Additions to the List of RKHB™

It seems that 22 books is not enough. ^^

I recently put forth a 22-book list of Required Korean History Books™ (RKHB™). I feel that those 22 books give one a good foundation in Northeast Asian history, specifically Korean history.

Many friends and associates — some known and some unknown — have since made good additions, comments, suggestions and criticisms both constructive and destructive to my earlier list. Indeed, you guys have now collectively suggested an additional 43 books to add to the list of RKHB™, plus five additional online resources. This greatly increases breadth and depth, but also, with vivid alacrity, removes any fig leaf of brevity. It’s no longer just a list of good books; this is now a foundational library for any aspiring Korean Studies department.

Many of the books below are scholarly, i.e., not for the layperson. Many are very narrow and very deep, with granular footnotes citing primary sources, and long bibliographies. Also keep in mind that some, though not all, of the people who write about East Asia can be… let’s say, East Asia attracts an odd type of person who writes about it. Korean Studies, in particular, is home to four archetypes of author, and you have to navigate between them like Scylla and Charybdis. First, there are the voluntary exiles, the Westerners overseas. This group spans everyone from Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) to Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964). Second are the subject specialists. They know one subject or field extremely deeply, and just happen to be writing about that field in East Asia. Third are the ethnic Korean Western scholars. Finally, there are the local scholars writing in English. Each author archetype has its own voice, so to speak, and combined you’ll hear the complete range of harmony available from our Korean Studies choir.

Finally, I had never heard of many of the books below, so I’m very thankful to you all for having suggested them.

If you do ever find time to read, completely reading a long list of 65 books — some easy, some hard, some narrow, some broad, all about Korea — would give you not only a Ph.D.’s worth of knowledge, but would also grant you that most sought-after Confucian ideal: a proper understanding of history.

So please find below 43 additional or supplemental books to add to my earlier list of RKHB™, sorted by date of publication. At the end is a list of thankees, to whom — each and all — I owe a beer.

1. “The History of Korea” (1905) by Homer B. Hulbert

Homer B. Hulbert originally visited the Korean Empire in 1886 with two other instructors, Delzell A. Bunker and George W. Gilmore, to teach English at the Royal English School. In 1901 he founded the magazine The Korea Review. Before 1905 his attitude toward Japanese involvement in Korea was positive, as he saw the Japanese as agents of reform, in contrast to Russia, which he saw as reactionary. He changed his position in September 1905 when he criticized Japanese plans to turn the Korean Empire into a protectorate. He resigned his position as a teacher at a public middle school, and in October 1905 he went to the United States as an emissary of Emperor Gojong, to protest Japan’s actions. (Source: Wikipedia)

Project Guttenberg provides copyright-free ebooks online for free. is a non-profit online library.

2. “Willard Straight” (1924) by Herbert Croly. Specifically, “Chapter VI. The Murder of a Nation”.

After graduation from Cornell, Willard Straight was hired by the Imperial Chinese Maritime Customs Service, an agency of the Chinese government, so in the late fall of 1901 at the age of 21 he sailed for China. He served as secretary to Sir Robert Hart, the service’s head, in Nanjing. Trained in college as an architect, he always remained keenly observant of the outside aspect of things, and particularly during his early residence in China, his pencil and his pen were both busy in reporting what he saw. He resigned in 1904 to serve as a Reuters correspondent during the Russo-Japanese War, bringing him to Korea in 1904. At war’s end, in June 1905, he entered the employment of the U.S. government as vice consul in Seoul under Edwin Morgan, the U.S. consul general in the Kingdom of Korea, and during the next few years he served successively in Korea, Washington, D.C., in Cuba and as consul general in Mukden. (Source: Questia, Wikipedia) is a non-profit online library.

3. “Le problème corèen” (1953) by Hung-lick Hu

“Le problème corèen” (1953) by Hung-lick Hu is translated into English as “The Korean Problem: A Study in Conflict, Diplomacy and International Law”.

4. “Korean Works and Days: Notes From the Diary of a Country Priest” (1964) by Richard Rutt

While in Korea, from 1954 to 1974, Rutt studied in great depth the language, culture and history of Korea, as well as Classical Chinese. He was an active member of the Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch, serving on the council, overseeing its publications and serving as its president in 1974. He published six scholarly papers in the RASKB’s journal Transactions, most of which reveal his deep knowledge of the Classical Chinese used in pre-modern Korea. His deep affection for the traditional culture of Korea, which had in fact almost ceased to exist by the time he arrived, was particularly expressed in his very popular volume “Korean Works and Days: Notes from the Diary of a Country Priest”. (Source: Wikipedia)

5. “The Politics of Korean Nationalism” (1965) by Chong-Sik Lee

“The Politics of Korean Nationalism” is a comprehensive view of nationalism in Korea from the downfall of dynastic Korea to the end of Japanese colonial rule in 1945 (Source: Goodreads).

6. “The Korean Communist Movement, 1918-1948” (1967) by Dae-Sook Suh

The main objective of this study is “to demythologize the history of communism in Korea” by challenging the claim of present North Korean leaders that they played a central role in the modern history of their country and that they came to power only after decades of revolutionary struggle under the leadership of Kim Il-sŏng. Suh’s approach is basically historical. The book is chronologically divided into five parts, beginning with the origins of the Korean communist movement and ending with Kim Il-sŏng’s seizure of power in North Korea. In each part a vast array of hitherto obscure facts are carefully dissected and analyzed to depict the nature, scope, and direction of the communist movement. (Source: the American Political Science Review)

A book review from the American Political Science Review.

