Friday, February 29, 2008

Queen Min

Today on the Chosun Ilbo webpage there were a series of articles related to the murder of Queen Min. One of the articles says new Japanese documents show that the Queen was not murdered in the bedroom, but out in the courtyard which has new implications. One of the implications cited is that Queen Min was murdered in the courtyard with people watching, which makes the incident an occupation of the royal palace rather than just a murder. I don't really understand why people watching make it any more brutal than without people watching, unless it was a huge crowd that would have had the ability to stop the murder and didn't. He also said that it was the same as military operation. Again, I'm not sure why this new evidence is cited as leading to that conclusion, but that is in a quote said by a Korean professor.

Another article talks about how the descendants of the Queen's murders were tracked down by The Society that Thinks of Empress Myeongseong and journalists. Two of the assassins' grandchildren, well one grandson and another grandson's wife, traveled to Korea to apologize. They say this is helpful for reconciliation. It seems like Japanese citizens want to mend relations with the Koreans and make the effort, but it doesn't do anything because the Koreans want the government to make the effort and take responsibility. It is the same in the case of the comfort women. They reject the donations of Japanese people and say they will not be happy until the government issues a real apology and takes responsibility. Until the Japanese government takes responsibility, the efforts of the Japanese citizens won't have very impressive results.

Article 1

Article 2

Article 3

Article 4

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Regarding National Anthem and national flag issues...

This is a comment for Justin's poisting. It's too lengthy to be a comment, so I just put it as a new posting. Thank Justin for raising a good issue.

Let me clarify this issue by adding some more facts.

-South Korea agreed not to use National flag in Soccer match between two Koreas in 1990, Basketball match in 2003. However, it was not a national competition but friendly match.

-South and North Korea agreed to use the "unification" flag and Arirang when they are marching ‘together’ in the entrance parade in Olympic games (Sydney, Athen), Asian games (Pusan, Dohar) and so on. However, it is only for the entrance parade. When South or North Korea acquired some medal, they played National anthem and displayed national flag.

-South Korean government allowed North Korea to use North Korean national flag in 2002 Pusan Asian game, 2003 Taegue Summer Universiade, 2005 Eastasia Soccer in Taegue and so on. That means South Korea accepted North as an independent states. Why can’t North Korea do the same thing?

-If North Korea can’t allow South Korea’s national flag and anthem because they are still at war to each other, how could North Korea allow US national flag and national anthem on Feb 26 in New York Philharmonic’s performance?

-What I’m trying to say is that it’s not South Korea’s problem, but North Korea’s. And it is not South Korea but North Korea who is trying to make exception against FIFA rules. Two Korea’s are going to have game to each other, and not parading together. It is natural to use their national anthem and flag.

-I know that North Korea have some difficulties to acknowledging South Korea as an independent state, because South Korea had the same problem during the military government. At that time, South Koreans regarded North Korea as not a state but an illegal political entity that occupying ‘our territory’ temporarily. I think North Korea still maintaining this perspective.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

And Now For The Sports...

North Korea says no to 애국가 (South Korean National Anthem)

Alright, I admit that I have a natural bias toward most South Korean in South Korean/North Korean Disputes. Maybe it's because South Korea is an ally to the US or maybe it's because I lived there OR maybe it's because South Korea is usually, well... "right". I don't know.
But a recent decision by south Korean officials to petition FIFA (International Federation of Association Football which is the world's Football, errr... soccer governing body) in order to mandate that they (South Korea) be allowed to play their national anthem or raise their flag in a world cup qualifier game held in Pyongyang. South Korea's point is that it is a FIFA rule that all countries must play their national anthem prior to the start of each match. But how many countries play matches in other countries that they are currently at war with (Hot or cold war)? I can assure you that during the first Gulf War the US national soccer team would not have gone into Saddam Hussein National Stadium and demanded that the stars and stripes be hoisted with the star spangled banner playing in the background. If for the past few years the two countries have agreed to play under the "unification" flag and Arirang replaced partisan national anthems then why not continue this practice rather than risk a potentially inflammatory situation by pressing the issue with FIFA.
I just don't get it. I think this is an unnecessary headache.


So I’m probably dangerously close to piggybacking off of Andy’s post about the NY Philharmonic’s visit to Pyongyang. But I couldn’t resist sharing this video with you.

I have to admit that because I have very little knowledge of Korean history and culture everything seems fresh and new. And while maybe many of you know or grew up singing “Arirang”, I couldn’t help but marvel (and maybe become a tad envious) at the song’s ability to withstand the test of time and spark Korean nationalism among all ages and Koreans everywhere.

Of course, you’ll all probably make fun of me tomorrow because this is nothing new for most of you. But hey, I’m learning by the day!
At any rate, I hope this video sparks fond memories of your home or time spent living there.

Monday, February 25, 2008

North Korea preps for N.Y. Philharmonic

New York Philharmonic Orchestra's visit to North Korea has been drawing global attention.
To be specific, its Pyung-yang concert is slated for 26th Feb, 2008.
Some might argue that it is just for the purpose of making propaganda, however, I think that its visit is certainly noteworthy in that western orchestra has been playing a critical role in fomenting déente mood between US and its communist counterparts ( USSR and PRC ), as seen in the history. Its tendency revealed from the following case of USSR.

