Charles K. Armstrong

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Charles King Armstrong is a historian and the Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Studies in the Social Sciences at Columbia University, whose body of works in 2016-2017 became the center of controversy with other Korean studies scholars accusing him of source fabrication and plagiarism.

His works deal with revolutions, Asia-Pacific wars, culture of socialism, architectural history, and diplomatic history in the contexts of East Asia, modern Korea, and North Korea.

Early life[edit]

Armstrong earned B.A. at Yale University in 1984; and then he continued his studies at Yonsei University in Seoul, earning a diploma in Korean language in 1986. After receiving a M.Sc. at the London School of Economics in 1988, he was awarded a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 1994.[1]


Charles Armstrong is the Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Studies in the Social Sciences in the Department of History and the Director of The Center for Korean Research. A specialist in the modern history of Korea and East Asia, Professor Armstrong has written or edited numerous books on modern and contemporary Korea, including The Koreas (Routledge, 2007),The North Korean Revolution, 1945-1950 (Cornell, 2003), Korea at the Center: Dynamics of Regionalism in Northeast Asia (M.E. Sharpe, 2006), Korean Society: Civil Society, Democracy, and the State (Routledge, Second Edition 2006), and Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World, 1950 - 1992 (Cornell, 2013). He is currently writing a history of modern East Asia for the Wiley-Blackwell series "Concise History of the Modern World."

He joined the Columbia faculty in 1996 and teaches courses on Korean history, U.S.-East Asian relations, the Vietnam War, and approaches to international and global history. He is a frequent commentator in the U.S. and foreign mass media on contemporary Korean, East Asian, and Asian-American affairs.[1]

He was a Visiting Professor in 2008 at the Graduate School of International Studies at Seoul National University.[2]

2016-17: allegations of plagiarism and source fabrications[edit]

Controversy over "Tyranny of the Weak"[edit]

In 2013 Charles Armstrong published a book named Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World, 1950-1992 that deals with North Korean foreign policy in the 20th century. The book was the 2014 winner of the John K. Fairbank Prize, given to the best book in East Asian History by the American Historical Association.[3] The prize was returned by Armstrong in 2017 in response to critical queries made by the Association.[4]

In 2016, the book was severely criticized by a number of North Korea scholars (Andrei Lankov, Balazs Szalontai, Brian Myers, Fyodor Tertitskiy and others) for its deceptive scholarship.[5][6][7][8] Szalontai asserts that many parts of the text closely resemble text in Szalontai's Kim Il Sung in the Khrushchev Era. Furthermore, the plagiarized texts were supported by documents that either do not exist or are completely unrelated to the subject.[9] Szalontai has compiled a table of 76 problematic cases.[10] Later he expanded the table to include 90 of such cases.[11]

James Hoare, a former United Kingdom chargé d'affaires in Pyongyang, defended Armstrong with the arguments that these discrepancies could be honest mistakes.[12]

Armstrong responded to NK News, a media site that specializes in North Korea, that he "did not comment on any specific issues critics have raised with the book".[5] On December 30, 2016, Armstrong addressed the issues raised by the critics in his blog.[13] Armstrong stated that he submitted 52 corrections to Tyranny of the Weak to the publisher Cornell University Press and these are to be included in the next printing of the book.[13] However, Armstrong later deleted his blog explanations, telling Retraction Watch that an updated version of the book had been printed in July 2017 and that "My ultimate response [to allegations of plagiarism] is the corrected edition of the book itself." In his later statement, he admitted that he had made "more than 70 corrections" of "the numerous citation errors" in the book.[14]

A short review of the controversy was published in a collective blog Retraction Watch.[15][16] It was also covered by South Korean[17][18] and Chinese media.[19]

Controversy over other works[edit]

In 2017, further allegations of academic deception were leveled against Armstrong's other works. In a piece for Daily NK, Fyodor Tertitskiy asserted that fabricated sources can also be found in Charles Armstrong's article "Fraternal Socialism" (published in 2005),[note 1] Armstrong's article in the book "Korea at the Center" (2006) the latter co-authored),[note 2] Armstrong's book "The Koreas" (2008) [note 3] his working paper written for the US-Korea Institute at the School of Advanced International Studies (2008),[note 4] and his article "North Korea and the Education of Desire" in the book called "Everyday Life in Mass Dictatorship" which came out in 2016. [note 5][20]

Tertitskiy's allegations were supported by Brian Myers.[21] Myers also pointed out that six articles Armstrong contributed to journals and books consist up to between 30% and 90% of material that the author had already published.[21]

Editorship of the Journal of Korean Studies[edit]

In autumn 2016, Charles Armstrong was appointed an Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Korean Studies published by Columbia University.[22] However, as of February 2017, after the start of the controversy, he was no longer listed as Editor-in-Chief of the journal.[21][23][24]

