A series titled “Perspectives on Contemporary Korea” by the University of Michigan Press has delivered two edited volumes in the last two years, a politically opportune time to reengage South Korea's authoritarian past with a forward-looking vision. Readers had better come prepared with a good working knowledge of modern Korean history and a feel for contemporary South Korean politics, lest they lose their way in a fascinating journey. The so-called Park Chung Hee (Pak Chŏnghŭi) era was already once subjected to thorough assessments in English-language scholarship in 2011, when the mythology and nostalgia surrounding the deceased military dictator reached a fevered pitch and helped secure his daughter a victory in the presidential election in 2012. Undoubtedly it was the Park Geun-hye (Pak Kŭnhye) presidency—“Yusin Redux,” as Youngju Ryu, the editor of the first book, aptly puts it in reference to the Yusin dictatorship of 1972–79—and its spectacular collapse in 2016...

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