Book Review: An American MP in Korea

81Ax6VNc8uL._SL1500_An American MP in Korea

416 pages

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

Synopsis: When Richard Cezar is drafted into the army in the fall of 1965, trained as a military policeman and shipped off to South Korea, he believes that fate has spared him the horrors of a burgeoning war in Vietnam. But instead, he’s thrust into a different kind of war—one that would shake his core beliefs and cripple his ability to deal with the tragic and deadly consequences.

If you were an American male in 1965 and received your draft notice, there was no doubt where you were headed. However, not everyone was sent to Vietnam after completing one’s military training. One might be lucky to draw an assignment to Europe or South Korea.

Of course, for those fortunate to find themselves in South Korea, the assignment could be just as dangerous as Vietnam.

In An American MP in Korea, the author Richard Cezar, who served in Korea during the 1960s, delivers an evocative and riveting story about a young Army MP who finds himself stationed in Korea during this same period. Part coming of age story and part thriller, the novel takes the reader on a drama filled ride from military bases in Seoul to the seedy underbelly of Seoul’s camptown establishments. There are shootouts, high spend chases, event a visit by General Westmoreland. Through it all there’s the constant threat from North Korea as the Stalinist country conducts limited warfare along the DMZ.

What I found most interesting about the author’s story about Korea in the mid 1960s were the references to what is sometimes known as the second Korean War. During this period, Park Chung-hee had sent two divisions of ROK (Republic of Korea) soldiers—the Tiger and White Horse Divisions to fight in Vietnam as part of the deal for the economic aid package the United States had given to South Korea. In retaliation, Kim Il-sung and North Korean fought a limited war along the DMZ as a means to drive a wedge between South Korea and the United States. My only regret is that the author didn’t talk about this more. I suppose that is rather selfish because I have lived in Korea since 1990 and have written extensively about North-South relations including the 1994 nuclear crisis and 1996 submarine incursion. Nonetheless, there’s enough here to whet one’s appetite about this period and how dangerous it was to serve in Korea.

I also found the author’s descriptions of Seoul during this time interesting and insightful. I’ve seen the country change a lot in the twenty-four plus years, but back in 1965, the country still hadn’t been able to rise from the ashes of war. Although Korea has become one of the world’s leading economic powerhouses, back in 1965, Korea was still seen as an under-developed country. To be sure, the GNP was less than a 100.00 in the early 1960s. This back story to the main story alone is worth buying this book.

There might be some readers who will fault the author for his depiction of Korean women, but one must give the author a certain degree of poetic license in that he is merely documenting what he observed as an MP stationed in Korea. He’s neither condescending nor is he demeaning. If anything, we see the author articulating one of the darker, and sometimes disturbing underpinnings to America’s presence in South Korea since the end of the Korean War. You can read it for what it’s worth, but I see the author calling attention to the reality of the US military presence in Korea for better or worse.

Through it all, Cezar weaves an interesting and engaging story which keeps you hooked until the very end. There are not too many books about Americans serving in Korea during this period which makes this book a real gem to read.

Well-done, Mr. Cezar.

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