7. “Korea: The Politics of the Vortex” (1968) by Gregory Henderson

A consistent theme in this book is that Korea is a “mass society” consisting “typically of atomized entities, related to each other chiefly through their relations to state power”. Korea is a mass society, according to the author, because of her social homogeneity, lacking in feudal background or major social divisions that could have paved the way for a pluralistic society. The author contends that it is this “mass” nature of Korean society which is responsible for a whole range of political phenomena: the excessive centralization of state power; the extreme weakness of individuals vis-a-vis the authority of the state; the absence of institutionalized groupings other than the state; the lack of representative tradition based on tangible interests; and the political “vortex” where every ambitious man strives to gain access to the center of a single hierarchy, namely, the state. He concludes that the problem of the political vortex can be attacked through political, administrative and economic decentralization. (Source: the Journal of Asian Studies)

A book review from the Journal of Asian Studies.

8. “The Passing of Korea” (1969) by Homer B. Hulbert

This book is a labour of love, undertaken in the days of Korea’s distress, with the purpose of interesting the reading public in a country and a people that have been frequently maligned and seldom appreciated. They are overshadowed by China on the one hand in respect of numbers, and by Japan on the other in respect of wit. They are neither good merchants like the one nor good fighters like the other, and yet they are far more like Anglo-Saxons in temperament than either, and they are by far the pleasantest people in the Far East to live amongst. Their failings are such as follow in the wake of ignorance everywhere, and the bettering of their opportunities will bring swift betterment to their condition. (Source: from the preface) is a non-profit online library.

9. “The Politics of Military Revolution in Korea” (1971) by Se-Jin Kim

Lest anyone mistake the author’s bias, a careful reading of pages 66-69 will confirm his profound admiration for the military’s “scientific” approach to problem solving, and his corresponding contempt for the messy and inefficient civilian political system. His treatment of President Park Chung-hee (pp. 89-92) borders on the press-agentry; indeed, it has been derived from authorized biographies of the general, thus casting doubts on the author’s methodology. He removes any question as to where his sympathies lie when he declared that “these officers were also deeply aware of social injustice and seized power in the name of, and for the sake of, the masses…” (p. 100).” (From the book review by George E. Hopkins in The Journal of Developing Areas, Vol. 7, No. 1 (Oct., 1972), pp. 128-129 (2 pages).)

A book review from the American Political Science Review.

A book review from the Journal of Developing Areas.

10. “Communism In Korea: Part I- The Movement” (1972) by Robert A. Scalapino and Chongsik Lee & “Communism In Korea: Part II – The Society” (1972) by Robert A. Scalapino and Chongsik Lee

The source materials used in this study are diverse and complex. Therefore, a brief explanation concerning sources and research techniques is essential. This study has been under way for more than a decade. Initially, we made an effort to collect those materials that shed light upon the pre-1945 origins and subsequent evolution of the Korean Communist movement. Here, several types of sources proved extremely valuable. Most extensive — and in general, most reliable — were official Japanese documents, especially those from the tokkō keisatsu (secret police), Justice Ministry, Home Ministry, and Government-General of Korea files as well as the archives of the Foreign and the Army ministries. These contained daily intelligence reports; verbatim police and prosecutors’ interrogations; court trial documents; large quantities of confiscated primary source materials produced by the Communists; police reports written on the basis of the above; and “confessions” or interpretive essays written by political prisoners at the command of the authorities. Most of these materials were marked “Top Secret” or “Secret” and became available only because of Japanese defeat in World War II. (Source: preface of the book) is a non-profit online library.

11. “James Scarth Gale and his History of the Korean People” (1972) by Richard Rutt

James Scarth Gale’s “History of the Korean People” is one of the very few works on Korea written by the early Western scholars that have withstood the test of time and still remain valuable. Originally published serially in a missionary journal in Korea from July 1924 till September 1927, this important work has not been available for a long time. The Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch, has now published a new edition of Gale’s “History”, together with a detailed and authoritative biography of Gale, notes giving references to the original sources Gale used, and very useful annotated bibliographies, all competently prepared by Richard Rutt. (Source: The Journal of Asian Studies)

A book review from the Journal of Asian Studies.

12. “Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism” (1983) by Benedict Anderson

What makes people love and die for nations, as well as hate and kill in their name? While many studies have been written on nationalist political movements, the sense of nationality–the personal and cultural feeling of belonging to a nation–has not received proportionate attention. In this widely acclaimed work, Benedict Anderson examines the creation and global spread of the ‘imagined communities’ of nationality.
Anderson explores the processes that created these communities: the territorialization of religious faiths, the decline of antique kingship, the interaction between capitalism and print, the development of vernacular languages-of-state, and changing conceptions of time. He shows how an originary nationalism born in the Americas was modularly adopted by popular movements in Europe, by the imperialist powers, and by the anti-imperialist resistances in Asia and Africa.
This revised edition includes two new chapters, one of which discusses the complex role of the colonialist state’s mindset in the development of Third World nationalism, while the other analyses the processes by which, all over the world, nations came to imagine themselves as old. (Source: Goodreads)