USSR: Boston Symphony Orchestra (1956)
New York Philharmonic led by Bern Stein (1959)
Cleveland Orchestra (1965)
The US-USSR treaty of Culture exchange (1985)

The culture, particularly the music, gradually petered out ideologies, indeed.
In reference with N.Y. Philharmonic visit to N. Korea this time, N. Korea endeavor to welcome this world-known orchestra. According to the article, N. Korea was tearing anti-American posters and Kim Jung-il will be attending the concert, which demonstrates the importance of this event. What really makes me interested is the fact that national anthem of both US and DPRK will be playing as an opening in front of all the audiences. How historic! It will be such an unprecedented moment .

Of course, audience is likely to be limitted only to high class figures.
Even so, its impact can be more far-reaching than our imagination.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Lee launches 'progmatic government'

Time to hail a new ambitious leader of South Korea.
The era of president Lee has launched finally.
The former CEO and the mayor of Seoul, Lee Myung-bak takes office as the 17th president today, pledging to prioritize economic reform, political pragmatism and national unity.
Unlike his predecessor, he affirms that his practical and integration-oriented commitment during his inauguration, which is greatly welcomed among those who are tired of the Roh's ideological leadership.
It is time for the world to watch the changes that he put forward in the forseeable future.
About Lee's Bio
About the inauguration ceremony
About Lee's primary promises (Video clip)
About Lee's perspectives towards North Korea

Korean-Japanese Relations

The year 2005 marked the 40 year anniversary of South Korean-Japanese relations and was declared South Korea-Japan Friendship Year. Unfortunately, the year was very unfriendly because the Dokdo/Takeshima, textbook and Yasukuni Shrine issues became hot topics because of various events, and the problems escalated into a diplomatic standoff in 2006. Relations were very strained during the Roh/Koizumi administrations, but there is renewed hope for better relations now that new leadership has emerged in both countries. While PM Koizumi made annual visits to Yasukuni during his tenure, PM Fukuda promised to end visits to Yasukuni Shrine in 2006. According to this article, both leaders are committed so securing better relations and resuming efforts to establish an FTA. We'll see what happens.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

North Korea Cashes In on Mineral Riches

North Korea is known as a country which is abundant in mineral resources including zinc, iron, gold, lead and uranium let alone coal. For this reason, N. Korea was once a battling object of lease for the western powers to gain more mineral sources in early 20th century. Also, this laid a foundation in fostering heavy industries in North Korea, particularly after DPRK period.
What is the current state of mining industry in N. Korea?
According to Washingtonpost article, mining business is emerging as one of the significant money-making industry in North Korea, as mineral price rises in the world. In reality, exports of North Korean coal and zinc to China have jumped sharply in the past three years, as have zinc exports to South Korea and gold exports to Thailand. The CIA estistimated that North Korea made profit from the mineral mining up to $1.4 billion in 2006 and, more importantly, the value of reserves is still presumed more than $2 trillion.
Like other pundits, I also perceive that this money finantially beneficial to N. Korea, indeed. However, the question is how N. Korea spend this money. The effects or repucussions of obtaining dollar through mining business appears to be limitted or petty at best, as long as N.Korea keeps pursuing military-oriented self-relince.

Map is found that "proves" Dok do is really Korean.

Hot off of the press,

Professor Hosaka Yuji a professor of Japanese language and literature at Sejong University located in Seoul, has located a map that unequivocally proves that the (hotly contested) Dok-do/Takashima Islands located in the (equally hot but not quite as contested) East/Japan sea is in fact Korean (ie South Korean) territory. Apparently, Prof Hosaka came across this antiquated map, made by a Japanese "Cardiologist" (hehe, I can't help but snicker, you have to read the article, it must to be a misuse of terms) earlier this month but kindly waited until yesterday, Friday Feb. 22, or "Takashima Day" and a day after the Korea-Japan cultural exchange started its two day festival in Seoul,to release this finding. I think Prof. Hosaka has focused his study on Japanese/Korean cartography for some time now and it looks as if his hard work has finally paid off.

Or has it?
At the time that I am writing this there is little to no additional information provided by non government sponsored news agencies, maybe this will change with time. Therefore, it is hard to call this story unbiased. Gaping holes that are within this story need to be closed and all information verified so that this story doesn't just look like nationalist propaganda. For that to happen simple questions like these:
  • Where did he find this map?
  • Who was the cartographer (or cardiologist as the article's author calls him)?
  • How can we be guaranteed of the map's authenticity?
need to be answered.

Curiously enough, a Japanese response has not been published.........YET.
I'd like to see what they have to say about this story.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Truth and Reconciliation Commission, ROK

Have you heard about 'Truth and Reconciliation Commission' in South Korea?
Originally, it was initiated by former ROK president, Kim Dae-Jung.
On October 17, 2000, the former president Kim Dae-Jung inaugurated the Presidential Truth Commission and president Roh Moo-Hyun broadened its scope of Korean modern history to include more controversial aspects, and renamed it as 'Truth and Reconciliation Commission.'
To put it simply, it is a commission of inquiry over un-addressed historical issues.
They select certain issues and seek to uncover the truth behind it within the designated deadline.
It is composed of several bureaus directly under the supervision of the president.
It is comprised of 15 commissioners - usually professors or experts in relevant fields. -
Among the 15 commission members, 8 members are recommended by the National Assembly, 4 members are appointed by the President, and 3 members are nominated by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

According to the outline of the commission, the aim of this commission is as follows:

Under the「Framework Act on Clearing up Past Incidents for Truth and Reconciliation, the Commission’s purpose is to foster national legitimacy and reconcile the past for the sake of national unity, honoring those who participated in anti-Japanese movements and exposing the truth by investigating incidents regarding human rights abuses, violence, and massacres occurring since Japanese rule to the present time, specifically during the nation’s authoritarian regimes.

