Reddit Reddit reviews Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History (Updated Edition)

We found 8 Reddit comments about Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History (Updated Edition). Here are the top ones, ranked by their Reddit score.

North Korean History
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Asian History
Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History (Updated Edition)
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8 Reddit comments about Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History (Updated Edition):

u/woeful_haichi · 15 pointsr/korea

Joseon era:

  • A Review of Korean History, Vol.2: Joseon Era; Woo, Han Young (2010)
  • Sources of Korean Tradition, Vol. 1: From Early Times Through the 16th Century (Introduction to Asian Civilizations); Lee, Peter H. (ed) (1996)
  • Sources of Korean Tradition, Vol. 2: From the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Centuries; Lee, Peter H. (ed) (1996)

    I prefer the 'Review' more, but it might come across as a little dry. I feel that it does a fair job of discussing a number of topics related to the creation and running of the Joseon Dynasty, breaking the dynasty up into smaller components and then focusing on some areas (arts, military, cultural practices) within those smaller time frames. 'Sources' for me came across as more academic than 'Review' but you might enjoy it more. 'Sources' includes translations of primary sources, which is helpful, while 'Review' includes images such as paintings and maps.


  • Korea Unmasked: In Search of the Country, the Society and the People; Rhie Won-bok (2005)

    A comic book that goes into the 'making' of Korea and Korean culture. I have some reservations about this one but if you don't take it too seriously it can be a fun and easy way to get introduced to a number of topics related to Korea.

    'Modern' Korea:

  • The Dawn of Modern Korea; Lankov, Andrei (2007)
  • Korea Through Western Eyes, Book, Written in English; Neff, Robert (2009)
  • The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History; Oberdorfer, Don (2013)
  • Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History; Cummings, Bruce (2005)
  • The Koreans: Who They Are, What They Want, Where Their Future Lies; Breen, Michael (2014)
  • Korea And Her Neighbours...; Bird, Isabella (2011; original 1897)

    Lankov's book is a collection of newspaper articles he wrote entertaining subjects like the story of Korea's first automobiles, the introduction of the first telephones, etc. Easy to digest and they offer a glimpse of what society was like at each point in time; not a 'serious' book on Korean history, though. Neff's book was a chore to get through and it felt like no editing had gone into the book before publishing. If I'm not mistaken this also started out as a series of articles for one of the local newspapers; the transition from article to book did not go quite as well.

    It's probably been 10 years since I read the books from Breen, Oberdorfer and Cummings, which makes it a little difficult to write a lot about them. Cummings I know gets criticized for being pro-North Korea in his writing, so that's something to keep in mind, while Oberdorfer I think was a correspondent living in Korea so may have a more 'eyewitness' approach to some of the events. Bird's book is a description of her travels in Korea during the Joseon period and I remember it being an interesting read. Not a balanced historical account by any means - and it obviously suffers from being written from an outside perspective at a time when ethnocentrism was more prevalent - but it may be an alternative to consider. You should be able to find a .pdf copy of that one online.

  • Fifteen Years Among The Top-Knots: Or Life In Korea; Underwood, Lillias H. (2007, original 1904)

    Haven't read this one, but I've seen others mention it in the past. It's another first-person account from Korea at the cusp of the 20th century, this time from the perspective of a medical missionary. Again, not an objective history book, but if you prefer first-person narratives it may at least be worth a look. A .pdf copy has been published online, this one by the University of Oregon.

    Edit: One I forgot to mention, but which I've also heard is used in some English-language classes on Korean history/studies:

  • Korea Old and New: A History; Eckert, Carter J. (1991) (I just noticed this is also mentioned by seaturtles7777)
u/Emoticone11 · 6 pointsr/CapitalismVSocialism

>The north invaded the south. The US and allies responded and the rest is history.

It really wasn’t that clear-cut. The actual start of the Korean War was preceeded with a large number of border skirmishes along the 38th parallel, with forays over the border by both sides. As many as 10,000 North and South Korean soldiers had already died in these skirmishes before the war even broke out.

The 38th parallel was not respected by any Korean leaders and basically non-existant to the Korean populace (I’ll discuss why in a minute), and both Syngman Rhee and Kim il-Sung were planning to invade the other and become the leader of Korea.

> "On February 8, 1949, the South Korean president met with Ambassador John Muccio and Secretary of the Army Kenneth C. Royall in Seoul. Here the Korean president listed the following as justifications for initiating a war with the North: the South Korean military could easily be increased by 100,000 if it drew from the 150,000 to 200,000 Koreans who had recently fought with the Japanese or the Nationalist Chinese. Moreover, the morale of the South Korean military was greater than that of the North Koreans. If war broke out he expected mass defections from the enemy. Finally, the United Nations’ recognition of South Korea legitimized its rule over the entire peninsula (as stipulated in its constitution). Thus, he concluded, there was "nothing [to be] gained by waiting."


>"Kim I Sek, a South Korean leader, said that Dulles told Rhee, 'Start the aggression against the north, accompanied by a counter-propaganda on the grounds that the North has invaded the South first. If you can but hold out for two weeks, everything will go smoothly, for during this period the United States, by accusing North Korea of attacking South Korea, will compel the United Nations to take action, in whose name land, naval and air forces would be mobilised.'"


Anyways, let’s briefly recount the history of Korea between their liberation from the Japanese and the Korean War to see why the 38th parallel was not widely considered to be a valid demarcation by Koreans.

