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.