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1. Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern
2. Everlasting Flower: A History
3. The History of Korea (The Greenwood
4. The Two Koreas: A Contemporary
5. Korea Old and New: A History
6. A Concise History of Korea: From
7. A New History of Korea
9. A Brief History Of Korea
10. A History of Korea: From Antiquity
11. A Concise History of Modern Korea:
12. The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion,
13. A History of Korea (Palgrave Essential
14. War in Korea, 1950-1953; A Pictorial
15. Samguk Yusa: Legends And History
16. The Samurai Invasion of Korea
17. North of the Dmz: Essays on Daily
18. The Korean War: A History (Modern
19. The history of Korea
20. Writing Women in Korea: Translation

1. Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History, Updated Edition
by Bruce Cumings
Paperback: 544 Pages (2005-09-19)
list price: US$18.95 -- used & new: US$9.76
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0393327027
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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"Passionate, cantankerous, and fascinating. Rather like Korea itself."--Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times Book ReviewKorea has endured a "fractured, shattered twentieth century," and this updated edition brings Bruce Cumings's leading history of the modern era into the present. The small country, overshadowed in the imperial era, crammed against great powers during the Cold War, and divided and decimated by the Korean War, has recently seen the first real hints of reunification. But positive movements forward are tempered by frustrating steps backward. In the late 1990s South Korea survived its most severe economic crisis since the Korean War, forcing a successful restructuring of its political economy. Suffering through floods, droughts, and a famine that cost the lives of millions of people, North Korea has been labeled part of an "axis of evil" by the George W. Bush administration and has renewed its nuclear threats. On both sides Korea seems poised to continue its fractured existence on into the new century, with potential ramifications for the rest of the world. 25 illustrationsAmazon.com Review
Bruce Cumings traces the growth of Korea from a string of competing walled city-states to its present dual nationhood. He examines the ways in which Korean culture has been influenced by Japan and China, and the ways in which it has subtly influenced its more powerful neighbors. Cumings also considers the recent changes in the South, where authoritarianism is giving way to democracy, and in the North, which Cumings depicts as a "socialist corporatist" state more like a neo-Confucian kingdom than a Stalinist regime. Korea's Place in the Sun does much to help Western readers understand the complexities of Korea's past and present. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (34)

5-0 out of 5 stars Great book
I had the privilege of visiting South Korea in 2001 as a tourist.Over the course of my life, I have met several Koreans thru work and school, and have read the occasional news article about the North - South division and nuclear politics.I joined Samsung this year, and one of my orientation sessions was in a reading room that contained numerous texts on Korea.This book was part of this collection.Wanting to know more about my new employer, I read this book in its entirety and came away quite satisfied.Coming in at over 500 pages long, this book provides a chronological history of the Korean peninsula with an emphasis on the 20th century.The book touches on a whole multitude of topics ranging from the written language to kimchi to art, but the emphasis is on politics and economics, and how bigger more powerful neighbors have often played decisive roles in Korea.These neighbors include the USSR/Russia, Japan, China, and the US.With regards to the post-WW2 era, the author takes a balanced look at Korea, with equal emphasis on how the North developed and views the South, and how the South developed and views the North.Both are quite enlightening.The author also does a wonderful job of citing the available literature on this topic, ranging from previous books by expatriates, to CIA documents from various Cold War events.Overall, a great book and a very enjoyable read.

5-0 out of 5 stars Review of KOREA'S PLACE IN THE SUN
This history of modern Korea remedies to a large extent the paucity of Wnglish texts on the subject. The author is Professor of History at the University of Chicago. It provides a good understanding of the place of Korea in the modern world.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent Perspective on Korean History
This scholarly work is extremely well documented and annotated and, at the same time, relates current aspects of Korean life to its origins as far back as 2,000+ years ago.

5-0 out of 5 stars So much confidence in Korea
Bruce Cumings interpretation of Korean history shows off a confidence in which he accords the current Western acceptance of a Japanese-centric view of Korea's historical importance to be temporary and transitory when only viewed in light of not just contemporary Korean history, but in the context of Korean history in its entirety. The title of his book, Korea's Place in the Sun, shines this confidence in all aspects of his analysis, in his prose as well, of Korea.

4-0 out of 5 stars Too bad for the cover, right? Great book!
Super detailed - almost to a fault. For me, it was an incredible read that I was hungry for - I didn't any more beginner's guides and overviews - I wanted detail and detail is what this book has. I strongly recommend familiarizing yourself with ancient and modern Korean history prior to reading this book because Cumings doesn't slow down for anyone - and for that I applaud him. Nicely done and recommended for anyone interested in more than a intro course on Korean history.

However I want to chime in and say this book is exactly what it claims to be - a one volume course on Korean history. Get ready for a level of detail that might scare you. Take notes because Mr. Cumings has and he is not afraid to site his sources.

Finally, he makes especially moving descriptions of the Korean war and demystifies the Miracle on the Han ... Read more

2. Everlasting Flower: A History of Korea
by Keith Pratt
Paperback: 320 Pages (2007-08-15)
list price: US$27.00 -- used & new: US$16.93
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1861893353
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

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The defiant dictatorship of North Korea and the thriving democracy of South Korea may appear starkly different, but they share a complex and often misunderstood history that is ably recounted in Everlasting Flower.
Keith Pratt traverses the ancient landscapes of the Koreas, from the kingdoms of Old Choson and Wiman Choson to the present-day 38th Parallel division. The book’s engaging narrative details the wars, ruling dynasties, Chinese and Japanese imperialism, and controversial historical events such as the abuses of the Japanese occupation.

Everlasting Flower applies an equally careful eye to religious practices, dress, and food, and augments the narrative with richly illustrated pictorial essays. As the Korean peninsula assumes a prominent role in world affairs, Everlasting Flower offers an invaluable survey of Korean history and culture.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

3-0 out of 5 stars Bad For Beginners
This book is very well written but it is a bad place for beginners to start. The author clearly expects the reader to have a working knowledge of East Asian history and culture. This was my first book on East Asian history and I was frequently confused by the many vague references to Chinese and Japanese history. I had to get online and look up about 20 different people or events in Japan or China that were used by the author, but were not explained at all. Every facet of Korea is 'similar to' something from China or Japan that I've never heard of. Korean art, for example, is described by saying 'Like Chinese art, except for these three little differing details.' For someone who hasn't studied Chinese art, this is not very illuminating. Now the ONLY thing I know about Korean art is those three little details. It would have been great if I had studied Japan and China and just wanted to know how Korea fit in with the rest of Eastern Asia, but this book is not for East Asian beginners.

3-0 out of 5 stars interesting introduction but has some flaws
I'd bought this book just before a trip to Korea this autumn.

The good piont is that it gives you a good idea of Korea's fascinating history from ancient times to presentday and if you're travelling to the country you will feel like you have a lot more context (if you visit any tourist sites, you'll notice that a lot of the explanations assume you already have this background)

The bad points are two: one is that the author seems rather defensive about the nastier bits of Korean history which I think is a bit patronizing at best and also takes away from the credibility. The other is that because it's trying to cover so much ground at times it feels like a big list rather than a coherent narrative, but that I guess is normal given the breadth to cover in just a couple hundred pages.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great (Fairly) Unbiased Overview of Korean History
Wonderful Resource on Korean History

I had been looking for a good history book on Korea that could give an overview of Korea's history and culture without being overly dry and especially without being overly nationalistic. This is the book that I had been looking for and that I wish I could have read before going to live in Korea for a few years.

The book is very well organized and each chapter gives a small paragraph "abstract" on the forthcoming chapter. Interspersed within the text are various "pictorial essays" which at first I feared would be irrelevant and distracting. Instead they are absolutely fascinating and really complement the text. The author uses them, as well as many other references to present Korea not just from a historical list of happenenings but also from the impact of music, cultual diffucion, and other issues that impacted the people, and therefore the history. This is in addition to his easy-to-read style of writing that doesn't bog down with pseudo-intellectualism... it reads quick and clean and is very interesting without being dry.

Being a fairly small overview, he does cover some material, especially modern topics, in a good general way without a lot of depth or time. A glance though the rear of the book gives up his sources and a way to get further depth though.