It is often said that such effort is one of the great feats that Roh's participatory government did in the realm of human rights. Indeed, I value highly its contribution to justice by overthrowing injustices and falsehoods to some extent.

However, I am slightly skeptical about the idea that history can be perfectly evaluated by some renowned scholar's investigation. In my view, it might be dangerous in that it can be politically- manipulated or ideologically-biased, depending on ideological-leanings of people involved in the project. In this case, its reliability is questionable.

New president, Lee Myung-Bak is expected to abolish such kind of agencies or committees in light of promoting government efficiency.

I am not very assured that these questions are relevant,
but, I want to think over such controversial points while reviewing this special commission.

a. Why do Koreans show such a great obsession over historical issues?

b. Have the truth-finding activities done during the previous administrations made a constructive contribution to Korean history? If so, in what respect, and how?

c. Should this commission be maintained for future reconciliatory efforts? Should the structure and/or composition of the commission be altered?

If you want to learn more about this commission, please check this out for your info.
Here is its address of the commission.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

North Korean's English ability.

Dear Class,

I have another interesting article about the North Korean people's TOEFL score.

It is not surprising that North Korean has relatively high(higher than Japanese) TOEFL score since I know if North Koreans do something they do perfectly (Think about the performance they do. They are just perfect. I think because they do for their dear father Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and mistakes are not forgiven in North Korea).

But I am a bit surprised that English is taught in North Korean middle school and high school. Isn't it hard to explain to the students why they have to learn English if it is a language of evil country, and they have no chance to go to English speaking country in their life?

Here is the link,

article related to today's reading

Dear class,

I found an article on Asia Times Online which is related to today's reading "China's Northeast Project Defensive or Offensive Strategy?"

The author Andrei Lankov, who is an associate professor in Kookmin(국민)University in Seoul, talks about what China can do if North Korean regime collapses.

When I was reading the article by Yoon Hwy-tak yesterday, I was really scared of the fact that China might intervene to the affair on North Korea after unification, and after reading the article by Lankov, I knew scholars are already discussing about what will China do after unification.

Because of my lack of knowledge, I have never thought about what China can do after unification. I was just thinking about why China is insisting that Koguryo's history is China's history. However, if the Chinese offensive strategy is possible and positive, the China's position on Koguryo' s history is more serious then I thought.

I met a editor in chief of Japanese major newspaper last week, and he said if North Korea regime collapses and be absorbed by South Korea, we have to worry about the security issue between China and U.S. more than the economy issue. Japanese Foreign Ministry has a plan for long time of helping Korea's economy after unification. The editor said China will not prefer the United States staying in the Korean Peninsula after the unificaiton when it comes to the border with China, and the article by Lankov also says U.S. is not prepared of going in to the chaos where they are thought as evil.

I do not know what will happen after the unification but I want to think positively that we will be fine after unification even if it is a wishful thinking. If the editor is right, Japan and other countries will help Korea with the economy issue, and I hope China does not do anything further more than helping North Korea's chaos.

p.s. I am concerned about the fact that Lancov misspelled Koguryo as Koryo.

Here is the link,

King Kojong’s secret letter to German Emperor in 1906

(I couldn’t find any English version of this article, so I briefly translated it and introduced the story. Please refer the Korean New article if you can read Korean.)

King Kojong’s secret letter to German Emperor in 1906 which bore the Royal Seal of the King was found for the first time from the German National Archive.

After Chosun lost its diplomatic right by the Ulsa treaty concluded under Japanese compulsion in 1905, Kojong tried to inform unfairness of the treaty to the international society and sought international support for Chosun’s independence. It is considered so far that his letter in June 1907 sent by Jun Lee to the International Peace conference in Hague of Netherlands on July 1907 was his first attempt. However, recently found secret letter to Kaiser Wilhelm II was one year earlier. He was asking Germany’s support for Chosun's independenc, however it was not delivered to Kaiser because German Ministry of Diplomacy decided not to.

King Kojong and his family

I could feel the urgency and despair of King Kojong in this letter. Chosun’s power was already declined and when he tried to take advantage of great powers, it created more dependency toward foreign countries and undermined independent political powers in domestic politics. King Kojong sought protection from Russian Tzars, German Kaisers, Japanese Emperors, and American Presidents but no treaty could save him or his country from Japan’s colonization.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Just words....Just words.

Ok. So I thought I’d open up this entry with a little political humor – referring to the jab Clinton threw at Obama on his alleged “plagiarism” gaffe.
All of this, of course, is just silliness if not pathetic in my opinion.

But for all of us interested in all things Korea, ANOTHER new president is coming to DC in 2009. And the implications of his role in the East Asian security landscape couldn’t be any more serious. Care to take a guess?

You guessed right (like I knew you would)! The inauguration of ROK President-elect Lee Myung-bak of the GNP is just around the corner on Feb 25th!

In anticipation of this event, I found this article from the Brookings Institute.
Like the next US president, Lee Myung-bak faces the challenge of reaching across party lines to mend the domestic political divide while implementing his strategy for a secure homeland.

I took immediate note of Lee Myung-bak’s commitment to strengthen a maligned US-ROK alliance. And it should be interesting, to say the least, to watch the new ROK president navigate through the murky waters of the secondary security alliance dilemma. Meaning, I wonder to what extent can Lee Myung-bak improve relations with the US and Japan w/out alarming China and the DPRK. Should the US place limits on cooperation with the ROK to mitigate/prevent any provocation of the Chinese? And how significant is the Koguryo controversy in guiding the ROK’s direction in foreign policy? Will this controversy unite a fractured populace and compel the ROK further towards the US and away from China?

