[KS] KSR 2002-12: _Korea: A Century of Change_, by Juergen Kleiner

Stephen Epstein Stephen.Epstein at vuw.ac.nz
Mon Sep 9 22:51:49 EDT 2002

_Korea: A Century of Change_, by Juergen Kleiner. Singapore: World
Scientific Publishing Company,  2001, 425 pages.  (ISBN 981-02-4657-9,

Reviewed by Carl J. Saxer
Yale University

Over the last several years a number of works have been published that seek to give an overview of modern Korean history. The book here under review,
_Korea: A Century of Change_ by Juergen Kleiner, a professor of international
relations at Boston University, is one of them.  Over twenty-three chapters
the author, as he tells us, aims to give " a comprehensive account of
Korean politics during the last hundred years. It is intended to enable the
reader to study all important aspects of political developments on the
peninsula and those surrounding the peninsula" (page viii).

Chapter One thus provides a very brief overview of Korean foreign
relations since the 14th century, focusing on relations with China and
ending with the early western attempts at establishing contacts with the
country. The significantly longer Chapter Two then deals with the opening
of Chosun and the international politics of rivalry around the peninsula,
concluding with the establishment of Japanese supremacy on the peninsula.
Already in this chapter the choices the author makes in what he deems
significant strike the reader as slightly strange. The Kapsin coup attempt,
for instance, is dealt with in less than one page, while the adventures of
Paul Georg von Moellendorff  take up more than twice the space.  Chapter
Three gives an overview of Japanese colonial policies and analyses  briefly
Korean attempts at resistance against colonial power.  The author makes the
tendentious claim that it is "difficult to have a balanced discussion with
Koreans about the period of Japanese rule" (p. 43), and that after the war
Japan did nothing to improve relations with Korea.  He argues that
"Japanese government officials made remarks of regret  and apologies, but
what was missing was a broad-based effort at  reconciliation similar to the
efforts of the Federal Republic of Germany towards France; but Japan is no
Christian country" (p. 43).

Chapter Four deals with the liberation of the peninsula from Japanese rule
and  the establishment of two competing states.  In Chapters Five and Six
the author analyses the developments leading up to the Korean War, the war
itself, and, using documents made available through the Cold War
International History Project, argues that the question of who started the
Korean War can now be firmly answered: Kim Il Sung was the driving force
behind it, but he would not have been able to start the war without
Stalin's consent and support. In Chapter Seven the author turns to the
establishment of the Republic of Korea in 1948, the presidency of Rhee
Syngman, his overthrow, and the founding of the Second Republic. The Park
Chung Hee era is dealt with in Chapter Eight;  Kleiner focuses particularly
on Park's 1961 coup, the normalization with Japan, South Korean
participation in the Vietnam War, and the critical 1971 presidential
election. Chapter Nine examines the events leading up to the Yushin
reforms, the new 1972 constitution, and  the assassination of Park.

The coup by Chun Doo Hwan and his cohorts in the Hanahoe military faction
is examined in Chapter Ten.  The author deals both with the massacre in
Kwangju and the trial against Kim Dae Jung in some detail.  Chun Doo Hwan's
consolidation of power is analyzed in Chapter Eleven, and here again the
choices that the author makes in regards  to what he feels is significant
seem odd. While in Chapter 10 Kwangju is covered in less than two pages,
the author spends more than eight pages going into detail about the downing
of flight KE 007 and four pages examining the Rangoon bombing. Nowhere does
he explain to the reader on what basis these events are emphasized over
others.  Chapter Twelve gives a good overview over the events leading up to
the transition to democracy in the late 1980s; here Kleiner introduces
discussion of both endogenous and exogenous issues, but rightly argues that
it was mainly domestic factors that decided the outcome.

The first two years of the Roh administration are examined in Chapter
Thirteen.  The author argues that the 1990 three-party merger  between
Roh, Kim Young Sam, and Kim Jong Pil was "a step taken to overcome
regionalism, which had been the greatest problem of the party system in the
6th Republic" (p.224However, Kleiner fails to mention that  a reason  for
Kim Jong Pil joining the merger was  the ruling party's wish to see the
passage of a constitutional amendment that would put in place a cabinet
system, for which a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly would be
needed. Chapter Fourteen examines the reforms of Kim Young Sam, especially
his failed attempts at ending 'money politics', before he turns to a
detailed analysis of the "trial of the century" against the former
presidents and their followers.  The author argues that Kim Young Sam's
change of heart, in which he decided to actively seek a special law  to
prosecute the former presidents, rather than leave the judgment to history,
was due to political expediency and that Kim's inconsistency "contributed
to legal confusion" (p. 244).  The chapter concludes by briefly analyzing
the 1997 presidential election that brought Kim Dae Jung to power and the
policies he pursued after inauguration.

Chapter Fifteen offers a brief overview of the development of the Korean
economy with slightly less than half of the chapter focusing on the 1997
financial crisis and subsequent recovery.  In contrast to Adrian Buzo's
recent The Making of Modern Korea, Kleiner makes no attempt at according
North Korea equally full treatment.  In fact, only two chapters deal with
domestic developments in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea: Chapter
Sixteen analyses the rise to power of Kim Il Sung and the establishment of
the DPRK, while Chapter Seventeen provides discussion of Kim Jong Il's
ascendancy, a brief examination of the food crisis in North Korea, and
consideration of prospects for the future.

Chapters Eighteen to Twenty deal with the foreign relations of South Korea.
Kleiner argues for minimal effect of foreign powers on South Korea's
internal politics, stating that "even a mighty one like the US, had only
limited influence" (p. 318). Chapter Twenty gives a detailed analysis of
the background and implementation of the Northern Policy during the Roh
administration; in fact, the book is at its best, as here, when it treats
international politics. In Chapter Twenty One the foreign relations of
North Korea, especially with its larger neighbors are examined. The next
chapter, perhaps the strongest in the book, follows with a detailed
analysis of the North Korean nuclear issue. Finally, in Chapter Twenty
Three, the author looks at developments in the dialogue between the two
Koreas over the last few decades.

Although, as noted, the choices Kleiner makes about what to regard as
significant can strike the reader as odd, the book does give a
comprehensive overview of the political developments on the Korean
peninsula during the last century.  However, the book is seriously marred
by numerous typos. Here a few examples must suffice: for instance, although
the term Chosun is used through most of the book, on page 29 one encounters
Choson. Yun Po Sun is Yon Po Sun on page 159; on page 212 the Korea Annual
becomes the Korean Annual.  On page 232 Kim Dae Jung in 1993 is leaving for
Oxford; in fact he went to Cambridge. Roh Tae Woo suffers particularly
badly: on page 240 he is first referred to as Tae Woo, then later on the
same page as Rho, on page 242 as Roh Taw Woo, and on page 327 as Roh Too
Woo.  Page 285, note 12 makes a reference to a work by a Maretzki, but a
full bibliographic citation is nowhere to be found. Northwestern University
political scientist Tong Whan Park is referred to as Tong Wham Park on page
322. The absence of comprehensive proofreading to weed out most of these
errors is unacceptable. Finally, as the book is of significant length,
readers might also wish for a comprehensive conclusion, rather than the
chapter that now closes the volume, which simply offers an overview of the
North-South dialogue.

Saxer, Carl 2002
Review of _Korea: A Century of Change_, by Juergen Kleiner. (2002)
Korean Studies Review 2002, no. 12
Electronic file: http://koreaweb.ws/ks/ksr/ksr02-12.htm

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