Being a very handy size, this book can be tucked away for travel quite easily for anyone going to Korea for fun, work or martial arts. I'd highly recommend this book for Global Studies/World History teachers, Korean style martial arts enthusiasts, travellers to East Asia and anyone interested in Korea. Excellent reference book! ... Read more

3. The History of Korea (The Greenwood Histories of the Modern Nations)
by Djun Kil Kim
Paperback: 232 Pages (2008-10-30)
list price: US$20.00 -- used & new: US$20.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0313360537
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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The Koreas are two of the few countries in the East Asian world to successfully maintain political and cultural independence from China. Originated by the Han-Ye-Maek people who had migrated from North China to Manchuria and the Korean peninsula since 2000 BCE, three Korean dynasties—Great Silla, Koryo, and Choson—kept peace and prosperity in the country since the 7th century, nurturing a civilization based on Buddhism, Confucianism and the East Asian world-system. Korea, despite experiencing Japanese dominion and the nation's division, now looks forward to enjoying its prosperity as a member of the global community and to seeing a unified Korea. This volume provides a comprehensive review of Korea's history, from its roots in Neolithic civilization, and the tradition and evolution of nation-building in the traditional East Asian world system, through Korea's global setting in modern times. Also included are a biographical section highlighting famous figures in Korean history, a timeline of important historical events, a glossary of Korean terms, and a bibliographical essay with suggestions for further reading.

The historical origin of Korean identity in the East Asian world, Korea's failure to adapt to a changing East Asian world-system, as well as the political division Korea suffered in the second half of the 20th century are discussed. Readers will benefit from the inclusion of direct translations from original classical Chinese and Korean sources by the author. Excellent as a reference tool for students and general readers interested in the history of this unique nation.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

4-0 out of 5 stars Korean historian + English language = a hit
A Korean history book written by a Korean scholar. Finally. A breath of fresh air into the small niche Korean history genre, this finely written text is free from fluff, striking biasedness and needless rhetoric. The author knows his stuff and acknowledges his faults and viewpoint up front preparing the reader for an in depth look into Korean history and how it shapes the present.

This text isn't free from faults, though. It is completely devoid of graphics and illustrations save for a small handful of old kingdom maps. It also scantly covers the modern history; a possible oversight seeing as the series is titled "The modern nations..." Although it doesn't imply a modern history, one can see how a casual reader might pick up the book looking for a modern history only to find medieval and japanese colonization as it's focus point.

All in all, it's a great read and follows a similar flow of Micheal Breen's "the Koreans...". I would recommend this read for anyone looking for a brushup in general or a closer look at the Japanese colonization period.

5-0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to Korean history
This book, I believe, is a great introduction to the Korean history including North and South Koreas together.It is so well structured and easily written that the complexity of the East Asian country's long history comes to a reader's mind with a clear map of it. Having covered the country's history from the beginning to the present, it would satisfy those who want to know, refresh, or deepen the knowledge of the history of Korea.
A distinct strength of the book is that it has a strong narrative that consistently offers a comparative historical framework whereby almost every bit of historical facts is symmetrically rearranged through the contrast between idealism and realism.The comparative framework was put into, I guess, since one cannot fully understand the country's history without considering the constant existence of imperialist powers - specifically, China and Japan from long ago, and Russia and the U.S. appeared later in its modern history - around the Korean peninsula.
Against this backdrop, idealism has represented a political bloc which stressed the nation-state's independence from outside powers and sometimes tried to overturn the old paradigm in which the country was forced to take a subordinate position, especially with regard to China proper.To the contrary, realism has aimed to maintain the country's survival even at the cost of losing nationalistic pride to some extent with a full recognition of the international power order in the Far Eastern Asian region.The author shows that Korean history was full of the struggles between these two extreme antipodes of political views.Even apart from the book itself, the framework may be a powerful tool to understand Korea's present and future.For instance, it should be noted that the conflict is still going on if we think of the nuclear crisis between North Korea and the U.S. over a decade: North Korea has believed that its nuclear program would at least help protect its independence, or furthermore give it a strong balancing power against the U.S., whereas South Korea has wanted to resolve the crisis through a series of the international six-party talks because it takes a realistic view that the crisis could bring a disastrous outcome for both North and South Koreas.
The book conveys not only hard cash of the Korean history but also soft lubricator of its cultural heritage to readers by presenting not a few nicely translated literary works from ancient times to modern period.The poems, various excerpts of old historical documents, or an eloquent statement of independence would invite a reader to some historic moments of vicissitudes of Korea.
In a nutshell, this book has much potential to provide an unbiased and clear understanding of Korean history for English-speaking audiences.
... Read more

4. The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History (Revised and Updated Edition)
by Don Oberdorfer
Paperback: 496 Pages (2002-02-05)
list price: US$22.95 -- used & new: US$9.05
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0465051626
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
A new edition of the definitive overview of contemporary Korean history, updated with new material to account for recent, dramatic events.

Don Oberdorfer has written a gripping narrative history of Korea's travails and triumphs over the past three decades. The Two Koreas places the tensions between North and South within a historical context, with a special emphasis on the involvement of outside powers. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (25)

3-0 out of 5 stars 'Definitive' History a Definite Letdown
Watch Video Here: http://www.amazon.com/review/R20JINHCDRKS3V Brief, general impressions of Don Oberdorfer's 'definitive' account of modern North and South Korea. The reviewer lives in S. Korea and was disappointed with the author's treatment of major figures in Korean history.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Great First Book on Modern Korea by a Good Writer - Not an old-school history book
Don Oberdorfer's "The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History" is the perfect first book for anyone interested in the history and trauma in Korea over the last 50 years.This text was required reading in a graduate-level course on the Government and Security in Korea.

Oberdorfer knows Korea.From his first visit in 1953 as an Army Lieutenant through his interviews of the presidential candidates before the 1987 election, and his visit to Pyongyang in 1991, Oberdorfer continually followed Korean politics - mostly from the seat of a press member for the Washington Post.As he recounts in the text, Oberdorfer was sitting in the National Theater in Seoul on August 15th, 1974 when the shots rang out at ROK President Park Chung Hee, killing the ROK First Lady, the president survived.This personal touch of first hand accounts, compiled with interviews of major actors in Korean politics (both U.S., North Korean, and South Korean), is seamlessly rolled together in a readable narrative that draws the reader into this contemporary history.

The text covers the inside stories and under-the-table events which occurred between the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea from mostly first hand sources in the form of interviews with the participants.

I highly recommend this book for anyone studying Korea, Asian politics, or the military situation on the Korean peninsula.A 40-page notes and sources section serves the reader with the basis for Oberdorfer's statements and claims, and lends itself to more in depth research of the primary sources.

1-0 out of 5 stars Style Over Substance
Don Oberdorfer's The Two Korea's is a triumph of style over substance.To be sure, Oberdorfer is a compelling writer and he tells the story of North and South Korea since the 1970s with a great deal of flair.But Oberdorfer's overall knowledge of Korea and Korean history is very shallow.Oberdorfer does not speak or read Korean and he can only use Korean sources that have been translated for him.His research in Korean materials is very thin and as a result the book does not yield a good understanding of the Korean perspective on events that were occurring.His knowledge of Korean history before the 1970s is also lacking.His telling of the events of the last three decades could have been greatly enriched by a deeper understanding of how the actions taken by Korea's leaders during this period were rooted in Korea's long history and fascinating culture.In short, Oberdorfer, like many of the Washington area journalists who write about Korea without ever bothering to learn the language or study Korean history, is really just a dabbler in Korean politics.His work may satisfy those who want asuperficial telling of recent events but is useless to those who want to gain a deeper understanding of Korean history.

5-0 out of 5 stars Outstanding overview of recent Korean history
Anyone who wants to brush up on the issues surrounding North and South Korea would do well to pick up this volume.It is well written and actually enjoyable to read.You will also pick up a lot of historical tidbits from the era from the author who was actually there as a reporter.Especially interesting were his observations of North Korea made during a trip there.

5-0 out of 5 stars What a book!
I cannot recall reading a book which covers a country's contemporary history in such an interesting and insightful way. ... Read more

5. Korea Old and New: A History
by Carter Eckert, Ki-Baik Lee, Young Lew, Michael Robinson, Edward W. Wagner
Paperback: 464 Pages (1991-08-14)
list price: US$28.50 -- used & new: US$21.46
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0962771309
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
This presentation of the general history of Korea not only provides a detailed treatment of the post-1945 period, but describes the traditional historical-cultural milieu from which modern Korea has developed. The 20th century has witnessed a multiplicity of both domestic and external factors that have resulted either in tendentious history or in emphasis badly skewed toward such dramatic events as the Korean War or South Korea's economic successes. "Korea Old and New" aims to present a more balanced survey. Its coverage of traditional Korea emphasizes cultural developments not merely as isolated expressions of the creative spirit of the people but as integrally related to Korea's political, social and economic history. The book's preponderant concern is with the tumultuous modern era, and six academic specialists provide a wide-angle view of each distinct period. The authors elucidate the past while providing new understanding of the vast changes that have taken place in this ancient nation. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (10)

3-0 out of 5 stars Unfortunately Dated
When if first came out over a quarter of a century ago this was a welcomed addition to the field since there was so little available in English on Korean history especially on premodern history.It was and is a well written narrative history of Korea by five of the leading scholars in the field.It can still be useful as a reference but the scholarship is now a bit dated as much new work has been done on Korean history since that time.Those wishing for a survey history of Korean history will now find works available that better reflect more recent scholarship and insights.Pratt's "Everlasting Flower" and Seth's "Concise History of Korea" for premodern history and Robinson's "Korea's Twentieth Century Odyssey" for modern history come to mind.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent framework for Korean history
I taught Korean history to adults and children at a Korean language school for a few years, and while I found other "chattier" references helpful (Bruce Cummings book springs to mind), this was the book I turned to again and again.It was not only a thorough reference, it also gave me the context to fit information from other sources into.

