The Korean War, A History.  With Bruce Cumings – Part 1

welcome to books of our time brought to you
by the massachusetts school of law and seen nationwide today we shall discuss a book entitled the
korean war the book discusses the historical origins
of that war which to this day are unknown to most americans joining me today is its author bruce cumings
the chairman of the department of history at the university of chicago and i am lawrence r velvel the dean of the
message you should school of law thank you for coming up thank you for having me delighted i wish to say that having
heard you at lunch i feel that a lot of the questions I intended
to ask are not necessarily geared to some of the things you said so i
hope you will use my questions not just as something to answer but also a springboards
to other things that you might wish to talk about we have a pretty literate and educated faculty
and i think uh… than the amount of things the number of things you’re talking about
that were unknown even to a pretty accomplished group uh… illustrates the need or the desirability of saying them on television if we remembered
if you remember yo say them uh… i i i want to avoid misconceptions because
uh… i’ve read uh… you know reviews and so forth and uh… to avoid misconceptions why don’t you tell us briefly or
at length whichever you wish uh… with as much detail as you wish which uh… what your conception your view
of the north korean government is for the last say thirty or forty years at the last uh… thirty years or so have
been the worst period in north korea for a regime that uh… basically established itself in nineteen forty
five even though it didn’t become the democratic people’s republic of korea until nineteen forty eight north korea in the mid eighties probably thought they were still competing
pretty well with south korea uh… in the sixties they were way ahead of
them with their industrial growth rate being one
of the highest in the world and our diplomats back in the sixties uh… worried about south korea ever catching up
with north korea thats astonishing it is astonishing is there an american
other than somebody who’s an expert like you whom you think knows that by the most experts on north korea pretty well aware of
it but i uh… remember when i was a graduate student
at columbia and one of my professors james morley wrote
a book uh… called uh… south korea and japan our allies in the pacific
uh… it was a sort of policy oriented book but you can look at that book which i think
was published in nineteen sixty five or six and see him saying that south korea basically
has a basket case economy and north korea’s roaring ahead and we don’t stop this somehow now there’s going to be to be a terrible imbalance
on the peninsula this isn’t so hard to understand because
north korea had uh… most of the heavy industry that the japanese had built up in korea uh… during their colonial rule of forty uh… years nineteen ten to nineteen forty five the japanese put a lot of steel mills uh… iron works
uh… chemical huge chemical factories uh… hydroelectric facilities that uh…
some of the largest in the world into north korea and then the north koreans inherited all of
these uh… so they had a very good head start in terms of heavy industry uh… south korea have most of the light industry uh… but that really didn’t take off until
the sixties when south korea began exporting textiles and light electronics so you have in the fifties and sixties quite a imbalance
in terms of the economic strength of these two regimes and uh… south korea began pulling ahead
according to our c_i_a_ published statistics in the late seventies uh… but it’s important to know that per-capita
income in north and south korea was about the same in nineteen seventy eight seventy
nine and i think north korea didn’t have much of a perception of falling
behind themselves until the mid eighties from south korea began uh… successfully exporting steel automobiles uh… having their own machine building plants huge shipyards for oil tankers uh… that made the north koreans realize that they were falling behind then the soviet union collapsed and in spite of
north korea always claiming they were entirely self reliant
they relied on the soviets and also the chinese for a lot and especially
oil uh… their entire energy regime broke down when uh… the soviets started charging them market prices or the russian’s did after nineteen ninety one kim il-sung died in nineteen ninety four and that led to a leadership paralysis so… ten years ago you had a famine in north
korea a basic collapse of the economy uh… the uh… inexcusable death’s of probably six hundred to seven hundred thousand
people not really the two million that you read about but it was pretty awful something they should have stopped and then they muddled through with uh… any number
of people saying they’re gonna collapse tomorrow morning and then came into the twenty-first
century with the regime that is actually reasonably stable compared to what it was ten years ago uh… it’s growing not every year but some years three or
four percent uh… their are markets in north korea that have
sprouted first as matter of necessity as the regime lost its ability to deliver goods and services to everybody but as those markets have grown and uh… they’re
some two thousand markets in the capital city so we’re talking about a regime that is really gone through hell uh…
as of about ten years ago but today is not well off uh… but is better off than they were then uh… one thing that i think uh… your viewers might be interested in knowing is that at the very worst point in the famine when uh… child malnutrition was running forty forty five percent the number of children going living to five years old had have dropped
dramatically stunting all of this caused by the lack of food by this famine north korea never reached india’s year in year out figures now india is a great democracy and we
applaud that but the fact is there is something going on in india that leads uh… almost half of their children malnourished
stunted dying before the age of five and that in itself is also inexcusable i think but it it tells you that north korea had a terrible crisis according to their standards and any modern standards but they’re many countries around the world much worse off than north korea you’re in and
year out do you think that uh… we hear more about the north korean famine and its drastic character uh… than we do about similar things in india and elsewhere well north korea has an incredible capacity
especially in the united states for attracting the bad news uh… it sticks to the north
koreans like flies most of the time they deserve it uh… but it isn’t uh… a country where you’re going to see articles that will tell
you what i just told you uh… and uh… that to me is his unfortunate
because we need to explain why north korea is still
around twenty years after the soviet union collapsed and you don’t explain it by saying everybody’s
starving or they’ve got a horrible vicious dictator there whose beating up on
everybody day in day out uh… it is one of the most uh… totalitarian
regimes on the face of the earth uh… it it is probably the largest garrison
