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Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern Historyby Bruce Cumings
Synopses & Reviews
In 1968, a small, dilapidated American spy ship set out on a dangerous mission: to pinpoint military radar stations along the coast of North Korea. Packed with advanced electronic-surveillance equipment and classified intelligence documents, the USS Pueblo was poorly armed and lacked backup by air or sea. Its crew, led by a charismatic, hard-drinking exsubmarine officer named Pete Bucher, was made up mostly of untested sailors in their teens and twenties.
On a frigid January morning while eavesdropping near the port of Wonsan, the Pueblo was challenged by a North Korean gunboat. When Bucher tried to escape, his ship was quickly surrounded by more patrol boats, shelled and machine-gunned, and forced to surrender. One American was killed and ten wounded, and Bucher and his young crew were taken prisoner by one of the worlds most aggressive and erratic totalitarian regimes.
Less than forty-eight hours before the Pueblos capture, North Korean commandos had nearly succeeded in assassinating South Koreas president in downtown Seoul. Together, the two explosive incidents pushed Cold War tensions toward a flashpoint as both North and South Korea girded for war—with fifty thousand American soldiers caught between them. President Lyndon Johnson rushed U.S. combat ships and aircraft to reinforce South Korea, while secretly trying to negotiate a peaceful solution to the crisis.
Act of War tells the riveting saga of Bucher and his men as they struggled to survive merciless torture and horrendous living conditions in North Korean prisons. Based on extensive interviews and numerous government documents released through the Freedom of Information Act, this book also reveals new details of Johnsons high-risk gambit to prevent war from erupting on the Korean peninsula while his negotiators desperately tried to save the sailors from possible execution. A dramatic tale of human endurance against the backdrop of an international diplomatic poker game, Act of War offers lessons on the perils of covert intelligence operations as America finds itself confronting a host of twenty-first-century enemies.
"Passionate, cantankerous, and fascinating. Rather like Korea itself."--Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times Book Review
'\"Passionate, cantankerous, and fascinating. Rather like Korea itself.\" \"Nicholas D. Kristof, New York TimesBook Review\n
In his immensely illuminating and accessible history (Kirkus Reviews), Bruce Cumings delivers a memorable narrative of Korea's fractured modern history. Beginning with an overview of the cultural and political traditions of this accomplished civilization, Cumings dwells on Korea's long twentieth century, a period of colonial exploitation by Japan, war, and national division. His chapters on the Korean War show clearly just how close the world came to a nuclear holocaust. He then explores the economic resurgence and political turmoil that keep Korea in the headlines. Finally, he traces the significance of the Korean migration to the United States.
A leading American authority on modern Korea... catches the excitement of a country that has been at the peaks and troughs of East Asian history in the twentieth century. — Economist
-- An elegantly informative account of Korea's convulsive transformation ... into a nation. — Kirkus Monthly
Korea has endured a "fractured, shattered twentieth century," and this updated edition brings Bruce Cumings's leading history of the modern era into the present. The small country, overshadowed in the imperial era, crammed against great powers during the Cold War, and divided and decimated by the Korean War, has recently seen the first real hints of reunification. But positive movements forward are tempered by frustrating steps backward. In the late 1990s South Korea survived its most severe economic crisis since the Korean War, forcing a successful restructuring of its political economy. Suffering through floods, droughts, and a famine that cost the lives of millions of people, North Korea has been labeled part of an "axis of evil" by the George W. Bush administration and has renewed its nuclear threats. On both sides Korea seems poised to continue its fractured existence on into the new century, with potential ramifications for the rest of the world.
About the Author
Bruce Cumings is chairman of the history department at the University of Chicago and the author of Korea's Place in the Sun. He divides his time between Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Chicago.
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History and Social Science » Asia » General