As both a Korean-American and someone with a degree in History, I of course already appreciated Korea's separate national identity and the internal conflicts from past and present that continue to haunt modern Koreans.However, one subject (out of many) that I found difficult to fully comprehend was the ornate class and economic structure that developed in Modern Korean beginning in Old Choson and then flowered into a byzantine nightmare by the end of the New Choson era.This book provided a very thorough explanation of that development throughout the dynasties and I would say on average that economic history is probably this book's strongest point.

Another aspect of Korean history that the authors covered very well was the disintegration of Korea from a national entity that even the Chinese had to respect to a pawn of both European and larger Asian powers at the end of the 19th century.On balance, the authors are fair, giving due responsibility to both international predators and national parasites.However, this is not to say that this period was a complete tragedy- the book also documents the actions of Korean nationalists and patriots who more often than not gave their lives for the sake of Korean independence.The tragedy that stands out is more of a lack of organization than a lack of passion.

I have to disagree with a previous reviewer who felt that the authors focused too heavily on the twentieth century.On the contrary, part of the reason I have returned to this book again and again is because it gives such a thorough explanation of the Choson and pre-Choson era.Refreshing, especially because the majority of Korean history books on the market are unable to move off of the Korean war or the division of Korean.Important topics, of course, but difficult to fully appreciate without a thorough grounding in Korea's more ancient past.

There are other good Korean history books to read, but the serious student needs to start here.

4-0 out of 5 stars Korean History Overview
Overview of Korea from paleolithic period to modern.Handy reference when watching Korean historical drama on the television.However one must decipher the names in the subtitles to that which is in the text.The sub-titleist must use a different system to translate the sounds of the Korean language. Keep it near my easy charir to make my TV viewing educational.

1-0 out of 5 stars I hated it
We used it for my university class.It was dull, dry and painfully boring.

It gives a dry account of Korea.You're better off going there and learning it in person.That's what I did.

As for the book, it ended up on the shelves of a second-hand store.

4-0 out of 5 stars Great Introduction to Korean History
It is always difficult to find a good introductory text in English for any of the Asian countries outside of China and Japan, due mainly to the fact that facility with the required asian language does not necessarily translate into a facility with English. The pressure to publish necessarily prevents one from committing the requisite time to writing something with the epic scope of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

This book offers a good overview of the stretch of Korean history with a strong narrative balanced by detailed descriptions of local life and culture during the different periods. There is a lively discussion of consequences and the organization of the book leads us to be able to draw pertinent parallels to what has happened in latter periods of history.

After reading this - what did I gain?
1) I was able to gain a sense of the tradition of Korean history - and further understand the resonances of words such as Silla, Paekchae, Chosun - (in the same way I finally understood how Germany, Allemand and Deutschland could all refer to the same country - these being different tribes who lived in the area)

2)A sense that whatever hardships Koreans have suffered in this century they have seen before - whether it is in the form of Chinese incursions, or the mad rampage of the warlord Hideyoshi in the 16th century. Korea has been divided before.

3) A better sense of Korea as unique cultural entity - with its own centers of excellence, such as celadon, hangul, etc.

My only reservation with the book is that it dwells too much on latter day history from Japanese colonial occupation until the 1980s. Obviouly the sources are better but it left me feeling that pacing changed from that of grand narrative into detailed analysis (This may have been because this book is a combination of two books) But all in all it gave me a better sense of where everything fits than Bruce Cumings' book "Korea's Place in the Sun" - which should be read in conjuction with this book. ... Read more

6. A Concise History of Korea: From the Neolithic Period through the Nineteenth Century
by Michael J. Seth
Paperback: 256 Pages (2006-07-28)
list price: US$30.95 -- used & new: US$25.25
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0742540057
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
This engaging text provides a concise history of Korea from the beginning of human settlement in the region through the late nineteenth century, equally emphasizing social, cultural, and political history. Students will be especially drawn to descriptions of everyday life for both elite and non-elite members of society during various historical periods. A Concise History of Korea emphasizes how Korean history can be understood as part of an interactive sphere that includes three basic areas: China, Japan, and the Manchurian/Central Asian region. Historical maps illustrate the changes in the region over time. The annotated bibliography of works in English is a useful addition to this clear and comprehensive Korean history. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

2-0 out of 5 stars Far from the Samguk Sagi
This book is an interesting read, but it contains A LOT of inaccuracies.
I don't recommend this if you really want to learn about Korean history that is based on historical records.

3-0 out of 5 stars Sino-centric
This is a good history of Korea. However, it takes a very Sino-centric view, even at times substituting Korean proper, place, and subject names with the analogous Chinese words. A bit strange.

5-0 out of 5 stars Concise yet comprehensive
If you will read only one book about Korean history, this is the one. Seth organizes and edits Korea's rich and vast history into a digestible and coherent whole, covering its legendary origins and through the nineteenth century. Seth presents the history of influence by Korea's geographic neighbors, China and Japan, as something uniquely transformed by the peninsula rather than adopted wholesale or by force. Especially useful for western readers is seeing Korean history in the context of East Asian history, the development of Confucian mores in Korea, and how its geopolitical position gave the nation unnaccountable strength as well as led to its ultimate demise with the Japanese Occupation of 1910-1945. The inclusion of translated historical documents, glossary and extensive notes only add to the precision and usefulness of this book. Unlike other books about Korean history written in English (which may be more comprehensive in scope and detail), this volume presents an unbiased, respectful, carefully selected and modern view of the history of a culture and people. ... Read more

7. A New History of Korea
by Ki-Baik Lee
Paperback: 518 Pages (1984-01-01)
list price: US$23.50 -- used & new: US$20.40
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 067461576X
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description

The first English-language history of Korea to appear in more than a decade, this translation offers Western readers a distillation of the latest and best scholarship on Korean history and culture from the earliest times to the student revolution of 1960. The most widely read and respected general history, A New History of Korea (Han'guksa sillon) was first published in 1961 and has undergone two major revisions and updatings.

Translated twice into Japanese and currently being translated into Chinese as well, Professor Lee's work presents a new periodization of his country's history, based on a fresh analysis of the changing composition of the leadership elite. The book is noteworthy, too, for its full and integrated discussion of major currents in Korea's cultural history. The translation, three years in preparation, has been done by specialists in the field.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

3-0 out of 5 stars One of a few books providing a detailed Korean history
While I found the writing a bit pedantic and cumbersome, to a large degree, I have not found this information anywhere else in the English language. The author pulls together scholarly materials from a wide variety of sources to attempt a current understanding of the history of the Korean penninsula. I appreciated the author's effort and scholarship. I would have appreciated the history more if written in a style that involved the reader (think Stegner's "Beyond the Hundredth Meridian" or DeVoto's "1846").

4-0 out of 5 stars Important omission
In the original Korean version of this book, there is a very significant final chapter on elitism in Korean society. This chapter is omitted from the translated versions. That aside, the book offers a wealth of detail and provides what is probably the most comprehensive single-volume overview of Korean history in English. However, the historiography is limited to the listing and description of events. There is little analysis and the reader will, as I had to, read a number of additional and more specialised sources in order to understand why things happened as they did. Professor Yi's book is a good place to start learning about Korean history.

5-0 out of 5 stars a very comprehensive overview
I read this book to get an understanding of the history of korea in the greater sense, and also as one of a group of books on Korean history.It is very comprehensive, coverinig gthe range of Korean history from a brief synopsis of the prehistory of Korea, through the major part of ancient Korean history to the bulk of more modern history.I enjoyed this book finding it to be an interesting read, with a lot of details, would make a good history text for a class on korean history, which is exactly what I wanted from this book.

2-0 out of 5 stars This book is too detailed
This book is very difficult to read because it is not well-written and also because there are too many details. Furthermore, the author introduces so many characters in each chapter but never talks about them again later in the book. So it is difficult to determine who is important and who is not important.

