The Koreas: The Birth of Two Nations Divided (Paperback)
What history, pop culture, and diaspora can teach us about North and South Korea today.
Korea is one of the last divided countries in the world. Twins born of the Cold War, one is vilified as an isolated, impoverished, time-warped state with an abysmal human rights record and a reclusive leader who perennially threatens global security with his clandestine nuclear weapons program. The other is lauded as a thriving democratic and capitalist state with the thirteenth largest economy in the world and a model for developing countries to emulate.
In The Koreas, Theodore Jun Yoo provides a compelling gateway to understanding the divergent developments of contemporary North and South Korea. In contrast to standard histories, Yoo examines the unique qualities of the Korean diaspora experience, challenging the master narratives of national culture, homogeneity, belongingness, and identity. This book draws from the latest research to present a decidedly demythologized history, with chapters focusing on feature stories that capture the key issues of the day as they affect popular culture and everyday life. The Koreas will be indispensable to any historian, armchair or otherwise, in need of a discerning and reliable guide to the region.
— Foreign Affairs
"Theodore Jun Yoo’s “microhistory” of both Koreas focuses on the personal experiences of ordinary people. In seven chapters, examining the decades from the late 1940s to today, Yoo skillfully weaves a story of the two Koreas by drawing on a range of social and cultural artefacts — including art, film and literature — to convey the experiences of ordinary Koreans while providing a comprehensive account of the key political, economic and diplomatic developments of the post-war period."
— Global Asia
"An interesting and engaging introduction of Korean history that covers a wide range of topics for a popular audience."
— International Social Science Review
“Theodore Jun Yoo takes a fresh historiographical approach and recounts events on the peninsula through multiple life stories. . . . The Koreas maps out a broad geographical scope, tracing the far-reaching effects of national division from 1953 to the 2018 inter-Korea summits.”
— Journal of Asian Studies
"A masterful exploration of the social and cultural fabric of Northern and Southern societies. The author’s interesting examples and personal stories make the book an engaging and moving read."
— Pacific Affairs