I’m sure we all have many more questions.
And I hope OUR next president does too.


This was a big news day for Wisconsin! Usually, I only connect Wisconsin with cheese, but today it was all over the news because of the primaries and it even made the Korean news for different reasons. Apparently, University of Wisconsin graduates are working their way up the ladder in Korean politics and business. I had no idea this was the case. You can read about it here. I didn't know the University of Wisconsin was so distinguished.

The discovery of Gojong's confidential letter to German emperor.

Prof. Chung Sang-su (Myung-ji Univ.) said, a secret letter sent from Gojong to William II was recently discovered from political documentation archive attached to the Ministry of Foreign affairs. This letter was written by Gojong in Jan 1906, an year older than the one for the Hague Peace convention in 1907.

Unfortunately, this letter could not be delivered to the recipient, William II.

According to Prof. Chung's explanation, it was attritable to the diplomatic situation back then. Germany was diplomatically isolated in Europe as an aftermath of involvement in Morocco's indepedence issue. Thus, the ministry decided not to pass it to William II.

The letter expresses imminience of Gojong who attempted to protect the country from Japanese imperialism. The letter is followed below.

"I, Kwang-mu always expect favor and support from Germany. However, I am currently faced with a great peril. My country was deprived of diplomatic rights and sovereignty is seriously being threatened by the pressure from Japanese empire. I appeal to God and you, the emperor of Germany. I strongly hope that Germany maintains friendly relations with us by guranteeing the independence of my nation as a guardian on the side of the weak. If you can do as I wish, we, including both the people and myself, swear before God that we will never forget your help for ever and ever.

From your good brother, Kwang-mu at Kyung-un palace Jan. 1906"

“ 짐(본인)은 대덕국의 호의와 지원을 항상 기대하고 있습니다. 그러나 짐에게 파국이 닥쳐왔습니다. 이웃 강대국(일본)의 공격과 강압성이 날로 심해져 마침내 외교권을 박탈당했고 독립을 위협받고 있습니다. 우리는 하늘에 호소하고 있습니다. 짐은 폐하에게 고통을 호소하고 다른 강대국들과 함께 약자의 보호자로서 본국의 독립을 보장해 줄 수 있는 폐하의 우의를 기대합니다. 이렇게 된다면 짐과 조선의 신민은 귀하의 성의를 영원히 잊지 않을 것을 하늘에 두고 맹세합니다.

광무 10년(1906년) 1월 경운궁에서. 폐하의 좋은 형제.”

When that Day Comes (그 날이 오면)

I'm a member of 'the Washington Korean Studies Forum (' We discuss various issues around Korean peninsula and the Northeast Asia. Last Friday, we invited Hyuk-Kyo Suh, a veteran activist/organizer in the Korean-American communities in New York City and the DC area and his wife Youngjoo Shim.
I was so glad to know that Mrs. Shim was a grand daughter of the famous Korean novelist and poet, Hoon Shim (1901∼1936). He participated in March 1st movement and wrote novels and poems in Korea during Japanese colonial period. His works expressed Korean people's resistance against Japanese colonial rule.
I would like to introduce his most famous poem 'When that Day Comes (그날이 오면).' It was originally written in Korean but I also found an English translation. You could feel how strong Korean people's aspiration for liberation was. Apparently, that Day means the day Korea would become independent and liberated from brutal Japanese rule.

그 날이 오면

그 날이 오면, 그 날이 오면은
삼각산이 일어나 더덩실 춤이라도 추고
한강물이 뒤집혀 용솟음칠 그 날이
이 목숨이 끊어지기 전에 와 주기만 하량이면
나는 밤하늘에 나는 까마귀와 같이
종로의 인경을 머리로 들이받아 울리오리다.
두개골은 깨어져 산산조각이 나도
기뻐서 죽사오매 오히려 무슨 한이 남으오리까.

그 날이 와서, 오오 그 날이 와서
육조(六曹) 앞 넓은 길을 울며 뛰며 뒹굴어도
그래도 넘치는 기쁨에 가슴이 미어질 듯하거든
드는 칼로 이 몸의 가죽이라도 벗겨서
커다란 북을 만들어 들쳐 메고는
여러분의 행렬에 앞장을 서오리다.
우렁찬 그 소리를 한 번이라도 듣기만 하면
그 자리에 거꾸러져도 눈을 감겠소이다.

When that Day Comes
-Hoon Shim

When that day comes
Mt.Samgak will rise and dance, the waters of Han will rise up.
If that day comes before I perish,
I will soar like a crow at night
and pound the Chongno bell with my head.
The bones my skull will scatter, but I shall die in joy.

When that day comes at last
I'll roll and leap and shout on the boulevard
and if you still stifles within my breast
I will take a knife
and skin my body and make
a magical drum march with it
in the vanguard.
O procession!
Let me once hear that thundering shout,
my eyes can close then.

* When that Day Comes, translated by Peter H. Lee. Dorothy Balair Shimer 편, The Mentor Book of Modern Asian Literature(1969)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Oh, the History Channel

So, I am a huge dork and used the time I had from arriving home from work early to lose myself in the History Channel. While watching a segment about Japanese intelligence, an event that is rarely metioned in my Asian textbooks and internaltional relations books was highlighted. Apparently Japanese intelligence agents listening to the din of frequency coming from the Soviets actually heard the communications moments before the Korean Airline Flight 007 was shot down on September 1, 1983. I felt really awful that I had never heard about this awful incident in which killed so many innocent civilians and marked a dramatic rise in the strife between the US and USSR. To read more in general about KAL 007, two website profile the event as part of a calendrical alamanac.

