President Jimmy Carter’s foreign policies toward Korea were targets of wide criticism from his contemporaries in the late 1970s, and they remain contentious among historians today. The root of Carter’s dismal record regarding this East Asian nation was not simply his misplaced focus on troop withdrawals and human rights, but rather the U.S. president’s failure to change measurably or positively the status quo on the Korean Peninsula. Utilizing sources from the United States and, to a lesser extent, Romania, the former Yugoslavia, and People’s Republic of China, this article explores an often ignored element of Carter’s policy toward the two Koreas—dialogue—to illuminate this point. It also explores U.S.-China diplomacy on the dialogue initiative, demonstrating the limits of relying on Beijing to coax P’yŏngyang into returning to the negotiating table.
People express and exercise power as much through words as through actions. Yet scholars never have examined systematically how officials and others in the United States actually talked and wrote about Korea, both north and south, during the momentous interwar period. This article unearths crude depictions of the Korean people common in American writings from the 1940s and 1950s, arguing that this rhetoric created and reinforced an unequal power relationship between the United States and Korea. These negative discourses about Koreans, as expressions of American Orientalism, had important implications for u.s.policy in Korea and for the post-war trajectory of developments on the entire Korean peninsula. They also have left a perceptible imprint on English-language scholarship engaging in assessments of Korea ever since.