Don Oberdorfer's The Two Koreas

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The book The Two Koreas by Don Oberdorfer and Robert Carlin is a multi-edition work that discusses both the history and the present of Korea. It is a comprehensive overview of all the events that occurred in Korea starting from the end of the Korean War in 1953 and up to 2013. Don Oberdorfer worked as a White House correspondent, Northeast Asia correspondent, and diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post; therefore, he is able to give both a fairly accurate and personal narrative on the events that occurred in Korea from the 1950s to late 1990s. One of the main themes of the book is the influence foreign countries had on the formation of the two Koreas: North Korea and South Korea, after the Korean War. The United States was thoroughly…show more content…
Although Park was a modest ruler who did not live lavishly, he was not democracy-oriented either, as he removed direct presidential elections and put into place an indirect one, which allowed him to be elected for president again (26). Park also implemented yushin martial law reforms, which gave him authoritarian power over South Korea (30). Using yushin and censorship and propaganda of the media, the president got approval on a new constitution that gave him essentially “unchecked and unlimited power” and was unanimously voted again for another six years in 1972 (37). However, although many Koreans protested and Park’s authoritarian rule may be frowned upon today, he was able to make great economic progress during his regime. By 1980, less than 10 percent of South Koreans were below the poverty line, compared to over 40 percent in 1965 (30). Also, per capita income went from less than one hundred dollars annually when Park first came into power to over one thousand dollars by his death (30). Even though the president’s methods were unconventional from what is generally accepted today, he was able to make great accomplishments to strengthen Korea’s economy. In Chapter 5, in 1979, Park is assassinated by his own KCIA director Kim Jae Kyu, ending his reign at 18 years. In the midst of chaos, using military force, Chun Doo Hwan came into power and became president in August of 1980. Political dissent groups and the United States were unhappy of Chun’s takeover of power. Therefore, as the end of Chun’s presidency neared, South Koreans wanted to end military and authoritarian rule. After many clashes between the police and protestors, the demand for direct election was granted, and Roh Tae Woo was elected for president on December 16, 1988

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