To go in more detail and get some contemporary academic insight on the event please reference pages 114-116 of the article "South Korea in 1983: Crisis Management and Political Legitimacy” by Chae-Jin Lee in the Journal Asian Survey Vol. 24, No. 1. The article even discusses the UN activities (and lack thereof) as a result of KAL 007 and the five demands the South Korean government was promoting to present to the USSR.

The President of the Memory in S.Korea

Feb 18th, today was the President day in United States of America.
Lately, more often than not, we found ourselves to talk more about the Presidency, due partly to ongoing presidential primary election in US.
What does president mean to people, then?

A top leader of the nation or administration?
A chief commander of national force?
A representative figure of individual nation?

Of course, they are all true.
However, that is not good enough to be a president.
It should be more than that.
That is, I believe, a clear vision and leadership.
The president should be the person who can give people hopes and dreams with such a virtue.
While commemorating this special day, I think of the president of Memory for South Korea.

According to recent survey, the late former president, Park Chung-hee is still regarded as the most brilliant and remembered president of South Korea. He was the one who led the rapid industrialization of South Korea during the 1960-70's. His stretegies were very timely and appropriate at that period. Without him, it is hardly explicable about Korean economic growth. Certainly, he was the leader who tried to give hope to people. I value high of him in this respect.

Admittedly, his debut to Korean politics was dramatic. Since he took power by means of military Coup. Besides, his authoritarian leadership style often criticised as a undemocratic dictator, as seen in Yushin constitution. Some tend to underestimate his reign as a dark era of human rights for this reason. His evalutaion is still a controversial issue. Even it was one of the key issue of recent Korean presidential election, too.

I do not think that it is fair to judge him based on one aspect.
Instead, it is time for us to accept his presidency in a more dispassionate way.
Both his accomplishment in economic sector and his wrongdoing should not be underestimated.

Twenty- two North Koreans Executed for "Defection"

I thought long and hard about a response to this story on twenty-two North Korean citizens who were executed after being turned away by South Korean Authorities. Their small fishing vessels had drifted into South Korean waters on February 8th, were picked up by South Korean authorities and returned to North Korea, mainly because "they (North Korean fisherman) wanted to go home." After returning home all 22 (including three teenagers) were arrested, charged with attempted defection and subsequently executed.
Choson Ilbo actually broke the story after a sneaking suspicion that the South Korean government may have been trying to keep this under wraps. It was then that the Government actually released the information on the 22 fishermen (mostly women) who were "in distress."
Whatever the story, it is a nasty public relations nightmare for the South Korean Government. If this is all true then there is blood on everyone's hands that were involved.

I thought long and hard about what I could say to condemn the actions of both parties involved (North and South).
Words like "unfair","unjust", "ruthless","cruel" and "hellish" all came to mind.

Words, sometimes, don't seem to carry enough weight.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

North Korea Marks Leader's 66th Birthday

The top ruler of North Korea,
Kim Jung-il's 66th birthday is on 16th Feb. which was yesterday on the local time. The DPRK commemorate this day annually as one of the most important national hoilidays along with that of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jung-il's father and the founder of nation.It is a day for showy worship events and robot-like perades.
If you watch Chosun Jung-ang TV, a single broadcasting media in DPRK, on this day, it is viewed as a joyful and laidback day for people in North Korea. They can eat special food and enjoy the day-off with their loved ones on this day through infinite consideration of the Great leader.

However, more importantly, this day has significance in another sense.
It has long been a opportunity of observing NK's political and societal atmosphere and critical watershed of foreign policies. This year, it drew even more attention in that it was Kim's first birthday since the nuke disablement agreement last year.

Judging from the article, seemingly, it was looked as quiet this year. But No 2 leader of NK, Kim Yong-nam's remark on the 16th revealed the discontent and distrust towards US conservative counterpart. US gives NK with a suspicious look in reference with NK's fulfillment of disnuclearization.

They reached an agreement.
Then, whose court has the ball now?

But the discrepancy of the focus and priority between two sides seems still big.Bush made a concession from original hardliner stance in hopes of gaining the credit of disentangling the issue, which ,I view, was highly influenced by the linkage theory. On the other hand, North Korea wants it to use as a bargaining chip to keep the regime alive. Simultaneously, DPRK is probably well aware of risks of maintaining the issue with NK.

Therefore, I believe that this tug-of-war is likely to continue until the end of Bush presidency.
This reminds me of absolute Chicken Game theory to some extent.
Probably, I am not the only one who sees it this way.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Arguments on Anti-Americanism after 2000

Recent arguments on the Anti-Americanism in Korea were more based on the political change in Korea. Especially, when center-left government came to power, many conservatives argued that the US-ROK Alliance was in danger by the leftist regime in Korea. I would like to introduce their articles and criticize them.

• Victor D. Cha, “South Korea: Anchored or Adrift?” in Richard Ellings & AaronFriedberg (eds.), Strategic Asia 2003-04: Fragility and Crisis, pp. 109-129.
• Seung-Hwan Kim, “Anti-Americanism in Korea,” The Washington Quarterly vol.26, no. 1 (Winter 2002-03), pp. 109-122.
• Hahm Chaibong, “The Two South Koreas: A House Divided,” The WashingtonQuarterly Vol. 28, No.3 (Summer 2005), pp. 57-72.

