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Brothers at War: The Unending Conflict in Korea Hardcover – July 1, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

After visiting the heavily fortified DMZ separating North and South Korea, Bill Clinton called it the “scariest place on earth.” As the current crisis with North Korea illustrates, that description remains apt. Jager writes an ambitious, engrossing, and often disturbing history of the conflict, including its origins and its continuation since, technically, the war has never ended. As Jager indicates, Korea, which had a national identity as far back as the seventh century, was dominated by foreign powers for a century before WWII. The postwar division of the peninsula was inherently unstable, and there was considerable violence in the south even before the North Korean invasion in 1950. In analyzing the war, Jager provides multiple perspectives, including Korean, American, and Chinese. The war turned a civil conflict into a battleground of the Cold War. She now views the war as, however, a struggle for legitimacy between the two Koreas. This is a struggle that the North cannot win, and Jager sees that regime as dying but extremely dangerous. This is a superbly researched work that should be an essential tool in understanding the current crisis on the peninsula. --Jay Freeman

Review

“Ms Jager has written the most balanced and comprehensive account of the Korean war. Perhaps by chronicling the brutal deeds of this “forgotten war”, this book will help lay them to rest.” (The Economist)

Brothers at War does an exceptionally good job of bringing the conflict to life, and in ways not always comfortable for today’s reader.” (Eliot A. Cohen - The Wall Street Journal)

“[A] magisterial history of the Korean War.” (Andrew Nathan - Foreign Affairs)

“Superb… Elegant and balanced.” (Mark Atwood Lawrence - New York Times Book Review)

“This gripping narrative is a superb study of how the battle fought between two nations, and the world’s three major superpowers, over the 38th parallel—on the Korean Peninsula—molded the zeitgeist for global politics in the latter half of the 20th century.” (J.P. O’Malley - Toronto Star)

“Compelling [and] wonderfully researched.” (New Internationalist)

“An important contribution to Cold War scholarship.” (Paul French - Literary Review)

“A stark reminder that… the Korean War is far from over… This gripping book at last gives the big picture and the full story of a tragic and terrible conflict.” (Aidan Foster-Carter, Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology & Modern Korea, Leeds University, UK)

“Essential reading for all students of recent North and South Korean history. Though scholarly and meticulously researched, the book is written in prose that is accessible to experts and novices alike.” (Library Journal)

“An important contribution to the literature on this conflict… highly recommended.” (William Donnelly - Military History Quarterly)

“Jager has produced an excellent, lucid and original contribution to the literature on the Korean peninsula based on extensive research in international archives and reference to a vast body of secondary literature. It is a must read for all who are interested in the topic.” (Zhihua Shen, East China Normal University - China Quarterly)

“An authoritative record of the divided Korean peninsula.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“An ambitious, engrossing, and often disturbing history of the conflict… Superbly researched… an essential tool in understanding the current crisis.” (Jay Freeman - Booklist)

“Insightful, in-depth, and much needed, this book is required reading for anyone who hopes to understand the situation in Korea.” (Publishers Weekly)

“This is a magnificent book—deeply researched and written with real feeling and insight into the complex internal and external conditions that produced a brutal war and perpetuated Korea’s division to the present day.” (William W. Stueck, professor emeritus, University of Georgia)

“The best single volume on the Korean War…If one has any curiosity about the Korean War as a formidable event in modern Asian history… Brothers at War is the book to read.” (Allan R. Millet, U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings)

“The author's judicious use of new material in several languages as well as her balanced way of presentation make this book an authoritative and accessible history of the Korean peninsula since the Second World War.” (Akira Iriye, Charles Warren Research Professor of American History, Harvard University)

“Sheila Miyoshi Jager has managed an astounding feat—an extremely readable yet rigorously objective and brilliantly researched history of the Korean War from all sides.” (Rana Mitter, professor of the history and politics of modern China, Oxford University)

“Jager . . . skillfully covers international affairs, politics, and society in a first-rate comprehensive presentation of all the big issues facing North and South Korea.” (Ezra F. Vogel, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences Emeritus, Harvard University)

“This book is the best one-volume study of the war in all its cultural, political, and military aspects.” (Allan R. Millett, University Research Professor and Ambrose Professor of History, University of New Orleans, and Raymond E. Mason Jr. Professor Emeritus of History, The Ohio State University)

“Written in lucid narrative prose with an eye for the telling detail and compelling human story.” (Carter J. Eckert, Yoon Se Young Professor of Korean History, Harvard University)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (July 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393068498
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393068498
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 0.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #344,713 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Intellectual Demon on July 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover
As a history enthusiast with a special interest in the Korean War, Sheila Miyoshi Jager's "Brothers At War" is one of the most important and forward thinking books published about this important yet misunderstood conflict. Her analysis of events beyond 1950-1953 and the focus on the concept of the battle of legitimacy between the two Korea's provides context to the ongoing situation in the Korean peninsula. Impeccably researched, Jager's prose and attention to detail makes this an easily understood and fascinating read. Anyone who wishes to understand Korea more thoroughly needs to read this book.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Gary T. Moore on August 12, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author does an excellent job integrating political, military, and geopolitical interplay in this ongoing conflict.
She describes both North and South Korean politics and how they play off each other; as well as Soviet, Chinese, American and other interests. Her information on the large role Republic of Korea's military played ... and why ....in Viet Nam was new to me.

