This comprehensive and balanced history of modern Korea explores the social, economic, and political issues it has faced since being catapulted into the wider world at the end of the nineteenth century. Placing this formerly insular society in a global context, Michael J. Seth describes how this ancient, culturally and ethnically homogeneous society first fell victim to Japanese imperialist expansionism, and then was arbitrarily divided in half after World War II. Seth traces the postwar paths of the two Koreas_with different political and social systems and different geopolitical orientations_as they evolved into sharply contrasting societies. South Korea, after an unpromising start, became one of the few postcolonial developing states to enter the ranks of the first world, with a globally competitive economy, a democratic political system, and a cosmopolitan and dynamic culture. By contrast, North Korea became one of the world's most totalitarian and isolated societies, a nuclear power with an impoverished and famine-stricken population. Considering the radically different and historically unprecedented trajectories of the two Koreas, Seth assesses the insights they offer for understanding not only modern Korea but the broader perspective of world history.
Features A comprehensive history that fully considers social and economic as well as political issues
Offers greater treatment of recent Korean history than other similar works
Incorporates the latest scholarship in easy to understand analysis
Places modern Korean history in global perspective
Will appeal to readers interested in Asian and world history as well as Korean history
Michael J Seth —
Michael J. Seth is associate professor of East Asian and world history at James Madison University.
Introduction Chapter 1: Korea, 1876–1910 Chapter 2: Colonial Korea, 1910–1945 Chapter 3: Division and War, 1945–1953 Chapter 4: North Korea, 1953–1993 Chapter 5: South Korea from Poverty to Prosperity, 1953–1997 Chapter 6: South Korea—Creating a Democratic Society, 1953–1997 Chapter 7: North Korea in Recent Years Chapter 8: South Korea in Recent Years Conclusion
Seth, Michael J. A concise history of modern Korea: from the late nineteenth century to the present. Rowman & Littlefield, 2010. 295p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780742567122; ISBN 9780742567139 pbk. Reviewed in 2010jun CHOICE.
Michael Robinson's Korea's Twentieth-Century Odyssey (CH, Nov'07, 45-1621), drawing on decades of specialized research in primary Korean sources and featuring a wide selection of rare photographs, remains the standard in the growing ranks of historical surveys on Korea that have appeared in recent years. This new book by Seth (James Madison Univ.), though eminently readable, does not quite reach this level. It not clear, for example, that the author can read Korean (based on the works listed in his bibliography), which, in the 21st century, should be a sine qua non for authors working in this field. In addition, the absence of graphs, illustrations, or photos of any kind also might give one pause when assigning this text to contemporary undergraduates accustomed to today's brighter and more colorful textbooks. These substantial caveats aside, the text does read very smoothly, lacking any trace of academic jargon or other language off-putting to the average freshman or sophomore. One wishes it could have been combined with a somewhat livelier presentation.
Summing Up: Recommended. General and undergraduate libraries. -- T. S. Munson, Randolph-Macon College