state in terms of the proportion of population in the military uh… that the world has ever seen you know these are well-known characteristics uh… but there isn’t a desire in the u_s_
to know much about north korea beyond uh… what we read in the headlines which
is usually bad i myself am an historian but i’m off often surprised
at the lack of investigative reporting on north korea because it’s been such a salient policy issue
now for twenty years uh… you get some investigative reporting of course uh… much of it in the new york times but there
isn’t nearly enough of it so we have a very distorted view of north
korea they’re their own worst enemy i mean nobody does do-it-yourself oriental stereotyping better
than kim jong il uh… no regime uh… let’s less information out speaking of an industrial an industrialized urban state uh… they uh… seem to have a terror of uh… of information from the outside world or letting the outside
world know what’s going on inside north korea and frankly and in my career i’ve learned that
uh… you know that they lie when telling the truth would be much more to their benefit so you have a regime that is very hard to
know uh… doesn’t want you to know much about it and is led by a guy who frankly uh… looks like something out of uh… an opera
boof you know kim jong il with his uh… hair standing straight up is women’s sunglasses and his doubled knit pantsuits uh… so they are their own worst enemies uh… and the cause of most of their
problems but we are democracy and a month or so ago came very close to getting
into another shooting match with north korea and it behooves us i think to have
much higher standards why did north korea collapse so dramatically and have this terrible famine after the collapse of the soviet union
was it giving them below market energy energy or what what what was happening that
stop and caused this well i think it is something that none of the experts fully understand uh… but as i understand it you had the
collapse of the energy energy regime in the early nineties after the soviets began charging world prices
for oil and other commodities they sell to north korea uh… this then affected there industry uh… and agriculture uh… the industry didn’t have fuel but they also believe it or north korea
at one of the highest grades in the world of putting chemical fertilizer on their fields uh… i first went to north korea in nineteen
eighty one having been in the peace corps in south korea
having lived there and done a lot of research there one of the things that amazed me was that
that rice fields didn’t wreak of of uh… what we might call manure only its human
manure in south korea they were still collecting excrement and dumping it on the fields as
fertilizer you haven’t smelled anything until you’ve
smelled a rice patty thats just had that dumped on it uh… during the war soldiers complained about
all the time when i went to north korean in eighty-one I stood
in a rice paddy and it didn’t stink I said you don’t use you know human manure he said no no we’ve we have a very large chemical
industry read we’ve been putting chemical fertilizer uh… on the fields for very long time and it turned out when the world agricultural association got into north
korean in the eighties they validated that north korea had a very high rate of chemical fertilizers so when you take that away
there goes their rice crop uh… because the chemical factories weren’t
functioning uh… their tractors uh… their rice transplanting machines
weren’t function because of the lack of fuel and then that cascaded through the economy uh… so that an industrial city like kyung
gin essentially looks like detroit uh… not only a uh…are the factories not
working but they’ve been cannibalized by people in search of anything to sell uh… uh… on the black markets that exist
uh… and have existed since the famine so their only hope is really to work with south
korea and other countries to rebuild their economic infrastructure
and that’s what’s going on for example in the kaesong export zone that’s employing about forty thousand north
koreans that’s all south korean technology now what would it be accurate to say that the
south koreans to some extent are deliberately trying to help north korea
get back on its feet ah… economically they certainly were for ten years from
in nineteen ninety eight to two thousand eight when uh… the nobel peace prize winner kim dae-jung was president and then he his hand-picked successor was elected uh… for a five-year term south korean presidents only get one five-year term during that ten-year period a great deal of uh…
aid and uh… equipment technology went to the north
that’s when this kaesung export zone was set up they were going to be more of them if if uh…
that particular party in the south it held on to the presidency uh… which they didn’t uh… so since two
thousand and eight with the opposition in a much more conservative president uh… there’s not much rebuilding or uh… i mean actually a lot of back peddling regarding the north korean economy but i will say that i thought south korea
south korean firms were very smart ten years ago and even before they were slowly but surely taking pieces of the north
korean economy and rebuilding the infrastructure putting in the latest technologies uh… putting in whole factories uh… to rebuild north korea bit by bit rather than try to absorb north korea the way
west germany absorbed east germany which was extremely expensive
and and even today still difficult so i thought that was a very wise strategy
kim dae-jung said a reconciliation will take another generation uh… before unification and so you would have had if there had been that continuity uh… thirty years twenty five or thirty years of piece-by-piece rebuilding of the north korean
economy in a minute or two we’ll get into de facto reconciliation or its opposite but i think you mentioned
that they’ve got a very large army and i know that you uh… you said that uh… it’s almost like iwo jima we didn’t think there were any japanese there
little did we know they were all underground apparently the entire army or much of it is
underground would you elaborate a little bit on the size of their army
and how they dug it in and why well its our commander in the south uh… in nineteen ninety nine who said that pretty much the whole north korean military
is underground they uh… have uh… some fifteen thousand underground facilities they were building underground during the korean
war along the d_m_z_ where they built whole factories dormitories for soldiers and everything underground and they’ve been doing it ever since because
they’ve never been able to control the air either during the korean war or if there were
another one they would lose control of the air very quickly kim il-sung said i think around nineteen
sixty two a sixty three well the u_s_ puts nuclear weapons into the south which we had
done in nineteen fifty-eight uh… we have no choice but to build underground
because they could sweep the face of our country with those weapons and that wasn’t the start of it but it was
a big impetus to it so you have
jets flying into the side of mountains how you have uh… uh… an army of more than a million men and
women in a country that has a population of
