Cover image for The Koreans : who they are, what they want, where their future lies
The Koreans : who they are, what they want, where their future lies
Breen, Michael, 1952-
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 1999.

Physical Description:
xii, 276 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
"Thomas Dunne books."

Originally published: London : Orion Business Books, 1998.
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS917.7 .B74 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The rise of South Korea is one of the most unexpected and inspirational developments of the latter part of our century. A few decades ago, the Koreans were an impoverished, agricultural people. In one generation they came out of the fields and into Silicon Valley. In 1997, this powerhouse of a nation reeled and almost collapsed as a result of a weak financial system and heavily indebted conglomerates. The world is now watching to see whether the Koreans will be able to reform and continue their stunning growth.

Although Korea has only recently found itself a part of the global stage, it is a country with a rich and complex past. Early history shows that Koreans had a huge influence on ancient Japan, and their historic achievements include being the first culture to use metal movable type for printing books. However, much of their history is less positive; it is marred with political violence, poverty, and war-aspects that would sooner be forgotten by the Koreans, who are trying to focus on their promising future.

The fact that Korean history has eluded much of the world is unfortunate, but as Korea becomes more of a global player, understanding and appreciation for this unique nation has become indispensable.

In The Koreans, Michael Breen provides an in-depth portrait of the country and its people. an early overview of the nature and values of the Korean people provides the background for a more detailed examination of the complex history of the country, in particular its division into the Communist north and pro-Western south.

In this absorbing and enlightening account of the Koreans, Michael Breen provides compelling insight into the history and character of this fascinating nation.

Author Notes

Michael Breen is a writer and consultant who first went to Korea as a correspondent in 1982. He covered North and South Korea for several newspapers, including the Guardian (London), the Times (London), and the Washington Times. He was the president of the Seoul Correspondents Club for three years during South Korea's period of democratization and has traveled widely in North Korea. He is married with three children and spends six months of the year in Korea, and six months in the United Kingdom.

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Korea is an ancient land that has struggled against foreign domination for centuries. South Korea has emerged as an economic powerhouse with, it is hoped, democratic inclinations. North Korea, despite occasional signs of openness, remains a Stalinist backwater. Breen, a journalist who has covered Korea since 1982, has written a useful and often surprising survey of Korea's culture and efforts to integrate that culture with the outside world. He effectively illustrates the difficulties that a still "traditionalist" society encounters as it develops facets of an industrial and even a postindustrial economy. Breen probes such diverse topics as the status of civil liberties, generational social strains within families, and the massive corruption that permeates Korean society. He writes with a snappy, readable style that is appropriate to the frequent ironies inherent in many of the situations he describes. Those wishing to learn about an increasingly important civilization will find this a thoroughly enjoyable read. --Jay Freeman

Table of Contents

Part 1 Society and Valuesp. 1
1. The Three Miraclesp. 3
2. Image and Identityp. 15
3. Korean Heartp. 22
4. Shaman Under the Skinp. 41
5. The Generation Gapp. 56
Part 2 Historyp. 73
6. Ancient Tribesp. 75
7. China's Little Brotherp. 86
8. The Broken Peoplep. 103
9. Two Ways to be Koreanp. 116
Part 3 Economyp. 131
10. The Spectacle of Growthp. 133
11. Conglomeratesp. 143
12. Mismanagingp. 153
13. Foreign Businessp. 162
14. Working and Consumingp. 173
Part 4 Politicsp. 185
15. Breaking the Lawp. 187
16. Dictatorsp. 196
17. Struggle for Democracyp. 206
18. Human Rightsp. 222
19. The Korean Diseasep. 233
20. Towards the Third Miraclep. 243
Notesp. 249
Selected Bibliographyp. 264
Indexp. 269