Membership Book Review: "Korea: A New History of South and North" by Victor Cha and Ramon Pacheco Pardo

October 3, 2023

“Korea gives the answer to the lingering enigma of how two extremely different systems, one globally flying and the other falling to the bottom, have evolved from the same people – and where they will go from here. . . . A must-read.”—Ban Ki-moon, 8th Secretary General of the UN

“A brisk, insightful narrative of the emergence of two Koreas, South and North, their diverging but intertwined paths over the past seventy-five plus years, and the prospects for reunification. . . . Foreign policy experts and K-pop fans alike will enjoy and benefit from this book.”—Kathleen Stephens, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea (2008–11)


A major new history of North and South Korea, from the late nineteenth century to the present day.
Korea has a long, riveting history—it is also a divided nation. South Korea is a vibrant democracy, the tenth largest economy, and is home to a world-renowned culture. North Korea is ruled by the most authoritarian regime in the world, a poor country in a rich region, and is best known for the cult of personality surrounding the ruling Kim family. But both Koreas share a unique common history.
Victor Cha and Ramon Pacheco Pardo draw on decades of research to explore the history of modern Korea, from the late nineteenth century, Japanese occupation, and Cold War division to the present day. A small country caught amongst the world’s largest powers—including China, Japan, Russia, and the United States—Korea’s fate has been closely connected to its geography and the strength of its leadership and society. This comprehensive history sheds light on the evolving identities of the two Koreas, explaining the sharp differences between North and South, and prospects for unification.

About the Authors

Victor Cha is senior vice president for Asia and Korea Chair at CSIS. He is also the distinguished university professor and professor of government at Georgetown University. He was appointed in 2021 by the Biden administration to serve on the Defense Policy Board in an advisory role to the secretary of defense. From 2004 to 2007, he served on the National Security Council (NSC) and was responsible for Japan, Korea, Australia/New Zealand, and Pacific Island nations. Dr. Cha was U.S. deputy head of delegation at the Six Party Talks and received two outstanding service commendations during his tenure at the NSC. He is the author of seven books, including the award-winning Alignment Despite Antagonism: The United States-Korea-Japan Security Triangle (Stanford, 1999) (winner of the 2000 Ohira Book Prize), The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future (Ecco, 2012) selected by Foreign Affairs as a “Best Book on the Asia-Pacific for 2012", Powerplay: Origins of the American Alliance System in Asia (Princeton, 2018), and Korea: A New History of South and North (Yale, 2023). Dr. Cha is a two-time Fulbright scholar, former Olin fellow at Harvard, and former Hoover, CISAC, and Koret fellow at Stanford. He currently serves on 10 editorial boards of academic journals and is coeditor of the Contemporary Asia book series at Columbia University Press. He serves on the board of the National Endowment for Democracy and is a senior fellow at the George W. Bush Institute. He is also a foreign affairs contributor for MSNBC and NBC News. Dr. Cha received his PhD, MIA and BA degree from Columbia University and a BA Honors from Oxford University.

Ramon Pacheco Pardo is Professor of International Relations at King’s College London and the KF-VUB Korea Chair at the Brussels School of Governance of Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He is also King's Regional Envoy for East and South East Asia, helping to shape and implement the university's strategy for the region.

Prof. Pacheco Pardo is also Adjunct Fellow (Non-Resident) with the Korea Chair at CSIS, Non-Resident Fellow with Sejong Institute, Scientific Council Member at Elcano Royal Institute and Committee Member at CSCAP EU. He has held visiting positions at Korea University, the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and Melbourne University.

His publications include the books Korea: A New History of South & North (Yale University Press, 2023; with Victor Cha), South Korea's Grand Strategy: Making Its Own Destiny (Columbia University Press, 2023), Shrimp to Whale: South Korea from the Forgotten War to K-Pop (Hurst and Oxford University Press, 2022) and North Korea-US Relations from Kim Jong Il to Kim Jong Un (Routledge, 2019). Prof Pacheco Pardo has been editor of Millennium: Journal of International Studies and currently sits in the editorial boards of East Asia: An International Quarterly and Korea-Europe Review.

He has participated in track 1.5 and 2 dialogues with South Korea, North Korea, China, Japan and the United States. Prof Pacheco Pardo has testified before the European Parliament and consulted and advised NATO, the OECD and the governments of Canada, the EU, South Korea, Spain, the UK and the United States, among others. He is a frequent media commentator on North East Asian affairs and EU-East Asia relations.