13. “Kim Il Sung: The North Korean Leader” (1988) by Dae-Sook Suh

This book is especially important now with Kim Il Sung’s death, the ending of the nuclear crisis between North Korea and the United States, and the obscured emergence of a successor regime ostensibly headed by Kim Il Jong, Sung’s son. Suh’s book investigates the impact of Kim Il Sung on the history and politics of North Korea and what his death will mean for the future of the country and its relations with the rest of the world. (Source: Goodreads)

14. “Korea: Tradition and Transformation: A History of the Korean People” (1988) by Andrew C. Nahm

This is the first comprehensive English-language history of the Korean people, offering Western readers a synthesis of the latest & best scholarship on Korean history & culture from the earliest times to the present. Prof. Nahm’s work presents a scholarly analysis of the origins, the growth & never-ending process of changes in political, economic, social & cultural patterns of the Korean society throughout the ages, as well as historical & contemporary interactions of the Korean people with their neighbors near & far. The strength of the book lies in its balance. Unlike most other Korean history books, this book covers all aspects of the history of the Korean people–their art, literature, religion, & political, economic & social experiences from the ancient times to the present. It’s noteworthy that, for the first time, the recent history & various aspects of national development of both North & South Korea are dealt with in the book. (Source: Goodreads)

15. “Sex Among Allies: Military Prostitution in U.S.-Korea Relations” (1997) by Katharine H.S. Moon

This significant contribution to several discourses addresses at least two levels of analyses: the relationships among individual peoples and the structures of power and policy between two governments. It draws on multiple methods — detailed analysis of documents, extensive interviews with various parties involved, and a personal history of familiarity with the culture and the question. It demonstrates the power of feminist analysis in international relations, and it elevates the conversations about women’s situations from the particulars of one group of women in one place and time to a global consideration of how gender is the imbricated in foreign policies. (Source: American Political Science Review)

A book review from the American Political Science Review.

16. “Han Unbound: The Political Economy of South Korea” (1998) by John Lie

This book is a sophisticated interdisciplinary analysis of the political economy of South Korea from the 1950s to the late 1980s, focusing on rapid industrialization and authoritarian politics. Drawing from a wide range of primary and secondary sources, John Lie skillfully trades the ambivalence of development — both its triumphs and tragedies. In doing so, he takes strong command of the central cultural themes, economic circumstances, and political forces at work in Korea. Certainly, this is a welcome addition to an increasingly crowded field of political economy in general and of South Korea in particular. (Source: American Political Science Review)

A book review from the American Political Science Review.

17. “The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History” (1997) by Don Oberdorfer

Don Oberdorfer has written a gripping narrative history of Korea’s travails and triumphs over the past three decades. The Two Koreas places the tensions between North and South within a historical context, with a special emphasis on the involvement of outside powers. (Source: Goodreads)

18. “Korean Workers: The Culture and Politics of Class Formation” (2001) by Hagen Koo

Forty years of rapid industrialization have transformed millions of South Korean peasants and their sons and daughters into urban factory workers. Hagen Koo explores the experiences of this first generation of industrial workers and describes its struggles to improve working conditions in the factory and to search for justice in society. The working class in South Korea was born in a cultural and political environment extremely hostile to its development, Koo says. Korean workers forged their collective identity much more rapidly, however, than did their counterparts in other newly industrialized countries in East Asia. This book investigates how South Korea’s once-docile and submissive workers reinvented themselves so quickly into a class with a distinct identity and consciousness. Based on sources ranging from workers’ personal writings to union reports to in-depth interviews, this book is a penetrating analysis of the South Korean working-class experience. Koo reveals how culture and politics simultaneously suppressed and facilitated class formation in South Korea. With chapters exploring the roles of women, students, and church organizations in the struggle, the book reflects Koo’s broader interest in the social and cultural dimensions of industrial transformation. (Source: Goodreads)

19. “Book of Corrections: Reflections on the National Crisis During the Japanese Invasion of Korea, 1592-1598” (2002) by Song-Nyong Yu

We live in an ecumenical splendor that allows us the delight of eating Big Macs in Moscow as well as in Bangkok. As a result, our times are marked by desperate celebrations of diversity against what we fear is a cancerous homogenization. As we stand on the edge of a new Hellenism, nostalgia and parochialism drag at us in the form of nationalism and single-country narratives, and we are distracted from the world civilization that is emerging. Europeans are building a superstate, and Americans are the new Romans; both have long ago discerned Atlantic studies, which link Africa, Europea and the New World in interactive systems. Alas, East Asian studies often still works off a clutch of discrete, country narratives with no unifying themes. This translation is important precisely because it offers a glimpse of premodern East Asia in close touch with itself. (Source: The Journal of Asian Studies)

A book review from the Journal of Asian Studies.