I find it impossible to believe that one reviewer found this book "neither too skimpy nor too detailed." How else do I know that this book is truly too detailed and inaccessible for most readers? One of the translators, Edward Wagner, concedes in another book ("Korea: Old and New") that this book was, in fact, too detailed.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction
This book provides an excellent overview of Korean history. It is neithertoo skimpy nor too detailed. It also contains a number of usefulphotographs (black and white) and illustrations (black and white), whichhelped me read this book through. While many books (either written inEnglish or translated into English) on Korean history deal almostexclusively with Korean War, only a few books are available that describethe history of Korea from its prehistoric beginnings to the modern colonialoccupation of Korea by Japan. Although Korea is the most importantneighboring country of Japan, the history textbooks used in Japaneseschools spare very little space for this topic. I recommend this book toanyone, who is interested in learning Korean history, as a first book toread. ... Read more

by Henthorn
 Paperback: 272 Pages (1974-05-01)
list price: US$16.95
Isbn: 0029146100
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Organized, comprehensive and fair
There are not many books on Korean History out there.Most books are English translations of Korean texts.Although, well done, they give a standard, often "canned" interpretation of history and seem to draw from the same original sources, with no changes in interpretation, thus one Korean History book doesn't sound all that different from another.This book was not written by a Korean and translated by some Harvard professor, it was written from scratch by a non-Korean (actually a non-Asian) University of Hawaii professor and it reads and sounds very different from all the other books out there.Henthron discusses and introduces things no one else does and is not constrained by national pride and ethnocenticism.There is nothing wrong with Korean History written by Koreans, but when history is written by an outsider, you get a diverse and refreshing viewpoint.One of the most useful aspects of this book is that it gives a histography chart so a reader can make sense of all the little tribes and kingdoms in early Korean History and how they fit into the overall makeup of the Korean people today. ... Read more

9. A Brief History Of Korea
by Mark Peterson, Phillip Margulies
Hardcover: 328 Pages (2009-12-30)
list price: US$49.50 -- used & new: US$38.39
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Asin: 0816050856
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10. A History of Korea: From Antiquity to the Present
by Michael J. Seth
Hardcover: 552 Pages (2010-11-16)
list price: US$95.00 -- used & new: US$64.12
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Asin: 074256715X
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In this comprehensive yet compact book, Michael J. Seth surveys Korean history from Neolithic times to the present. He explores the origins and development of Korean society, politics, and its still little-known cultural heritage from their inception to the two Korean states of today. Telling the remarkable story of the origins and evolution of a society that borrowed and adopted from abroad, Seth describes how various tribal peoples in the peninsula came together to form one of the world's most distinctive communities. He shows how this ancient, culturally and ethnically homogeneous society was wrenched into the world of late-nineteenth-century imperialism, fell victim to Japanese expansionism, and then became arbitrarily divided into two opposed halves, North and South, after World War II. Tracing the past seven decades, the book explains how the two Koreas, with their deeply different political and social systems and geopolitical orientations, evolved into sharply contrasting societies. South Korea, after an unpromising start, became one of the few postcolonial developing states to enter the ranks of the first world, with a globally competitive economy, a democratic political system, and a cosmopolitan and dynamic culture. North Korea, by contrast, became one of the world's most totalitarian and isolated societies, a nuclear power with an impoverished and famine-stricken population. Seth describes and analyzes the radically different and historically unprecedented trajectories of the two Koreas, formerly one tight-knit society. Throughout, he adds a rich dimension by placing Korean history into broader global perspective and by including primary readings from each era. All readers looking for a balanced, knowledgeable history will be richly rewarded with this clear and concise book. ... Read more

11. A Concise History of Modern Korea: From the Late Nineteenth Century to the Present
by Michael J. Seth
Hardcover: 304 Pages (2009-10-15)
list price: US$74.00 -- used & new: US$20.00
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Asin: 0742567125
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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This comprehensive and balanced history of modern Korea explores the social, economic, and political issues it has faced since being catapulted into the wider world at the end of the nineteenth century. Placing this formerly insular society in a global context, Michael J. Seth describes how this ancient, culturally and ethnically homogeneous society first fell victim to Japanese imperialist expansionism, and then was arbitrarily divided in half after World War II. Seth traces the postwar paths of the two Koreas_with different political and social systems and different geopolitical orientations_as they evolved into sharply contrasting societies. Considering the radically different trajectories of North and South Korea, Seth assesses the insights they offer for understanding modern Korea in global perspective. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Fine Overview; 4.5 Stars
In crucial respects, Korea is arguably the oldest nation in the world.People of Korean ethnicity-language group have occupied essentially the same region for centuries with a remarkable degree of cultural and institutional continuity.To an unparalleled extent, Korea has been a unified state for centuries.In the late 19th century, Korea was overwhelmingly rural, discouraged foreign trade, very socially stratified, had been ruled by the same dynasty for centuries, and was more Confucian in its intellectual culture and institutions than China itself.In the early 21st century, Korea is divided and its 2 different halves the products of 2 remarkably different approaches to achieving modernization.

In this clearly written and concise book, Michael Seth outlines the very interesting history of how this happened.Seth begins with the late 19th century structure of Korea and the powerful forces that destroyed traditional Korean society.A small nation surrounded by a much larger and turbulent China, a rapidly modernizing Japan, and the expanding Russian empire, plus the aggressions of other western Imperial powers, Korea's traditional position and society was untenable.Seth outlines well how the Korean elite attempted to fend off other powers, and how a small number of Koreans attempted to push Korea down a path to modernity.Following the success of the Japanese in its wars against China and Russia, Korea became a protectorate and then an outright colony of Japan.Much of what would happen subsequently in Korea has its roots in the colonial period.The Japanese were exploitative and often brutal overloads but also began to develop modern educational systems and the initial industrialization of Korea.The disparate response of Koreans to the Japanese occupation also had lasting political consequences.Many Koreans became Japanese clients and many of these individuals became our clients in post-WWII era.Some Koreans who resisted the Japanese actively became leftist partisans and from their ranks would emerge the leaders of North Korea.These divergent paths made possible, though not inevitable, the civil war that would become the devastating Korean war.As Seth points out, one of the major effects of Japanese colonization and WWII would be the wholesale disruption of traditional Korean life, one of the factors that made the great transformations of the post-WWII era feasible.

Seth provides a very even-handed discussion of the Korean war and its causes, stressing the civil nature of the conflict and its entanglement with the Cold war.The arbitrary division of the peninsula and the devastation of the war are laid out well.This section is followed by a nice series of chapters laying out the post-war development of the 2 Koreas, a markedly contrasting story of 2 different paths to modernization, one leading to a prosperous and democratic state, the other to what the historian Bruce Cumings terms a poverty stricken "nationalistic monarchy."Unavoidably, there is more discussion of South Korea than the North because of the limitations of the documentary record.The discussions of South Korean politics and economic modernization, an intelligent application of state power, are very interesting.

In terms of achieving a concise overview without being superficial, this book is a real success.A couple of additions would have nice.A detailed map would be useful. There is an annotated bibliography but a longer such addendum would enhance this book.Finally, a few summary charts or tables on demography, economic indicators, educational indicators, etc., would enhance the book.Nonetheless, an admirable performance. ... Read more

12. The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea
by Charles Robert Jenkins, Jim Frederick
Paperback: 232 Pages (2009-03-10)
list price: US$16.95 -- used & new: US$10.57
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Asin: 0520259998
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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In January of 1965, twenty-four-year-old U.S. Army sergeant Charles Robert Jenkins abandoned his post in South Korea, walked across the DMZ, and surrendered to communist North Korean soldiers standing sentry along the world's most heavily militarized border. He believed his action would get him back to the States and a short jail sentence. Instead he found himself in another sort of prison, where for forty years he suffered under one of the most brutal and repressive regimes the world has known. This fast-paced, harrowing tale, told plainly and simply by Jenkins (with journalist Jim Frederick), takes the reader behind the North Korean curtain and reveals the inner workings of its isolated society while offering a powerful testament to the human spirit. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (29)

1-0 out of 5 stars Fiction? Obviously distorted.
It's true what they say that people remember their actions as being more honorable then they actually were, particularly when it involves something they did of which they are ashamed. That is pretty clear in this book as Charles Jenkins tries to make himself a misunderstood hero from the start. I am sure his actions weren't half as honorable as he remembers them. He rationalizes everything....why he wasn't smart enough for school (but still a "super" hero, right?), why his alchoholism wasn't his fault, why his desertion wasn't his fault (they should have known he was drunk). It's very off-putting from the beginning. He projects alot. I don't really understand the point of the accusation that the US Army fabricated a letter from him to his mother as evidence of his desertion when there was plenty of evidence. They didn't need to fabricate any. Isn't it more likely that a sympathetic notification person did not want to tell someone that their son left several letters to soldiers he barely knew before deserting to North Korea but not one for his mother? The rationale at the end of the book that he doesn't think that he deserves the poor opinions of him because a lot of people desert the military is ridiculous as well. I don't know if his sentences of forty years in North Korea and 25 days in jail were sufficient because I don't know how many people suffered as a result of the information he gave the North Koreans. But it's clear that he doesn't truly regret his decision, only that he suffered for it. And his confusion on why he isn't granted forgiveness by everyone just because he demands it just reinforces how ignorant he has always been. This book is worth it for the insight into North Korean life. Buy the print version because the Kindle doesn't show the pictures, which is lame since several other Kindle books have shown that this is possible.

