Help with Korean War book/Website
March 18, 2013 11:02 AM   Subscribe

Watched a TV show yesterday about the Korean war. After watching my interest in the Korean war raised, I realised how little I actually knew. I'm keen to find further details about this conflict. Can anyone recommend any books about the conflict??, or any websites that are notable (I've read the Wiki page, but want to know more)
posted by maxmix to Education (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think there's a good account in David Halberstam's great book The Fifties.
posted by steinsaltz at 11:09 AM on March 18, 2013

Halberstam also wrote a book about the Korean War specifically, The Coldest Winter.
posted by something something at 11:18 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you want to know about the Korean War as a war between Koreans (a civil war, which is more accurate than the US foreign relations perspective in my view) you're out of luck. Americans approach it as an American war. The English-language scholarship will catch up eventually.

In the meantime check out the movie "The Brotherhood of War" (Taegukgi). The English-language trailer is completely misleading. It's not a movie about "freedom" or "honor." The reviews are also interesting.
posted by vincele at 2:42 PM on March 18, 2013

I highly recommend "The Korean War" by Bruce Cumings. This is one of the few books on the Korean War published in the West which gives fair treatment of the views of the North and which lays out the many mistakes made by the Americans and their South Korean puppets.

Cumings explains that for the North, the fight against the Americans and the South was simply a continuation of the war against the Japanese. At the end of WW2 when Korea was divided by the victorious allies at Pottsdam conference, China was given hegemony over the North and America the South. The Americans, MacArthur more specifically, simply re-employed the bureaucracy that had collaborated with Japan which signaled to the North - and Kim il Sung - that the Japanese occupation was continuing under different management. This is an eye-opening book that puts all of the other accounts of the war into a more comprehensive context.
posted by three blind mice at 2:54 PM on March 18, 2013

I.F.Stone, The Hidden History of the Korean War.
posted by Abinadab at 2:55 PM on March 18, 2013

T R Fehrenbachs This Kind of War is a great account from the foxholes perspective. It is a US centered perspective but also goes into the psychology of fighting any war and what it takes and it does to the men fighting. And the Korean war was pretty nasty on that account.
posted by bartonlong at 3:41 PM on March 18, 2013

The Korean War by Max Hastings is also good. And it seemed pretty fair-minded to me as well, especially as regards MacArthur's fall. I feel the book left me with a solid idea of how the war went down and a good jumping-off point to pursue more specific aspects of the war in the future.
posted by TheRedArmy at 4:12 PM on March 18, 2013

There's a new documentary out by Deann Borshay Liem called Memory of a Forgotten War.

I helped a bit with the Honolulu exhibit of Still Present Pasts (which Liem spearheaded prior to the film), which was focused more on the multi-generational impact of the war (included divided families and international adoption), rather than on the military aspect.
posted by spamandkimchi at 4:44 PM on March 18, 2013

Here's the historical essay used in the Still Present Pasts exhibit brochure. It's very much from the Bruce Cumings school of historiography. As such, it infuriated the Korean elders here who took anything besides the "Soviet Union + China made North Korea invade South Korea" perspective to be tantamount to being a North Korean trained operative.

I did a MA thesis on the post-war period in South Korea, so will try to dig up my bibliography to see if there are any interesting books on the war on that list.
posted by spamandkimchi at 5:04 PM on March 18, 2013

"The English-language scholarship will catch up eventually."

As mentioned, the Bruce Cummings book is very good and his Korean language ability is solid so I'm not sure where this statement is coming from.
posted by bardic at 3:41 AM on March 19, 2013

As mentioned, the Bruce Cummings book is very good and his Korean language ability is solid so I'm not sure where this statement is coming from.

I agree that Cumings' The Korean War is very good as is his meticulous 2-volume work The Origins of the Korean War. Cumings is an excellent scholar no doubt but he's nearing the end of his career. Apart from Cumings, there hasn't been the kind of broad-based historical inquiry done from Korean perspectives in English.

That's because there weren't PhD candidates being trained in Korean history at US research universities until they began hiring Korean historians about five to ten years ago. It will be exciting to see what happens in the areas of social history and historical memory in the next ten years.

The journal positions put out by Duke might have some articles on the Korean war. I imagine that journal would be the first place emerging Korean War scholars would try to publish their work. It's accessible either through JSTOR or Project MUSE.
posted by vincele at 9:56 AM on March 19, 2013

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