twenty three to four million so one in every twenty three or four people is in the military its astounding it’s astonishing uh… men stay there from eighteen to twenty eight ten-year terms uh… but then of course when their twenty eight
thirty eight forty eight they are people who have spent ten years in the military so the general population is heavily
militarized and I have always like to turn garrison state which
harold lasswell coined back around nineteen forty nine and
fifty and i think eisenhower used it a couple times
when he was worried about the military industrial complex but i don’t think there’s ever been a garrison
state like north korea it is the most militarized state on the face of this error dug in dug in redundantly i mean i once saw something
in the new york times i mean i don’t go to washington to get security
clearances so there’s uh… a certain kind of limit on what i can
know about uh… all of this but i saw in the new york times that they had the u_s_ thought north korea had two and possibly
three atomic bomb controlling centers uh… that they had because we can bomb the hell out
of them that they had this redundancy and so we wouldn’t know where the controlling facilities were uh… when they detonated an atomic bomb because it might be one of three places now that shows uh… extraordinary a depth of their commitment
to building underground north korea has been under nuclear threat since the korean
war our war plans for decades called for using
nuclear weapons very early in a new war that’s one reason there hasn’t been a new
war uh… but every general prepares for the worst
case and so north korea has essentially spent about fifty or sixty years developing the only deterrent to nuclear weapons
that they possibly can until they got their own nuclear weapons in the last
uh… few years do you think that most americans know that we had nuclear weapons in uh… south korea as early as well as early as nineteen
fifty eight or so something that’s very mystified i’ve tried
to bring it out time and time again in articles but i i went to the eisenhower library and looked
at the documents on it uh… we put honest john missiles nuclear tipped into uh… south korea in nineteen fifty eight the decision
was made in nineteen fifty seven by john foster dulles uh… and if you look at the national security
council records they know they’re violating a cardinal principle of the armistice that
ended the korean war which is not to introduce new… and different quality weapons he said well there always doing that they’re
bringing in new migs and everything so we can do this but i mean to go from conventional weapons
to nuclear weapons essentially obliterated that uh… you know that article of yeah that is taken as
these days that is the line that is the line they were there in the hundreds in the seventies
and eighties in the hundreds yeah hundreds because they started with that bringing in tactical nuclear weapons like nuclear mines that you can fit in a backpack a soldier in the jeep goes up to the d_m_z_
and and puts one down uh… in the eighties a lot of this came out
because our own military didn’t like it uh… i heard a retired general give a lecture at the carnegie endowment where he said we’ve done things like you put
a nuclear weapon on a helicopter and then it goes up near the d_m_z_ what if it’s you know somehow captured by the north koreans
or gets off course uh… he said we’ve relied way too much on a nuclear deterrent
to the point the south korean army doesn’t think it has to fight in a new war because
were going to wipe out the north koreans and they didn’t fight in the last war you might say the north koreans have two bombs say what would they do with them
how would they get them to wherever Seoul or busan or wherever well i think in washington
this is uh… the question that uh… our own intelligence
people are mulling over because the north koreans uh… in two thousand and
six detonated a nuclear device but it was for a nuclear weapon kind of a pop gun it
was but about half of a kiloton compared to say twenty kilotons over
hiroshima they then did another one uh… in two thousand
and nine and this time they did a real a serious device about a four to five kiloton
range it’s not like hiroshima bomb but it’ll certainly blast the hell out
of a major city uh… but people still don’t know how they
would deliver it they are very good at manufacturing missiles they have medium range missiles that are among the best in
the world outside of the american bailiwick they sell them to yemen to syria to pakistan
to iran and they’re quite accurate uh… i mean when the iranians blow off a medium-range missile
it says shahab on it but it’s essentially a north korean missile that they’ve repainted and the pakistanis got a lot of help from the north koreans with their missiles so that’s the most worrisome factor ’cause
a medium range missile in north korea can reach all of japan including
our marines in okinawa and of course south korea and and uh… the question then is that have
been able to miniaturize a nuclear weapon enough to put it on a war head generally uh… the consensus seems to be
they haven’t been able to do that yet uh… they’re probably at the stage we were in the mid-nineteen forties in that the only
delivery vehicle uh… for a bomb like that was a very a lightened B twenty nine a very heavy
bomber that had to be lightened in order to carry this single very heavy bomb uh… that’s probably where they are but they
don’t have a bomber like will they do do have a bomber like that but it wouldn’t get within thirty miles of seoul before it would be shot down uh… i think the worst problem might be something that
was talked about a great deal at the beginning
of the cold war called institute placement where you just bring the bomb in on a freighter uh… and and put it some place that you control in enemy country uh… that’s why soviet merchant ships weren’t
allowed to pull at our ports all through the early part of the cold war because the soviets didn’t have a delivery capability until they got their missiles so uh… that’s that’s a real conundrum but the trouble with nuclear weapons is its not something you want to get … push on and then find out you get a big surprise like they do have warheads on their missiles so it’s uh… it’s part of the mystery of north
korea’s nuclear program but it whether conventional or nuclear weapons any new war on the korean peninsula would
be an absolute catastrophe and i think i think most of our generals at least understand that stay with us we’ll be right back the massachusetts school of law legal education that’s practical accessible
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early call or visit today welcome back would you give us an overview of… why you believe that the actions of
the north korean government in nineteen fifty they came across i think it was june twenty-fifth if i remember correctly why you think that their actions in nineteen
fifty in invading south korea was at least in significant part caused by the actions of the united states itself
and the actions of south korea i think that there’s enough blame to go around on all sides including the north koreans uh… what they did was take an existing civil
conflict that had been going on five years and