2-0 out of 5 stars The Thin Red Line
Very disappointing read-thin on detail. The more I read, the less sympathetic I found old cock up Sgt. Jenkins. He suffered inconviences and had a low standard of living in a repressive totalitarian state.
His wife rescued him.
Due to political pressure he was given a walk on desertion to a hostile state.
Most of his explanations of his actions ring off center.
He wrote the book to cash in on his fame in Japan.
An extremely disappointing effort.

Mike (Ohio)

5-0 out of 5 stars Unique and fascinating account.
A unique in-depth look at North Korea and its treatment of the four US soldiers who went across to the North. SGT Jenkins was different from the other three:he was an NCO (sergeant) and did not have any disciplinary problems hanging over his head. His descriptions of coping with food and material shortages over the years illustrate "good old Yankee ingenuity,"nonwithstanding the fact that all four were from the South. With only one soldier (Dresnok) left in the North (Jenkins left, the other two - Parrish, Abshier - died), this account will never be duplicated.

2-0 out of 5 stars Truth or Fiction?
The problem with Jenkins' version of events is accuracy, veracity.Jenkins has more than ample motive to fabricate.There can be little doubt that he was ready to say whatever needed in order to mitigate his sentence for desertion and get back to Japan.And the story worked.What is the truth?I don't know.To get another side of the story, see the film "Crossing the Line" available at Amazon or on Netflix (both as a DVD or Instant play).This film gives James Joseph Dresnok's (another deserter) version of what happened.Then you can decide.

1-0 out of 5 stars No photos in Kindle version
Just a heads up, there appear to be no photos in the Kindle version of this book. I was very disappointed to find this out. It simply refers to the print version instead.

FYI for those who are thinking about buying the Kindle version. I am not happy about this at all and I may return the book. I expect to get photos when I buy an ebook. ... Read more

13. A History of Korea (Palgrave Essential Histories)
by Kyung Hwang
Paperback: 272 Pages (2010-11-09)
list price: US$27.00 -- used & new: US$27.00
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Asin: 0230205461
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A concise, lively history of Korea, which explores the richness of Korean civilization from the ancient era through to the jarring transformation that resulted in two distinctive trajectories through the modern world. Chapters flow both chronologically and thematically, covering themes such as identity, gender and family.

... Read more

14. War in Korea, 1950-1953; A Pictorial History
by D.M. Giangreco
Paperback: 352 Pages (2001-02-01)
list price: US$28.95 -- used & new: US$22.00
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Asin: 089141729X
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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On June 25, 1950, Communist North Korea launched a massive attack across the 38th Parallel against the Republic of Korea. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars War in Korea (used)
The copy we purchased for a fellow Korean War vet was a used copy for a reduced price.It was in perfect condition.We were proud to give it to our friend.

5-0 out of 5 stars Best Photographic History Book ,I ever had before ! Most of nice Pictures and as a Standard History BooK !
I arleqady read Robert F.Futrell's "United States
Air Forces in Korea".D.M.Giangreco ,himself, wrote
many subjects on Army Journal of "Military Review".
This Book has many admireable areas such as Good
line of contents arlong with Time Table of War also
arlong with the title and it's contents. for example
Not only mainly handled Battle of Army,Marine but also
Battlle of Air Force and Navy. This also weigh on UN Forces.
Overwheluming 521 clear and many new Photoes were also
very imprressive !

5-0 out of 5 stars A wonderful pictorial history
No other book can transfer the reader to the Korean War era and the many battlefields of that nearly forgotten conflict with such immediacy like Giangreco's book. It's one matter to read about a war and quite another to really see it and the faces of the participants! The photographs are all black and white but they are numerous and excellent and the human drama goes hand in hand with the operational aspects of the campaings. Highly recommended!

5-0 out of 5 stars eye opener
I'm 22 and I got this book because I realized that I knew nothing about the Korean War.You rarely hear about this war, either in movies or in the news...you always hear about Vietnam vets and recently Iraq and Afghanistan.This book is basically a photo documentary with tons of pictures..I like it because I don't have much time to read due to a heavy school load, but the captions provided a lot of details and together with the pictures, it gives a brief but clear glimpse into this war.The pictures are 98% about the allies who were fighting against the north, I had hoped to see some pictures from the North Korean perspective...but there is probably a book out there that does that..if the Korean War isn't toooo forgotten.All in all, I reccomend this book to anyone who wants a quick and easy immersion into the Korean war. ... Read more

15. Samguk Yusa: Legends And History Of The Three Kingdoms Of Ancient Korea
by Ilyon
Paperback: 372 Pages (2008-07-04)
list price: US$21.95 -- used & new: US$14.34
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Asin: 1596543485
Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars
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A fascinating work, dating from the late 1200s. This book (Yusa), is not just a story but a collection of histories, anecdotes and memorabilia, covering the origins of Korea's three monarchies--Silla, Paekche and Koguryo, offering an account of the latter nation that differs quite a bit from what you'll read in Chinese history books. Translated by Professor Ha Tae-Hung of Yonsei Univeristy, with special help from Grafton Mintz (the first Westerner ever to become a naturalized citizen of the Republic of Korea.) ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

1-0 out of 5 stars Extremely misleading Title
I love international folklore and legends. This book, however, was unable to hold my interest. Too many references to things I don't yet know about Korea and very poor "readability" made reading a chore.This is neither "legend" nor "history" -- if this was the only book I owned about Korea, I might think there IS no "culture" in Korea, and they have no "history."I purchased this book specifically because it looked like it MIGHT be closer to "source" material than the usual translations.The lack of organization, the poor English, and the lack of consistency within the book itself make this virtually useless for my needs.

I am not likely to purchase any further books written/translated by this author.

4-0 out of 5 stars A great source for those interested in Korean culture & history
The Samguk Yusa is written in the 13th century and is a collection of various Korean legends, myths and folktales. While the title may indicate otherwise, this collection does not limit itself to the Three Kingdoms period.

What makes this book so interesting is that it tells the stories as they were, without much editing, but with lots of useful annotations by the translators. As such, you really get a good sense of how people think or act during that period, which also helps to better understand modern Korean culture today.

I thought that Samguk Yusa is one of the few historical Korean works existing today, especially which are translated into a foreign language, which makes it mandatory reading for anyone interested in Korean history and culture. ... Read more

16. The Samurai Invasion of Korea 1592-98 (Campaign)
by Stephen Turnbull
Paperback: 96 Pages (2008-07-22)
list price: US$19.95 -- used & new: US$9.00
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Asin: 1846032547
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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The invasions of Korea launched by the dictator Toyotomi Hideyoshi are unique in Japanese history for being the only time that the samurai assaulted a foreign country. Hideyoshi planned to invade and conquer China, ruled at the time by the Ming dynasty, and when the Korean court refused to allow his troops to cross their country, Korea became the first step in this ambitious plan of conquest. In 1592 a huge invasion force of 150,000 men landed at the ports of Busan and Tadaejin under the commanders Konishi Yukinaga and Kato Kiyomasa. These two Japanese divisions rapidly overran their Korean counterparts, taking the principal cities of Seoul and then Pyongyang and driving the remnants of the Korean Army into China. The Japanese division under Kato Kiyomasa even started to advance into Manchuria. However, the Korean strength was in their navy and the vital Korean naval victory of Hansando disrupted the flow of supplies to the invasion forces, forcing them to hold their positions around Pyongyang. In 1593, the Chinese invaded capturing Pyongyang from the Japanese and driving them southwards. This phase of the war ended in a truce, with the Japanese forces withdrawing into enclaves around the southern port of Busan while the Ming armies largely withdrew to China. In 1597, following the breakdown in negotiations, the Japanese invaded again with a force of 140,000 men. However, the Chinese and Koreans were now better prepared and the advance came to a halt south of Seoul, and then forced the Japanese southwards. In November 1598 Hideyoshi died, and with him the enthusiasm for the military adventure. The Japanese council of regents ordered the withdrawal of the remaining forces, and the naval battle of Noryang, which saw the Japanese fleet annihilated by the Korean admiral Yi-Sunshin, proved to be the last significant act of the conflict. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

2-0 out of 5 stars Biased and not informative enough
I was looking for a condensed version of the Samurai Invasion by the same author with lot more pictures on it but I was dissapointed.There are fewer illustrations than I expected.A major weakness of the book is that Turnbull offers no insight whatsoever on the tactics and strategies of the Ming (Chinese) army which makes the book greatly incomplete!

2-0 out of 5 stars Turnbull's 2002 edition was superb, but this volume is disappointing...
I enjoyed Turnbull's 2002 edition "Samurai Invasion," but this 2008 version really disappointed me. There is really no new information or insight added from his previous book. But the real disappointment is that it is very dry and boring to read. His elegant and captivating writings from the 2002 classic is missing and the readers are only left with a 90 pager book full of colorful, fancy illustrations.

