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The Other Great Game: The Opening of Korea and the Birth of Modern East Asia

A dramatic new telling of the dawn of modern East Asia, placing Korea at the center of a transformed world order wrought by imperial greed and devastating wars.

In the nineteenth century, Russia participated in two “great games”: one, well known, pitted the tsar’s empire against Britain in Central Asia. The other, hitherto unrecognized but no less significant, saw Russia, China, and Japan vying for domination of the Korean Peninsula. In this eye-opening account, brought to life in lucid narrative prose, Sheila Miyoshi Jager argues that the contest over Korea, driven both by Korean domestic disputes and by great-power rivalry, set the course for the future of East Asia and the larger global order.

When Russia’s eastward expansion brought it to the Korean border, an impoverished but strategically located nation was wrested from centuries of isolation. Korea became a prize of two major imperial conflicts: the Sino–Japanese War at the close of the nineteenth century and the Russo–Japanese War at the beginning of the twentieth. Japan’s victories in the battle for Korea not only earned the Meiji regime its yearned-for colony but also dislodged Imperial China from centuries of regional supremacy. And the fate of the declining tsarist empire was sealed by its surprising military defeat, even as the United States and Britain sized up the new Japanese challenger.

A vivid story of two geopolitical earthquakes sharing Korea as their epicenter, The Other Great Game rewrites the script of twentieth-century rivalry in the Pacific and enriches our understanding of contemporary global affairs, from the origins of Korea’s bifurcated identity—a legacy of internal politics amid the imperial squabble—to China’s irredentist territorial ambitions and Russia’s nostalgic dreams of recovering great-power status.

Sheila Miyoshi Jager is the author of Brothers at War: The Unending Conflict in Korea and Narratives of Nation-Building in Korea: The Genealogy of Patriotism. A specialist on modern East Asian and Korean history and politics, she has written for the New York TimesPolitico, and the Boston Globe. She is Professor of East Asian Studies at Oberlin College.

Source: publisher’s website


List of Maps | Note on Romanization, Names, and Dates | Preface
Prologue: The Rise of Russia in Asia

I. New Frontiers

1. Korea’s Pyrrhic Victory
2. Japan’s Korea Problem
3. The Opening of Korea

II. Controlling Barbarians with Barbarians

4. China’s Korea Problem
5. The Other Great Game Begins
6. Russia’s Railway to the East

III. Wars and Imperialism

7. Prelude to War
8. Triumph, Defeat, and a Massacre
9. Two-Front War
10. Triple Intervention
11. Continental Power
12. Maritime Power
13. Boxers
14. The Death of Li Hongzhang

IV. New Friends, Old Enemies

15. New Agreements
16. Russia’s Korea Problem

V. The Russo–Japanese War—World War Zero

17. War for Korea
18. War in Manchuria
19. Mukden

VI. New East Asian Order

20. The Portsmouth Treaty and Korea
21. “Eternal Peace and Security in Asia”
22. Annexation
Epilogue: Legacies
Abbreviations | Notes | Acknowledgments | Index

* Where the book is available from a number of sources, they are prioritised as follows: (1) Amazon UK site, or for the more recent uploads (2) Amazon US site (3) Other sites in US or Europe, including second-hand outlets (4) LTI Korea, where the title is advertised as available from there (5) Onlines stores in Korea. Links to and Amazon UK site contain an affiliate code which, should you make a purchase, gives a small commission to LKL at no additional cost to you.