take it to the level of a conventional war and for that they bear a lot of responsibility its true the south wanted to do that to
but the south did not develop the kind of military that the north koreans did and
this is one of the truly hidden aspects of the korean war it’s right there in all the intelligence
documents once you can read them north korean had tens of thousands of fighters
in the chinese civil war sent them across the border as early as uh… spring of nineteen forty seven may I ask why
they did that there were at least fifty thousand of them fighting with
mao tse-tung why did they do that what they’d done in the thirties in the japanese
colony of of where uh… chinese and korean guerrillas operated
together this is where kim il sung fought for ten
years and made some of his best friendships in the chinese leadership now we have documents that show that upwards of eighty or ninety percent of those
guerrillas were koreans only ten or fifteen percent chinese even the chinese communist party was mostly korean so the koreans uh… thought that they did
a lot and in many ways they did it but it was in
a corner of world war two that nobody knew anything
about or paid any attention to uh… and so uh… after the war i think it was a combination of of the chinese
wanting to fight to continue fighting with the koreans uh… and the koreans wanting to get their
soldiers some experience you know make their solidarity with the chinese communist
even deeper so kim chaek who was uh… top general took
ten thousand soldiers across the border in uh… spring of nineteen forty seven and as you said about fifty thousand maybe
more uh… we’re fighting there right up to the what was going to be the last battle of the
uh… chinese civil war which would have been the
invasion of taiwan the last battle turned out to be for hainan island which is large island
off the southern coast of china and there were thousands of koreans in that
battle and it happened in may nineteen fifty the war started on june twenty-fifth nineteen
fifty and korea a lot of those soldiers weren’t even back uh… uh…to their uh… units in korea so china was a kind of reliable rear area for
training and for cementing a very close relationship our people in washington don’t begin to understand
this they’re always telling china chinas got to push north korea to do this chinas got to tell the north koreans
what to do chinas got to do this that and the other meanwhile there are a lot of hard liners in
the chinese military that really like north korea the civil conflict got more and more intense in nineteen forty seven forty eight forty
nine and in the summer of nineteen forty nine according
to our commander general roberts who is in our military advisory group the
south korean started more than half of these pitched battles along the border with north
korea along the thirty-eighth parallel it started in may of nineteen forty nine ended in december hundreds of soldiers were dying
on both sides and in august there nearly was a korean war a year
before the one that we know uh… when the north koreans decided they were gonna knock south koreans
off of uh… of the mountain top that was in north korea that the south korean
had occupied they attacked those troops the troops gave
way in the north koreans kept on going down to the onjing peninsula which hangs south of the thirty eighth parallel it’s very close to the region where the island
fighting happened eh… last fall on the west sea of korea there right at that point the south korean president come to the american
ambassador says their tearing us up on the ongjin peninsula i want
to invade chorwon which is a town across the thirty eighth parallel in north korea the ambassador moves heaven and hell to keep
him from doing it and right at that time we have soviet documents showing kim il sung saying i want backing i can go i can take heiju i
could take kaesong these city’s to the uh… east of uh… of the ongjin peninsula they nearly had a war then and they both
were thinking the same thing of tried to grab a city on the other side in important city but no war happened in the summer of nineteen forty nine because
both the soviets and the americans were restraining these two hotheads but above all kim il-sung wasn’t ready to
fight a big war because his soldiers were still in china but he gets them back uh… and he puts one of the best divisions the six
division just north of the ongjin peninsula in may of nineteen fifty and when the war starts that division takes
seoul in three days goes down the south east coast and menaces
pusong within about a month it was the division that probably accounted for
itself in the early battles best and nearly kicked the u_n_ and south korean forces off the peninsula no one in the u_s_ government could explain
why these soldiers were so good macarthur general macarthur says as i can beat these guys with one
hand tied behind my back the day the war begins and within a week he wants a bunch of divisions and within a
month he’s got almost all of the trained american combat forces in the
world either in korea or on their way to korea dulles even says things like they must be putting
dope into these guys i don’t know how they can fight so fanatically they had three or four years of fighting in the chines
civil war so they were crack troops and we our intelligence knew about these people uh… but completely underestimated
them and a lot of americans got killed wasn’t there
a lot of racism involved including with regard to the ability of these
troops i mean the dispatches from macarthur’s headquarters and so forth including stuff put out
by this general willoughby his real name originally
had not been willoughby he was a prussian who came over to the united states in about
nineteen oh eight and it was like uh… wilburstein or something
like that that’s right i mean some of this stuff uh… uh… macarthur called him my little fascist and his favorite people were douglas
macarthur and francisco franco he actually took taxpayers money while he was intelligence
chief of the japan occupation to write a big two volume history of franco’s
campaigns in north africa to present to franco uh… so he was a… real piece of work willougby well willoughby and macarthur had a complete ethnic well how should i put this their entire intelligence
was based on ethnic stereotypes yeah they thought the north koreans wouldn’t be able to fight
‘cuz the orientals can’t fight and thats after the war against japan you just wonder where these guys heads are at i mean it’s it’s just fact when the c_i_a_
was pulling its hair out about two hundred thousand chinese come across the border into northern
korea macarthur was saying you know i’ll take care
of it don’t worry about it chinamen can’t fight pretty soon uh… you know they cleared north
korea in about two weeks of american forces so sometimes i wonder why the world isn’t worse off than it is because people make
such stupid unbelievably they base entire decisions that will affect the lives of hundreds
of thousands of people on stupid biases uh… i would say that that was pretty widespread in nineteen fifty uh… hanson baldwin was uh… the military
correspondent in the new york times and he describes the north koreans
like locusts like nazis like vermin they come shrieking what makes them come
