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South Korea got going in the mids, and today companies and workers in both countries battle each other to produce the best ships, cars, steel products, computer chips, mobile phones, flat-screen TVs and other electronic equipment. The new rivalry is a never-ending competition for world markets, just as sports became another modern-day battleground to decide who is top dog.

In the immediate aftermath of the obliteration of Nagasaki , three Americans in the War Department including Dean Rusk, later Secretary of State drew a fateful line at the 38th parallel in Korea, dividing this nation that had a unitary integrity going back to antiquity. The line was supposed to demarcate the areas in which American and Soviet forces would receive the Japanese surrender, but Rusk later acknowledged that he did not trust the Russians and wanted to get the nerve centre of the country, Seoul , in the American zone.

He consulted no Koreans, no allies and not even the president in making this decision. But it followed on from three years of State Department planning in which an American occupation of part or all of Korea was seen as crucial to the postwar security of Japan and the Pacific. The US then set up a three-year military government in southern Korea that deeply shaped postwar Korean history. The Soviets came in with fewer concrete plans for Korea and moved more slowly than the Americans in setting up an administration. They thought Kim Il-sung would be good as a defence minister in a new government, but sought to get him and other communists to work together with Christian nationalist figures like Jo Man-sik.

By Rhee and Kim had both established separate republics and by the end of the year Soviet troops had withdrawn, never to return again. American combat troops departed in June , leaving behind a man military advisory group. For the only time in its history since , South Korea now had operational control of its own military forces. Within a year war had broken out and the US took back that control and has never relinquished it, illustrating that the US has always had a civil war deterrent in Korea: containing the enemy in the North and constraining the ally in the South. In both sides sought external support to mount a war against the other side, and the North succeeded where the South failed.

Kim Il-sung also played Stalin off against Mao Zedong to get military aid and a critical independent space for himself, so that when he invaded he could count on one or both powers to bail him out if things went badly. After years of guerrilla war in the South fought almost entirely by southerners and much border fighting in with both sides at fault , Kim launched a surprise invasion on 25 June , when he peeled several divisions off in the midst of summer war games; many high officers were unaware of the war plan.

Seoul fell in three days, and soon North Korea was at war with the US. The Americans responded by getting the UN to condemn the attack and gaining commitments from 16 other countries, although Americans almost always bore the brunt of the fighting, and only British and Turkish combat forces had a substantial role. The war went badly for the UN at first, and its troops were soon pushed far back into a small pocket around Busan Pusan.

But following a daring landing at Incheon Inchon under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, North Korean forces were pushed back above the 38th parallel. But Mao did not want general war with the US, and did not try to push the UN forces off the peninsula.

By spring the fighting had stabilised roughly along the lines where the war ended. Truce talks began and dragged on for two years, amid massive trench warfare along the lines. These battles created the Demilitarized Zone DMZ and the truce talks bequeathed the Quonset huts at Panmunjom, where both sides have met periodically ever since to exchange heated rhetoric and where millions of tourists have visited. At the end of the war, Korea lay in ruins. Seoul had changed hands no less than four times and was badly damaged, but many prewar buildings remained sufficiently intact to rebuild them much as they were.

The US Air Force pounded the North for three years until all of its cities were destroyed and some were completely demolished, leaving the urban population to live, work and go to school underground, like cavemen. Millions of Koreans died probably three million, two-thirds of them in the North , millions more were left homeless, industries were destroyed and the entire country was massively demoralised, because the bloodletting had only restored the status quo.

Of the UN troops, 37, were killed about 35, of them Americans and , wounded. The s were a time of depressing stagnation for the South but rapid industrial growth for the North. Then, over the next 30 years, both Koreas underwent rapid industrial growth. However, by the s huge economic disparities had emerged. The North experienced depressing stagnation that led finally to famine and massive death, while the South emerged as an economic power ranked 11th in the world, with roughly the GNP of Spain.

But then the South began to build an enormous lead that soon became insurmountable. This great triumph came at enormous cost, as South Koreans worked the longest hours in the industrial world for decades and suffered under one military dictatorship after another. Student protests and less-frequent trade-union street protests were often violent, as were the police or military forces sent to suppress them. But slowly a democratisation movement built strength across the society. When the Korean War ended in , Rhee Syngman continued his dictatorial rule until , when he and his wife fled to Hawaii following widespread demonstrations against him that included university professors demonstrating in the streets of Seoul.

