Education About Asia: Online Archives

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Feature Article

One Day in the Life of a North Korean Textile Worker

There are many films on North Korea; some are quite good. But Pieter Fleury’s North Korea: A Day in the Life is in a category by itself. In 2004, the Dutch independent filmmaker was granted rare permission to film everyday life in the closed, secretive country. No foreigners are allowed to wander at will in North Korea; all are carefully shepherded and watched, allowed to visit and film only what their hosts decide. These tend to be the same places: a visit to a model kindergarten, to the grea...

Feature Article

What Honors High School and Undergraduate Survey Instructors Should Know about North Korea’s Nuclear Threat

In October 2006, North Korea, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), as it is officially known, detonated a small nuclear device. By the end of 2017, it had conducted four more nuclear weapons tests; the last on September 3, 2017, perhaps a hydrogen bomb, was capable of destroying a major city. It is the only country to have tested nuclear weapons in the twenty-first century. P’yŏngyang is also developing a missile delivery system that will be able to reach any part of the Uni...

Book Review, Resources

Pot Shards: Fragments of a Life Lived in CIA, the White House, and the Two Koreas

Donald Gregg had a remarkably long career spanning almost six decades, most of it connected with Asia. He served as a CIA officer in Japan, Việt Nam, and Burma, and was the CIA station chief in Seoul from 1973 to 1975. From 1989 to 1993, he was the US ambassador to South Korea. After retiring from government service, he headed the Korea Society in New York and made six trips to North Korea to promote better relations with that country. In between, he served on the National Security Council. Du...

Book Review, Resources

Brothers at War: The Unending Conflict in Korea

By Sheila Miyoshi Jager. New York: W.W. Norton, 2013 608 pages, ISBN: 978-0393068498 , Hardback Reviewed by Michael J. Seth Almost every author writing on the Korean War states that it is often, and aptly for Americans, called the “forgotten war.” Sheila Miyoshi Jager in her book Brothers at War: The Unending Conflict in Korea provides one of the most persuasive cases for its importance, not only because it had a large impact on shaping the geopolitics of Asia and the Pacific but also ...

Feature Article

An Unpromising Recovery: South Korea’s Post-Korean War Economic Development: 1953-1961

In 1953, both North and South Korea were shattered by the destructive three-year Korean War that left upward of two million dead and cities and towns in ruin. Already poor prior to the war, neither country had very promising prospects for the future. However, in the first eight years after the conflict, North Korea carried out an impressive recovery under a highly organized, purposeful government that appeared to be laying the foundations for a modern industrial society. By contrast, South Korea...

Book Review, Resources

Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West

This is a book that should be read by anyone interested in North Korea and in human rights issues. It joins Kang Chol-Hwan and Pierre Rigoulot’s The Aquariums of Pyongyang and Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy as among the most engaging and insightful accounts of life in that secretive country. Escape From Camp 14 is the story of Shin Dong-hyuk, the only known inmate in North Korea’s “total control” political prison camps to have escaped and made it to the West. The author, Blaine Harde...

Feature Article

North Korea’s 1990s Famine in Historical Perspective

North Korea suffered from a horrific famine in the mid and late 1990s. The immediate cause of the North Korean famine was the widespread flooding in August 1995 that destroyed much of the nation’s rice crop. The summer monsoon rains that come each year were especially heavy. Starting on June 26, it rained for ten days, dumping as much as twenty-three inches on parts of the country. Satellite photos suggest that a quarter of the nation’s rice paddies were under water. (note 1) The dimensions ...

Feature Article

Korea: From Hermit Kingdom to Colony

At the end of the eighteenth century, Korea was a land with more than a millennium of political unity, proud of its rigid adherence to Confucian cultural norms, and at peace with its neighbors. Under the reigns of two able kings, Yŏngjo (1724– 1776) and Chŏngjo (1776–1800), Korea prospered. In the nineteenth century, however, the state entered a period when weak kings were dominated by powerful clans related to the monarch through royal marriages. Some historians see this as a sign that Ko...

Book Review, Resources

Living Dangerously in Korea: The Western Experience, 1900–1950

Donald Clark has written an engaging account of the small number of Westerners who lived and worked in Korea during the turbulent first half of the twentieth century. This period saw the end of the five-century-old Yi dynasty, the four-decade-long occupation of Korea by Japan, the Second World War, the division and occupation of the country by the Soviet Union and the United States in 1945, and the outbreak of the Korean War.  The book is essentially two intertwined tales: the unfolding of Kore...

Book Review, Resources

Kim Il Sung: The North Korean Leader

By any account Kim Il Sung was an extraordinary figure in twentieth-century history. Not only was the North Korean leader’s nearly half century of rule the longest dictatorship in modern history, few autocrats so dominated the nation they governed. Kim directed all aspects of economic, political and cultural life in North Korea, provided it with his personal ideology usually referred to as “juche thought,” and created a cult of personality without parallel in its excesses. Furthermore, alt...