Pembroke makes a fairly compelling argument that its Korea debacle has defined U.S. engagement with the world since, also determining the length and depth of the Cold War and laying the foundations for the uncertainty that now besets North Asia and the rest of the world ... This is a timely, important and eminently readable book that points to the ongoing tragedy of the Korean peninsula. The reasons for the paranoia, intense hatred and distrust—both in Korea and the west—can be traced back over centuries ... None of this is acceptable, but Pembroke at least renders it, in some measure, understandable.
His book is timely, readable and deeply researched. It is also exasperating. Pembroke all but ignores the spectacularly prosperous and democratic state South Korea has become—with the steady help of the United States. He mostly sidesteps the cruelty and incompetence of North Korea’s founding dictator ... With a polemicist’s distaste for ambiguity, Pembroke cherry-picks events of the Korean War, emphasizing American outrages that support his argument while omitting successful U.S. efforts to confine the conflict’s savagery ... Yet Pembroke's book...does deliver crucial information that Americans need to understand the permanent crisis in northeastern Asia ... For readers capable of looking beyond an America First understanding of how the world works, Pembroke’s analysis is chillingly relevant.
Michael Pembroke’s Korea: Where the American Century Began is unremitting in detailing the politics at play in Korea’s recent history, as well as in previous centuries when the Korean people distinguished themselves as one of the great cultures of Asia, but this project will be remembered for showcasing how America’s militarism has its roots in the recent Korean conflicts.
Pembroke does a long, ultimately unconvincing, detour exploring the claim that the US used biological weapons against both China and the North ... What Korea does get right is chemical warfare ... The book is all in all a well-written critical re-assessment of the standard narrative. Where it frustrates is in delivering on the subtitle, 'Where the American Century Began'.
A no-holds-barred critique ... The author effectively chronicles the American missteps in the Korean War, particularly the push northward to the Yalu River, which provoked a devastating response by China. He also makes solid points regarding North Korea’s determination to develop nuclear weapons and the continued presence of U.S. troops in South Korea and Japan. Yet he fails to provide the proper Cold War context to put the actions of those he criticizes in a more favorable light. Pembroke offers little on the tens of millions of innocent lives snuffed out by the communist regimes ... Moreover, the author can be somewhat naïve ... Some other comments come off as offensive ... A useful historical narrative that is sometimes marred by the author’s omissions and mischaracterizations.
Australian Pembroke...gives a provocative leftist account of the Korean War and its legacy ... without giving much larger Cold War context ... The book also operates from certain assumptions—for example, that any use of nuclear weapons is immoral—that not all readers may share. For readers with a solid understanding of the Korean War, Pembroke’s work is an interesting and challenging alternative view, but it’s too slanted to serve as an introduction to the topic.