Before the trusteeship even began the Koreans were building up a new independent government based in Seoul, the PRK. This government was based on networks of local governments (people’s committees), and the local governments in the north were lead by Korean nationalists like Cho Man-sik. While the northern committees had close connections with the Soviets (as they had just fought a mutual war with the Japanese in Manchukuo), the Soviets recognized the PRK as legitimate and allowed these councils to develop independently (Source).

Contrast this with the US, who upon landing in the South after the events of WW2 outlawed the PRK and deposed of it with military force. The US then declared the United States Army Military Government in place of the PRK. This government, being wholly unaware of the situation in Korea (to the point where they didn't even speak the language), was completely incompetent and largely reviled by the Korean people. Even more egregiously, the US military government in Korea appointed mostly former Japanese governors as advisors. This continued until, as part of America's containment policy, diplomats Dean Rusk and Charles Bonesteel proposed a trustee solution between the US and the Soviets. This trusteeship was also popularly reviled, and both Cho Man-sik in the north, and Kim Ku (who formerly lead the PRK) in the south put up a fight against it. The Soviets, despite having a hands-off relationship with Cho Man-sik previously, were pressured to accept the trusteeship solution (the alternative being that the whole of the peninsula be used as a US foothold directly to the south of the Soviets), and so they found a leader who didn't strongly oppose the trusteeship- Kim Il-sung. Cho Man-sik was eventually put under house arrest. And what happened in the South? They had "elections", except Syngman Rhee was flown into the ROK from America (he was exiled at the time), the elections were rigged, and Kim Ku (the former PRK leader who dissented to the elections) was assassinated by a Korean found in documents declassified in 2001 to have been working for the U.S. Counter-Intelligence Corps.

So the bottom line of all of this is, the “North vs. South” distinction didn’t really exist in the general Korean mindset prior to the outbreak of the war. There was a predominant opinion, especially in the northern part of the peninsula but also among the southern nationalists, that the ROK government under Rhee was invalid and came about as a result of US aggression and manipulation. That the US initiated acts of aggression in the South is not up for debate, though I think the issue at hand here is how long a complicated chain of cause and effect has to be before you can reasonably call something “self-defense”.

u/Tangurena · 4 pointsr/AskReddit

After the war, what the Japanese did was mostly ignored, and communism became the new scary boogieman. The biological weapons created and used by the Japanese were hushed up, and because orientals were discriminated against in the US, and oriental languages were rarely taught in schools, it was very hard for what was happening in Asia to get to the media, or even common people.

Two books that can probably be found in your local library are:
The Korean War: A History
Korea's Place in the Sun

The response by the US to the Korean War was to drastically raise the amount of military spending (which had dropped to almost nothing after WW2) and this rise of the "military industrial complex" drove all the subsequent wars. Cumings is rather controversial for making the claim that the Korean War was the most important war that the US ever fought, as well as being controversial for not calling the North Koreans total loonies.

If you look at current NK propaganda, you'd think that they were still at war with Japan and the US. The NK regime considers their beginning about a decade prior to the semi-official recognition of NK being a country because 1937 is when the Kim family started fighting the Japanese - who had been occupying Korea with the blessing of the west for more than a quarter century.

u/wic0101 · 4 pointsr/korea

Ha-Joon Chang, The East Asian Development Experience: The Miracle, the Crisis and the Future (2007)

This title isn't entirely about South Korea, but it is written by a well-know Korean-born Cambridge economist and offers a non-Marxist heterodox perspective on East Asia in general and has a lot about South Korea. Might be worth checking out for you. But you may already know about this one, since Chang is fairly famous. He has more works that specifically focus on South Korea, but I'm not sure if they're translated into English.

Bruce Cumings, Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History (2005)

This one is more about general history of the Korean peninsula, but it still has a fairly extensive section devoted to the post-war economic development of the Korean peninsula, especially the similar yet ultimately divergent economic paths of the two Koreas. For all its detractors, it is definitely a classic in Korean historiography written in the English language, so if you haven't heard of it yet, it is definitely worth checking out.

Atul Kohli, State-Directed Development: Political Power and Industrialization in the Global Periphery (2004)

This one is also a comparative historical study, but it devotes almost a third of its length on South Korea, and provides a very good overview of the link between colonization and economic development in South Korea, in addition to covering the latter years of modern Korean history. It is written by a Princeton political scientist that has extensive knowledge of comparative economic development, so it would be worth a look as well.

One note of caution though is that, if you really want to understand the post-war South Korean economic history, you also have to have some background on the economic impact of Japanese colonization (and this topic is a very, very, very, very contentious one in modern Korean history). The last one may be of help on this count.

u/chunklight · 3 pointsr/korea

Korea's place in the sun by Bruce Cummings and Korea's 20th century Odyssey by Michael Robinson are both good overviews of modern Korean history starting in the late 19th century.

Sources of Korean tradition is a good collection of primary sources with background and analysis.

u/Not_Korean · 2 pointsr/korea

I don't know of one book that fits all of those descriptions, but individually, here is a sampling of the books I have in my collection.

Korea Old and New : History

Korea's Place in the Sun, by Bruce Cumings

The Park Chung Hee Era, edited by Byung-Kook Kim and Ezra F. Vogel


I hope these help!


u/iatowks · 1 pointr/korea

Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History is amazing. You can find it at What the Book bookstore.

u/robbie321 · 1 pointr/PoliticalScience

This probably isn't the response you were wanting, but rather than reinventing the wheel I would recommend either reading the Wikipedia pages if you want the short answer to this question or Bruce Cumming's book, "Korea's Place in the Sun" for the long answer to Korea's contemporary history.