the Crisis of Reunification
Japanese colonialism and national division were the dominant themes of Korea's sad and tragic history in the twentieth century, with a ruinous war marking for Koreans the bloody divide of the last one hundred years. Robert J. Myers, research fellow at the Hoover Institution since 1995, [End Page 150] first became involved with Korea as an official in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in World War II. His recollections about wartime training of Koreans should be of great value to scholars who now date the origins of the Korean War from at least Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. But unfortunately, Myers provides superficial coverage of his experiences in this sweeping, shallow, and uneven commentary on the last century of Korea's history. "The issues of war and peace, left over from the Korean war [sic]," he writes in what serves as a main thesis, "remain unresolved; [Korea's] two separate states are the residue of the Cold War. This anomaly still poses ominous prospects for war or peace in Asia, and American national security interests" (p. 1).
Myers follows his introduction with an inchoate chapter on Korea's "long and bloody history of war" (p. 13) before 1900, describing Confucianism, the tributary system, and the adverse impact of Western imperialism on China. Next, he discusses Japan's "exploitation and integration" (p. 40) of Korea from 1910 to 1945 and the efforts of Korean exiles to gain U.S. recognition of the Korean Provisional Government (KPG). Myers then addresses the Korean War, arguing that while its causes are "vast and complex" (p. 86), how it began is not, because Soviet documents prove Communist guilt. After a "digression" (p. 87) aimed at discrediting Bruce Cumings, he writes little about the war itself. The next chapter provides a rambling discussion of South Korea's "Bumblebee Economy" (p. 97), highlighting the ability of the chaebŏl to avoid needed reform at the price of excessive pain for Korean workers. Two final disorganized chapters describe postwar politics in the "dictatorial development state" (p. 121) of South Korea and North Korea's quest for "regime survival" (p. 136). In his conclusion, Myers applauds Kim Daejung's efforts at domestic reform and reconciliation with North Korea.
Chapter 5 presents tantalizing new information about OSS operations with Koreans in China during World War II, but Myers's revelations lack detail and depth. The United States wanted to mobilize Koreans to join the fight against Japan and the EAGLE Project, approved in April 1945, was "the only concrete activity that came out of all this effort" (p. 47). Twenty miles from Xian, Myers and five other Americans were to "train a group of Koreans . . . in intelligence collection techniques" before being "organized into two- and three-man teams and re-infiltrated into Korea to report on the Japanese and to determine if the situation was ripe to organize guerrilla units" (p. 58). Training "proceeded smoothly" from May to July, the author writes, adding that General Yi Pŏm-sŏk "played an active and inspirational role through his early-morning lecture to his troops; replete with exhortations for freedom and independence" (p. 62). Myers worked on plans to land the guerrillas [End Page 151] in Korea, following them to the "Anhui Pocket" in August just before Japan's surrender. The Chinese Civil War, he explains, made his escape to Shanghai "an exciting and dangerous phase of the Korean adventure" (p. 72).
Readers are left to speculate about the impact of the EAGLE Project on Yi Pŏm-sŏk's prominence in postwar South Korean politics. Myers also fails to elaborate about events on Taiwan after May 1950, where he was liaison until September 1952 for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) with the primary Chinese Nationalist intelligence service. On other issues, the author displays little interpretive restraint. For example, he claims that President...