20. “Laying Claim to the Memory of May: A Look Back at the 1980 Kwangju Uprising” (2002) by Linda Sue Lewis

The Kwangju Uprising–Korea’s Tiananmen–is one of the most important political events in late twentieth-century Korean history. What began as a peaceful demonstration against the imposition of military rule in the southwestern city of Kwangju in May 1980 turned into a bloody people’s revolt. In the two decades since, memories of the Kwangju Uprising have lived on, assuming symbolic importance in the Korean democracy movement, underlying the rise in anti-American sentiment in South Korea, and shaping the nation’s transition to a civil society. Nonetheless it remains a contested event, the subject still of controversy, confusion, international debate, and competing claims.
As one of the few Western eyewitnesses to the Uprising, Linda Lewis is uniquely positioned to write about the event. In this innovative work on commemoration politics, social representation, and memory, Lewis draws on her fieldwork notes from May 1980, writings from the 1980s, and ethnographic research she conducted in the late 1990s on the memorialization of Kwangju and its relationship to changes in the national political culture. Throughout, the chronological organization of the text is crisscrossed with commentary that provocatively disrupts the narrative flow and engages the reader in the reflexive process of remembering Kwangju over two decades. Highly original in its method and approach, Laying Claim to the Memory of May situates this seminal event in a broad historical and scholarly context. The result is not only the definitive history of the Kwangju Uprising, but also a sweeping overview of Korean studies over the last few decades. (Source: Google Books)

21. “Living Dangerously in Korea: The Western Experience, 1900-1950” (2003) by Donald N. Clark

Korea was “discovered” by the West after World War II when it became a flashpoint in the Cold War. Before the war, however, it was home to many hundreds of Westerners who experienced life there under Japanese colonial rule. These included missionaries who opened Korea as a field for evangelism, education, and medicine; speculators who risked much and reaped riches from mining concessions; and diplomats who tried to keep them neutral, even as the Japanese forced them out of business on the eve of the Pacific War.
In the first part of the book, the author reconstructs the foreign community and highlights the role of Americans in particular as participants in Korean history, bringing vividly to life the lives and suffering and triumphs of the expatriate community in Korea, especially the missionaries. In the second part of the book, the author presents the altered circumstances of American military occupation after 1945 and the consequences of the Americans assuming a role not unlike the one that had been played earlier by the colonial Japanese.
By telling the lives and experiences of Westerners, the author highlights the major historical events of modern Korean history. Accounts of foreigners in the Independence Movement and during the period of militarization in the 1930s shed new light on what Japanese colonial rule meant to the Korean people. Similarly, Western experiences in Korea in the 1940s amount to a commentary on the way Korea was divided and the events that led inexorably to the ordeal of the Korean War.
The stories recounted in this extraordinary book, highlighted by more than sixty photographs, are a valuable commentary on Korea’s early modernization and the consequences of the Korean War as it set the stage for Korea’s relations with the world in the late twentieth century. (Source: Goodreads)

22. “Times Past In Korea: An Illustrated Collection Of Encounters, Events, Customs And Daily Life Recorded By Foreign Visitors” (2003) by Martin Uden

In earlier times, for the Chinese, Korea was ‘the country of courteous people from the east’, and for westerners ‘the land of the morning calm’ or ‘hermit kingdom’. In this fascinating collection of writings on times past in Korea the author helps to lift the veil on this once closed country, providing the reader with a wide selection of first-hand accounts by travellers who ‘discovered’ Korea – some as snapshots by those passing through, others more detailed evaluations of Korean culture and everyday life by those who spent time there. The collection covers a period of over 400 years – from Hendrik Hamel’s journal of the 1600s to early 20th century records, such as Roy C. Andrew’s 1918 published account of his expedition, entitled Exploring Unknown Corners of the ‘Hermit Kingdom’. (Source: Google Books)

23. “Ethnic Nationalism in Korea: Genealogy, Politics and Legacy” (2006) by Gi-Wook Shin

Few people with even a passing knowledge of Korea can fail to be impressed with the depth and persistence of Korean nationalism. Gi-Wook Shin begins his important and wide-ranging study with a description of one of the most striking recent examples of that nationalism, the near-hysterical fervor among virtually the whole of the South Korean population supporting their team’s success in the 2002 World Cup. But unlike in certain other countries where outpourings of nationalist fervor are commonplace (such as the United States), nationalism in Korea is generally articulated as ethnic nationalism. Koreans understand themselves to be, and are usually understood by others as, a single ethnic group with a shared culture, language, and biological heritage going back centuries, if note millennia. Shin, a historical sociologist born in Korea and currently teaching at Stanford, has written one of the first scholarly works to scrutinize and historicize the ethnic nationalism that most Koreans, and observers of Korea, usually take for granted. As such, “Ethnic Nationalism in Korea” is a valuable, critical case study of one of the most ethnically “pure” nation-states in the world, a study that holds many interesting and useful implications for research on ethnic nationalism in general. (Source: American Journal of Sociology)

**Book review written by Charles K. Armstrong of Columbia University… heh heh heh… **

A book review from the American Journal of Sociology.

24. “The Korean Presidents: Leadership for Nation Building” (2007) by Choong Nam Kim

This volume is the only global analysis of each individual Korean president and their presidency, as well as the only current assessment of the success of the institution of the Korean presidency as a positive role model for emerging nations. “Dr. Choong Nam Kim has written an important and penetrating study of the Korean presidents from Syngman Rhee to Roh Moo Hyun in the context of their eras. His analysis of their influence and leadership styles is required reading in the continuing reassessment of their respective roles in the remarkable changes and development of politics and economics in the Republic of Korea. This will no doubt be a controversial study in some circles, for it provides an alternative approach to some contemporary scholarship, but it will contribute both to the rise of sophisticated scholarly concern and popular interest in understanding the various roles of Korean presidents during critical periods in modern Korean history. This volume is a highly relevant and singular contribution to the literature on the peregrinations of the Republic since its founding.” — David I. Steinberg, Director, Asian Studies Program, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University (Source: Google Books)

