[KS] KSR 2004-07: _The Korean War: A Historical Dictionary_, by Paul M. Edwards
Stephen.Epstein at vuw.ac.nz
Sat May 1 05:27:54 EDT 2004
_The Korean War: A Historical Dictionary_, Paul M. Edwards, 2003. Lanham, Maryland and Oxford: The Scarecrow Press. xl + 367 pages. Maps, illus., bibliog. (ISBN 0-8108-4479-6). Price US$75.
Reviewed by James E. Hoare
SOAS, University of London
jim at jhoare10.fsnet.co.uk
The once "forgotten war" is forgotten no more, at least if the number of books that deal with the subject is anything to go by. The spurt of such publications that began in the 1980s as Western archives from the Korean War period became available to scholars shows no sign of abating. Indeed, it has received new impetus as material filters out from Chinese sources and from the archives of the former Soviet Union. Reducing this mass of information and analysis to usable form for students and others interested is a major task and it is not surprising that there have been a number of dictionary or encyclopaedia-like volumes attempting to do just that in recent years. Some have concentrated very firmly on the military aspects; others have attempted to cover political issues as well.
The volume under review tends more towards the military than the political, though the latter is not entirely absent. The author, who heads the Center for the Study of the Korean War at Graceland University's Independence Missouri campus, has published a number of bibliographical works on the Korean War, and on some of the military campaigns of the war. He provides much detailed information on military equipment, the ships and types of aircraft, and similar subjects. There are potted biographies of most of the major military figures of the war, and of quite a number of politicians. The majority of these accounts, inevitably, deal with people from the United States, but others are also covered, including a good number of South Koreans.
Selecting entries is always a difficult choice, but I was surprised at the space devoted to Lt. Swenson, whose main claim to fame seems to have been a case of mistaken identity. The entry for the "Mayor of Wonsan", a joke title bestowed on the senior US officer in charge of the siege of that city, also seemed a bit self-indulgent, when the North Korean ruling party only gets two lines. The entry on the Salvation Army deals only with the US branch of that body in its role of providing comfort to the troops. There is no mention of the Korean Salvation Army, or its head, Commander Lord, despite his long years in Korea and the important part he played as interpreter and negotiator during his time in captivity. Also missing is the sad tale of the Seoul Salvation Army boys' band, marched off by the North Koreans and never heard of again. Only US medals and only the US Korean War Memorial have entries. A careful explanation of how British Royal Navy ships are named fails to mention that "His Majesty's Ships" all became "Her Majesty's Ships", as did those of Australia, Canada and New Zealand when Queen Elizabeth II replaced King George VI on 6 February 1952. On the other hand, it is not surprising, given Edwards' past works, that the bibliography, at just under 80 pages, and confined to works in English, is very comprehensive, and draws attention to many little-known or older works that still have use for the study of the war.
Having just finished revising another historical dictionary published by Scarecrow, I know that it is a hard task. The constant repetition of terms, unavoidable in such a work, can make one careless. (I found, for example, that I had "Chosun", "Choson" and "Chosen" all in the same entry, and all supposedly covering the same period of time.) So it is vital that compilers of such works, especially when they are to be used by non-experts, check them over and over again for accuracy. Even then, small errors will creep in. In this volume, Chen Yi, the Chinese soldier and later foreign minister, comes out as "Chen Yi (Chen L"), instead of "Chen Yi (Chen I)". The veteran South Korean diplomat, Han Pyo-wook, died in 2003, not 1983. It was Kaesong that was the capital of the Koryo dynasty, not Pyongyang, and it certainly was not captured in Operation Piledriver in mid-1951 - Pyonggang is presumably what is meant. Dates are often wrong. Ernest Bevin, British Foreign Secretary at the outbreak of the Korean War, died in 1951 so could not have been in the same post in 1961. Suiho was not bombed in 1956. Kim Ch'aek is General Kim, not General Ch'aek. The founder of the South Korean navy has two entries, once as Shon Il-won, and once as Son Il-won.
These minor errors are irritants but some could mislead the unwary. Other mistakes are more serious, even if they are also produced by carelessness. The entry on the Neutral Nations' Supervisory Commission (NNSC) is incorrect on several points. The concept arose out of the armistice negotiations, and the Armistice Agreement established it, not the United Nations. India was never part of the NNSC. And while the NNSC's role was much reduced after 1957, it did not cease to function. Indeed, it still exists today, and meets occasionally, albeit no longer recognized by the North Koreans. The entry on Sweden says that Sweden sent 162 military forces to the Korean War. But Sweden did not send military personnel to Korea until it joined the Neutral Nations' Supervisory Commission after the armistice in 1953. The whole point of the NNSC was that its members were drawn from countries that had not fought in the war.
Those already knowledgeable about the Korean War will soon spot the errors, and may find them no more than an irritant. For others, this must be a book to be used with caution.
Hoare, James E. 2004
_The Korean War: A Historical Dictionary_, by Paul M. Edwards, (2003)
_Korean Studies Review_ 2004, no. 07
Electronic file: http://koreaweb.ws/ks/ksr/ksr04-07.htm
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