Victor Cha argued that the alliance is deteriorated and South Korea is “seeking neutrality from the US and pursuing China as a new patron while unconditionally engaging North Korea.” He also claimed that “South Korea drifted away from the US by the issue of unification and such unification jitters have adversely impacted Seoul’s ability to form a common front toward North Korea with the US.” Seung-Hwan Kim asserted that “Anti-American sentiments have now spread into almost all strata of Korean society.” Hahm Chaibong even insisted that radical leftists who oppose capitalism and US-ROK alliance came to power with President Kim Dae-Jung and Roh Moo-hyun.
It is true that there was significant ideational change after the Sunshine policy and the summit between President Kim Dae-Jung and Kim Jung-Il in 2000. And following activities such as reunion of separated family, cultural exchanges, Kumgang mountain tour, economic cooperation brought substantial ideational change that both Koreas have many things in common and they should finish the 50 years of confrontation and achieve peaceful reunification. South Korean people also found that North Korea had some intention to reform their economy and end its isolation by the support of South Korea.
However, ideational change after the Sunshine policy did not lead to the Anti-Americanism or alliance adjustment. The US and South Korean government were very much in cooperation until the end of Clinton administration. President Clinton even said to Kim Dae-Jung that they would have resolved North Korean nuclear crisis, if he had one more year in the office. It was Bush administration and Neoconservatives who changed course of action and brought the discrepancies. In the summit between President Kim Dae-Jung and President Bush in April 2001, President Bush expressed his strong skepticism on the Sunshine policy, and he provoked Korean people with the rhetoric such as ‘the axis of evil’ and ‘the preemptive strike.’ Most of foreign people would be surprised that Koreans are not so much sensitive about North Korean nuclear plan and still maintain the sunshine policy, but, again, the worst scenario of all for the Korean people is not a nuclear North Korea (even though it is a very serous problem) but another war between two Koreas. And Bush administration’s approach toward North Korea was posing serious threat and enhancing the possibility of war in Korean peninsular. And after the death of two middle school girls by the US vehicle, and the acquittal of the US soldiers, the so called ‘Anti-Americanism’ began to rise. However it was not an ‘Anti-American sentiment’ but more ‘Anti-Bushism’ and the request for the revision of the SOFA which was revised in 60s and still has many unequal provisions.
So called ‘Anti-Americanism’ is exaggerated by the ‘alliance jitters’. It never leads to the serious consideration to adjust US-ROK Alliance. Ham Chaibong even depicted Kim Dae-Jung and Roh Moo-hyun as dangerous leftist but it is far from the reality. Kim adopted very conservative economic policy as the treatment of the financial Crisis and Roh became more realistic and even conservative after he became a president. He dispatched Korean soldiers (the third largest dispatch after the US and the UK) to Iraq in spite of strong domestic opposition and also pushed US-Korean Free Trade Agreement which is very controversial. Therefore progressive group even criticized that he betrayed his own constituency to strengthen the US-ROK alliance. And both Kim and Roh argued that the US forces should stay in Korean peninsular as a stabilizer even after the reunification. Also, there was strong counterattack from conservative groups after the second nuclear crisis in 2003. There was division between the ‘progressive and pro-unification group’ and the ‘conservative and anti-communist group’ and heated debate within society. It is more natural to go through such process if we consider the power shift and changes around the Korean peninsular. It was a swing of pendulum but the South Korean society soon found some equilibrium: continuation of the Sunshine policy and strong US-ROK alliance.

Anti-Americanism in Korea: Love/hate, expectation/disappointment

I read Melissa’s posting and Justing’s comment. I agree with Justin that Korean people have a kind of Love/ hate relationship with the U.S. and even a strong obsession on the U.S., not just the South but also North Korea.
I think substantial portion of Anti-Americanism in Korea was created by Korean people’s disappointment on the U.S. and it means Korean people had really expected something from the U.S. For example, King Kojong expected the U.S. would help and protect declining Chosun from other great powers, but the president of the U.S. thought that Chosun is not deserve to be independent. Korean people were exhilarated by Woodrow Wilson’s declaration on ‘Self-determination’ but the 3.1 movement in 1919 was brutally oppressed by Japanese soldiers and the U.S. did not pay attention to Korea. Some people who were really disappointed with the U.S. such as Kim San (a Korean Revolutionary from the book ‘Arirang’) became a Communist after this incident. During the Kwangju democratic movement, leaders of movement hoped the U.S. do something to save them from General Chun, ‘the butcher of Kwangju’ and were really glad when they heard an U.S. Naval fleet was approaching toward Busan. However, the U.S. was more interested in the stability of the Korean peninsula from the Cold War perspective rather than the democratic movement. And the Butcher of Kwangju was welcomed by President Reagan. Apparently, these are the history which is not familiar to most of American people.

The U.S. is a nation state seeking its national interest. However, it also expressed too much rhetoric creating hope from week countries or oppressed people. Some rhetoric was true but not all of it. How should Korean people understand the U.S.?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Really short post

I want to post a nifty website on here before I forget.
I actually found this link via "Marmot's Hole."
It is pretty straight forward about some controversial issues in Korean history so if you have time give it a go~!!

Monday, February 11, 2008

The name of Korea if it reunifies.

Dear class,

I am going through Albanian archives at my internship and I found an interesting paragraph that discusses the name of Korea if Korea reunifies that we already talked about during the class.
It is a letter from Kim Il Sung(The General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Korean Workers' Party) to the First Secretary of the Albanian Labor Party Central Committee Comrade Enver Hoxha on July 7th 1973. They were exchanging letter and discussing about the reunification issue. In the reply by Kim Il Sung, he says,

"Fourthly, we proposed once again the establishment of a confederation of the South and the North under the name of a single state – The Confederative Republic of Koryŏ.

