BROTHERS AT WAR by Sheila Miyoshi Jager


The Unending Conflict in Korea
Email this review


A protracted chronicle of the north-south conflict in Korea and the ultimate yearning for peninsular peace.

Jager (East Asian Studies/Oberlin Coll.; Narratives of Nation Building in Korea, 2003, etc.) provides a well-grounded understanding of the evolution of the paranoid, isolated North Korean state as it emerged from Soviet protection and attempted to enforce its legitimacy across the entire peninsula by waging war on the South. She posits the war as the galvanizer for American militarization during the Cold War and the tool for bolstering Mao Zedong’s leadership in China and giving new impetus to the “resisting America” theme that would carry through the subsequent Vietnam War. The lessons of the Korean War were acute, if not always heeded, resulting in the lack of a clear victory, the militarization of American society in the forms of a large standing army and huge defense expenditures, and the newfound confidence of China, which spooked both the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Despite the North’s continued aggression and early economic supremacy in the 1960s, the impoverished South gained as a beneficiary of American aid, grew its military after the Korean War and contributed massive manpower to the U.S. during the Vietnam War, a fact that is not widely acknowledged. The South's rapprochement with Japan and America’s with China also threatened the North and fueled the long-running competition between leaders Kim Il-sung and Park Chung-hee. Jager presents a thorough look at this deadly fraternal power struggle, the North’s persistent pattern of provocation to tip the hand of the larger powers and the deep heartsickness the division has caused the Korean people.

An authoritative record of the divided Korean peninsula to go alongside Victor Cha’s The Impossible State (2012).

Pub Date: July 29th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-393-06849-8
Page count: 608pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2013


FictionPYONGYANG by Guy Delisle
by Guy Delisle
NonfictionTHE IMPOSSIBLE STATE by Victor Cha
by Victor Cha