In This Review

Park Chung Hee and Modern Korea: The Roots of Militarism, 1866–1945
Park Chung Hee and Modern Korea: The Roots of Militarism, 1866–1945
By Carter J. Eckert
Harvard University Press, 2016, 512 pp

This pathbreaking book contributes to both modern Korean history and Japanese colonial history by exploring the instruction that Park Chung-hee (who went on to lead South Korea from 1961 to 1979) and others of his generation received when they were officer trainees in the Japanese colonial army in the 1940s. The selective and demanding Manchurian Military Academy and Japanese Military Academy instilled in their cadets a firm belief in willpower, discipline, total mobilization, and risk taking. Park displayed these characteristics in spearheading South Korea’s explosive industrial development while also ruling as a ruthless dictator. The book is not a biography, but it uses Park’s early career as a window onto Japanese militarism, which shaped the ethos of the men who later guided the first decades of an independent South Korea.