25. “A Killing Art: The Untold History of Tae Kwon Do” (2008) by Alex Gillis

Obscure documents, Korean-language books, and in-depth interviews with tae kwon do pioneers tell the tale of the origin of the most popular martial art. In 1938, tae kwon do began at the end of a poker game in a tiny village in a remote corner of what is now North Korea by Choi Hong-Hi, who began the martial art, and his nemesis, Kim Un-Yong, who developed the Olympic style and became one of the most powerful, controversial men in sports. The story follows Choi from the 1938 poker game where he fought for his life, through high-class geisha houses where the art was named, and into the Vietnam War where the martial art evolved into a killing art. The techniques cut across all realms—from the late 1960s when tae kwon do-trained Korean CIA agents kidnapped people in the U.S. and Europe, to the 1970s when Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, and other Hollywood stars master the art’s new kicks. Tae kwon do is also a martial art for the 21st century, one of merciless techniques, indomitable men, and justice pumped on steroids. (Source: Goodreads)

26. “Early Korea 1: Reconsidering Early Korean History Through Archaeology” (2008) by Mark E. Byington (editor)

As a numbered series produced in a soft cover, it is easy to mistake “Early Korea” for a new journal, but no, it is a new book series in the field of Korean archaeology, published by the Early Korea Project at the Korea Institute of Harvard University. The director of the project, Dr. Mark E. Byington, is also editor of the series, bringing together his vast knowledge of activity in the field with his excellent organizational capabilities. The books benefit from copious colour photos, good line drawings and maps, and excellent design — a masterful printing job by the Haingraph Co. Ltd. in Seoul and a real pleasure to hold and peruse. (Source: International Journal of Asian Studies)

A book review from the International Journal of Asian Studies.

27. “Pop Goes Korea: Behind the Revolution in Movies, Music and Internet Culture” (2008) by Mark James Russell

Since the first edition of “Pop Goes Korea” came out in 2008, Korean popular culture has only gotten bigger and more successful. More than 10,000 words longer than the original book, “Pop Goes Korea, 2nd edition” updates all the amazing stories of Korean popular culture, including “Gangnam Style” and the unbelievable surge of K-pop all over the world, the latest cinematic blockbusters, Korea’s indie music scene, and the rise of webcomics.
South Korea came from nowhere in the 1990s to become one of the biggest producers of pop content in Asia – and the West. Now, the former underdog of the international pop scene sets trends in music, movies, comic books, TV dramas, and online gaming for the rest of the world to follow. Why? Who’s behind it? Veteran reporter-at-large Mark James Russell tells an exciting story of rapid growth and wild success marked by an uncanny knack for moving just one step ahead of changing technologies. With first-person accounts, fresh analysis, anecdotes, and intimate profiles on the dreamers and heavyweights who made the Korean tides turn, “Pop Goes Korea” is the book that explores Hallyu – the “Korean Wave” – hitting the world’s shores.
Included in the text is historical and cultural background plus focus chapters on media conglomerate CJ Entertainment, director Kang Je-gyu’s blockbuster film “Shiri”, the Pusan International Film Festival, TV actor Lee Byung-hun, SM Entertainment pop stars S.E.S. and H.O.T., and the internet demon/darling Soribada. Sidebars examine Korean filmdom’s biggest hits and biggest failures, the top twenty TV dramas, the golden age of Korean rock, b-boy (breakin’ and breakdancin’) groups, the Korean studio that animates “The Simpsons”, and, of course, the international megastar actor and singer Rain. (Source: Goodreads)

28. “The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War” (2009) by James D. Bradley

In 1905, President Teddy Roosevelt dispatched Secretary of War William Taft, his gun-toting daughter Alice, and a gaggle of congressmen on a mission to Japan, the Philippines, China and Korea. There, they would quietly forge a series of agreements that divided up Asia. At the time, Roosevelt was bully-confident about America’s future on the continent. But these secret pacts lit the fuse that would — decades later — result in a number of devastating wars: WWII, the Korean War, the communist revolution in China. One hundred years later, James Bradley retraces that epic voyage and discovers the remarkable truth about America’s vast imperial past — and its world-shaking consequences. Full of fascinating characters and brilliantly told, “The Imperial Cruise” will forever reshape the way we understand U.S. history. (Source: Goodreads)

29. “Democracy After Democratization” (2012) by Jang-Jip Choi

Half a century since the adoption of democracy in South Korea, the Korean people’s high hopes for popular governance have not been met. There is widespread skepticism about what Korea’s implementation of democracy has brought to the nation and whether it will be able to respond effectively in the future to the demands of an evolving society and world. What accounts for the conservative complacency of Korea’s democratic system? Why do democratic administrations in Korea seem so incompetent? Do political parties in Korea legitimately represent the voice of civil society in legislating and policymaking on issues with a direct impact on the freedom and welfare of the people?
Taking an issue-oriented approach, renowned Korean political scientist Jang-Jip Choi endeavors to answer such questions as he examines the origins, structures, and conflicts of conservative democracy in South Korea as well as democratization’s impact on the state, economy, and civil society. (Source: Goodreads)

