Reviews for Korea: Where the American Century Began:

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.

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.

Review: Korea by Michael Pembroke

Reviewer: Eric Mayer – ArtsHub – 13 March, 2018

‘It is harsh, authoritarian, repressive and secretive, and its continuing economic and structural problems are largely of its own making. Much of its retardation has been self-inflicted – a direct result of the huge and disproportionate expenditure on its military, its socialist economic principles and the greed, graft and moral obloquy of the ruling elite.’

Such quotes demonstrate some of the fascinating detail and flavour of Korea, and show the depth of Pembroke’s research, but they are no substitute for reading the book, which also includes more than 50 pages of notes and other material to facilitate further reading. (In addition, the book has an excellent index.) Ideally, this book should be read, studied and absorbed by anyone interested in world affairs, but above all by anyone who wishes to understand the dilemma that is now facing the world with a corrupt regime seeking to protect itself against a former merciless attacker.

Korea: Where the American Century Began

Reviewer: Kirkus Review – 27 June, 2018

‘A no-holds-barred critique of U.S. involvement in the Korean War and its subsequent policy involving Korea.’

How the Korean War set the stage for permanent crisis in northeastern Asia

Reviewer: Blaine Harden – Washington Post – 16 August, 2018

‘Provocative…. timely, readable and deeply researched…. Deliver[s] crucial information Americans need to understand the permanent crisis in Southeast Asia…. For readers capable of looking beyond an America First understanding of how the world works, Pembroke’s analysis is chillingly relevant.’

Korea: Where the American Century Began

Reviewer: Noah Cruickshank – Shelf Awareness for Readers – 21 August, 2018

‘a harrowing, eye-opening account of the Korean War, leaving no side unaccountable for the mistakes, atrocities and bad faith…Korea is thorough and damning, showing how hubris, racism and paranoia bled together to create a horrifying and destructive strategy that needlessly killed hundreds of thousands of people, propagated the use of napalm and introduced the use of biological weapons’

Michael Pembroke’s Korea: Where the American Century Began is a harrowing, eye-opening account of the Korean War, leaving no side unaccountable for the mistakes, atrocities and bad faith. It considers how the U.S. intervention in the Korean civil war is one of the most consequential, and least analyzed, decisions in American history.

Korea: Where the American Century Began

Reviewer: Matt Sutherland – Foreword Reviews – September/October, 2018

‘Michael Pembroke’s Korea: Where the American Century Began is unremitting in detailing the politics at play in Korea’s recent history, as well as in previous centuries when the Korean people distinguished themselves as one of the great cultures of Asia, but this project will be remembered for showcasing how America’s militarism has its roots in the recent Korean conflicts.’
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About Michael Pembroke

This lucid book should be compulsory reading for anyone who wonders how the situation on the Korean peninsula has deteriorated to the point it is today. It demonstrates the truth of the axiom that unless you know the history, you cannot see the future.

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