The Korean War

A History
Narrated by: David de Vries
Length: 8 hrs
Categories: History, Military
4.3 out of 5 stars (21 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A bracing account of a war that lingers in our collective memory as both ambiguous and unjustly ignored.   

For Americans, it was a discrete conflict lasting from 1950 to 1953 that has long been overshadowed by World War II, Vietnam, and the War on Terror. But as Bruce Cumings eloquently explains, for the Asian world the Korean War was a generations-long fight that still haunts contemporary events. And in a very real way, although its true roots and repercussions continue to be either misunderstood, forgotten, or willfully ignored, it is the war that helped form modern America's relationship to the world.  

With access to new evidence and secret materials from both here and abroad, including an archive of captured North Korean documents, Cumings reveals the war as it was actually fought. He describes its start 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, the untold stories of bloody insurgencies and rebellions, and the powerful militaries organized and equipped by America and the Soviet Union in that divided land. He tells of the United States officially entering the action on the side of the South, and exposes as never before the appalling massacres and atrocities committed on all sides and the "oceans of napalm" dropped on the North by US forces in a remarkably violent war that killed as many as four million Koreans, two thirds of whom were civilians.  

In sobering detail, The Korean War chronicles a US home front agitated by Joseph McCarthy, where absolutist conformity discouraged open inquiry and citizen dissent. Cumings incisively ties our current foreign policy back to Korea: an America with hundreds of permanent military bases abroad, a large standing army, and a permanent national security state at home, the ultimate result of a judicious and limited policy of containment evolving into an ongoing and seemingly endless global crusade. 

Elegantly written and blisteringly honest, The Korean War is, like the war it illuminates, brief, devastating, and essential.

©2010 Bruce Cumings (P)2019 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"A powerful revisionist history... a sobering corrective." (New York Times)

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Thinly veiled anti-American revisionist history.

This is an anti-American revisionist account of the Korean war. Scarcely a page goes by without some attack or criticism of the US or praise for North Korea.

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A real eye-opener

This book deals with the Korean War not as a prop in an heroic/tragic American morality play, but as a devastating historical event for Korea, the United States, and indeed the world. The U.S. conduct in this event—atrocities and complicity in atrocities, deception and self-deception, ignorance, etc—calls for a Truth and Reconciliation process, the author argues. It’s hard to disagree. He does not let any of the parties off the hook. But if N and S Korea have begun this process, so must we.

2 people found this helpful