30. “Korea: The Impossible Country” (2012) by Daniel Tudor

South Korea was “the poorest, most impossible country on the planet” when it was founded, according to an advisor to its third president. Yet, in just 50 years it has transformed itself into an economic powerhouse and a democracy that can serve as a model for other countries. How was it able to do this, despite having been sapped by almost a half-century of colonial rule, ruined by war, partitioned and lacking a democratic tradition? Who are the Korean people, who achieved this second “Asian miracle”? And having accomplished it, what are their prospects now?
Daniel Tudor is a journalist who has been living in and writing about Korea for almost a decade. He seeks the answers to these questions in Korean history, culture, and society and in interviews with experts, from business leaders to politicians, shamans, sports legends, poets, rock musicians, and academics. In five parts, he examines Korea’s cultural foundations; the Korean character; the public sphere in politics, business, and the workplace as well as the family; life in the hours not spent working, including food, music, and cinema; and social issues that may be crucial to Korea’s future, such as Koreans’ interactions with outsiders. In doing so, he touches on topics as diverse as shamanism, clan-ism, the dilemma posed by North Korea (brother or enemy?), myths about doing business in Korea, and why the country’s infatuation with learning English is causing huge social problems.
South Korea has undergone two miracles at once: economic development and democratization. The question now is, will it become a rich yet aging society, devoid of momentum, as some see Japan? Or will the dynamism of Korean society and its willingness to change — as well as the opportunity it has now to welcome outsiders into its fold — enable it to experience a third miracle that will propel it into the ranks of the foremost countries in terms of human development, democracy, and wealth? (Source: Goodreads)

31. “An Affair With Korea: Memories of South Korea in the 1960s” (2013) by Vincent S.R. Brandt

In 1966 Vincent S. R. Brant lived in Sokp’o, a poor and isolated South Korean fishing village on the coast of the Yellow Sea, carrying out social anthropological research. At that time, the only way to reach Sokp’o, other than by boat, was a two hour walk along foot paths. This memoir of his experiences in a village with no electricity, running water, or telephone shows Brandt’s attempts to adapt to a traditional, preindustrial existence in a small, almost completely self-sufficient community. This vivid account of his growing admiration for an ancient way of life that was doomed, and that most of the villagers themselves despised, illuminates a social world that has almost completely disappeared. (Source: Goodreads)

32. “Colonial Rule and Social Change in Korea, 1910-1945” (2013) by Hong Yung Lee, Yong-Chool Ha, Clark W. Sorensen (editors)

“Colonial Rule and Social Change in Korea 1910-1945” highlights the complex interaction between indigenous activity and colonial governance, emphasizing how Japanese rule adapted to Korean and missionary initiatives, as well as how Koreans found space within the colonial system to show agency. Topics covered range from economic development and national identity to education and family; from peasant uprisings and thought conversion to a comparison of missionary and colonial leprosariums. These various new assessments of Japan’s colonial legacy may open up new and illuminating approaches to historical memory that will resonate not just in Korean studies, but in colonial and postcolonial studies in general, and will have implications for the future of regional politics in East Asia. (Source: Google Books)

33. “Protesting America: Democracy and the U.S.-Korea Alliance” (2013) by Katharine H.S. Moon

Katharine Moon provides a comprehensive version of her research on anti-Americanism in South Korea in “Protesting America”. Spanning several years of field research, “Protesting America” analyzes the rather diverse nature of anti-American movements in Korean society. Moon’s research specifically focuses on the kiji undong (bases movement), a social movement that criticizes and challenges the presence and politics of U.S. military bases in the country.
Where existing literature focuses primarily on nationalism and the generational gap within South Korean society as the primary reasons for anti-American activism, Moon criticizes the explanatory value of both concepts. She describes nationalism as “underspecified” and “overused” (p. 19) and argues that Korean identity continuously transforms within a changing international context of globalization. Similarly, Moon argues that the “age-gap” approach overlooks the changing attitude of the Korean youth by understating the recent trend of young Koreans becoming more cosmopolitan and pragmatic, rather than more aggressive or radical (pp. 52-56) (Source: the Journal of Asian Studies)

A book review from the Journal of Asian Studies.

34. “Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee – A Look Inside North Korea” (2014) by Jang Jin-sung (trans. Shirley Lee)

In this rare insider’s view into contemporary North Korea, a high-ranking counterintelligence agent describes his life as a former poet laureate to Kim Jong-il and his breathtaking escape to freedom. “The General will now enter the room.”
Everyone turns to stone. Not moving my head, I direct my eyes to a point halfway up the archway where Kim Jong-il’s face will soon appear.

As North Korea’s state poet laureate, Jang Jin-sung led a charmed life. With food provisions (even as the country suffered through its great famine), a travel pass, access to strictly censored information, and audiences with Kim Jong-il himself, his life in Pyongyang seemed safe and secure. But this privileged existence was about to be shattered. When a strictly forbidden magazine he lent to a friend goes missing, Jang Jin-sung must flee for his life.
Never before has a member of the elite described the inner workings of this totalitarian state and its propaganda machine. An astonishing expose told through the heart-stopping story of Jang Jin-sung’s escape to South Korea, “Dear Leader” is a rare and unprecedented insight into the world’s most secretive and repressive regime. (Source: Goodreads)

35. “K-Pop: Popular Music, Cultural Amnesia and Economic Innovation in South Korea” (2014) by John Lie

While the growth in the popularity of Korean music in various corners of the world has spawned an increasing number of academic studies of its texts and contexts, most of these have often focused on specific questions and approaches, such as the role of social networking technologies in distribution, applying gender theory to the study of specific musicians, or undertaking reception studies in overseas markets. In contrast, this book aims wide, and its answers are deliberately syncretic. It begins with three questions: Where did K-pop come from? What does K-pop say about South Korea? How did K-pop become popular? The answers draw on personal observations, a range of secondary sources in Japanese, English and korean, and engagement with elements of larger popular culture and music theories. (Source: The Journal of Asian Studies)

A book review from the Journal of Asian Studies.

