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The Korean War: Book summary and reviews of The Korean War by Bruce Cumings

The Korean War

A History

by Bruce Cumings

The Korean War by Bruce Cumings X
The Korean War by Bruce Cumings
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Book 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. An eloquent, squirm-inducing account...Cumings makes a convincing case that Korea, not Vietnam, was the first modern war America entered abysmally ignorant of what it was getting into." - Kirkus Reviews

"Cumings' historical expertise will be highly informative background material for those watching the current explosive potential of the North Korean situation." - Booklist

"…powerful revisionist history…this lean book may put some readers in mind of Wartime, Paul Fussell's acidic attack on some of the comforting myths about World War II. Mr. Cumings's prose, at its best, is reminiscent of Mr. Fussell's stylized, literate high dudgeon…His book is a bitter pill, a sobering corrective." - The New York Times, Dwight Garner

This information about The Korean War was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Bruce Cumings

Bruce Cumings is the Gustavus F. and Ann M. Swift Distinguished Service Professor and chair of the Department of History at the University of Chicago, and specializes in modern Korean history and East Asian-American relations. He is also the author of Origins of the Korean War. He lives with his family in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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