The gathering of the great National Assembly and the achievement of the great national consolidation, and the establishment on this basis of a confederative system, all the while keeping for a determined time the two different systems that exist in the North and in the South, is considered by us as the most rational course for the achievement of the reunification of the country.

We have proposed that should a confederative system comprised of the South and the North be established, this confederative state be called the Confederative Republic of Koryŏ, bringing back the name of Koryŏ, which is widely known to the world as the only state that has existed in the territory of our nation. "

So, the option maybe clear that we are using the name Koryo again:)

A carousel of ideas

First of all, I would like to express my sincere feelings of sadness about the tragic fire in Sungyemun. I did have the pleasure of seeing it when I was in Korea and I can only imagine the heartbreak that this event must be causing in Korea and to Koreans abroad.

Moving On

When I want to get away from the biased, controlled, worthless propaganda rags of the west,I turn to fair and balanced "Korean Central News Agency" which often has stories, like this one:

("School Youth and Children Tour Area of Mt. Paektu") 2008/2/11

According to this article the children "made a study tour of revolutionary sites and battle sites in the area of Mt. Paektu between Feb. 3 and 9 on the occasion of the birthday of Kim Jong Il."
Note the interesting attempt in this article to make this simple school road trip to Paekdusan a connection between the socialist "revolution" (a la Lenin or Trotsky) and to an obvious, at least obvious to me, fascist dictator like Kim Jong Il.
I really got a chuckle from the last paragraph on the actual activities the children participated in.
I can imagine the conversation with the children and parents once they returned home:

Little North Korean child:"Hey mommy guess what we did for our dear leaders birthday!"

North Korean Mother: "What did you do my dear communist child?"

Little North Korean child: "On Mount Paek du we conducted diverse political and cultural activities including a question-and-answer contest on the revolutionary traditions of the Workers' Party of Korea!"

North Korean Mother: "Wow, I am so proud of you comrade child!"

Well, if you ARE interested in visiting North Korea for "our dear leaders birthday" you'd better reserve your space with Koryo Tours today. (I know, dangerously close to being off topic but i couldn't resist.)

I also came across this article (2008/2/9) on the KCNA website about the joint South Korean/US military
exercises in March. Like I said before, the Korean Central News Agency is very fair and balanced so as you read pay no attention to terms like: "The United States and the south Korean bellicose forces" or "unreasonable sophism designed to cover up their aggressive nature" or better yet "south Korean war-like forces." as these are just temporary slips of the tongue from a normally unbiased, uncensored, news organization. As I read this article a second time, it got me thinking. Do the North Koreans really feel threatened by these annual war-time strategy "games" held to the south? Or is it more North Korean Propaganda speak? Truth is I have no idea. Whats worse I think the US government also has no idea. Every year we (South Korea/US) hold these massive joint military exercises ;every year The DPRK comes out with condemnations. Every year the response from the US is:"this is not meant to be provocative (to North Korea) in any way." We in the US and South Korea can say: "of course we mean no harm."

But how does North Korea know?

The past two US Administrations have threatened the North militarily. In 1993 Clinton administration threatened an air strike on the Yongbyon Nuclear plant. The Bush administration has a history of cowboy diplomacy (2006.7.20) all over the world and threaten the North Koreans with military action before. So If you were Kim Jung Il and you saw a massive military force massing to the south what would you think?
It almost begs to question if the US military presence in South Korea is more of a determent slowing down the process of peace on the peninsula. I wont even go there this time.
What do neighboring news agencies have to about this?
South Korea

Waste Dumping in the East Sea

It looks as thought South Korea has been dumping waste into the uhmmmm...Sea of Japan...or is it the East Sea...I can never decide. Although this was done unknowingly, The Japanese government has filed a complaint with the Korean Ministry of Maritime affairs. South Korea is taking this matter very seriously and is currently deciding how to take corrective measures. Since this matter is taking place in the East Sea/Sea of Japan other controversies such as what to call this body of water between the two nations and the Dok do/Takeshima islands must be boiling just under the surface. Probably, should keep an eye on this story.

Anti-Americanism in Korea (Were you surprised?)

Courtney's post made me interested in searching for information on what perceptions Koreans have about America today. From Korea Journal, I found an interesting article which could spark some debate esspecially among our class members who are are Korean and those in our class who have spent extensive time in the country. The title of the article, The Evolution of Anti-Americanism in Korea: Policy Implications for the US, pretty much says what the main jest of the article is about. We spoke in class about the stark lack of knowledge of Korean history which most Americans exhibt and this fact alone contributes heavily to stimulating Korean citizens' thoughts as to why American unilateralism and consistant interferance into unification affairs is completely unwarrented. The article describes how there are differing factions among anti-Americanism groups in Korea and the peak of of organized anti-American sentiment occured during the Gwangju Uprising when many Koreans believed (and still believe) that Americans and their military forces sanctioned the uncivilized actions of their authoritarian military government just for the Americans' own security sake going against the American ideal of democracy. It is apparent that this need to stick to America's security imperative instead of its ideal of democracy continues to hold true as last summer's siege of the Red Mosque in Pakistan proves. Like the Korean public after the Gwangju Uprising, Pakistanis were adament that the US knowingly sanctioned the military's storming the mosque and killing the protesters because the US gave their authoritarian military president the green light to do what it takes to stifle terrorism and radical Islamic factions all in the name of security on the part of the US no matter if the actions inhibit democracy or not.

