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I came across the following sentence in the book, “Korean’s Place in the Sun” written by Bruce Comings, Professor in History at the University of Chicago:

Events elsewhere after the Cold War have encouraged most Koreans to think that reunion might be around the corner: so what can be said about critical issue to Korea’s destiny as a nation? It seemed to me that for all these reasons, and a short of a catastrophic war, no reunified Korea will emerge before a prolonged regional sovereignty, perhaps under one national name and one flag, perhaps for years to come.

Not only what are reasons for “for all reasons” is not explained, but I have difficulty in understanding the subsequent lines:

  1. Can “a short of (a catastrophic war)” be used to mean “without, or except”? Do we need “a” before “short of"? Don’t we need any preposition rather than “a”?

  2. What does “before” of “reunified Korea will emerge before a prolonged regional sovereignty” mean? Does it refer to “time” (previous to) or “place” (in front of)?

  3. What does “no reunified Korea will emerge before a prolonged regional sovereignty” mean? If it is a sovereign state, it is a matter of course that the state has, or should have one name and one flag. Isn’t the statement followed by “perhaps under one national name ...” superfluous?

Though I trust the accomplished scholar’s writing is infallible, is the quoted statement crystal clear to all native English speakers at a glance?

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His writing may be infallible, but his typing isn't. The 'a' in front of short is a typographical error. –  Jim Mar 27 '12 at 1:43
    
I believe the book title is "Korea's Place in the Sun" (not Korean's...) and the author is Bruce Cumings (not Comings). Apparently there are people who question Mr. Cumings' work. In one article, there is this critique of one of his other books: "Embarrassingly, North Korea: Another Country is plagued with grammatical errors and typos." hnn.us/articles/2742.html –  JLG Mar 27 '12 at 2:24
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Too localised. It's just a typo/proofreading error. –  FumbleFingers Mar 27 '12 at 3:24

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

If you have quoted correctly from the book (which by the way is by Bruce Cumings, not Comings) then 'infallible' is not an appropriate word. In a January 1997 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists article, Cumings wrote: BAS extract from which you can see that "these reasons, and a short of" should have been "these reasons, short of" or thereabouts.

For your second and third questions: Phrase "no reunified Korea will emerge before a prolonged regional sovereignty" is of form "no X will emerge before Y". This construction says that X cannot arise before Y happens. Cumings apparently is saying that reunification will happen only after Korea has been one sovereign country for a long time. It is unclear to me whether he refers here to North Korea, South Korea, or some amalgam. Also unclear is whether he means to paradoxically say, as he does, that Korea must be united as a country for a number of decades before being reunited.

Edit: I don't have access to the referenced book, in which the reasoning may differ slightly from the mentioned article, where the sentence in question is preceded by discussions of a "division system", rewriting history, and "family solidification". In broad terms, Cumings apparently means that after political reunification, a good deal of rancor will exist for several decades or generations; that such rancor is a consequence of one side "winning" and the other "losing" when political reunification occurs; and that social reunification cannot occur until the rancor has worked its way out of the system.

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I’m relieved to know there is no “a” before “short of.” I’m not still clear with “no X before Y” logic in “no reunified Korea will emerge before ---“ If it (either on South or North Korea) is a (fullfledged) regional sovereign power “for long time,” why does it need to be reunified? I don’t understand. –  Yoichi Oishi Mar 27 '12 at 3:43
    
@Yoichi, I've added a paragraph about that, although I can't claim full understanding of the issues. –  jwpat7 Mar 27 '12 at 4:07

I'm a native English speaker and this immediately strikes me as odd. I've only ever heard this phrase used as "short of" without the "a". I've always interpreted "short of" as functioning as a preposition, akin to "besides" or "except." Looks like a mistake to me!

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I too think there are errors in this passage (perhaps typographic errors?):

“Events elsewhere after the Cold War have encouraged most Koreans to think that reunion might be around the corner: so what can be said about THIS? critical issue to Korea’s destiny as a nation? It seemed to me that for all these reasons, and [DELETE THE a] short of a catastrophic war, no reunified Korea will OR WOULD? emerge before a prolonged regional sovereignty, perhaps under one national name and one flag, perhaps for years to come.”

To answer Question 1: Can short of a catastrophic war mean without a catastrophic war? Short of here means everything up to but not including a catastrophic war.

To answer Question 2. I think the author is saying that there will be regional governments that control various areas even though they are within a single country's boundaries. So the citizens are nominally in one country (that is they have one name and flag), but the regions function autonomously. (It seems that the author thinks that Korea has to go through this before it will be reunified.)

And to answer your final question, no, it is not an easy passage to understand, especially when taken out of context. For example, I'd like to know what "all these reasons" are that the author references, which presumably preceded the excerpt you provided in your question.

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