[KS] Important new works in modern Korean history

Gari Keith Ledyard gkl1 at columbia.edu
Mon Dec 16 12:21:07 EST 2002

	I wish to bring to the attention of the list two new works in
modern Korean history that I don't think have been mentioned yet on the
list.  In fact it is a sad thing that so little has been mentioned on this
list recently.
	The first is by Andre Schmid, associate professor of East Asian
Studies at the University of Toronto.  It's called <Korea Between Empires,
1895-1919>, published by Columbia University Press (2002, 369 pp.).  It is
a very good book on the construction of Korean nationalism by journalist-
intellectuals during the period following the Sino-Japanese War up through
the early years of the Japanese colonial regime in Korea.  It is
remarkable how much of their project still inhabits the heart and soul of
Korean nationalism today, especially in South Korea.  Schmid's book really
is an excellent introduction to the subject and should be welcomed by all
who want to understand where today's Korean nationalism started from.  It
also is a remarkable evocation of the world of the TaeHan Cheguk, from
1895 until its end in 1910.  No other book covering that period touches
very much on the materials or the perspective that Andre Schmid deals with
	Appearing more recently is a comprehensive history of the origins
of the DPRK state and its society by Charles Armstrong, <The North Korean
Revolution, 1945-1950>, published by Cornell University Press, 265 pp.
(It's listed on the Cornellpress website as a Fall 2002 release, but the
publication data page in the book itself says, "First published 2003...")
This is a superb book on the prehistory as well as the early history of
the DPRK.  It accords due respect to such prominent predecessors as Suh
Dae-Sook and Scalapino & Lee, but is really new in its formulations and
approach.  Armstrong doesn't spend too much time on the Soviets, nor on
all the ins and outs of the politics at the top; rather it concentrates on
society and culture, and the changes at the bottom.  At the same time it
does not neglect issues that relate powerfully to the dilemmas and
problems--and the challenges--of the DPRK today.  The core of the book is
based on close research in original sources found in the archive of
documents and materials captured by U.S forces in P'yongyang in late 1950,
now available to scholars in the U.S. National Archives.
	Both of these books are essential additions to any reading list
for modern Korean history courses.

Gari Ledyard
King Sejong Professor of Korean Studies Emeritus
Columbia University in the City of New York

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