Wednesday, November 21, 2007
A Concise History of Korea by Michael J. Seth
If you will read only one book about Korean history, this is the one. Seth organizes and edits Korea's rich and vast history into a digestible and coherent whole, covering its legendary origins and through the 19th century. Seth presents Korea in terms of how the influences of its geographic neighbors, Japan and China, were uniquely transformed by the peninsula rather than being adopted wholesale, or being infused into the culture by force. Especially useful for western readers, Korean history is seen in the context of East Asian history, the development of Confucian mores in Korea, and how its geopolitical position gave it unaccountable strength as well as led to its ultimate demise with the Japanese Occupation of 1910-1945. The inclusion of translated snippets from historical documents (the SILLOK), a glossary and extensive Notes only add to the precision and usefulness of this book. Unlike other Korean histories written in English, this volume presents an unbiased, respectful, culturally aware, humanistic and modern view.