For Americans, it was a discrete conflict lasting from 1950 to 1953. But for the Asian world the Korean War was a generations-long struggle that still haunts contemporary events. With access to new evidence and secret materials from both here and abroad, including an archive of captured North Korean documents, Bruce Cumings reveals the war as it was actually fought. He describes its origin as a civil war, preordained long before the first shots were fired in June 1950 by lingering fury over Japan’s occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945. Cumings then shares the neglected history of America’s post–World War II occupation of Korea, reveals untold stories of bloody insurgencies and rebellions, and tells of the United States officially entering the action on the side of the South, exposing as never before the appalling massacres and atrocities committed on all sides.
Elegantly written and blisteringly honest, The Korean War is, like the war it illuminates, brief, devastating, and essential.
Praise for The Korean War
“A powerful revisionist history . . . a sobering corrective.”—The New York Times
“Worth reading . . . This work raises the question of what Korea can tell us about the outlook for Iraq and Afghanistan.”—Financial Times
“Well-sourced [and] elegantly presented.”—The Wall Street Journal
But, as Bruce Cumings demonstrates in this provocative, lively read, the story of the U.S.-Korea conflict is more complex than our leaders or our news media would have us believe. Drawing on his extensive knowledge of Korea, and on declassified government reports, Cumings traces that story, from the brutal Korean War to the present crisis. Harboring no illusions regarding the totalitarian Kim Jong Il regime, Cumings nonetheless insists on a more nuanced approach. The result is both a counter-narrative to the official U.S. and North Korean versions and a fascinating portrayal of North Korea, a country that suffers through foreign invasions, natural disasters, and its own internal contradictions, yet somehow continues to survive.
Cumings chronicles how the movement westward, from the Middle West to the Pacific, has shaped America’s industrial, technological, military, and global rise to power. He unites domestic and international history, international relations, and political economy to demonstrate how technological change and sharp economic growth have created a truly bicoastal national economy that has led the world for more than a century. Cumings emphasizes the importance of American encounters with Mexico, the Philippines, and the nations of East Asia. The result is a wonderfully integrative history that advances a strong argument for a dual approach to American history incorporating both Atlanticist and Pacificist perspectives.