shrieking on i mean this is really hard stuff to read uh… uh… you know in an era when you don’t get away with that kind of thinking
anymore certainly not in national newspapers and then i mean americans came from a segregated
society uh… truman had integrated the military but
they’d been dragged their feet on it so most of the black units most of the units that had blacks were mostly
black with white officers koreans uh… couldn’t marry caucasians in about fifteen states in nineteen fifty they couldn’t own property on the west coast
they had to drink at colored drinking fountains in virginia so you know we’re not talking about a bunch
of uh… high-minded liberals coming into korea uh… and the result was that racism was just ubiquitous koreans were called gooks all the time their
gooks our gooks uh… rapes were extremely common koreans in the south will still say you know that that was one of the worst things
of the war to see how many american soldiers were raping korean women never read about any of that right you did in the funny thing about this war
is that i think because macarthur thought he could
get it over with so quickly in the summer of nineteen fifty you had reporters from look magazine saturday
evening post colliers life and they’re running around reporting anything they see and it became instantly a very very dirty war and
the right about what they see troops are shooting civilians the south korean
police are awful their you know opening up pits and putting hundreds of people in them this is all true uh… and these were mostly war correspondents who had
been in world war two and they they would say this is a different
kind of war this is some sort of a people’s war uh… civilians are right in the middle
of it you know the only real classic book besides
i f stone’s hidden history a i guess the only real classic book of the korean war uh… is uh… by a british journalist called
cry korea originally thompson it’s just been reissued it deals with the first couple of years of
the war before censorship descended within six months censorship meant you can say anything bad about our south
korean ally even if you see them blowing an lady’s head apart you can’t say that let alone what our own troops are doing so reginald thompson’s book is a very good
guide to that early period uh… but uh… it was a very dirty war
and uh…our commanders often thought orientals didn’t uh… appreciate or care about human life that they would give their own
lives in anybody else’s which is another old shivalik you get a kind of flip-side of that which is
why should we care about them either if they don’t care about themselves another uh… something that i had no idea
about til i read your book and i find this just fantastic a that i had no idea and b i attribute that to the lack of publicity in
the american media about it unless I was just ignorant which is possible but you say that for practical purposes we leveled every major city in north korea so that they all looked like berlin at the
close of world war two well am i alone and never having known this no it’s it’s a its probably uh… one of the worst
episodes of unrestrained american violence against other
people but it certainly is the one that the fewest americans know about but when you go to north korea that was the first
thing that my guides brought up with me hi uh… to this book i did some research on how incendiary bombing
developed during world war two first the germans did it and then everybody
did it but especially the british and americans and they found out after a lot of trial and error that it was
a lot easier to burn down the city than it was to use conventional bombs on a
factory uh… you know the collateral damage wasn’t very great uh… you might bust up a city block but people are having coffee uh… one block over and they thought with incendiary weapons you can bring a city down in fifteen minutes
and they started doing it yeah you could cologne dresden tokyo absolutely wurzburg i think was one
of the first cities uh… seventeen minutes it took to destroy
that when you look at the fire-bombing of tokyo
and of dresden and hamburg they have the statistics how much of the city
was destroyed and it’s usually on the range of thirty
five forty forty five percent sometimes over fifty percent but the same very same people do the same
incendiary bombing over north korea where north korea was not like north vietnam
it had industrial cities uh… about fourteen of them plus the capital of pyongyang so it was already significantly urbanized uh… and the same people do the same surveys
and i have a i have the chart and the table in my book shin eui ju on the chinese border ninety
five percent destroyed pyongyang eighty five percent hanhung an industrial city uh… eighty percent they actually destroyed north korean cities to a greater degree than the bombing of japanese and german cities and yet there’s just a terribly disproportionate aspect of this because the germans were capable
of mounting a defense and they had v2 rockets clanging
into london and so on uh… and you took your life in your hands
when you went on a bombing run over germany uh… the japanese didn’t have much good antiaircraft
but they had a very formidable army and uh… here you have north korea which was essentially
a developing country with some industrial cities and we level it more than than we did uh…
japan and germany and their defenseless so their underground uh… they have schools
factories hospitals underground the north koreans uh… at the recent party
meeting said something about uh… nineteen ninety-seven ninety-eight being a year of terrible sacrifice that was a
reference to the famine but they likened it to nineteen fifty one uh… which was really when by the end of nineteen fifty one there weren’t
many bombing targets left in north korea so that was the worst year of that and
it was uh… extremely hard for them but the strategic bombing survey after world war
two korean war in the vietnam war all demonstrate
you can’t win wars by bombing it doesn’t even hurt people’s morale the way
you think it’s going to causes all kinds of misery and makes life more
difficult right uh… the fact that north korea and south korea
where at loggerheads from at least forty five forty six forty seven onward in a sense more than in a sense doesn’t this really all go back to the eighteen seventies when the great powers were playing imperialistic divide up uh… all these countries
games and then around uh… the years nineteen oh
five to nineteen ten japan wanted to take over korea and recieved
the blessings of both uh… the united kingdom and theodore roosevelt and then along came the japanese japanese and the korean military and the koreans generally
you’re on one side or the other you either fought the japanese or you worked for the japanese i mean isn’t that roughly historically how the
schism began and then all the people who had helped the
japanese went south and the ones who had fought the japanese with north well that’s the that’s a pretty good summary
it’s it’s pretty accurate uh… i think that when you compare koreas colonial situation
to others basically an african southeast asia japan colonized korea late in war time
there already were a lot of people criticizing
