Thursday, December 17, 2009

Book Review: Korea's Place in the Sun

Title: Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History, Updated Edition
Author: Bruce Cumings
Paperback: 528 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton; Updated edition (September 19, 2005)
ISBN-10: 0393327027
ISBN-13: 978-0393327021

Selectively detailed almost to a fault. Korea's Place in the Sun is an incredibly long read that I was hungry for but unfortunately, it's also overwhelmingly subjective at times. I strongly recommend familiarizing yourself with ancient and modern Korean history prior to reading this book because Cumings doesn't slow down for the casual reader. Recommended for anyone interested in more than a intro course on Korean history. However, be forewarned that this particular author is controversially subjective in his selective (mis)interpretations of Korean history.

His obvious North Korean apologetic stance aside, Cumings makes especially moving descriptions of the Korean war and demystifies the so-called Miracle on the Han economic movement into practical terms. His coverage of the Korean War is eye-opening and certainly the highlight of the book as it is one of his strengths. Ironically, though, I prefer his coverage of the Korean War in this book rather than his most recent title.
However biased it may be, this book is exactly what it claims to be: a one volume course on Korean history. it just may not be the most well-agreed upon history out there. Get ready for a level of detail that borders so much on muck-racking that might scare you. Take notes because Mr. Cumings is not afraid to cite his sources, although you might be wondering where the balance is in his arguments.

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Some five hundred pages later, I finished the book. I liked it, don't get me wrong, but it was heavy. Not for the faint of heart or casual reader. Or for fact checkers for that matter. Better than his most recent effort.


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