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Posted February 20, 2011
Essential Reading for History Buffs
The Korean War has always held a special fascination for me. Always suspecting a greater significance of this war, and frustrated at the general level of recognition by most Americans, I have tried to read as many books as I could, and ask my father-in-law about his war time experiences there. Most of the books I've read were general histories of events that took place between 1950 and 1953, including specific military campaigns, or biographical information regarding Truman and MacArthur.
Bruce Cummings has written a condensed history that explains far more. With access to previously unavailable archives, a light is shone upon aspects of the war which were damaging to South Korean and American leaders, politicians, and soldiers alike. But the value of this work for me, was in gaining a different reference point from which to better view and understand the interwoven history of the peoples of Korea, Japan and China during the 20th century leading up to 1950. The birth of America as a global policeman is systematically and concisely explained. A great read!
5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 24, 2010
A Qualified Opinion
The author raises many interesting, little known and widely unknown facts respecting our own and both Korean governments. He exhaustively recounts all proven or alleged American sins of commission or omission he can find, as well as those of South Korean governments. He pays only brief attention to the known crimes of the North Koreans, and his anti-Western bias is clear. After listing some of the more vicious acts of the North Koreans, he seems to excuse them on the grounds of a Confucian background, the (long past) struggle against the Japanese, inequality of wealth, but finally tacitly acknowledges the right to rule of their government by the good old "Right of Conquest". He presents their police state of enforced total unity with no negative comment allowed, as a law of nature, which indeed it has been and largely is everywhere outside of parts of the West. He is aware enough of our own Civil War to demonstrate that the Koreans have one still, after 60 years, but favors 'local independence', which is like advocating Confederate States Rights for America. Either there is a South Korea, or not, and he seems to feel nothing wrong with local independencies run by Leftists in the South, with North Korean support. Clearly, the North would not tolerate such a situation for one second. While condemning the language of an American on the South Korean's frays over the 38th parallel, he dismisses the North's atom bomb development as a harmless pastime that shouldn't bother anyone, and never mentions their shooting missiles over Japan, no doubt for sport. No dboubt he would welcome the latest sinking of a South Korean ship and the shelling of an island as necessary to keep the North military amused and in practice. While exhaustively combing American archives for evidence of wrongdoing, he has done nothing similar for North Korean archives, and the liklihood of his doing so could not be more remote.
So while of value, the picture presented is (necessarily?) HIGHLY biased.
An interesting fact presented: at the armistice ending hostilities: 1/3 of all North Koreans and Chinese POWs chose not to return to their native countries, but instead to stay in the South Korea whose sins the author never tires of recounting.
One last item. While mentioning the Korean term for 'collective responsibiltiy' where a whole family was punished for the transgressions of one member in the South, he doesn't mention that this is currently standard practice in the North. There, whole families have to plan on emigrating together in order to avoid severe punishment for allowing one of their members commit the crime of "trying to escape" from this land where there is perfect unity of thought and action under the rule of the infallible and never-enough-to-be-praised ruling clique.
2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 6, 2011
Very Highly Rated
Bruce Cumings is a noted expert on Korea. This is one of the finest modern histories I have read. Most Americans never knew much about Korea and still don't. Their views about the North are extremely limited not only because the regime is very secretive, but because they refuse to look at the leadership of the North as legitimate in terms of their history, if not their right to rule.
Cumings skillfully integrates Korean history during the Korean War with our own and gives helpful comparisons with damage wrought over Germany and Japan at the end of the war. Cumings stresses the numbers of Koreans in both the North and South. Cumings writes extremely well. I cannot recommend this book enough. Regarding the person who rated the book without even reading it, I think the rating should not count in the averaging.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 31, 2011
For others to read
I haven't read this book and do not plan to read it. Before I read a book I try to ascertain the authors purpose for writing it. From what I can determine this author has an axe to grind and I will not contribute a penny to help him spread hate about America. I am a 23 year veteran of the U.S. Navy, serving in Korea several months in late 1950 and early 1951. Our reason for being there was noble.
1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 4, 2014
I found the title misleading. I only made it to chapter 3. The
I found the title misleading. I only made it to chapter 3. The author assumes you already know a lot about what was going on in the world in 1950 and the conditions in Korea that lead up to the war. I was expecting more of a narrative on the events that precipitated the war followed by the actual events that took place during the war. Instead he begins almost immediately with day 1 of the war. I found his writing style difficult to follow. He throws around a lot of names assuming you already know who they are. It was a lot more personal commentary than explanation of actual events, which is what I expect to see when the title says 'A History'.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 23, 2013
Posted December 13, 2012
Posted July 30, 2011
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