Monday, September 16, 2013

기시 노부스케와 박정희 by 강상중 et al (2010)

::The Skinny::

Title:  기시 노부스케와 박정희: 다카키 마사오, 박정희에게 만주국이란 무엇이었는가 [Kishi Nobusuke and Park Chung-hee: What Manchukuo was to Takaki Masao, Park Chung-hee]

Original Title:  Dainihon manshu teikoku no isan

Written by:  강상중 [Kang Sang-jung], 현무암 [Hyeon Mu-am].

Translated by:  이목 [Yi Mok].

Language:  Korean

Publication year:  2010.

Pages:  312 pages.

Price:  $34 at Bandi Books US

In less than 30 words:  Highly insightful book that connects the most important leaders of Korea and Japan, through the prism of Manchukuo

Reading List category:  History, Society

Keywords:  Park Chung-hee, Manchuria, Japanese imperialism

Writing style:  Academic. Dry but not dense. Breezy read.

Rating:  4 stars

::The Review::

As enough time has passed since Korea was liberated from Imperial Japan, there has been a growing body of literature in Korean language, by scholars domestic and abroad, that attempts to confront Imperial Japan's impact on Korea's modernization. Written by a Korean-Japanese scholar, originally in Japanese, 기시 노부스케와 박정희 adds an important angle to this discussion: the role of Manchukuo to both post-war Japan and post-war Korea.

Manchukuo is the puppet government that the Imperial Japan established in Manchuria, as it advanced to conquer China prior to World War II. This newly established state became a hothouse for ambitious young Japanese leaders, allowing them to test daring economic and social policies that they were not otherwise able to at home. Manchuria also became a land of opportunity for Koreans. Disenfranchised by the Japanese at home, Koreans moved to Manchuria in droves, searching for open land and chances for advancement. (It is a historical tragedy that such land and advancement came at the cost of the Chinese who previously were living in Manchuria--a recurring pattern in the history of imperialism.) So perhaps it was fate that the two men who would largely shape post-war Japan and post-war Korea--Kishi Nobusuke and Park Chung-hee--cut their teeth in the Manchukuo system.

While the book is an easy read, it is not a broad overview. It requires a solid foundation of background knowledge about how Korea and Japan developed after World War II to properly understand its thesis. Without such background knowledge, this book would be difficult to follow. However, for those equipped with such knowledge, 기시 노부스케와 박정희 paints a fascinating picture of the land that was Asia's answer to the Wild Wild West. (It is not a coincidence that The Good, The Bad, the Weird, the recent Korean movie that attempted to show the "Cowboy Eastern", was set in Manchuria of the 1940s.) For those interested in modern East Asian history, the book illuminates a blind spot for many.

The Bottom Line:  Read this book if you have a solid base of knowledge about post-war East Asia, and wish to explore further into the past.

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