Selected works[edit]

Armstrong's published writings encompass 12 works in 35 publications in 2 languages.[25]

  • 2013 — Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World, 1950-1992 (author)
  • 2006 — The Koreas (author)
  • 2006 — Korean society: civil society, democracy and the state (editor)
  • 2005 — Korea at the center: dynamics of regionalism in Northeast Asia (co-editor with Samuel S. Kim, Stephen Kotkin and Gilbert Rozman)
  • 2003 — The North Korean revolution, 1945-1950 (author)
  • 2003 — North Korea beyond the DMZ (contributor in the documentary film directed and produced by J. T. Takagi and Hye-Jung Park)
  • 2002 — Korean society civil society, democracy, and the state (editor)
  • 1998 — North Korean foreign relations in the post-Cold War era (contributor; editor: Samuel S. Kim)
  • 1994 — The origins and future demise of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (author)
  • 1994 — State and social transformation in North Korea, 1945-1950 (author; Ph.D. thesis)
  • 1990 — South Korea's 'Northern policy' (author; Pacific Review Volume 3, Issue 1)



  1. ^ Armstrong, Charles (2005). "Fraternal Socialism': The International Reconstruction of North Korea, 1953-1962". Journal of Cold War History. 5 (2): 161–187.
  2. ^ Armstrong, Charles; Kotkin, Stephen (2006). "A Socialist Regional Order in Northeast Asia After World War II". Korea at the Center. Abingdon-on-Thames: Routledge. ISBN 9780765616555.
  3. ^ Armstrong, Charles (2008). The Koreas. Abingdon-on-Thames: Routledge. ISBN 9780415948524.
  4. ^ Armstrong, Charles (2008). "Necessary Enemies: Anti-Americanism, Juche Ideology, and the Torturous Path to Normalization" (PDF). US-Korea Institute at SAIS.
  5. ^ Armstrong, Charles (2016). "North Korea and the Education of Desire". In Lüdtke, Alf. Everyday Life in Mass Dictatorship: Collusion and Evasion. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan. ISBN 9781137442765.
  1. ^ a b c Columbia University, faculty bio notes
  2. ^ Stanford University, Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, North Korea in The Cold War International System," April 10, 2009.
  3. ^ "John K. Fairbank Prize Recipients".
  4. ^ a b "2014 Fairbank Prize Returned".
  5. ^ a b Hotham, Oliver. "Ivy League professor accused of discrepancies in North Korea book".
  6. ^ Lankov, Andrei. ""Tyranny of the Weak": The row engulfing North Korean studies".
  7. ^ Myers, Brian. "Revoking a Recommendation".
  8. ^ Tertitskiy, Fyodor. "Speaking truth to power: The biggest scandal in Korean studies should be talked about".
  9. ^ Szalontai, Balazs. "Re-revised posting "Revoking a Recommendation"".
  10. ^ Szalontai, Balazs. "A Table of 76 Examples of Source Fabrication, Plagiarism, and Text-Citation Disconnects in Charles K. Armstrong's Tyranny of the Weak (2013)" (PDF).
  11. ^ Szalontai, Balazs. "Invalid Source Citations in Charles K. Armstrong' s Tyranny of the Weak: A Table of 90 Cases".
  12. ^ Hoare, James. "Margin of error: A response to criticism of "Tyranny of the Weak"".
  13. ^ a b Armstrong, Charles. "Corrections to Tyranny of the Weak".
  14. ^ McCook, Alison. "Historian returns prize for high-profile book with 70+ corrections".
  15. ^ McCook, Alison. "Criticism swirls around high-profile history book about North Korea".
  16. ^ McCook, Alison. "High-profile book on North Korea earns 52 corrections".
  17. ^ "미국의 대표적인 북한학자 찰스 암스트롱이 표절 의혹에 휘말렸다".
  18. ^ "암스트롱 콜럼비아대 교수가 자신의 표절 시비에 대해 답했다".
  19. ^ "被举报的哥大教授回应澎湃新闻:再版时将更正脚注错误".
  20. ^ Tertitskiy, Fyodor. "Tyranny of the Weak: Part of a decade-long pattern?".
  21. ^ a b c Myers, Brian. "Revoking a Recommendation:(Updated 25 February 2017)".
  22. ^ Sorensen, Clark W. (Fall 2016). "Editorial Note". Journal of Korean studies. 21 (2): 297.
  23. ^ "Editorial Board". The Journal of Korean Studies. Dec 20, 2016. Archived from the original on December 20, 2016.
  24. ^ "Editorial Board". The Journal of Korean Studies.
  25. ^ WorldCat Identities Archived December 30, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.: Armstrong, Charles K.

External links[edit]