36. “Contemporary Korean Culture: The Persistence of Shamanistic and Confucian Values and Practices” (2015) by Andrew Eungi Kim and Joon-sik Choi

Who are the Koreans? What is their character? What are the ideals and aspirations of Koreans that make them behave in certain ways? What are their dominant concerns and interests, their worldviews that best express their underlying beliefs and attitudes? These are not questions concerned with a moral issue of how Koreans should or must live. Instead, these questions are about what matters the most to Koreans, their emotional security, their families and communities, their uncertainties and fears, and their hopes in regard to the larger society. Answers to these questions are systematically and analytically discussed in this book. In particular, the book examines the salient aspects of Korean religio-cultural tradition, specifically shamanism and Confucianism, that have left a lasting impression on both the mental landscape and attitude of contemporary Koreans. There is one compelling and obvious reason for examining Korean religious tradition as a point of departure. As the most important repository of Korean culture, these religions and their values continue to exert overwhelming influence on the thought and behavior of Koreans as well as on their newly acquired modern ways. (Source: Amazon)

37. “Protest Dialectics: State Repression and South Korea’s Democracy Movement, 1970-1979” (2015) by Paul Chang

Paul Y. Chang’s “Protest Dialectics” zeroes in on the complex relationship between repression and social movement mobilization, examining the turbulent trajectory of the democracy movement in South Korea during the 1970s. The establishment of the authoritarian Yusin Constitution and the intensification of state terror against dissidents have earned the 1970s a disgraceful name, the “dark age for democracy.” Chang cogently argues against this one-sided characterization, demonstration how “the repressive capacity of the Yusin regime and the movement for democracy developed in tandem” (p. 6), as “the increasing severity of state repression… in turn influences the mobilizing strategies of anti-government dissidents” (p. 9). (Source: The Journal of Asian Studies)

A book review from the Journal of Asian Studies.

38. “The Great East Asian War and the Birth of the Korean Nation” (2016) by JaHyun Kim Haboush

Three decades ago, new thinking about constructed identities was spurred by the historian and political scientist Benedict Anderson’s book “Imagined Communities”. Anderson’s insights continue to inspire a stream of research that has grown ever more relevant in a period of rising nationalism around the world. In her final book — completed by her husband and former students after her death — the late Haboush shows that Korean identity, despite its seeming permanence, is just as historically contingent as any other. She places its origins further back than other constructivists have, tracing them to the Imjin War (1592–98), when Koreans rose up to resist an invasion from Japan. Until then, the inhabitants of the Korean Peninsula had thought of themselves as junior members of a universalistic Confucian cultural sphere. But during the war, Haboush argues, local elites invented a new rhetoric of ethnic identity in order to levy a volunteer resistance army. In order to defeat surveillance by the invaders, they started to use vernacular Korean as a medium of public communication, shifting away from the use of classical Chinese, which they had relied on until then. Haboush’s innovative research shows how Korea emerged as one of the first imagined communities, and one of the most enduring. (Source: Foreign Affairs)

A book review from Foreign Affairs.

39. “The Making of the First Korean President: Syngman Rhee’s Quest for Independence” (2016) by Young Ick Lew

The only full-scale history of Syngman Rhee’s (1875-1965) early career in English was published nearly six decades ago. Now, in “The Making of the First Korean President”, Young Ick Lew uncovers little-known aspects of Rhee’s leadership roles prior to 1948, when he became the Republic of Korea’s first president. In this richly illustrated volume, Lew delves into Rhee’s background, investigates his abortive diplomatic missions, and explains how and why he was impeached as the head of the Korean Provisional Government in 1925. He analyzes the numerous personal conflicts between Rhee and other prominent Korean leaders, including some close friends and supporters who eventually denounced him as an autocrat.
Rhee is portrayed as a fallible yet charismatic leader who spent his life fighting in the diplomatic and propaganda arena for the independence of his beleaguered nation — a struggle that would have consumed and defeated lesser men. Based on exhaustive research that incorporates archival records as well as secondary sources in Korean, English and Japanese, “The Making of the First Korean President” meticulously lays out the key developments of Rhee’s pre-presidential career, including his early schooling in Korea, involvement in the reform movement against the Taehan (“Great Korean”) Empire, and his six-year incarceration in Seoul Prison for a coup attempt on Emperor Kojong. Rhee’s life in the U.S. is also examined in detail: his education at George Washington, Harvard, and Princeton universities; his evangelical work at the Seoul YMCA; his extensive activities in Hawai’i and attempts to maintain prestige and power among Koreans in the U.S. Lew concludes that, despite the manifold shortcomings in Rhee’s authoritarian leadership, he was undoubtedly best prepared to assume the presidency of South Korea after the onset of the Cold War in the Korean Peninsula.
Essential reading for anyone with an interest in modern Korean history, this work will serve as a lasting portrait of one of the pivotal figures in the evolution of Korea as it journeyed from colonial suppression to freedom and security. (Source: Google Books)

