Recommended books and videos on Korean history




Korea Old and New: A History

A good comphrensive overview of Korean history from ancient times to the 1980s


The Koreans: Who They Are, What

They Want, Where Their Future Lies

Updated to incorporate information on the growing unrest with North Korea, an incisive look at Korea, the history of its people, and the country itself examines how far the Koreans have come and where their advances will take them in the future, as well as how they will effect the world.


The Two Koreas

Don Oberdorfer

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.



Nothing to Envy:

Ordinary Lives in North Korea

Follows the lives of six North Koreans over fifteen years—a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, the unchallenged rise to power of his son Kim Jong-il, and the devastation of a far-ranging famine that killed one-fifth of the population.   Taking us into a landscape most of us have never before seen, award-winning journalist Barbara Demick brings to life what it means to be living under the most repressive totalitarian regime today—an Orwellian world that is by choice not connected to the Internet, in which radio and television dials are welded to the one government station, and where displays of affection are punished; a police state where informants are rewarded and where an offhand remark can send a person to the gulag for life.       Demick takes us deep inside the country, beyond the reach of government censors. Through meticulous and sensitive reporting, we see her six subjects—average North Korean citizens—fall in love, raise families, nurture ambitions, and struggle for survival. One by one, we experience the moments when they realize that their government has betrayed them.


Under the Loving Care

of the Fatherly Leader


Offers in-depth portraits of North Korea's two ruthless and bizarrely Orwellian leaders, Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il. Lifting North Korea's curtain of self-imposed isolation, this book will take readers inside a society, that to a Westerner, will appear to be from another planet. Subsisting on a diet short on food grains and long on lies, North Koreans have been indoctrinated from birth to follow unquestioningly a father-son team of megalomaniacs. To North Koreans, the Kims are more than just leaders. Kim Il-Sung is the country's leading novelist, philosopher, historian, educator, designer, literary critic, architect, general, farmer, and ping-pong trainer. Radios are made so they can only be tuned to the official state frequency. "Newspapers" are filled with endless columns of Kim speeches and propaganda. And instead of Christmas, North Koreans celebrate Kim's birthday--and he presents each child a present, just like Santa. The regime that the Kim Dynasty has built remains technically at war with the United States nearly a half century after the armistice that halted actual fighting in the Korean War. This fascinating and complete history takes full advantage of a great deal of source material that has only recently become available (some from archives in Moscow and Beijing), and brings the reader up to the tensions of the current day. For as this book will explain, North Korea appears more and more to be the greatest threat among the Axis of Evil countries--with some defector testimony warning that Kim Jong-Il has enough chemical weapons to wipe out the entire population of South Korea.


The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See

Themselves and Why It Matters

uch hearsay surrounds North Korea and the intentions of Kim Jong-il. But B.R. Myers, as North Korea analysts argues that much of this ''knowledge'' is wrong. Similarly, that there is more discourse on North Korea's nuclear programme than the motivation behind it. Drawing on decades worth of research on Worker's party ideaology and propaganda, Myers shows how the regime is guided by a paranoid, race-based nationalism with roots in Japanese fascist thought. The illustrated study draws on public monuments, canonical texts of invented history and even romance novels


This Kind of War: The Classic Korean War History

Originally published by MacMillan in 1963 as This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness . Fehrenbach (a former commander of US Army units in Korea) presents a broad view of events in the Korean and international arenas along with the personal narratives of individual soldiers. Includes a chronology and a descriptive glossary of the principle weapons used.




China's Road to the Korean War

Since 1950, Western military planners, journalists, and scholars have tried to determine the role of China and the Soviet Union in the outbreak of the Korean conflict. Because Chinese, North Korean, and Russian documents have been largely unavailable to date, the researchers' conclusions have been tentative. Through the use of recently released Chinese documents, conversations with Peoples Republic of China scholars, and in-depth interviews with people who were present at key decision-making meetings, Chen has been able to furnish answers to some of the most nagging questions


Korean War in Color

Korean War in Color documents war-torn Korea the way the soldiers saw it-in full, shocking color. This digitally mastered DVD presents a true picture of war-full of terror, chaos, blood and courage. Many of the images included here have never been seen by the general public before, having been kept top secret for decades by military officials for fear of a public backlash.


Colonial Modernity in Korea

Gi-Wook Shin and Michael Robinson have edited a book that brings together academics from a range of disciplines to present a comprehensive perspective of Korea's colonial period from a more integrative and pluralist viewpoint…In taking on an alternative view of Korea's colonial period, the book provides a valuable addition to the Korean historical literature. The rationale is well argued and avoids disparaging previous work. Nationalist biases (both Korean and Japanese) are avoided and editors and contributors project a richness of perspective that allows for a reassessment of the importance of the colonial period in the development of the modern Korean state


Samguk Yusa

A fascinating work, dating from the late 1200s. This book (Yusa), is not just a story but a collection of histories, anecdotes and memorabilia, covering the origins of Korea's three monarchies--Silla, Paekche and Koguryo, offering an account of the latter nation that differs quite a bit from what you'll read in Chinese history books. Translated by Professor Ha Tae-Hung of Yonsei Univeristy, with special help from Grafton Mintz (the first Westerner ever to become a naturalized citizen of the Republic of Korea.)


Inside North Korea

Join National Geographic's Lisa Ling as she captures a rare look inside North Korea - something few Americans have ever been able to do. Posing as an undercover medical coordinator and closely guarded throughout her trip, Lisa moves inside the most isolated nation in the world, encountering a society completely dominated by government and dictatorship. Glimpse life inside North Korea as you've never seen before with personal accounts and powerful footage. Witness first-hand efforts by humanitarians and the challenges they face from the rogue regime.


Samurai invasion

The invasions of Korea launched by the dictator Toyotomi Hideyoshi are unique in Japanese history for being the only time that the samurai assaulted a foreign country. Hideyoshi planned to invade and conquer China, ruled at the time by the Ming dynasty, and when the Korean court refused to allow his troops to cross their country, Korea became the first step in this ambitious plan of conquest. In 1592 a huge invasion force of 150,000 men landed at the ports of Busan and Tadaejin under the commanders Konishi Yukinaga and Kato Kiyomasa. These two Japanese divisions rapidly overran their Korean counterparts, taking the principal cities of Seoul and then Pyongyang and driving the remnants of the Korean Army into China. The Japanese division under Kato Kiyomasa even started to advance into Manchuria. However, the Korean strength was in their navy and the vital Korean naval victory of Hansando disrupted the flow of supplies to the invasion forces, forcing them to hold their positions around Pyongyang. In 1593, the Chinese invaded capturing Pyongyang from the Japanese and driving them southwards. This phase of the war ended in a truce, with the Japanese forces withdrawing into enclaves around the southern port of Busan while the Ming armies largely withdrew to China. In 1597, following the breakdown in negotiations, the Japanese invaded again with a force of 140,000 men. However, the Chinese and Koreans were now better prepared and the advance came to a halt south of Seoul, and then forced the Japanese southwards. In November 1598 Hideyoshi died, and with him the enthusiasm for the military adventure. The Japanese council of regents ordered the withdrawal of the remaining forces, and thenaval battle of Noryang, which saw the Japanese fleet annihilated by the Korean admiral Yi-Sunshin, proved to be the last significant act of the conflict.