the whole imperial business especially in england japan wanted in it that’s exactly right
it wanted to be a big power and recognized as such so that someone like teddy roosevelt president roosevelt
extremely important to them uh… and they knew that if they went to africa or southeast asia or the subcontinent those places were already colonized and
if they weren’t they’d get in trouble with the british and the americans so they avoided those areas pushing them toward taiwan in eighteen ninety five and then korea in nineteen
ten as colonies the trouble is korea wasn’t like uh… an african country that have never
had state boundaries before or even iraq which never had state boundaries before the
british took it over iraq has been called I think by churchill
a geographical expression that’s right and he ought to know since he
was one of the ones who drew it but korea was a peninsular geographical expression over a millennium long at least if not back
to antiquity people knew that koreans lived on the korean
peninsula it was a much more advanced country that
many of the colonies in many ways it was a little bit behind japan and the mid-nineteenth
century and then japan kind of leapt forward uh… and was able to colonize it so koreans
never really accepted that japan had any right to colonize korea and there were uprisings starting from the
beginning a very big one in nineteen ninety uh… that that was a nationwide independence
uprising uh… but by the thirties japan was in was rather different it had democratic governments not strong ones but parliamentary democracy
in the nineteen twenties uh… but it had military coups in the
thirties and militarists like torture took it over and these are people who would stop at nothing uh… and these are the very people that chinese and korean guerrillas were fighting in manchuria for tojo hideki was the provost marshal
of the manchurian army in the mid thirties so kim il sung was fighting the same person we
did it uh… at pearl harbor but nobody knew uh… about this we come back to nineteen forty-five if you had any military experience in nineteen forty five it was most likely
to be in the japanese army they drafted uh… the vast majority of koreans who served in
the army about two hundred thousand uh… but they also promoted officers uh… in officer candidate schools promoted
them because they were we’re good colonial subjects and would even tout their battles you know
that they were engaged in in china or manchuria and so you had a class of officers uh… two generations really there was \ the generation
that that was a in their forties and fifties in the nineteen forties and the generation like park chung hee who later
became uh… made the coup and took power in south korea nineteen sixty
one who was a generation younger and as a young man joined the japanese officer candidate school in manchuria and
become a lieutenant in the japanese army complete with a japanese name and all of
this he had a japanese name they changed your name he changed his name and even when he didn’t
have to its like russian jews going to israel well in the forties the japanese tried to make koreans take japanese names uh… and most people think they did it all through
that period they didn’t but uh… park chung hee had a full japanese name any of these officers did
i think they all did just to make this long story a bit shorter
he comes back in nineteen forty five as a japanese officer if he were in north korea he would be either
thrown out of country are put in jail in south korea you’ve got an american occupation uh… worried about communism and unrest and so right away they start up
an army in november of nineteen forty five and in the second class of the officers school
that the americans uh… developed in nineteen forty-six park chung hee comes out of that park chung hee was assassinated by his own intelligence
chief over dinner one night in nineteen seventy nine you know that was national news world world news such a you know strange event the guy who assassinated him was named
kim jaeguy he also been a japanese officer in manchuria he
also got out of the second class of the military academy so if you’re kim il sung sitting up north you
see that u_s_ midwifing the very same people that the japanese dealt with and syngman rhee felt this was great because
these people had experience fighting communists so when he comes to power in nineteen forty
eight he gets even more than in the army the standpoint of kim il sung you know and you should always know your enemy
standpoint whether you green with him or disagree with him he was faced with a government of people who for twenty
years had been trying to kill him that’s right and all his allies it was sort of the
same on the other side they had no illusions of what kim il-sung would do if he got a hold of them uh… so it it was a kill or be killed situation but the north koreans had the shrewdest strategy because they were
able to send their soldiers to china and get a lot of battle experience and uh… would have vanquished south korea within two-three weeks if if the u_s_ hadn’t come in
the point to me the central point about all this from our standpoint as americans when you’re dealing with korea when you’re
dealing subsequently but similarly with vietnam ditto iraq ditto afghanistan the people in charge in the united states
knew from nothing about any of this is that right or if they did know about it they
didn’t care it’s more a matter of not caring uh… i remember being in the archives and
i admired dean acheson his probably the greatest secretary of state in the twentieth century i was reading his
papers and policy documents he had produced in a nineteen forty seven and a debate had begun as to whether ho chi minh
men was a really a communist or nationalist he writes at the bottom you know this is all a bunch of malarkey all the kremlin people pretend to be nationalists
in the colonial world end of story whereas ho chi minh was very
similar to kim il-sung uh… he was a person who we could have worked
with uh… an undeniable patriot and uh… not someone who was a a puppet of moscow but we we make these mistakes all the time
taking chalabi to baghdad was just the latest example of
people who really have no idea who they’re dealing with
but think they do syngman rhee had lived in the united states
for thirty five years we take him just like subsequently we took diem into uh… who was who lyndon johnson said was going
to be uh… the thom paine of the far east or something on that order or the george washington then we take this clown chalabi do we have anybody for afghanistan uh… when you look at karzai’s family
they ran afghan restaurants all over the country our country so what we’re we’re doing it again did acheson essentially make most of our decisions early
on with regard to korea acheson was by far the most important person i’m not just in nineteen fifty when
we committed to go to war but uh… in nineteen forty-seven uh… when the cold war was developing in
the famous sixteen weeks which were culminated in the truman doctrine in the marshall plan uh… the the american military guys on the scene in
south korea had essentially been pursuing a containment policy
for two years but it didn’t have a name they were uh… outlying left-wing parties