Ordinary people were finally free to take revenge against hated policemen who had served the Japanese. Following a military coup later in , Park Chung-hee ruled with an iron fist until the Kennedy administration demanded that he hold elections; he won three of them in , and partly by spreading enormous amounts of money around peasants would get white envelopes full of cash for voting. That led Park to declare martial law and make himself president for life.

Amid massive demonstrations in his own intelligence chief, Kim Jae-gyu, shot him dead over dinner one night, in an episode never fully explained. In response the citizens of Gwangju took to the streets in May The military response was so brutal and wanton that it became a touchstone in Korean life, marking an entire generation of young people. Finally, in , a civilian, Kim Young-sam, won election and began to build a real democracy. Although a charter member of the old ruling groups, Kim had resigned his National Assembly seat in the s when Rhee tried to amend the constitution and had since been a thorn in the side of the military governments along with Kim Dae-jung.

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Among his first acts as president were to launch an anti-corruption crusade, free thousands of political prisoners and put Chun Doo-hwan on trial. One of the strongest labour movements in the world soon emerged, and when former dissident Kim Dae-jung was elected at the end of , all the protests and suffering and killing seemed finally to have been worthwhile.

When President Kim retired after his five-year term his party selected a virtual unknown, Roh Moo-hyun, a self-taught lawyer who had defended many dissidents in the darkest periods of the s. To the surprise of many, including officials in Washington , he narrowly won the election and represented the rise to power of a generation that had nothing to do with the political system that emerged in even Kim Dae-jung had been active in the s. That generation was mostly middle-aged, having gone to school in the s with indelible images of conflict on their campuses and American backing for Chun Doo-hwan.

The result was a growing estrangement between Seoul and Washington , really for the first time in the relationship.

A History of Korea

The opposition tried to impeach Roh when, ahead of national parliamentary elections in , he voiced support for the new Uri Party — a technical violation of a constitutional provision for the president to remain impartial. The end result was a swing to the right that saw Lee Myung-bak of the Grand National Party elected president in , and Roh retire to the village of Bongha, his birthplace in Gyeongsangnam-do. A year and a half later, as a corruption investigation zeroed in on his family and former aides, Roh com- mitted suicide by jumping off a cliff behind the village.

The national shock at this sad turn of events rebounded on President Lee who was already suffering public rebuke for opening Korea to imports of US beef. Kim was ideally poised to solve the deep economic downturn that hit Korea in , as part of the Asian financial crisis. By the economy was growing again. Within a year Pyongyang had responded, various economic and cultural exchanges began, and in June the two presidents met at a summit for the first time since Often seen by critics as appeasement of the North, this engagement policy was predicated on the realist principles that the North was not going to collapse and so had to be dealt with as it is, and that the North would not object to the continued presence of US troops in the South during the long process of reconciliation if the US normalised relations with the North — something that Kim Jong-il acknowledged in his historic summit meeting with Kim Dae-jung in June Since tens of thousands of South Koreans have visited the North and big southern firms have established joint ventures using northern labour in a purpose-built industrial complex at Kaesong.

There have also been some heartbreakingly brief reunions between family members separated by the conflict 50 years ago. After a tumultuous 20th century, South Korea is by any measure shaping up to be one of the star performers of the 21st century. Its top companies such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai make products the world wants. Koreans have taken so quickly to the internet that it is now possibly the most wired nation on earth.

The North responded by saying it feared a US attack along the lines of the invasion of Iraq and needed a nuclear deterrent to stop it.

History of Korea: Every Year

Deeply worried about the possibility of conflict, in China sponsored six-party talks China , Japan , Russia , the US and both Koreas to get Washington and Pyongyang talking and negotiating. These intermittent discussions have yet to yield a significant result. On the contrary, the North has successfully tested nuclear bombs, first in October , then again in May Towards the end of the same year the North began to make gestures that it was willing to re-enter negotiations over its nuclear program.

Obama also squeezed a concession from Lee that South Korea would revisit the terms of the proposed free trade agreement with the US so that both countries may move towards ratifying the deal. All rights reserved. For nearly seven decades, the Kim family dynasty has warned the North Korean people that the United States is a murderous superpower bent upon their annihilation—and their only chance of survival is readiness for an American attack. This policy of paranoia without end has driven Much of the fighting took place in what is now northeastern China.

