The Koreans Who They Are, What They Want, Where Their Future Lies

Michael Breen

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

304 Pages


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A few decades ago, Koreans were an impoverished, agricultural people. In one generation they emerged from the paddy fields to become world-leading producers of state-of the-art technology. Yet on the eve of the millennium, South Korea reeled and almost collapsed as a result of a weak financial system and heavily indebted conglomerates. More recently, North Korea has been named to the Axis of Evil and flaunts its nuclear weapons program, while tensions mount along the DMZ.

Although it is only relatively recently that Korea has been brought to our attention, it is an ancient and complex country with a people to match. As Korea becomes more of a flashpoint for international conflict, the need to understand and appreciate this unique society becomes more and more apparent.

Revised and updated for this paperback edition, The Koreans is a fascinating look at the history and culture of a divided people.


Praise for The Koreans

"For anyone who wants to know Korea and the Koreans better, this book is an excellent place to start. Michael Breen's achievement is to have gotten under Korea's skin. His portrait of Koreans is at once highly personal and convincingly recognizable. Both engaged and engaging, his book comes as close as an outsider can to an insider's account of contemporary Korea, [and of its] undoubted importance in the global economy of the twenty-first century."—Aidan Foster-Carter, Korea expert, The University of Leeds

"This is a thoughtful, passionate, and enlightening look at the world's eleventh largest economy and one of its oldest cultures; required reading for the neophyte and Korea hand alike."—Stephen Glain, correspondent for the Boston Globe and author of Mullahs, Merchants, and Militants

"Michael Breen gives readers an insight into the history and character of a complex people which helps us assess how they might deal with the current complex period in their development."—Catherine Lee, Seoul correspondent, The Economist

"[Breen] writes with a snappy, readable style . . . Those wishing to learn about an increasingly important civilization will find this a thoroughly enjoyable read."—Booklist

"Breen limns with patience and perspicuity an engaging portrait of this least-known of the major Asian economic powers . . . He has a powerful command of anecdote and detail, illustrated for example in his description of community-wide rock fights in the 19th century to settle public disputes and in the horrible image of the 100,000 pickled Korean noses the 16th-century Japanese warriors took to their country to certify their body counts . . . A splendid work of explication and analysis by one who admits to being both charmed and angered by his subjects."—Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Michael Breen

  • Michael Breen has covered North and South Korea for several newspapers including The Guardian (London), The Times (London), and the Washington Times. He is married with three children and spends six months of the year in Korea and six months in the United Kingdom.

  • Michael Breen Author Collection