NEW YORK -- Historian George Akita recently sent me a brief essay that appeared in the December issue of the monthly Nihon Rekishi (Japanese History). He had told me of a full-length article he'd written on alternative views of Japan's rule of Korea between 1910 and 1945. The essay, titled "New Currents in the Studies of Korea under Japanese Rule in English," appears to be a precis of that article.

What Akita does in it is to list, with a few comments, some of the more notable books and dissertations on various aspects of the Japanese rule written in English in recent years, some by people of Korean ancestry, to suggest that, if you take a less than overtly nationalistic stance, the Japanese-Korean relationship during those 35 years may not have been a simple one of oppressor and oppressed but one that was "ambiguous and nuanced."

So, on Japan's contribution to Korea's modernization -- a subject that I understand only creates anger in Korea -- Akita tells us that Carter Eckert in "Offspring of Empire: The Ko'chang Kims and the Colonial Origins of Korean Capitalism" (University of Washington Press, 1991) and Gi Wook Shin in "Peasant Protest and Social Change in Colonial Korea" (University of Washington Press, 1996) argue that Japan helped agricultural reform and capital formation in Korea, although it did so out of necessity. Eckert is a professor at Harvard University and Shin a professor at Howard University.