The Koreans: Contemporary Politics and Society

The Koreans: Contemporary Politics and Society

The Koreans: Contemporary Politics and Society

The Koreans: Contemporary Politics and Society

Synopsis

Remaining true to Macdonald's original conception, Clark has reworked the existing text from the perspective of the mid-1990s to take account of the political and economic changes in South Korea and the evolving relationship between North and South.

Excerpt

Donald Stone Macdonald's survey of modern Korea has been a mainstay of Korean studies courses in the West since it was first published in 1988. Written from the point of view of a senior American scholar-official, it reflects both his experience as a Foreign Service officer and government Korea specialist and his disciplinary training as a political scientist. The book is based on a truly distinguished career. Macdonald first saw Korea as a young army officer with the U.S. military occupation forces in 1946. He was on the scene as a third secretary in the American Embassy when the Korean War broke out in 1950. As Korea desk officer in the State Department in 1960-1961 he had a front-row seat for the transition from the Rhee regime to Park Chung-hee's military rule. Later he contributed to U.S. Korea policy in positions in Washington and Seoul. After retirement from government service he earned his Ph.D. in political science at George Washington University with a dissertation on the military government period. He taught at East Stroudsburg State College in Pennsylvania and then at Georgetown University, where he was Research Professor of Korean Studies and one of the founders of Georgetown's Korean studies program. Throughout all those years he dedicated his energies and leadership to fostering better relations between the United States and Korea and won the respect and affection of fellow officials, academic colleagues, and students alike.

When Macdonald died in 1993 he was contemplating a third edition of The Koreans but had not yet begun work on it. He was familiar with the phenomenon of rapid change in Korea and recognized that there would have to be considerable revision of the manuscript to reflect the changes since the second edition in 1990. The preceding December, south Korea had elected its first civilian president since 1963. A year before that, north and south Korea had signed a series of agreements that seemed to promise progress on the perennial problem of reunification but were clouded by north Korea's apparent determination to develop nuclear weapons. North Korea and the international community barely averted a major confrontation in June 1993. At the time of his death a few weeks later Macdonald was persuaded more than ever that the West needed to take Korea seriously and study it systematically.

Donald Macdonald was an optimist about Korea. He was quick to praise the performance of the south Korean economy -- and he was tolerant of the stern military regimes that directed it. His career in Korean affairs had been shaped during the most violent phase of modern Korean history, and his experience with the . . .

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