A major new history of North and South Korea, from the late nineteenth century to the present day
Korea has a long, riveting history—it is also a divided nation. South Korea is a vibrant democracy, the tenth largest economy, and is home to a world-renowned culture. North Korea is ruled by the most authoritarian regime in the world, a poor country in a rich region, and is best known for the cult of personality surrounding the ruling Kim family. But both Koreas share a unique common history.
Victor Cha and Ramon Pacheco Pardo draw on decades of research to explore the history of modern Korea, from the late nineteenth century, Japanese occupation, and Cold War division to the present day. A small country caught amongst the world’s largest powers—including China, Japan, Russia, and the United States—Korea’s fate has been closely connected to its geography and the strength of its leadership and society. This comprehensive history sheds light on the evolving identities of the two Koreas, explaining the sharp differences between North and South, and prospects for unification.
Victor D. Cha is professor of government at Georgetown University and holds the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. He is a former director for Asian Affairs at the White House National Security Council. He received the 2023 Hubert H. Humphrey Award for notable public service from the American Political Science Association. Ramon Pacheco Pardo is professor of international relations at King’s College London and the KF-VUB Korea Chair at Free University of Brussels.
“Cha and Pacheco Pardo have years of expertise in Korean international relations. . . . A crisp and balanced account.”—Christopher Harding, The Telegraph
“Korea gives the answer to the lingering enigma of how two extremely different systems, one globally flying and the other falling to the bottom, have evolved from the same people – and where they will go from here. . . . A must-read.”—Ban Ki-moon, 8th Secretary General of the UN
“A brisk, insightful narrative of the emergence of two Koreas, South and North, their diverging but intertwined paths over the past seventy-five plus years, and the prospects for reunification. . . . Foreign policy experts and K-pop fans alike will enjoy and benefit from this book.”—Kathleen Stephens, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea (2008–11)
“A highly readable history of the Korean peninsula. . . . A must-read to understand how one ill-informed moment in history led to an ongoing human tragedy and geopolitical challenge.”—Anna Fifield, Asia-Pacific editor, Washington Post
“Victor Cha and Ramon Pacheco Pardo have done the nearly impossible: They have managed to write a succinct and readable history of Korea over the past hundred years that does full justice to this complicated and fascinating story.”—Sue Mi Terry, director, Asia Program & Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy, Wilson Center
“The authors begin their book by posing this question: ‘What circumstances led the same people to live in such starkly different conditions?’ This in fact is a question which often dogs casual Korea watchers. If you are one of them, this is one of the best books I can recommend to you. Among other things, it was written by two of the most qualified western observers of the two Koreas.”—Ahn Ho-young, Chair Professor of North Korean Studies, Kyungnam University, and ROK Ambassador to the United States (2013–17)
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