The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History

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9780465087921: The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History

The struggle between the two Koreas has repeatedly claimed the headlines of the world in acts of terrorism and heroism, showdowns over nuclear weapons programs on both sides of the lines, the sudden deaths of leaders, and historic turning points in the relationship with the outside powers of Japan, Russia, and China.Don Oberdorfer lived through many of these crises as a journalist for the Washington Post. Building on his extensive experience, many previously unavailable documents, and unparalleled access to the leadership circles of the two Korean states and the great powers, he has written a gripping narrative history of Korea's travails and triumphs over the past quarter century. The involvement of the outside world—including a chilling account of the nuclear showdown that brought the United States perilously close to war with North Korea in 1994—receives extensive treatment and special emphasis.Korea represents the last vestige of the Cold War. The Two Koreas places that political tension within a historical context, looking at democratic South Korea and communist North Korea through the lens of the past twenty-five years. Oberdorfer's work is the definitive text of contemporary Korea.

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About the Author:

Don Oberdorfer wrote for the "Washington Post" for twenty-five years, and is currently Chairman of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies. He lives in Washington, D.C. Robert Carlin is a Visiting Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University and former chief of the Northeast Asia Division in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, U.S. Department of State. He lives in Washington, D.C.

From Kirkus Reviews:

An old Asia hand offers a briefing that's more notable for the breadth than for the depth with which it addresses the issues still dividing North from South Korea. Oberdorfer (The Turn, 1991, etc.) starts his narrative in 1972, the first time that Pyongyang representatives had openly visited Seoul since the peninsular country was partitioned in the wake of WW II, and then reviews the ongoing negotiations on reunification. The author (a former Far East correspondent for the Washington Post) goes on to detail the South's blood-sport approach to politics at a time when the continued presence of Kim Il Sung lent the North a measure of stability. By way of example, the KCIA gunned down Park Chung Hee, opening the way for Chun Do Hwan. Following deadly riots in 1987, another would-be strongman, Roh Tae Woo, bested reformers Kim Dae Jung and Kim Young Sam for the presidency, leaving him to oversee the 1988 Olympiad successfully staged in Seoul. In the meantime, Beijing gave Seoul a jolt, following Moscow's lead and establishing diplomatic relations with South Korea. Shortly before the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's founding father died in mid-1994, the wider world and Washington became gravely concerned about the Red state's nuclear capabilities. Jimmy Carter helped avert a full-blown crisis, however, and Kim's son (Kim Jong Il), who inherited an economy on the rocks, is coping as best he can with famine and a host of other daunting internal problems. Yet the impoverished North continues its efforts to subvert the flourishing South. Even so, Oberdorfer is reluctant to predict whether, let alone when, the two Koreas will be reunited. Indeed, he exits on the breezy note that there's no telling what may happen in a country so full of surprises. A fine overview of Korea's recent past, which will leave most readers frustrated by its lack of analysis on what might lie ahead for this divided nation. (b&w photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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