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Korea: Where the American Century Began

Michael Pembroke



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Hardie Grant Books
05 February 2018
History; International relations; Warfare & defence
ABBEY’S BOOKSELLER PICK —— Michael Pembroke, author of the lauded biography of Governor Arthur Phillip, comes to his history of Korea by way of his father’s participation in the war. How did something so intractable as this divided country come to be? As usual, it’s all down to personalities. Those of President Harry S Truman, Generals Hodge and MacArthur, Kim Il-sung - and a man called Syngman Rhee, who was installed by Hodge and MacArthur as the President of the newly formed republic based in South Korea and who was described in CIA briefings as ‘essentially a demagogue bent on autocratic rule’ and that ‘his intellect is a shallow one and his behaviour is often irrational’. Now, why would you put someone like that into a position of state power? So it goes. Craig Kirchner


This lucid book should be compulsory reading for anyone who wonders how the situation on the Korean peninsula has deteriorated to the point it is today.

It demonstrates the truth of the axiom that unless you know the history, you cannot see the future. The failed invasion of North Korea by US-led forces in late 1950 and the unrelenting three-year long bombing campaign of North Korean cities, towns and villages - `every thing that moved [and] every brick standing on top of another' - help explain why the Pyongyang regime is, and always has been, determined to develop a credible nuclear deterrent.

As Alistair Horne once said so wisely `How different world history would have been if MacArthur had had the good sense to stop on the 38th parallel.

The first Korean War became the first of America's failed modern wars; and its first modern war with China. It established the pattern for the next sixty years and marked the true beginning of the American century - opening the door to ever-increasing military expenditure; launching the long era of expanding American global force projection; and creating the dangerous and festering geopolitical sore that exists in Northeast Asia today. Washington has not learned the lessons of history and we are reaping the consequences. 

Michael Pembroke's timely book tells the story of the Korean peninsula with compassion for the people of the North and South, understanding and insight for the role of China and concern about the past and present role of the United States.
By:   Michael Pembroke
Imprint:   Hardie Grant Books
Country of Publication:   Australia
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 153mm, 
Weight:   500g
ISBN:   9781743793930
ISBN 10:   1743793936
Pages:   368
Publication Date:   05 February 2018
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Michael Pembroke is a writer, historian, naturalist and the author of the acclaimed historical biography Arthur Phillip - Sailor, Mercenary, Governor, Spy (2013). He was educated at the Universities of Sydney and Cambridge, is the son and the father of army officers, and has lived and travelled extensively throughout the world, including in East Asia. His father, an infantry platoon commander during the Korean War, was awarded the Military Cross for his role in a battle described as 'one of the finest battalion attacks in British history'. The research for this book has taken Pembroke to Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang, Washington DC, Princeton and Cambridge. In 2016, he travelled through North Korea from the Yalu River to the Demilitarised Zone. He has been a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales since 2010.

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