Korea is a deeply unique, complex, and interesting place in the world. Upended by repeated waves of war and occupation throughout its history, the modern nation has propulsively launched itself in the stratosphere culturally and economically and grown perhaps faster than any other.
This presents undeniable benefits and prosperity, but also a number of accompanying social discontents, from racism to identity fissures to pervasive mental health issues. Theodore Jun Yoo, an associate professor in the Department of Korean Language and Literature at Yonsei University in Seoul, joins the podcast this week to discuss his very interesting new book, “The Koreas: The Birth of Two Nations Divided.”
Jun’s book presents a “demythologized history” of the North Korea-South Korea split, with a focus on a number of deeply compelling personal stories and interviews with subjects supported by broad multidisciplinary empirical research. Why is it that a country that has been so incredibly successful, prosperous, and dynamic should continue to be haunted by such complex social issues?
Jun’s own family story is just one of many narratives in this book exploring the complexity of Korean identity and the impact of “compressed modernity.”