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Korea Old and New: A History

3.8 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0962771309
ISBN-10: 0962771309
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Editorial Reviews


In four hundred clear and well-written pages, five eminent Korean and American historians provide a judicious survey of Korea's history from Paleolithic times to the present, giving due emphasis to its cultural achievements, including its magnificent pottery, and, not least, the development of metal moveable type in the first half of the 15th century. (Jon Halliday London Review of Books)

By and large the best historical discussion in English of Korea's modern transformation. (Soon Won Park Korean Studies)

Some of the recent scholarly work has tended to be rather ahistorical in approach, as if Korea--like Athena from the head of Zeus--somehow sprang full-grown onto the international scene in 1960. Korea Old and New...is an important antidote to [this] approach...Beginning with the Paleolithic Age, Korea Old and New moves with considerable grace through the early years of Korean culture, the Three Kingdoms era, Koryo and Yi dynasties, and on into the modern age...The strengths of this book are many, but in particular the comprehensive nature and the balanced analysis stand out as exceptional...Well-written and comprehensive, Korea Old and New...is required reading for anyone wishing to understand Korea. (David C. Kang Journal of Contemporary Asia)

Each of these authors, recognized as specialists on their chosen periods, offers even-handed accounts of events which are often minefields of historical controversy...This volume may be confidently recommended as the best available text on the subject. (James Cotton Asian Studies Review)

About the Author

Carter Eckert is Yoon Se Young Professor of Korean History at Harvard University.

Ki-Baik Lee is Professor of History, Sogang University, Seoul.

Michael Robinson is Associate Professor of Korean History at Indiana University.

Edward W. Wagner is Professor of Korean Studies, Harvard University.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Ilchokak Publishers (August 14, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0962771309
  • ISBN-13: 978-0962771309
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #268,784 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I should start by saying that it's not easy to find a Korean history book in English that was actually written by Korean historians and scholars. You can find many authored by US and British authors, and having browsed through some of them, I strongly recommend AVOIDING them - I'll explain at the end of my review.
On to the book: This is a fascinating account of Korean history from ancient times up to the 1980's, a span of over 2000 years. Each chapter covers a different period, and the chapters share the same organization, describing the social, cultural, political, philosophical/religous, scholarly, and military aspects of the period in respective subsections. This makes it easy to later refer to previous chapters and compare different periods. Understandably, the level of detail provided increases along with the stability of the country.
The style and content changes noticeably though after the pre-Industrial Age chapters. The history up to this point is analagous to European medieval history with kings, queens, heroic warriors and devious power struggles to control the throne. However, as the 20th century dawned, Korea was overrun by Japan and roughly half a century of occupation ensued. From this point on, the book's strength is its account of modern Korea and the motivations of the Korean government. This is where accounts by foreign authors invariably fail and take on obvious biases based on the "official" information the Korean government and their own governments have dispensed. Having several Korean relatives both in the US and Korea, I should emphasize that this book's account of modern history is definitely politically liberal and populist.
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By A Customer on March 20, 1998
Format: Paperback
It is inevitable that recordings of history come with biases. However, the converged efforts of many scholars of this historical book on Korea is one of the best examples of fair representation. Accurate and insightful, the book begins with the basic introduction of nomadic Korea and with skillful elucidation explores the history from the three unified kingdoms up to Korea in the 80's. Each phase is covered in collaboration by experts of that field. Complete detail to geography, arts and culture only enhances the events that took place. Of the numerous and countless history books I've read for my Master's studies, I highly recommend this book as a "starter" for anyone remotely interested in Korea.
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Format: Paperback
KOREA OLD AND NEW: A HISTORY is the beginning student's text Korean history has sorely needed. The result of a fruitful partnership between Korean and Western scholars, it is both well-written and researched.
This book is pieced together from two earlier efforts (hence the old and new of the title). Although the second part, containing the latter history of Korea from the mid-19th century to 1990, is more detailed and analytical, the entire book is the best text around. This text has spawned new specialist histories of Choson, Buddhism, and Confucian studies. It is also better edited for typographical and linguistic errors than previous histories.
However, some questions remain, mostly related to the question of Korean nationalism. The authors address the peculiar problem Korea faces: cultural chauvinism combined with dependence on foreign markets, notably Japan and the United States. The authors admirably and courageously document the role of the Japanese and American policies in Korean development, the nature of Pak Chung Hee's regime, and the fortuitous nature of Korean economic recovery, but still cling to cultural nationalist baggage about the cultural, linguistic, and racial unity of the Korean nation, downplaying the numerous historical political entities on the Korean peninsula and significant regional differences.
As Korea becomes more pluralistic and its economy more open, information about the last 5 decades will continue to filter through, but, increasingly this liberalness is purchased with a racial and linguistic chauvinism that threatens to keep studies of Joseon and Koryo wrapped in inviolate sacrality. Although the authors final note of a turn to more participatory evolution of Korean politics, the bigotry and exclusivity of the Korean market is left intact.
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Format: Paperback
The complicated history of Korea is a rich field of study for the professional historian. It has been ruled by Buddhist- and Confucian-based governments, and also been the victim of countless foreign invasions. Understanding the factors which have led to the modern day division of North and South Korea is no easy matter. Most works dealing with the history of that land are bogged down with the tedious analysis of obscure, period texts. These approaches use the works to explain - or attempt to explain - the underlying forces behind those changes in political structure. The problem with this approach is that many of those texts were merely rhetorical exercises written by career(-minded) politicians seeking to better their personal station by justifying the policies of the victors of this or that time and place. This approach does little to address the effects of those changes on Korea's populace, economy, and diplomatic standing in the Asian community. Happily, this book is an exception. "Old and New" does a good job of synthesizing Buddhist and Confucian polities in relation to the major periods of Korean history (Three Kingdoms period, Koryo Dynasty, Chosun Dynasty). This discussion clearly defines the major issues of each period, and segues easily into a discussion of the fall of the Chosun Dynasty in the early 1900s, when Japan occupied the "Hermit Kingdom." Much attention is rightfully devoted to the post-WWII machinations between Russia, America, and the various political factions inside Korea which led to the Korean War. The authors note that the Koreans did not stand helplessly by while Russia and the USA arbitrarily drew a dividing line between North and South.Read more ›
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