A historian based at Columbia University has returned a 2014 prize after criticisms prompted him to issue more than 70 corrections to his prominent book about North Korea.
Charles Armstrong told Retraction Watch he returned the 2014 John K. Fairbank Prize he received for “Tyranny of the Weak” due to “numerous citation errors.” The book has faced heavy criticism, including allegations of plagiarism and using invalid sources.
The American Historical Society, which issues the Fairbank Prize, released a statement last week:
In 2014, the American Historical Association (AHA) awarded its John K. Fairbank Prize to Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World, 1950–1992, by Charles K. Armstrong. After careful review the AHA identified a set of citations that did not meet professional standards. In response to AHA queries, Dr. Armstrong reviewed his work and the underlying scholarship and identified a number of instances where the source citations were incorrect. Dr. Armstrong has corrected the citation errors and, out of respect for the AHA, has returned the Fairbank Prize.
According to Columbia’s description of the prize when it was initially awarded:
Established by a gift to the Association from the friends of the prominent historian of China and East Asia at Harvard and President of the Association in 1968, the John K. Fairbank Prize is awarded for the best work on the history of China proper, Vietnam, Chinese Central Asia, Mongolia, Manchuria, Korea, or Japan since the year 1800.
Armstrong told us:
Due to the numerous citation errors in my book, I have decided to return the prize out of respect for the AHA. I have made more than 70 corrections that will appear in the corrected edition of Tyranny of the Weak, which has gone to press and will be available by mid-July this year.
Late last year, Armstrong announced on his blog that he would be making 52 corrections to the book.
Balazs Szalontai of Korea University has claimed the book contains 90 issues, including plagiarism covered by unrelated or invalid sources.
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