40. “North Korea: Building of the Monolithic State” (2017) by Robert A. Scalapino, Chong-Sik Lee

Why has North Korea not collapsed in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union? How has the monolithic state that Kim Il-sung built endured, even after he and his son have died? These chapters from “Communism in Korea”, the Woodrow Wilson Award winner of the American Political Science Association’s best book of 1974, explain that the North Korean system collapsed during the Korean War and has been rebuilt with the primary goal of defending itself against all internal and external enemies. Chapters 1 and 2 have been revised. (Source: Google Books)

41. “Unveiling the North Korean Economy: Collapse and Transition” (2017) by Byung-Yeon Kim

North Korea is one of the most closed and secretive societies in the world. Despite a high level of interest from the outside world, we have very little detailed information about how the country functions economically. In this valuable book for both the academic and policy-making circles, Byung-Yeon Kim offers the most comprehensive and systematic analysis of the present day North Korean economy in the context of economic systems and transition economics. It addresses what is really happening in the North Korean economy, why it has previously failed, and how the country can make the transition to a market economy. It takes advantage not only of carefully reconstructed macro data but also rich, new data at the micro level, such as quantitative surveys of North Korean refugees settled in South Korea, and the surveys of Chinese companies that interact heavily with North Korea. (Source: Google Books)

42. “Youth for Nation: Culture and Protest in Cold War South Korea” (2017) by Charles R. Kim

This in-depth exploration of culture, media, and protest follows South Korea’s transition from the Korean War to the start of the political struggles and socioeconomic transformations of the Park Chung Hee era. Although the post-Korean War years are commonly remembered as a time of crisis and disarray, Charles Kim contends that they also created a formative and productive juncture in which South Koreans reworked pre-1945 constructions of national identity to meet the political and cultural needs of postcolonial nation-building. He explores how state ideologues and mainstream intellectuals expanded their efforts by elevating the nation’s youth as the core protagonist of a newly independent Korea. By designating students and young men and women as the hope and exemplars of the new nation-state, the discursive stage was set for the remarkable outburst of the April Revolution in 1960.
Kim’s interpretation of this seminal event underscores student participants’ recasting of anti-colonial resistance memories into South Korea’s postcolonial politics. This pivotal innovation enabled protestors to circumvent the state’s official anti-communism and, in doing so, brought about the formation of a culture of protest that lay at the heart of the country’s democracy movement from the 1960s to the 1980s. The positioning of women as subordinates in the nation-building enterprise is also shown to be a direct translation of postwar and Cold War exigencies into the sphere of culture; this cultural conservatism went on to shape the terrain of gender relations in subsequent decades.
A meticulously researched cultural history, “Youth for Nation” illuminates the historical significance of the postwar period through a rigorous analysis of magazines, films, textbooks, archival documents and personal testimonies. In addition to scholars and students of 20th century Korea, the book will be welcomed by those interested in Cold War cultures, social movements and democratization in East Asia. (Source: Google Books)

43. “Heroes and Toilers: Work as Life in Postwar North Korea, 1953-1961” (2018) by Cheehyung Harrison Kim

In search of national unity and state control in the decade following the Korean War, North Korea turned to labor. Mandating rapid industrial growth, the government stressed order and consistency in everyday life at both work and home. In “Heroes and Toilers”, Cheehyung Harrison Kim offers an unprecedented account of life and labor in postwar North Korea that brings together the roles of governance and resistance.
Kim traces the state’s pursuit of progress through industrialism and examines how ordinary people challenged it every step of the way. Even more than coercion or violence, he argues, work was crucial to state control. Industrial labor was both mode of production and mode of governance, characterized by repetitive work, mass mobilization, labor heroes, and the insistence on convergence between living and working. At the same time, workers challenged and reconfigured state power to accommodate their circumstances — coming late to work, switching jobs, fighting with bosses, and profiting from the black market, as well as following approved paths to secure their livelihood, resolve conflict, and find happiness. “Heroes and Toilers” is a groundbreaking analysis of postwar North Korea that avoids the pitfalls of exoticism and exceptionalism to offer a new answer to the fundamental question of North Korea’s historical development. (Source: Google Books)

Other Recommended Sources

i. “A War Never Known” by Henry Shull. Harvard Political Review, Nov. 11, 2010.

ii. “The Korean Independence Movement and Boston University”. Boston University, School of Theology, Center for Global Christianity & Mission.

iii. “The Korean War and the Central Intelligence Agency” by Dr. Clayton Laurie. Center for the Study of Intelligence.

iv. “The Truth About Dokdo: An Interview With Prof. Yuji Hosaka” (Part I, Sept. 5, 2011; Part II, Sept. 19, 2011) by Iwazaru

v. “1954 – ‘Report of the Van Fleet Mission to the Far East'” (Aug. 22, 2012) by Gerry Bevers

~a big thank you to the following suggesters; i’ll buy you all a beer~

Gerry Bevers
Thomas Duvernay
Ben Engel
Torsten Ingvaldsen
Wayne Kelly
Sanko Lewis
Lee Middleton
Hank Morris
Robert Neff
Mike DS Park
Kevin Parks
Gabriel Pettyjohn
Dan Strickland
Eoghan Sweeney
Nate Sympson
Matt VanVolkenburg
Brenda Wright
Rob York

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