knocking over left-wing people’s committees and things like this for two years uh… but in nineteen forty seven they got you know they had very little guidance
from washington before that most of what they got they ignored but in nineteen forty seven with the development
of the containment doctrine and the cold war beginning that had the effect of ratifying what the occupation
had been doing in korea and it coincided with the decision crucial decision to revive japanese heavy
industry and get japan producing again uh… this is something that uh… atcheson
and kennon were very intent on doing same with germany germany in europe japan in the far east they weren’t gonna have a big army that weren’t
gonna have political clout in the world but they were going to get their industrial machines back in order um… macarthur had actually put industrial suppression as the policy of
suppressing heavy steel uh… heavy shipbuilding you know aircraft things like
that morgenthau right morgenthau wanted germany
to be a farm land you know it had an analogy to that in
that japan was no longer going to be a heavy industrial country it was going to be agricultural light industry uh… maybe exporting textiles and things
but it wasn’t gonna have heavy industry cuz that’s what led to war that policy reversed its called uh… you know that in the literature the reverse course but they also had in their mind that japan
couldn’t revive on its own because it didn’t have any natural resources so they wanted to reintroduce japanese
economic influence in the former colonies taiwan and south korea also in southeast asia and that gave atcheson the first rationale for defending
south korea and he said it in in march of nineteen forty seven in a secret senate testimony he said we have drawn the
line in korea george marshall was the secretary of state he wrote this amazing note there was a
note clipped of the back of a document with his own handwriting connect up uh… have a separate government
in south korean connected up to japan now coming two years after the colony had ended
this would infuriate any korean who saw it but that that was the
american stake in korea to revive the japanese economy have taiwan
and south korea be part of its economic sphere and it’s just what the north koreans most hated and feared and feared atcheson was very important yeah again a very little known fact
in fact this staggered me when i read it in your book the koreans in the korean war lost three million
people dead japan in all of world war two lost two point
three now that is staggering who knew i know and north koreans lost many more than south koreans because uh… of the bombing and their territory being occupied by yeah
and i think you say if i remember correctly that whatever else it did the korean war i mean it did much else the korean war pulled the chestnuts out
of the fire for acheson and truman because they had
decided back around late forty five forty six because of their experience and what they
uh… within what they thought about stalin which wasn’t all wrong in fact it was probably pretty much right but they decided that we had to have
this fantastic military build-up and uh… like after the civil war and
the first world war our army is shrinking people are coming home you know the uh… the heavy industries are turning
back to cars instead of nobody nobody wanted it the korean war sort of pulled it out of
the fire for them and created this enormous national security state that we’ve
had for fifty years well its the most important uh… significance of the korean war for american history uh… truman had run down the military very
drastically when you look at the numbers you’re going from eleven million
down to two two-and-a-half million the budget’s going down down down congress was led by people who make our conservative fiscal types look like ah… babies i mean defense secretary johnson a
democrat wanted the defense budget no higher than thirteen
billion dollars now that’ll buy you and f seventy-seven jet
today uh… but in in terms of uh… actual defense spending it might be equivalent
to uh… a hundred billion dollars least we spend about six hundred billion today uh… within six months of the korean war it had gone from thirteen billion to fifty five
fifty six billion it had quadrupled so in relative terms it had gone from a hundred million today to what we have
today yet in fact uh… we never spent more on defense from nineteen fifty two three until the tag end of the bush administration when uh… he was finally in real dollars
over uh… what we had spent in korea i think
in two thousand and seven or two thousand and eight and we’ve backed down from that a little
bit off of that uh… uh… to you know around six hundred billion was getting up over seven hundred fifty eighty uh… billion but when you do look at a constant charts
in constant dollars there’s no question the korean war was the occasion for uh… this enormous increase in defense spending
and then it it truly remade the united states not just at home
with the national security state but with seven hundred and fifty plus bases all of
the world that we admit to that we admit to yes i i noticed uh… during
the uh… you know the n_f_c_ championship they say this broadcast goes out to american
military people in a hundred and seventy five countries there aren’t a whole lot more than a hundred and seventy
five i mean you know it’s over two hundred but i’m just amazed by that you know i have spent time on an american american military base in germany and it’s all a very nice and you know and the
people are very nice and the germans when you have contact with them which i did are very nice and a come home i think it what would we think
if the germans had a huge military base in boston yeah and in new york and in chicago this is just crazy in korea its worse
because our largest military base is in downtown seoul which is the capital city it would be like having
a foreign base in washington yeah furthermore that base had been the japanese
base during the colonial period so americans have a terrible tendency to think
that our intentions are always the best and therefore we don’t do anything you know
untoward to anybody else its always those other countries that are doing untoward things to us uh… but i uh… uh… often ask my students what they would
think if if japan or south korea or germany or england or spain or italy we all have bases
over there if they had bases here think about it uh… and furthermore you can’t say it doesn’t make
a difference it’s like having someone scratching the back or your neck
every once in a while reminding you hat you are not entirely independent in defense and that if you wanted to be you’d have to do what de gaulle did in nineteen
sixty seven and say dear americans please go home he said that he said we would like to be an independent
country now so when de gaulle said it it was the
equivalent of get out ladies and gentlemen thank you for watching this uh… installment
of books of our times and uh… this is part one of the discussion with bruce cumings about
the korean war please watch the next time when part two will be presented with bruce cumings uh…
on a subject far too unknown to americans and which has had least at this point
a sixty year influence on this country

