Wednesday, February 8, 2012
the last book I ever read (Nothing to Envy, excerpt one)
from Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea:
As the Japanese emperor read his statement over the radio, across the globe in Washington, D.C., two young army officers huddled over a National Geographic Society map, wondering what to do about Korea. Nobody in Washington knew much about this obscure Japanese colony. While elaborate plans has been drawn up for the postwar occupation of Germany and Japan, Korea was an afterthought. The Japanese had ruled for thirty-five years, and with their abrupt withdrawal there would be a dangerous power vacuum. The United State was concerned that the Soviet Union might seize Korea as a staging ground on the way to the bigger prize of Japan. Despite the World War II alliance, distrust of the Soviet Union was growing in Washington. Soviet troops had already entered Korea from the north the week before Japan's surrender and were poised to keep going. The Americans sought to appear the Soviets by giving them the northern half of Korea to administer in what was supposed to be a temporary trusteeship. The officers, one of whom was Dean Rusk, later to become secretary of state, wanted to keep the capital, Seoul, in the U.S. sector. So the two army officers looked for a convenient way to divide the peninsula. They slapped a line across the map at the 38th parallel.