The Making of Modern Korea

The Making of Modern Korea

The Making of Modern Korea

The Making of Modern Korea

Synopsis

This text provides an accurate, balanced and readable history of Korea from 1910 to the present day. The text is unique in placing emphasis on Korea's regional and geographic context, through which Buzo analyses the influence of bigger and more powerful states on the peninsula of Korea. Key features of the book include:* comprehensive coverage of Korean history* analysis of important comtemporary developments* comparative focus on both North and South Korea* Korea examined within its regional context* a detailed chronology and suggestions for further reading.This book is an invaluable one-volume resource for all students of modern Korean history, international politics and Asian Studies.

Excerpt

This book is aimed at both students and general readers who seek a broad, serviceable account of modern Korean history. Its central focus is the Korean people and the way they have shaped outcomes in both North and South Korea, but it also places events in the wider context of regional and international affairs. This wider context is important, for one cannot understand the impact of Japanese colonialism on Korea merely as a function of Japanese actions and Korean response, for Japanese colonial policy was determined by a much broader set of circumstances, which require due consideration. Similarly, events in the immediate postwar period are all but incomprehensible without an understanding of the Cold War context and its consequences in Korea. Nor can one understand the phenomenon of Kim Il Sung and the state he built without an understanding of the foreign political forces that shaped the DPRK. In addition, the particular set of economic policies adopted by the Republic of Korea during the 1960s were not simply the product of independent political actors within Korea but were also shaped by their past colonial experiences and by international economic forces.

Where to draw the line between traditional Korea and modern Korea? Many works draw it in 1876, when Choson Korea signed the Treaty of Kanghwa with Japan, its first “modern” treaty and a prelude to the opening of the country's ports to foreign commerce. This date is rich in symbolism, and many changes followed, but while significant sections of Choson society began to undergo modernization, a traditionalist, dynastic elite remained in charge. On the other hand, in 1910, when the Choson dynasty fell, for the first time a thoroughgoing modernizing elite supplanted the existing political and economic elite, and Korea underwent profound change. By 1945, no possibility existed of reconstituting the Korean state on the basis of indigenous political tradition, or of consciously incorporating elements of the old into the new. In the South, the Japanese model remained the paradigm, and in the North the Stalinist model swiftly became the paradigm. It therefore seems appropriate to me to take 1910 as the point at which the modern history of Korea begins.

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