An old Asia hand offers a briefing that's more notable for the breadth than for the depth with which it addresses the issues still dividing North from South Korea. Oberdorfer (The Turn, 1991, etc.) starts his narrative in 1972, the first time that Pyongyang representatives had openly visited Seoul since the peninsular country was partitioned in the wake of WW II, and then reviews the ongoing negotiations on reunification. The author (a former Far East correspondent for the Washington Post) goes on to detail the South's blood-sport approach to politics at a time when the continued presence of Kim Il Sung lent the North a measure of stability. By way of example, the KCIA gunned down Park Chung Hee, opening the way for Chun Do Hwan. Following deadly riots in 1987, another would-be strongman, Roh Tae Woo, bested reformers Kim Dae Jung and Kim Young Sam for the presidency, leaving him to oversee the 1988 Olympiad successfully staged in Seoul. In the meantime, Beijing gave Seoul a jolt, following Moscow's lead and establishing diplomatic relations with South Korea. Shortly before the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's founding father died in mid-1994, the wider world and Washington became gravely concerned about the Red state's nuclear capabilities. Jimmy Carter helped avert a full-blown crisis, however, and Kim's son (Kim Jong Il), who inherited an economy on the rocks, is coping as best he can with famine and a host of other daunting internal problems. Yet the impoverished North continues its efforts to subvert the flourishing South. Even so, Oberdorfer is reluctant to predict whether, let alone when, the two Koreas will be reunited. Indeed, he exits on the breezy note that there's no telling what may happen in a country so full of surprises. A fine overview of Korea's recent past, which will leave most readers frustrated by its lack of analysis on what might lie ahead for this divided nation. (b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-201-40927-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Addison-Wesley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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