The Korean peninsula has had a troubled history but nothing quite compares with the tragedy of its American-inspired division in the twentieth century; or the war that inexorably followed; or the permanent conflict that has ensued. It is not simply that so many millions of people died or that so many families have been torn apart. It is that a festering and unresolved geopolitical sore has been created; one that has made matters worse; one that has exposed the peninsula to competing political interests, contributed to social dysfunction and disadvantage and made Northeast Asia more dangerous. China, Russia and South Korea have understandable interests in the stability of the peninsula by reason of their adjoining borders. Japan has a legitimate interest by reason of its proximity and its historical antipathy toward Korea. The United States – the original proponent of the division – has neither borders nor proximity. Its underlying interest is in the maintenance of its regional interests in the Asia-Pacific and in pushing back against the rise of China. 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.
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