The publisher 'Cassel & Co." is not reprinting his 2002 edition anymore, so perhaps that prompted him to write a new, inferior book.

4-0 out of 5 stars Offers Korean and Chinese Perspectives
Although Asian military historian Stephen Turnbull has dealt with the Japanese invasions of Korea in 1592-98 in earlier books, such as The Samurai: A Military History and Samurai Invasion, his recent addition to Osprey's campaign series packs far more material from Korean and Chinese perspectives than his previous work. Although concise, The Samurai Invasion of Korea 1592-98 offers a very balanced account of this campaign and presents an entirely new narrative. Overall, the volume is well-packaged, with a concise narrative that is supported by superb artwork by Peter Dennis and excellent 3-D maps.

Turnbull sketches out the origins of the campaign in a brief introductory section that describes the traditional Japanese wako (pirate) raids on the Korean coast, Korea's vassal status under Ming China and Toyotomi Hideyoshi's grand plans for conquest in Asia. Having unified most of Japan, the Samurai turned to Asia for imperial expansion, viewing Korea merely as a stepping-stone to larger things. In contrast, the Koreans had not prepared any real defense against aggression on this scale and the Chinese were pre-occupied with a host of other security issues. A section on opposing commanders provides capsule biographies on the main leaders on each side. The section on opposing forces has some interesting points, such as the relative importance of early gunpowder weapons (e.g. the harquebus), but the author tends to get a little subjective on some issues, such as describing the Japanese katana (sword) as "the finest edged weapon in the history of warfare." Western Samurai-fanatics tend to get carried away whenever the subject of swords comes up. However, the humble harquebus and iron cannon seemed to have played a larger role in deciding the conflict.

The author begins the narrative describing the initial Japanese `blitzkrieg' (I dislike using 20th Century terminology to describe a 16th Century event; furthermore, the term blitzkrieg implies rapid-paced air-ground operations, which is not appropriate to describing an invasion that moved at the pace of foot soldiers) on Korea, which began with the landing at Pusan in the south and reached Pyongyang just two months later. Actually, the Japanese marched through Korea rapidly (expecting to move into China soon afterward) and never really conquered the land and they were subsequently plagued by an aggressive form of guerrilla warfare (a 19th Century term). As Turnbull describes it, the Japanese campaign was undone by three main factors: (1) failure to anticipate the success of Korea's navy in disrupting their lines of communication back to Japan, (2) failure to deal effectively with the guerrilla threat and (3) the arrival of a large, well-trained Chinese force to contest their invasion of Korea. The Chinese were able to wrest the initiative from the Japanese, defeating their army at Pyongyang and forcing them into retreat. Although the Japanese continued to win tactical victories here and there, they were reduced to fighting merely to maintain a foothold in Korea, no longer intent on conquering the Asian mainland. A second expedition in 1597 briefly reversed the situation, buy within a year the Japanese had lost all their gains.

Turnbull aptly describes this campaign as a "savage act of aggression" by the Japanese and credits it with setting the stage for Tokugawa Ieyasu's seizure of power two years after it ended (the only major Japanese leader not to participate in the campaign). However the author does not seem to draw any real tactical or operational lessons from the campaign and whether it had any influence on later Japanese military developments.

The volume has five 2-D maps (Japan and Korea in 1592; the first invasion, 1592-93; the naval campaign of 1592; Korean guerrilla operations, 1592; the second invasion, 1597) and three 3-D BEV maps (the naval battle of Hansando, 1592; the Chinese recapture Pyongyang, 1593; the second siege of Chinju, 1593). Altogether, the maps effectively support the campaign narrative. The battle scenes by Peter Dennis (the Japanese capture the fortress of Pusan from the Koreans, 1592; Kwon Yul defends Haengju against the Japanese attack, 1593; the death of Admiral Yi at the naval Battle of Noryang, 1598) also help to illustrate critical moments in the campaign. The section on further reading is a bit thin as is `the battlefield today.'

4-0 out of 5 stars Good read, light on gamer's painting ideas
I bought this hoping it would help as a guide to painting my 28mm Choson Korean army.The book is a good read, but was rather disappointing in terms of Korean and Ming Chinese army dress and colors.If you are painting your own army, you probably have seen the painted Perry figures on their website. This book does not go far beyond what is displayed on that website, though it does show a few banners and also some color variations for what I take to be Korean marines.If you are interested in painting guides only, this book will not go very far.If you are interested in reading about the period and the war, then it is worth the money.

4-0 out of 5 stars Shorter version of his earlier work.
Stephen Turnbull's The Samurai Invasion of Korea 1592-98 is part of the Osprey Campaign series. Like in most other Turnbull's books, this book proves to be well written, clearly explained and well researched about a subject matter that very few Americans would have any inking about.

The book basically summarized the Japanese invasion of Kingdom of Korea during the 1590s. This was Japan's only act of aggression against a foreign nation until the modern period. The book followed the typical Osprey Campaign model, giving the background, commanders and unit types before hitting the ground running with very nice narrative of the seven year campaign of Taiko Toyotomi Hideyoshi's efforts to rule eastern Asia. I thought the maps, drawings and photographs inserted into this book were quite good and very helpful.

Interestingly, the author often points out his other books that he has written for Osprey to tell the readers that if they wanted to know more, then read this book or that depending on the subject matter pertaining to the war.

If there is a pitfall in this book, this book is basically a shorter version of Turnbull's earlier work, Samurai Invasion that came out in 2004. The author's claims that in this current book, he gave a more balance account of the war. Having read the older book first before reading this book, amount of balance don't seem to justified getting this book if you owned the older book already.

It is also interesting that Stephen Turnbull failed to give some realistic reasons for the cause of this war. He apparently believed that this war was a result of Toyotomi Hideyoshi's megalomaniac dream of an Asian Empire or something that seem more out of some historical TV drama then real history.

But overall, this is a fine book about a subject matter little known to most Americans and Turnbull's gives clarity to the campaign that well reflects his expert knowledge of Japanese history. It is interesting to note that this campaign foretold the collapse of the two major powers that fought so hard over Korea, Ming Dynasty that fell to the Manchus while Toyotomi family that fell to the Tokugawa family. ... Read more

17. North of the Dmz: Essays on Daily Life in North Korea
by Andrei Lankov
Paperback: 358 Pages (2007-04-24)
list price: US$39.95 -- used & new: US$35.00
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Asin: 0786428392
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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The Kim dynasty has ruled North Korea for over 60 years. Most of that period has found the country suffering under mature Stalinism characterized by manipulation, brutality and tight social control. Nevertheless, some citizens of Kim Jong Il's regime manage to transcend his tyranny in their daily existence.

This book describes that difficult but determined existence and the world that the North Koreans have created for themselves in the face of oppression. Many features of this world are unique and even bizarre. But they have been created by the citizens to reflect their own ideas and values, in sharp contrast to the world forced upon them by a totalitarian system.

Opening chapters introduce the political system and the extent to which it permeates citizens' daily lives, from the personal status badges they wear to the nationalized distribution of the food they eat. Chapters discussing the schools, the economic system, and family life dispel the myth of the workers' paradise that North Korea attempts to perpetuate. In these chapters the intricacies of daily life in a totalitarian dictatorship are seen through the eyes of defectors whose anecdotes constitute an important portion of the material. The closing chapter treats at length the significant changes that have taken place in North Korea over the last decade, concluding that these changes will lead to the quiet but inevitable death of North Korean Stalinism. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars North Korea A-Z
Soviet-born Andrei Lankov has been traveling in and out of North Korea since the 80s and is one of the few scholars who can offer both the perspective and sense of history needed to shed light on the most secretive nation on Earth.

This collection of short (3-4 page) essays skips the usual political and military angle and instead focuses on daily life.There are essays on North Korean schools, mass transit, radio and even religion.Lankov explains these aspects of life comparing them to life in the old Soviet Union and explaining how they have changed since the famines of the mid-90s.

This book is the perfect compliment to Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy.While her book give a detailed account of the lives of a few defectors Lankov's book speaks in broad terms about the country as a whole.The two books both inform the reader in different ways.

There are some rough spots.Lankov closes each essay with speculation about what will happen after the regime falls, these are sometimes interesting but after a while start to feel like a propaganda campaign of his own.Lankov also has a habit of giving figures without sources.When he says 40% of North Korean households have televisions I wonder where that came from, certainly government figures cannot be trusted and anyone else would be guessing.

So readers should keep a skeptical mind, but as long as they do this is a very useful book for anyone looking to better understand North Korea.

