John Delury

John Delury

Professor of Chinese history and Sino-Korean relations, Yonsei University; Co-author of Wealth & Power: China's Long March to the 21st Century; Senior fellow, Asia Society; BA & PhD at Yale

Location Seoul, South Korea


  • Kang/Hyun book is splendid-- I've recently written a short article myself on the Park-Kishi relationship, going back to Manchukuo, and its legacy today, building on Kang/Hyun. Presenting some of those ideas at a conference here at Yonsei in a few hours in fact!

  • Quite right, Katherine, to think about different generational meanings of historical events

  • Astute to point out the complex ways in which a single image refracts across time and space and takes on multiple meanings to various audiences, both in the room and out

  • Narrow meaning is official diplomatic recognition by two states, e.g., the US and China normalized relations in 1979. But the term can also be used in a broader sense of having a full range of economic and cultural ties and basically 'getting along'.

  • Wonderful portrait, thank you Alfred.

  • My 3 year old would love how many elephants we have found in the room! Very astute.

  • 1) My colleague Michael Kim's course will include a lot more South Korea, whereas I have focused on the North, a lot less China, and a lot more social and economic history. So it should complement our course very nicely. But we'll all have to take it to really find out!
    2) Thanks for the recommendation-- looks fascinating. I will read with interest.

  • All great reads, Cumings, Tudor and Halberstam. On Nanjing, the best general read is still probably Iris Chang's Rape of Nanking-- although historians have corrected some of her findings. There's a lot of excellent scholarship on Manchuria, although no single book leaps to mind for general read. Mike Meyer's In Manchuria, recently published, is travelogue, but...

  • Thanks for link; Kim Jong Un is indeed making another big push at attracting foreign investment; risks to investors both geopolitically, legally & financially are insurmountable in most cases; but some Cowboys do give it a shot

  • Glad you are enjoying it Haeryun

  • Thank YOU

  • NYT op-ed was by Victor Cha, an excellent Korea expert, but you are right he was a bit too quick out of the gates on this one! Ironically, Cha helps explain all the purging in Pyongyang when he wrote, "The “great successor,” as he has been dubbed by the state...

  • "When you open the windows, some flies get in," was another pithy line attributed to Deng expressing his tolerance of opening up (even if he had misgivings too)

  • Good observation

  • Empress Dowager Cixi was very much in a reactive position when the Boxer movement erupted in anti-foreign violence, whereas the Red Guards were initiated by Mao

  • Great discussion so far... Looking forward to hearing more thoughts.

  • Interesting suggestion Ivan! The Japanese economy did profit considerably from contracts to support the US involvement in Korea... just as the Korean economy would later benefit from supporting the US involvement in Vietnam.

  • Good idea Tim. I will follow up with FL folks. Thanks

  • Great discussion all around. Max Hastings and Allan Whiting are still worth reading, but they are a bit outdated given what we've learned from documents acquired after the fall of the USSR. That doesn't mean all our questions about why Mao gave Kim a green light can be easily answered! But we should start with the kind of documents that Kevin Shepard...

  • Helen-- Jealous you got to study under the legendary Owen Lattimore! I recently re-read his most influential book, The Inner Asian Frontiers of China, on a trip to the northeast provinces, and it left me thirsty to drink up the whole Lattimore oeuvre some point soon when I can make the time.

  • Great questions as always Katherine! I did warn you, historical knowledge often takes the form of questions rather than answers, as you demonstrate so well

  • One of China's best Cold War historians will be coming out with a book someday on Stalinism; add to the FutureReads list!

  • Astute to point out this lacuna; some guesswork required re Kim's time in USSR, but for starters you can check out Sydney Seiler's book on the topic

  • Will take these suggestions into account next time:)

  • Excellent questions! Not all of them will be answered-- and you'd need a course dedicated to modern Japanese history to really get at them. But hopefully you will get some insights into answers. One point up front-- the answer changes/ evolves with time. There was not a grand master plan to conquer China as of 1894. And even after such plans emerged, there...

  • Great question Tim. Debate raged among Britons over how to handle the Taiping, whether to see them as an ally, enemy, or something else. For more you could start with Steven Platt's superb book 'Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War'

  • Great observation, Graham. A ground-up, social history approach would indeed yield a very different set of historical insights and questions.

  • Though I am on Twitter, I've never done one of these Twitterchats myself! So not sure how it will all work. But I think FutureLearn plans to somehow 'capture' a bit of the discussion. Will let you all know. Otherwise, hope to see some of you there, so to speak.

  • It's a very astute and fair criticism Haeryun. Someday I'll have to build a 12 week course that starts pre-Joseon/ pre-Ming...

  • Good catch! Thanks

  • The slave population was very large in Joseon Korea, estimates are 30%, but negligible in Qing China. The government taxed both land and labor (a headtax on farming families), but faced massive problems with tax evasion by landowners and corruption by local officials. Unlike European states, which started raising revenues through public debt in the 18th...

  • Daniel's book is great. He has also very recently co-authored a book about the other Korea, along with Reuters correspondent James Pearson, called North Korea Confidential. Also a great read.

  • Fundamentally, Confucianism and Buddhism (and Taosim as well) were NOT mutually exclusive-- in this sense Chinese "religions" are usually contrasted with most monotheistic Western religions that demand exclusivity. So it was quite common for Chinese 'gentlemen' to combine Confucian, Buddhist, and Taoist practices, and to study texts from all traditions. There...

  • Great rec.

  • Astute list

  • Great question Hanan. Confucianism was deeply chauvinistic, assuming the world of men was more important-- and separate from the 'inner quarters' of women. Gender equality was not a goal. The father-son relationship was especially important because it was the model for the ruler-minister relationship, and politics was a male sport. All that said, Confucians...

  • Wonderful back & forth! We can continue to debate this question throughout the course.

  • Eddie, this is a very interesting point, and I'd never thought of it in that light, as condescending to non-Northeast Asians. Thanks for challenging my thinking. More important than what I think, is how Seulmi and Yao themselves prefer to have their names written! So I will doublecheck with them and amend accordingly.

  • Thanks for sharing Jeffrey. Spence is a true master.

  • Hang tight until week 6! In meantime, another optional book recommendation is brand new book North Korea Confidential, written by pals of mine, James Pearson and Daniel Tudor. Fascinating description of today's NK, including the real economy and rising consumerism, at least in wealthier cities like Pyongyang (where at least 10% of population lives)

  • Many of the bicycles have been traded in for SUVs:)

  • KLI is a great place to study Korean-- very glad you guys had a good experience!

  • Ivan, I've heard great things about ChinaX and know some of the scholars involved, all of them absolutely first-rate. Look forward to your contributions to our course drawing on what your learned there!