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. The point made in this piece about the collapse of the chemical fertilizer industry in North Korea and its resultant effects on the food situation in NK is something I've never heard before in the media. In explaining starvation in NK, why hasn't this been brought up before?

  2. I don't think the US should have so many bases around the world but I know there are people in Germany who benefit economically from those bases being there. I'm sure that's also true in other parts of the world.

  3. I have follow your writings over the years and have found your writing close to the what really happened. However, it was Churchill that started bombing Germany cities first. Hitler responded by bombing England cities. The Red Army defeated the Japanese Imperial Army in 1939 and 1945 in Mongolia. Then Red Army defeated the Quantune Army in Korea in 1945.Please check the facts. It is important in understanding what followed…….IF Stone book was one the best on Korea as your is.

  4. This is very interesting, but I feel like he tries really hard to overemphasize the negative impact of USA and Japan. Yes, maybe some of the leaders in the south were seen as traitors, since they had supported Japan. That explains NK's reasons a little better, but that was not the deciding reason of the war.
    It was Stalin who helped Mao get power over China and Kim Il Sung was another of his puppets. By appointing a leader of his militaristic background, it was obvious Stalin wanted war.

  5. When North Korea started the war, they were fighting with russian weapons. Kim Il Sung was a megalomaniac who wanted to rule Korea as a king, but he was mainly acting under Stalin. The fact that Kim Il Sung desperately tried to end the war way before it ended, plus the fact that it ended a few months after Stalin's death proves that Kim wasn't the one in charge. Stalin and Mao wasn't content with a stalemate, so they let the war drag on despite the fact that the UN had the upper hand.

  6. You can't blame the food crisis (which still goes on) on the collapsing chemical industry. North Korea at that time was overinvesting into their army and could have invested that money into their agriculture. Plus, many of the farmers were forced at the time to produce drugs, because it was more profitable. Also, a good government would have reacted to the fall of the Soviet Union and the rising prices by putting the ppl first. NK prioritized governmental stability and the army over the ppl.

  7. @AntonBatey Yes. It's obvious that they have overinvested into their army for defensive purposes, but when your ppl is starving, food should be the first priority. There is no excuse for the starvation, and blaming it on outside factors, like Bruce does is just wrong. Someone with his expertise should know better. It's not that what he's saying is wrong, but he's pointing out things that make NK look better on purpose. A true expert should point out the important facts.

  8. @AntonBatey As an expert he should have made it clear that NK could have prevented the famine by investing in agriculture and importing food. How about if they sent their military out on fishing boats instead? The reason why they haven't invested in large scale fishing is because it would lead to mass-defections to the South and Japan. Sweden have a similar geography to NK, and if we can do well, so can they.

  9. I wonder why the uploader of the video decided to put up his her own comments over the interview. Did the uploader feel that the DPRK was not being hammered enough by this pair? Or are Americans really so stupid that they can't remember what is being said – without constant reminders – which are often contradictory to what was said.

  10. This fellow says the DPRK is the biggest garrison state, with more of the population in the army than any other state. Well, maybe if the Anglo-Saxon imperialists stopped attacking it, that could change. They dont want to end up like Libya or Syria. Also, the USA has a bigger proportion of its population in the prison system than the DPRK does (1 in 31 of American adults are in the prison system, including those out on licence, this rises to 1 in 10 for Black people – because of racism.)

  11. @pite9 I read his "Another Country" (2004) and he pays lip service with single lines of, "Is the DPRK totalitarian? Yes. Do they have a bad record on human rights? Of course", then says nothing more on those matters. In 99% of the book he defends the Kims, tells outright lies, and bashes all other researchers. He describes Choi Eun-hee as being "on a sojourn" to the DPRK when she met Jong-Il, when she had been kidnapped! That book is a vanity project. He seems more reasonable here.

  12. How can he in one breath criticize the hubris of American generals under-estimating the North Korean army (33:20), and in the next breath call them "defenseless" (40:00)?

  13. You fool, the whole purpose we have governments is so chaos doesn't go rampant and people are united. All government sucks but Democracy is a better system.

  14. Because in that aspect they were defenseless, it's not a matter of hubris, the North Koreans simply had very few ways of defending against bombardments.

  15. You have to understand NK's situation. They are still living in Cold War era. If you think the whole world is about to attack you any minute, food seems less of a dire issue because if you diverted military investment to st else, you will be weaken and attacked, and obviously, die. US need to win NK over, not by embargo and restrictions, but by showing them the world is safe for them to join.
    We need to put ourselves in the other's shoes b4 judging them.

  16. He knew Izzy Stone. He cites his work in his book. He even had the Thames Television crew interview him (for the excellent, but out-of-print documentary film, Korea-The Unknown War), but they stopped the interview due to the crew's labor contract that stipulated that they couldn't work past 6pm or something like that, so Stone never made it in the final documentary.

  17. Thanks @catnipnbone – you can find the link to part 2 in the video description!

  18. Dr. Cumings is a left wing apologist and a lover of the North. I read his other book "North Korea: Another Country" (which I had to read for an East Asia history class). It is fraught with many historical inaccuracies and personal opinions, which are left-wing based. His bias completely invalidates him as a credible historian. A good historian know not to have personal bias come into his work. This man is a bad historian, a liar, and his works pander to left-wing reactionaries.

  19. Sure. And he only wrote one of the best, and only, histories of the United States' connection to the Pacific ever made in his 2009 book.

    Don't worry, little one: You can find plenty of right-wing boilerplate to assuage your own ideological tendencies.

  20. With 'Acheson line' declaration declared Jan. 12, 1950, South Korea was excluded from this defence line. In contrast to Soviet, US thought lightly Korean peninsula. And then Jun. 25 same year Korean War took place.

  21. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russians briefly opened their records to foreign inspection. They showed that the Korean War was the product of a conspiracy among Stalin, Mao, and Kim Il-sung.

  22. The defense of the Republic of Korea from North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union was one of the best things that the US, its allies, and the UN ever did. Compare the two states today and don't doubt that it was good to defend South Korea from military aggression.

    Cumings states that the Yongsan base is "the largest US military base". It is only 620 acres! Cumings is lying here, and he knows it, or is a very ignorant man.

  23. "meltdown" is the book that tells the story of how america's bush,jr caused north korea to go nuke, when bill clinton had already been ready to sign a treaty of "no hostile intention."

    all north korea today just want to sign that treaty to exchange for abolish their nuke program, but obama wont. why???

  24. well, now u know the truth about the korean war. next in line is the japanese war. and more than that, it might not have finished.

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