5-0 out of 5 stars Daily life in the land of "Dear Leader"
Andrei Lankov has spent his career studying North Korea, beginning as an exchange student in Pyongyang, and more recently, interviewing numerous defectors. As a Russian, Lankov is in a position to make observations that would escape other observers, namely the parallels with Stalinist Russia. Indeed, the author says that the Kim dynasty has created a caricature of Stalinism that even the Soviet leaders regarded as a laughingstock.

Lankov's book examines daily life in North Korea. Most of its essays focus on minutiae, such as the architectural layout of high-rise apartment buildings and the design of its currency, while a few essays cover more substantial matters, such as the North Korean kidnappings of other countries' citizens, and the attempts to murder South Korean leaders. This book is for those who have already read something about North Korea and want to know more. What is it like to live in the world's most oppressive society?

This book is filled with interesting tidbits. If you're a North Korean, you can expect to change clothes once a week and get a bath every two weeks(!). To have a bathtub or shower in one's apartment is a rare luxury reserved for the elite; others must go to crowded bathhouses. Basic hygiene becomes a luxury.

In no way is this an egalitarian society; it consists of clearly delineated strata based on genealogy and occupation, in which the highest tranche enjoys unparalleled luxury while the bottom level faces chronic malnutrition, if not outright starvation. Of the population, 1/20th has been in a prison camp at some point in their lives, and some die slow deaths in those camps due to starvation and overwork. The largest prison camps are veritable cities with 50,000 inmates.

If there is a flaw, it's that the writing seems excessively informal. The writing is peppered with exclamation marks. Because the book consists of essays that Lankov had written for other media outlets, some essays repeat material in earlier essays. (Was there an editor?) The author's use of the word "lefties" speaks for itself. Indeed, one of Lankov's pet peeves is that human rights abuses in North Korea get insufficient media attention because such criticism is unfashionable at the moment, and draws a parallel with how "lefties" were once enamored with Maoist China.

Lankov assumes a "hard landing" is around the corner (i.e., a collapse of North Korean society rather than gradual reform). If so, it will be far more traumatic than the collapse of other Communist regimes, and the burden on South Korea will be unfathomable, straining that nation to the breaking point. However, analysts have been anticipating the collapse of the North Korean regime for decades, and it hasn't happened yet despite famines coupled with oppression surpassing Stalin's policies. Lankov argues the free flow of information across the Chinese-North Korean border, previously an impermeable barrier, will lead to the regime's collapse.

5-0 out of 5 stars Fascinating description of daily life in North Korea
Fascinating description of daily life in North Korea, and how much it has changed in recent years.The essays are short and informative. I planned to only read a few, but this book is almost impossible to put down. Every page contains a revelation. The writing is witty and engaging.

Lankov is a Korea expert who grew up in the USSR, so he is able to fruitfully contrast the communist society of his youth with North Korea. That gives him an edge that is illuminating about more than just North Korea.

A few examples that caught my attention:

Lankov went to North Korea as a Soviet exchange student. Russians in the USSR thought of North Koreans as brainwashed automatons back then--quite similar to the American perception, but who knew?

When North Korean television showed a protest in South Korea to demonstrate that South Koreans were oppressed, the average North Korean noticed instead that, contrary to what they had been told by their government, South Koreans did not appear poor. They appeared well fed and well dressed. Unlike themselves.

Chinese people are dumping VCRs and buying DVD players in droves, the result of which is that--in part because the border has become porous due to the decline of the North Korean state-- North Koreans are buying cheap used VCRs and watching South Korean programming, spreading South Korean fashion, music and culture. Lankov compares that to the rock and roll and blue jeans of his Soviet youth, and wonders if the consequences might be similar.

5-0 out of 5 stars Professor Lankov is an authority on North Korea
As a Russian scholar who lived in North Korea in the 1980s, he has a unique perspective and understanding of this strange and secluded country. Easy reading as it's several essays packed in chapters, dealing with various aspects of life in North Korea.

I should read it again - very enjoyable to read and highly informative.

5-0 out of 5 stars Daily life in North Korea

A gem of a book. By far the best account of daily life in North Korea. Having grown up in the Soviet Union, Lankov understands how these kinds of societies work like no other scholar in writing in English today. These essays aren't about nuclear weapons, the Korean War, or about Kim Il Sung- they're about how North Koreans actually live and what makes them tick. Totally unlike anything else published about North Korea. ... Read more

18. The Korean War: A History (Modern Library Chronicles)
by Bruce Cumings
Hardcover: 320 Pages (2010-07-27)
list price: US$24.00 -- used & new: US$8.45
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679643575
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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A bracing account of a war that lingers in our collective memory as both ambiguous and unjustly ignored
For Americans, it was a discrete conflict lasting from 1950 to 1953 that has long been overshadowed by World War II, Vietnam, and the War on Terror. But as Bruce Cumings eloquently explains, for the Asian world the Korean War was a generations-long fight that still haunts contemporary events. And in a very real way, although its true roots and repercussions continue to be either misunderstood, forgotten, or willfully ignored, it is the war that helped form modern America’s relationship to the world.

With access to new evidence and secret materials from both here and abroad, including an archive of captured North Korean documents, Cumings reveals the war as it was actually fought. He describes its start as a civil war, preordained long before the first shots were fired in June 1950 by lingering fury over Japan’s occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945. Cumings then shares the neglected history of America’s post–World War II occupation of Korea, the untold stories of bloody insurgencies and rebellions, and the powerful militaries organized and equipped by America and the Soviet Union in that divided land. He tells of the United States officially entering the action on the side of the South, and exposes as never before the appalling massacres and atrocities committed on all sides and the “oceans of napalm” dropped on the North by U.S. forces in a remarkably violent war that killed as many as four million Koreans, two thirds of whom were civilians.

In sobering detail, The Korean War chronicles a U.S. home front agitated by Joseph McCarthy, where absolutist conformity discouraged open inquiry and citizen dissent. Cumings incisively ties our current foreign policy back to Korea: an America with hundreds of permanent military bases abroad, a large standing army, and a permanent national security state at home, the ultimate result of a judicious and limited policy of containment evolving into an ongoing and seemingly endless global crusade.

Elegantly written and blisteringly honest, The Korean War is, like the war it illuminates, brief, devastating, and essential. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (24)

2-0 out of 5 stars History as Polemic or Polemical History?
It is only fair to start by saying that this book was not as bad as I expected, despite its serious shortcomings.On the positive side, it seems that Professor Cumings has largely, though belatedly and grudgingly, come to terms with the appalling nature of the North Korean regime.Also, there are certainly things that I agree with that may surprise many Americans for whom the Korean War came out of the blue on June 25, 1950.I made many of the same points in a lecture on the Korean War's role in US foreign policy at the Citadel in Charleston in 2008.They include:

o The war had its distant origins in the 1930's in the political struggle among Koreans, mostly in exile in Manchuria, China and the US, to determine the shape of a future independent Korea.(But it is inaccurate to say that the Korean War started then.)

o The US occupation (1945-48) was headed by John Hodge, an honest and brave general who was completely unprepared for the political complexities of southern Korea.Hodge gravitated toward the most conservative Koreans and seemed to believe that all the rest were communists, when the actual situation was far more complicated.(After I gave my lecture, I learned from the Russian scholar Andrei Lankov that the Soviet occupation of the North was every bit as unplanned and ad hoc as ours was.)

o The conflict began in earnest from 1948 with the formation of the ROK in the South and the DPRK in the North.There followed many North-South military clashes along the 38th Parallel, then just a line on the map, totally unlike the present Demilitarized Zone.Some were battalion-sized battles.

o Before the North Korean invasion of June 25, 1950, there was horrendous violence in Korea, mainly in the South, with bloody guerrilla fighting that may have cost up to 100,000 Korean lives.Most, but not all, of the Southern guerrilla operations were supported by North Korea.The Rhee regime's successful suppression of these uprisings was extremely brutal, but its very success probably was the chief impetus for Kim's 1950 invasion.(Cumings makes the amazing assertion - on no apparent evidence - that Kim Il Sung's primary motivation in invading the South was to "settle the hash" of South Korean officers who had served the Japanese.Certainly, the Soviet officers who planned his invasion believed the objective was to ensure that Kim could rule an undivided Korea.)

o For the US, the Korean War, as a hot war within the Cold War, helped trigger the heavily militarized "national security state," that we still live in today.It also made inevitable our involvement in the Viet Nam War (the Second Indochina War), in which I served as a soldier for two and a half years between 1968 and 1972.But looking at the world of June 1950 through contemporary American eyes, it is no surprise that Truman and Acheson made the decisions that they did.

Cumings renders harsh judgments on the US conduct of the war, some of which are arguable.He sees the air war from a very different perspective than most American writers.While they tend to focus on US fighter pilots in MiG Alley, Cumings emphasizes the devastating bombing campaign, which obliterated North Korea many times over.The US planners applied the tactics they had just perfected against Japan and Germany in the much more confined space of North Korea.The result was horrifying and in the calm light of academic hindsight, more than was militarily necessary.In this and other books and documentaries, Cumings has complained about the "Hudson Harbor" campaign flown by lone B-29s to make North Korean leaders think we would use atomic bombs against them.I'm not sure why he objects to psychological warfare against Kim Il-Sung, unless he just doesn't like the idea of disconcerting one's foes in wartime.

