The epic stand on the Imjin

Jennifer Barclay, author of Meeting Mr Kim: Or How I Went to Korea and Learned to Love Kimchi, looks at Andrew Salmon’s exciting new book on the battle of Imjin River: To The Last Round (Aurum Press, June 2009) To the Last Round by Andrew Salmon gives the most exhaustive account to date of what […]

Max Hastings: The Korean War

Pan Macmillan, 1987 There are so many books on the Korean War, which commenced 59 years ago today, that it’s difficult to know where to start. One history which has stood the test of time is by Max Hastings. Clocking in at 35% fewer pages than David Halberstam’s recent well-received account, Max Hastings’s The Korean […]

David Halberstam’s Korean War

David Halberstam The Coldest Winter – America and the Korean War 718pp, Hyperion, 2007 The subtitle of David Halberstam’s magnum opus, The Coldest Winter – America and the Korean War, at first seems a bit unimaginative. But it is to the point. After all, without Truman’s decision to commit US ground forces, the whole Korean […]

Korea Yearbook 2008

Korea Yearbook 2008 Eds Rüdiger Frank, James E Hoare, Patrick Köllner, Susan Pares Brill, 2009 The 2008 Korea Yearbook – Politics, Economy and Society does many of the things that a reader might expect: it contains a collection of papers which review the key developments in its chosen subject areas for the past year. At […]

The Dawn of Modern Korea

Andrei Lankov – The Dawn of Modern Korea EunHaeng NaMu publishing, 2008 This entertaining book has, paradoxically, taken me a devil of a long time to finish. That’s not because it’s difficult. It’s because it’s the opposite. The book is co-branded with a series of articles that Andrei Lankov has been writing for the Korea […]

Book review: A (minjung) History of Korea

Korea Historical Research Association (tr Joshua van Lieu) A History of Korea Saffron Books, 2005 It’s the 1980s. In Britain, leftist ideologues such as Red Robbo, Arthur Scargill and Derek Hatton had for years been railing against the government and the establishment using turgid language pilloried in satirical magazines, TV programmes and film1. Anyone who […]

Carter Ekert and others: Korea Old and New

Carter J Eckert / Ki-baik Lee / Young Ick Lew / Michael Robinson / Edward W Wagner (Ilchokak Publishers, for Korea Institute, Harvard University, 1990) An ambitious book which aims in the space of 400 pages to encapsulate Korea’s history from Palaeolithic times up until 1990. In a book of this nature it is inevitable […]

Sea-Jin Chang: Financial Crisis and Transformation of Korean Business Groups

The Rise and Fall of Chaebols (Cambridge, 2003) A welcome and very detailed examination of the history and structure of the Korean business conglomerates. The strengths of this book are manifold. First and foremost is the wealth of evidence sourced from the Korea Information Service which provides some raw data for some hard conclusions. And […]

Susie Younger: Never ending flower

Susie Younger: Never ending flower Collins Harvill, 1967 To describe this book as a memoir of a Catholic missionary in South Korea in the early 1960s, while factually correct, undersells it. Yes, the author is a person of deep Christian faith, but her work in Korea is more that of a social worker than evangelist. […]

Chae-jin Lee: A Troubled Peace

Chae-jin Lee: A Troubled Peace — US Policy and the Two Koreas Johns Hopkins Univ Press, 2006 A very thorough review of the history of the relations between the US and (the two) Korea(s) over the past hundred or so years. To me, there’s rather too many trees and not enough wood, but I guess […]

Mark Clifford: Troubled Tiger

(M.E. Sharpe, 1998) Chronicles the modern history of Korea from the 1960s to the mid-90s, focusing on the drive for economic growth and the control exerted by the Blue House over the direction of the economy. Clifford gives us a politically balanced view, emphasising the successes of Park Chung-hee, but not shrinking from laying bare […]

Book Review: Admiral Yi Sun-sin

A quick and easy read setting out the achievements of Admiral Yi in the Imjin war against Japan. As well as telling Yi’s story (sometimes using Yi’s own war diary and memorials to the throne), the book tries to compare his achievements with events which might be familiar to foreign readers — Nelson at Trafalgar; […]

Andrew Holloway: A Year in Pyongyang

(Aidan FC’s website, 1988) Amid the pile of available reading material on the DPRK, is there room for an unpublished memoir, getting on for 20 years old, recording the experiences of a lowly “raiser” — someone who converts Konglish into English — in late 1980s Pyongyang? Definitely yes. Though obviously not state of the art, […]