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Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History Hardcover – 26 Mar 1997

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Co.; First Edition edition (26 Mar. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393040119
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393040111
  • Product Dimensions: 4.4 x 16.5 x 25.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,196,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Passionate, cantankerous, and fascinating .... Rather like Korea itself." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Bruce Cumings is chairman of the history department at the University of Chicago and the author of Korea's Place in the Sun. He divides his time between Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Chicago. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
brilliant account of the Korean people's hard life fighting US imperialism and the indignities imposed on it by the West. A courageous story by an outstanding writer and historian
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Korea's place in the Sun: a modern history
this book is for my study of reserch and know about North Korea
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9f99f0fc) out of 5 stars 57 reviews
99 of 112 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9efd6314) out of 5 stars A Partisan and Selective Account 29 Dec. 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
One of the first books I read about Korea, Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History, illustrates the importance of interpreting history cautiously. Korean history, because of the division of the peninsula between two warring countries, is highly politicized. Cumings has been generally classified as a New Left historian and as sympathetic to the North Korean regime. The second charge is just mud-slinging, but the first generalization is still an active question in South Korean politics and academia.
First, since the book's publication in 1997, the Koreas have undergone many changes, both domestically and in their relations. South Korea's media and academic industries have also matured, and expression is more lively and open. There are more generalist and expert histories available on the market, so the importance of Cumings' work is easier to evaluate.
Cumings is generally a proponent of unification. This taints his history in several ways. First, Choson is depicted as a golden age of unified Korean power. Cumings also supports the Conservative Korean line, that foreigners wrecked Choson and downplays evidence of aristocratic factionalism and the weakness of the Korean central government. His discussion of the Japanese Occupation downplays the role of Korean businessmen in the Occupation economy and government. His account of the Korean War is heavy on politics and military leadership discussions, but spare on soldier's recollections. Cumings' sections on North Korean industrialization are competent, but since 1997 the subject has been better researched. Cumings still cannot compensate for the dearth of economic data, which plagues accounts to the present.
Cumings also burdens his account of Korean history with questionable social psychological opinions about the nature of Korean culture. He reinforces the conservative Korean view of the unique mission and origin of the Korean people as offspring of divine forces, a tactic the Koreans share with the Japanese. His account is subtly anti-global and anti-foreign. For this reason, his account is by Korean standards mainstream unificationist, but his open-minded treatment of North Korea notwithstanding, he is aligned with the forces of anti-globalization.
Not that the book does not contain valuable information about Korean history presented with colorful prose. However, what Cumings omits is damning. Most of ancient Korean history is omitted, which accentuates Choson at the expense of earlier dynasties. Discussions of religion are downplayed for politics and sociology. Cumings does not hide his bias, but readers need to examine his opinions well and use his footnotes for independent evaluation. And, by all means, read other newer books about Korea.
50 of 57 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9edf3ae0) out of 5 stars Reads Like Literature 10 Aug. 2001
By Andrew - Published on
Format: Paperback
I loved this book and have read it twice from cover to cover in addition to refering to certain capters regularly. There is no other book that captures the colorful, tragic and compelling story of Korea's modern history half as well as Cuming's opus.
The book is a skillful blend of theory (he quotes Focault in the epigram), hard history and ideology. I especially enjoyed the juicy bits of gossip that more "serious" Korean histories always leave out. He writes about Kim Gu's womenizing, Sygman Rhee's paranoia and the CIA's dirty secrets.
The book has flaws that are glaring and annoying. Cumings details every attrocity that the dictators in South Korea committed, but writes only of the dubious "achievements" of North Korea, never mentioning things like how many of his own citizens Kim Il-son, North Korea's late "Dear Leader" sent to concentration camps. The harrowing accounts of North Korean defectors of life in the worker's paradise are a glaring and nearly unforgiveable.
I would be tempted to say that Cumings had two goals in mind in writing this book: getting in good with Pyoungyang (thus being assured his travel visas always get approved) and annoying the hell out of Seoul (thereby regaining the cult hero status he got in the 80s with his book on the origins of the Korean War with a new generation of South Korean college kids).
But, ultimately, I can't stay mad at Cumings. His story of Korea's painful 20th century is told with the verve and deftness of great literature.
47 of 58 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9fe53f6c) out of 5 stars Interesting view on Korea, but questionable historical facts 20 Nov. 2000
By Jinho C. - Published on
Format: Paperback
It was very interesting to see rather different view on Korea. Maybe it's about time somebody getting away from the conventional view on modern Korean history as just "tragic". He discusses many aspects of modern Korean history, especially the outside influences from US, Japan and China. I agree on most of his points on modern history, however his knowledge on ancient Korean history is very questionable. Relationships among three East Asian nations: China, Korea and Japan were not as simple as the author suggests. For instance, Bruce Cumings over amplifies the effect of Japanese cultural influence on Korea while the truth is that till mid-19th century it was minimal if not zero. Until mid-19th century, Korea has been influenced by Japan militarily, but not culturally. Even after Imjinwaeran(the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592), unlike the usual situation where victims become the recipients of the aggressor's culture, it was reverse in this case. Japan became the recipient as she intentionally captured Korean scholars and artisans and brought them to Japan. However, it's not to say that Korea was never influenced by the Japanese culture. Ever since Japan became the military superpower in the 20th century and annexed Korea, Japanese culture has been the most influential for Korea. Once the author gets into relationship between Korea and China, it gets more problematic. But because it's so complicated I can't really explain it here.. Therefore, my point is: I recommend this book but read with caution on some historical facts..
30 of 37 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9edf754c) out of 5 stars A passionate, opinionated history 29 Mar. 2003
By Paul Wiseman - Published on
Format: Paperback
A South Korean college student recently told me that he learned more about his own culture from the works of Bruce Cumings than from any number of Korean scholars. I believe it. Cumings knows and loves Korea, his passion and insight coloring every page of this book. Cumings can name all the significant players in modern Korea and how they fit into the nation's long, proud and tragic history. He rightly is anguished and disappointed by America's role in dividing the Korean peninsula and in keeping it divided (even if I think he exaggerates America's sins and significantly under-emphasizes North Korea's). This is a deeply personal book, too: Cumings includes observations from his own experiences in Korea and from his own family (his wife is Korean). In the hands of a less skilled writer and thinker, these personal insights might be a distraction; in this case, they enrich the book immeasurably. The virtues of Korea's Place in the Sun easily outweigh the vices, which (for this reader anyway) include Cumings' unrelentingly leftist politics. In short, Korea's Place in the Sun is an informed, passionate, opinionated and well-written introduction to a country (two countries, sadly) we should all know a lot more about.
16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9edf7804) out of 5 stars Useful information and insights but WAY too political... 24 Nov. 1997
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book was easy to read and offered valuable insights on modern Korean history, and presented a lot of useful and interesting information. However, the author interjects entirely too much of his own rather extreme political opinion into the text, making the dissenting reader feel alienated when trying to read the other more pertinent information in the text. These comments are peripheral to the message of the text, and serve only to advertise what the author thinks about US domestic affairs, and other issues esentially unrelated to Korea. I think he gives a well-documented fair and balanced critique of both Korean regimes, but it is the frequent off-the-cuff political remark (not to mention the elitist comment that Americans might be better off if we placed our scholars in higher esteem) that were very distracting and annoying while trying to read this otherwise timely and well-written book.
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