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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Division System in Crisis: Essays on Contemporary Korea


Foreword by Bruce Cumings. Translated by Kim Myung-hwan, Sol June-Kyu,Song Seung-cheol, and Ryu Young-joo, with the collaboration of the author.

Paik Nak-chung is one of Korea’s most incisive contemporary public intellectuals. By training a literary scholar, he is perhaps best known as an eloquent cultural and political critic. This volume represents the first book-length collection of his writings in English.

Paik’s distinctive theme is the notion of a “division system” on the Korean peninsula, the peculiar geopolitical and cultural logic by which one nation continues to be divided into two states, South and North. Identifying a single structure encompassing both Koreas and placing it within the framework of the contemporary world-system, Paik shows how this reality has insinuated itself into virtually every corner of modern Korean life.

“A remarkable combination of scholar, author, critic, and activist, Paik Nak-chung carries forward in our time the ancient Korean ideal of marrying abstract learning to the daily, practical problems of the here and now. In this book he confronts no less than the core problem facing the Korean people since the mid-twentieth century: the era of national division, of two Koreas, an anomaly for a people united across millennia and who formed the basic sinews of their nation long before European nation-states began to develop.” Bruce Cumings, from the foreword

Paik Nak-chung is emeritus professor of English literature at Seoul National University. Kim Myung-hwan is professor of English at Seoul National University. Bruce Cumings is professor and chair of history at the University of Chicago.

The Seoul-California Series in Korean Studies, vol. 2

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