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Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

North Korea/South Korea

U.S. Policy at a Time of Crisis

by John Feffer

Book cover for North Korea/South Korea
Book cover for North Korea/South KoreaBook cover for North Korea/South Korea

The Korean peninsula, divided for more than fifty years, is stuck in a time warp. Millions of troops face one another along the Demilitarized Zone separating communist North Korea and capitalist South Korea. In the early 1990s and again in 2002–2003, the United States and its allies nearly tipped over the brink of war with North Korea. Misinterpretations and misunderstandings fueled the crisis then, as they do now. "There is no country of comparable significance concerning which so many people are ignorant," American anthropologist Cornelius Osgood said of Korea some time ago. This ignorance may soon have fatal consequences.

John Feffer's North Korea/South Korea is a short, accessible book about the history and political complexities of the Korean peninsula. The first section is a snapshot of the current crisis. The second and third sections put these current developments in a political and economic context through an exploration of the history of the Korean peninsula and the worldview of the leadership in the North. The fourth section concentrates on the shift in emphasis in U.S. foreign policy from engagement under the Clinton administration to containment under the Bush administration. The fifth section expands the author's focus to look at the regional dynamic and the U.S. policy of "gunboat globalization" that seeks to expand U.S. economic and military influence in East Asia. The conclusion explores practical policies that build on the remarkable and historic path of reconciliation that North and South embarked on in the 1990s and that point the way to eventual reunification.

Book cover for North Korea/South Korea
Book cover for North Korea/South KoreaBook cover for North Korea/South Korea

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“Northeast Asia is the world's most dynamic economy, with rapidly developing industry, high technology, rich resources, and half the world's foreign exchange reserves. South Korea's social and political achievements are no less remarkable than its spectacular economic growth. Peaceful integration of North Korea into the region, along with desperately needed internal changes, are essential for further progress. The alternative could be military confrontation with frightful consequences. The tasks ahead are not easy ones, but they are feasible. The U.S. role will surely be critical, and it is of the utmost importance for Americans to understand the issues, their background, and the prospects. John Feffer provides a deeply informed and lucid account of all these matters, full of insight, pointing the way to constructive solutions that are within our grasp.”

“[A] lucid, hard-hitting overview.”

“A masterful, informative, eminently accessible look at the Korean crisis; especially valuable is John Feffer's discussion of what animates North Korea's stance vis-a-vis the US. Feffer's elucidation of the historical forces and social attitudes that have shaped Kim Jong Il's regime shows that far from being irrational or psychotic, Kim's actions have a logical consistency grounded in a well-founded mistrust of US intentions and agendas. I highly recommend this book.”

“Feffer's analysis is the most reliable, balanced report available on the Korean 'threat.'”

John Feffer

JOHN FEFFER’s books include Beyond Detente: Soviet Foreign Policy and U.S. Options, Shock Waves: Eastern Europe After the Revolutions, and Living in Hope: Communities Respond to Globalization. He is the editor of Power Trip: U.S. Unilateralism and Global Strategy After September 11 and author of North Korea/SouthKorea: U.S. Policy at a Time of Crisis, and The Pandemic Pivot. From 1998 to 2001, Feffer lived in Tokyo and traveled throughout East Asia, making more than twenty trips to South Korea and three trips to North Korea. He now lives in the Washington, DC area.