Reviews

Reviews for Korea: Where the American Century Began:

Our Korea review: Michael Pembroke on the consequences of US failure in the ’50s

Reviewer: John Schauble – Sydney Morning Herald, Entertainment – 8 March, 2018

The 170-metre Juche tower in Pyongyang is a compulsory stop for visitors to the North Korean capital. The panorama of the entire city stretches out below. The spectacle of leaden Stalinist architecture led one among a group I was there with some years ago to ask of our guide: “Where is the old part of the city?”

There is no old city because, as Michael Pembroke notes, the US-led forces dropped a greater tonnage of bombs during the Korean conflict than in the Pacific theatre during World War II. Pyongyang was all but obliterated, its population dropping to just 50,000 under an intense carpet bombing campaign aimed at rendering it and every other North Korean city to rubble. For good measure, this was the first war in which napalm was used extensively, although its horror would only become apparent to a wider public during the Vietnam conflict.

To put North Korea 2018 in context, read Australian Michael Pembroke on the Korean War

Reviewer: David Stephens – Honest History – 6 March, 2018

The book’s strengths are its lucid prose, its command of a wide range of sources (including declassified material), the author’s ability to balance passion with forensic detail, and the way in which he places the Korean conflict of 1950-53 firmly within the long sweep of Korean history. The surprise – for this writer, at least – comes in how loudly the story of Korea 1950-53 resonates today.

And if anyone wonders why North Korea today seems to be ‘the paranoid peninsula’, Pembroke’s description of Pyongyang after American scorched earth policies and saturation bombing provides part of the answer.

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About Michael Pembroke

‘The colour and dash of Arthur Phillip’s extraordinary life, lived in amazing times in every corner of the world, is told just brilliantly in Michael Pembroke’s utterly absorbing book, designed to become a classic of Imperial literature.’
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