There was, however, one glaring error on the very first page of the text, following the Introduction. The author states: "In 1943, in the middle of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Premier Joseph Stalin, and Primer Minister Winston Churchill discussed the fate of Korea at the Cairo Conference..." Stalin pointedly did not attend this Conference. Stalin met with them shortly after this Conference, in Tehran, I'm surprised an editor didn't catch that.

Also, I was looking for a little more discussion of the Korean launching of mid and long range missles... seemed to get in a hurry there and skip over this. However, the Addendum did mention the irony of the Park and Kim family dynasties again facing off as leaders of North and South. That's pretty current.
Altogether .. a good synthesis of a lot of material, with perspectives I had not seen before.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By JYK on August 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Jager did a great job in weaving together the various elements and viewpoints to create a compelling insight into the Korean War and its continuing impact on Korea and the international community. She starts from the Korean War where she vividly portrays the palpable tension between President Truman and the mercurial General MacArthur, the ever-present danger of escalation with China, and, of course, the traumas suffered by soldiers and Korean civilians. Then she continues to trace the rise of the modern Korean from the ashes of war under the leadership of President Park Chung-Hee and his successors. Also daftly woven in are the domestic situations in China, Russia, and the U.S. that influence their relationships with the two Korean regimes. Very well-researched and eminently readable. For those interested in the Korean War, I also recommend David Halberstam's The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Chuck Banning on September 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Until I read Brothers at War by Dr. Jager, I considered David Halberstam's The Coldest Winter the best ever coverage of the Korean War. The extensive research Dr. Jager did on this book coupled with her perceptive analysis brings the conflict itself into perfect focus. What a fantastic contribution Dr. Jager has made to not only the conflict itself, but to both the events leading up to the war and to the far-reaching implications for the the future. Having seen the event first-hand, I especially appreciate the grasp this author and scholar reflects in Brolthers at War.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Kendrick on January 17, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Fantastic book from a fantastic scholar. A bit dense for the layman, but readers with considerable interest or considerable background will benefit enormously from the read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Michael Craig on January 27, 2014
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This is a comprehensive look at the political circumstances surrounding the Korean war both before the war and the reverberations after the war. The book is more about the political decisions and machinations that are still felt today. I highly recommend it; just don't buy it if you're looking for a blow by blow description of Korean war battles.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Charles Scholl on November 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm not an expert on the Korean War but I considered myself relatively well-informed about the conflict and the current situation in North Korea. However, none of what I picked up in news articles and books over the years provided the kind of insight available in this book. I especially enjoyed reading about the ways North Korea has successfully played China and the USSR/Russia off against each other before, during, and since the war. It's true that not every battle or troop movement is covered in detail, but I highly recommend "Brothers at War" to anyone interested in understanding how the war came about, how the war was conducted, and what it might take to finally bring peace to the Korean Peninsula.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Laoshu on October 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although as a kid I was vaguely aware of the Korean war, when I realised my country (New Zealand) was involved in pushing back the North Koreans and Chinese I started reading bits about the war. This book, however has shown what the cost of that war really was. What it has meant to our Global village. We can buy lots of Korean products, because of halting and pushing back more than once, the determined soldiers from the North. The difference now between the two countries North and South, is so extreme one would wonder why the North cannot see they have lost their proper heritage. Yet, even now, they would try to do it all again. They tunnel, fire missiles, progress their nuclear status, create incidents, etc all to let the West know that they still exist and want to be a force to be reckoned with. The clear culprit behind North Korea was Russia, and then Mao stepped in and flexed his warlike muscles as well. And millions of people died. Both sides created atrocities sometimes because of confusion, at other times because they were not certain where people's alliances lay and killed them just to save time. That way was certain they said. The problem did not come back.
It is historically a great read, but the human cost, in lives and suffering that was inflicted was simply awful. The South has largely recovered, but the North still lives in terrible oppression. It is hard to "like" a book that is recounting such past evils, but it should be a necessary political science read to understand the present and why we still have to line drawn separating both parts of Korea.
Both sides made mistakes in underestimating the other and General Douglas MacArthur was no exception.
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