The Russo-Japanese War was also a naval conflict, with ships exchanging fire in the For many South Koreans, analyst Lee Ok-seon was running an errand for her parents when it happened: a group of uniformed men burst out of a car, attacked her and dragged her into the vehicle. As they drove away, she had no idea that she would never see her parents again.

She was 14 years old. That fateful This is a good thumbnail sketch of the history of Korea. It is not in depth, often left me wanting for more but it does hit major events. Very easy to read. In reading this book I have a better understanding of issues with North Korea today and it's easy to see that the US played a major role in creating our problems beginning in and we continue to bungle and misunderstand both Koreas to this day. Perhaps even more so since An excellent overview of Korean history. Hwang doesn't cover absolutely everything, but the events and people he does cover are carefully explained, even discussing modern interpretations and their implications.

A great jumping-off point for further research, or just a wonderful way to become familiar with Korean history, pre-modern and modern. Very readable and accessible. Really like the chapter setup with chronologies and sub-sections and as a slim one volume history of Korea it was quite a clear and revelatory read but all too brief. These volumes are also expensive for what they are unless sourced second hand.

Useful - but I want more.

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Aug 05, Matej Petroci rated it really liked it. Well researched historical overview of Korean history from ancient times to 21st century. If you are interested in understanding the Korean historical narrative, this is one to buy. I particularly enjoyed the post-Joseon period. Mar 23, Demetria rated it it was amazing.

  1. Korea Before the Twentieth Century.
  2. The Economic History of Korea.
  3. Bibliography!

Informative and very readable - couldn't put it down. I will definitely recommend it. Really liked the format of this. I learned a lot. Sep 25, Emily rated it it was amazing. Aug 01, Frank Theising rated it liked it Shelves: history-world. This is a good introduction to the history of Korea. Many of these events are emotionally charged and surrounded by controversy for the Korean people. The author handles these issues objectively and does a good job of presenting both the hardships endured and benefits accumulated as a result of these events.

May 02, Tom rated it really liked it. Kyung Moon Hwang makes the history of Korea accessible to a foreign Western audience without having that condescending tone, which plagues most other "accessible" history books about non-Western countries. That being said, one of the faults with the book is the almost jingoistic pride about Korean history The book is divided into themes, so there is a lot of jumping around times; however, since he stays on one theme at a time thi Kyung Moon Hwang makes the history of Korea accessible to a foreign Western audience without having that condescending tone, which plagues most other "accessible" history books about non-Western countries.

The book is divided into themes, so there is a lot of jumping around times; however, since he stays on one theme at a time this does not cause any real confusion. I would recommend this book with a slight warning to keep in mind that the author puts pretty much all of Korean history in as positive light as possible. Sep 19, Theo rated it really liked it.

A similar fare to the 'Japan to ' book I read. However this is a far more readable tome: very short chapters, doesn't get too bogged down in details of agriculture and tithing, focuses on key historical events. I am a beginner to Korean history unlike Japanese history which I knew enough about for the book below to be accessible and I am pleased that this book acted as an introduction for me. No doubt there will be more comprehensive histories but Hwang covers the bases, also throwing in e A similar fare to the 'Japan to ' book I read.

No doubt there will be more comprehensive histories but Hwang covers the bases, also throwing in evaluation of Korean historians whilst he is at it. Aug 17, John Treat rated it really liked it. The best history of Korea out there for beginning and intermediate students of Korea, such as myself. I especially appreciate Hwang's insights into how contemporary historians have reworked their interpretations as politics have changed. My only complaint is that the single map of present-day Korea s should be accompanied with at least several historical maps as well.

Aug 30, Kate rated it really liked it Shelves: korea. An excellent brief history of Korea which covers political, military, social and cultural aspects of Korean history, as well as exploring how some of the events are construed or interpreted differently by modern-day North and South Korean nations. Great historical overview. A well written, approachable and balanced review of Korean history. I read this on a recent trip to South Korea and found it the perfect nerdy travel companion.

A History of Korea

Jul 26, Atlanta rated it really liked it. Good overview for newbies to Korean history. Apr 27, Rana rated it it was amazing. Paige rated it really liked it Jan 14, Wapz Endozo rated it it was amazing Aug 24, Emily rated it really liked it Feb 27, Eric Tsui rated it really liked it Aug 26, John Armstrong rated it it was amazing Jul 17, Crickx rated it really liked it Jul 13,