Saturday, August 7, 2010


This is from Bruce Cumings' Korea's Place in the Sun

"Korean universities, like those in Japan, also did not require a lot of their students...Korean students worked their tails off in high school and graduated with skills at about the level of American college juniors. Koreans got the education they needed for their careers mostly in high school."

This is absurd. Throughout the book Cumings consistently defends what Westerners would consider the weaker aspects of Korean society. This quote is him doing that at his most extreme.

It is wildly untrue that the average Korean highschool graduate in the 60's (the context of this quote) had anything close to the education level of an American college junior. The same could be said for today's Korean high school graduates. There is simply no comparison. Although it is true that university in Korea, then and now, is famously easy.

The rest of the book is quite informative and written in an admirably non-scholarly fashion that nevertheless impresses upon the reader that Cumings really knows his stuff.

Which makes silly statements like the one above all the more unfortunate.