Because Professor Cumings's government experience was limited to just six months in the Peace Corps (out of a two-year commitment) in Korea in the late 1960's, he seems to believe that the US Government is able to make detailed and Machiavellian plans and execute them flawlessly.Those of us with much more experience in government only wish that were true.The reality is that US officials make decisions in crises with imperfect knowledge of the situation.Cumings sees Acheson as a spider at the center of his web, making key initial war decisions without reference to Truman.Almost all sources say that Acheson was in close touch with Truman that June weekend while Truman was in Missouri.Besides, Acheson was following the Truman Doctrine the President had enunciated in 1947: "I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures."He knew Truman's mind.

For decades, Cumings has been obsessive about the point that North Korea's legitimacy derives from the long-ago struggle against Japan.It is important to know that North Korea was founded by guerrillas who were chased all over Manchuria by the Japanese 80 years ago, but that has zero nutritional value for today's North Korean population.North Korea is a stultified Confucian communist monarchy with an appalling human rights record and an economy wrecked by decades of willful ideological mismanagement, including the cost of a bloated military force.In 1788, Count de Mirabeau said "Prussia is not a country that has an army; it is an army that has a country."O'Neill's Corollary to Mirabeau's Observation is:"The same is true of North Korea."Kim Jong-Il apparently agrees, since he has made "military-first politics" (son-gun jong-chi) the basis of his rule.

This intense militarization of North Korea is not traditionally Korean: indeed, it is more like Imperial Japan - the same Japan that Kim Il-Sung fought against.The Kim personality cult and dynasty - now heading for the third generation - also recall the Japanese Imperial system.Is this Cumings's idea of a model for the 21st century?

It is easy for Cumings to attack South Koreans like Park Chung-Hee and General Paik Sun-Yup (Paik's preferred transliteration; not Son-Yop as Cumings has it) for serving as Japanese officers.But he glosses over the fact that Kim Il-Sung and his guerrilla comrades arrived in northern Korea in 1945 as Soviet Army officers, who had earlier served in Chinese Communist units.Thus, Kim and his cohort had served the two losers in the three-way battle for control of Korea that Japan had won by 1905.Was that better?

One of my biggest problems with this book is what I would call spurious or absent footnoting: Cumings makes some assertions that demand footnotes, but they are not always to be found.In other cases, he makes assertions and footnotes them, but the footnote doesn't fully address his claim.This is a serious lapse for the chairman of a history department at an important university.

I'll just give two examples.On page 34, he writes "formerly secret materials illustrate that in May and June 1953, the Eisenhower administration sought to show it would stop at nothing to bring the war to a close." There's no footnote.Some footnotes don't match the cited material.On page 197, Cumings asserts that rapes of Koreans by US military personnel frequently go unpunished (in the present), yet the footnote cites some State Department documents from long ago, attributed to Callum MacDonald's "Korea: the War Before Vietnam" (1986).The cited pages in MacDonald's book describe no such documents.Anyway, Cumings's assertion is untrue.Under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), a credible charge of rape (or murder or robbery) by a GI against a Korean is tried in the Korean court system.

The penultimate sentence in the book reads "In the aftermath of war, two Korean states competed toe-to-toe in economic development, turning both of them into modern industrial nations."Really?The South has a one trillion dollar economy, the 14th largest in the world and the other's annual foreign trade equals about 48 hours' worth of ROK foreign trade.That one sentence says a lot about Cumings's approach to the peninsula's tortured modern history.

The South, which only surpassed the North in GDP in the mid-1970's, has a deeply rooted democracy and a capitalist economy which was resilient enough to bounce quickly back from the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the recent world recession, a country that has demonstrated international leadership in countless ways - including restraint at frequent North Korean outrages.North Korea is essentially a dangerous blot on the Asian map - a Zimbabwe with a nuclear weapons program.

One of Cumings's favorite words is "solipsism," which could easily be applied to himself.His arch and self-absorbed writing style will not gain a wide audience among the Americans for whom he says he was writing.I have given the book two stars for its facts but none for Cumings's interpretation.

5-0 out of 5 stars Interesting, Informative new perspective
This book is very well researched and well written.It gives the reader a whole new perspective on the war.
Well worth the price.

1-0 out of 5 stars history=personal view?
I was disappointed in that this book is really nothing more than the author's personal view.Is that how a historian at a prestigious school like University of Chicago make a living? Go through the archives and organize excerpts to fit into ones personal opinion?

I know that there atrocities were committed by both sides.
Granted, why is there no mention of the fact that many Koreans and Japanese who suddenly found themselves on the northern side of the parallel after Japan's surrender were shocked by the brutal atrocities by the Soviets and their North Korean comrades?They risked their lives to cross the 38th parallel in any way they could to reach the safety of US controlled South.

The author draws an awkward parallel between Korea and Vietnam, Iraq.
Doesn't he know better that each situation is different?In his eyes, are all Asians the same who cannot be helped by American intervention?Then isn't he a racist himself?

5-0 out of 5 stars The best book on korean war
Most books on korean war are written from the perspective of the United States and south korea. North korea is seen as the root of all evil who abruptly started the korean war to spread communism over peace loving, democractic south korean society. This overly simplified biased view of the korean war has contributed to tremendous difficulty in bridging the gap between the two koreas. Bruce Cuming brings us the hitorically accurate fair view of the conflict between the two koreas. North Korea is as much a victim of the korean war from relentless, merciless bombing from the US as is south Korea.
By revealing the unbiased view of the korean war, I hope this book allows more people to understand the post war policy of north korea in escalating military spending and pursuit of nuclear bomb as a nuclear deterrent. North korea is just as paranoid about another war in the korean peninsula as is south korea. To effectively denuclearize north korea, US needs to completely denuclearize in south korea and Japan as well and officially end the korean war and sign the peace treaty.

2-0 out of 5 stars Interesting revisionism, but balance with Millet
This is a thought provoking work, but I find the author is trying to make a point and shaping the research to fit around it. Certainly, the US/UN intervention was not done with completely pure motives and there was certainly a case to be made that Japanese collaborators were a significant part of the Rhee government.

However, I tend to side with Allan Millet (The War for Korea, 1950-1951: They Came from the North (Modern War Studies) in both of his works that the North was certainly not a benevolent force and that there was real pressure to do something about Communist expansion after it became clear that there was no working with the Soviets.

Read both sets of books, but I felt Millet's analysis was truer to the available research. ... Read more

19. The history of Korea
by Homer B. 1863-1949 Hulbert
Paperback: 264 Pages (2010-08-28)
list price: US$27.75 -- used & new: US$19.90
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1177811839
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With a modern introduction by Clarence Weems, originally published in Seoul in 1905 to wide acclaim as the only authentic history of Korea from prehistory to the Twentieth Century, this two volume work remains required reading for students of Western historiography of Korea. ... Read more

20. Writing Women in Korea: Translation and Feminism in the Early Twentieth Century
by Theresa Hyun
Hardcover: 256 Pages (2004-01)
list price: US$47.00 -- used & new: US$19.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0824826779
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Writing Women in Korea explores the connections among translation, new forms of writing, and new representations of women in Korea from the early 1900s to the late 1930s. By examining shifts in the way translators handled material pertaining to women, the work of women translators of the time, and the relationship between translation and the original works of early twentieth-century Korean women writers, the author attempts to answer such far-reaching questions as: How have women translators contributed to literary and cultural change? How do writing on women and women's writing relate to changes in national identity?

Each chapter considers phases and aspects of the process of creating feminine ideals through translation. The work opens with an outline of the Choson period (1392-1910), when a vernacular writing system was invented, making it possible to translate texts into Korean--in particular, Chinese writings reinforcing official ideals of feminine behavior aimed at women. The legends of European heroines and foreign literary works (such as those by Ibsen) translated at the beginning of the twentieth century helped spur the creation of the New Woman (Sin Yosong) ideal for educated women of the 1920s and 1930s. The role of women translators is explored, as well as the scope of their work and the constraints they faced as translators. Finally, the author relates the writing of Kim Myong-Sun, Pak Hwa-Song, and Mo Yun-Suk to new trends imported into Korea through translation. The author argues that these women deserve recognition for not only their creation of new forms of writing, but also their contributions to Korea's emerging sense of herself as a modern and independent nation.

In emphasizing the importance of women translators and writers in early twentieth-century Korea, this volume places Korean literary and cultural activities in the wider perspective of feminist and cross-cultural studies and contributes to an understanding of the central role of translation in creating new gender and national identities. ... Read more

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