This article reccomends that the US pay more attention to the root causes of why Anti-Americanism exists and persists in Korea in order to make better policy concerning Korea and the whole of East Asia. Getting into such a habit will help the US to improve its image and fundamental way it conducts itself in the world which has needed a make-over for some time.

shocking news

Dear class,

It is so sad tonight that I have to share really really sad news for Korea with you. I have informed from my friend few minutes ago that there is a very shocking news in Korea right now. The No.1 national treasure of Korea has burn and disappeared. It was Korea's oldest wooden structure which is more than 600 years old. I am really really sad since I cannot believe the Namdaemoom is not there any more. I visit there sometimes since I was young.
The police does not know the reason yet but it is a sad news for Korean and the first major incident in new year(lunar new year).

Here is the article,

Fire Destroys Historic Seoul Landmark

" What is the National Treasure No.1 in ROK? "
Do you know the answer?
Yes, Sungyemun - better known as Namdaemun or South Gate -
I still remember the moment that I was so happy to get the correct answer to this question in the history test of elementary school.
Last Sunday, we all had to hear a heartbreaking news from Seoul.
National Treasure No. 1 and Seoul’s historic landmark,
Namdaemun has totally demolished by fire.
It must be an enormous loss not only for Koreans but also for the people all over the world.
Its construction began in the area where Mt. Namsan met the southern castle wall in 1395, after the Chosun dynasty moved the capital to Seoul. It was completed in 1398.
Of course, there were challenging moment for Namdaemun.
The gate was repaired in 1447.
It had survived several wars including the Japanese invasion during the Chosun dynasty in 1592 and the Manchurian invasion of Korea in 1636. There was also large-scale repair work from 1961 to 1963 of damage inflicted during the Korean War. Since then, only minor repairs have been carried out.
The thought that one of the oldest remaining wooden structures in the world is no more made me so sad.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The war is over!

Okay maybe not. But looks like the two Koreas have there first agreement since the conservatives took power in the south. Yes, it looks like a joint effort to create two cheer leading teams numbering 300 (150 each). It may not seem like a big deal, but I was expecting the conservatives to take a hard line with everything. You know , the usual more stick and less carrot; I guess that truly remains to be seen. By the way, check out how much this latest venture cost the tax payers of the south (first sentence final paragraph). Nothing in life comes without a cost.
This is a hopeful start I must admit. You have to hold your breath, though, because every time north Korean cheerleaders are sent forth abroad there is usually some controversy that follows. Here is a story of the poor cheerleaders who went to the south and dared to come home and talk about what they saw.
I wonder if the north and south will be able to agree on the attire of said cheerleaders.

Will the fashion be more like the North Korean Cheer squad of past:
or more like what sports fans in South Korea are more accustomed to seeing:

I hope they can reach a happy medium between the two contrast.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Korean patriots abroad


We covered some of the information very briefly in class, but this article has a lot of details about the Korean independence movement in America and China/Manchuria. I thought I would share this article about the Korean independence movement abroad because of the importance the movement had on the formation of the modern Korean states, and also because I think early Korean American history is a part of modern Korean history (which is also clear in the first half of this Korean American timeline). Koreans in America raised much of the funds necessary to develop the provincial government in Shanghai, which was led by Syngman Rhee, and Korean organizations overseas even did military training in preparation for Korean independence. They created the groups, direction and principles that are apparent in the states on the Korean peninsula today. Though there were strong leaders and solid organization, the Koreans abroad were split in four directions on how the political system should look after independence. It is very unfortunate that they could not come to an agreement though they all had a common cause and this problem remains today.

If you ever visit USC in Los Angeles, you can visit the Ahn Chang Ho House. It is in the middle of campus and is home to the Korean studies department.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

King Jeongjo and Suwon Hwaseong Fortress

One of the distinctive trends shown in Korean TV dramas -a hot culture item not only in ROK, but also all of Asia - are undoubtedly historical themes. Among them, what made me feel interested, are the ones depicting the story of Korean monarchs. As I see it, this might have been well reflected on both currently emerging Korean nationalism and the expression of yearning for leaders of integrity.
Even though, I have not checked out a single episode of the drama, a recently aired drama, 'Yi-san'(이산), which is also the birth name of King Jeongjo, covering the tragedy of Prince Sado and his son, has been promoting the attention toward King Jeongjo.

What is so special about him, then?

King Jeongjo is considered one of the most visionary monachs of Chosun and who led the Renaissance of Korea. He tried to reform the nation throughout his reign. First of all, he tried to break the existing system to get rid of all the hurdles for national development. Establishing Kyujanggak, an imperial library, in order to improve the cultural and political stance of Chosun and to recruit talented officers to run the nation. Simultaneously, it was an effort to weaken the power of various wealthy aristocrats and relatives of the queen.

Jeongjo employed as many Silhak scholars as possible, who pursued pragmatism within confucianism. Jeong Yak-yong must be a representative figure. Besides, he is known as a king who enhanced the level of popular culture by encouraging art and writing.

One of the conspicuous feats I would like to point out is the relocation of the court to the city of Suwon to be closer to his father's grave. He built Hwaseong Fortress to guard the tomb. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

These three websites that I discovered enlighten us about King Jeongjo and Hwaseong.


(1). King Jeongjo and Hwaseng Fortress.

(2). The Renaissance of Chosun, King Jeongjo

(3). The official website of Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon


Who's History is it Anyway?

A page on George Mason's History New Network provides some enlightening discussion and history behind the so-called "History Wars" between Korea and China. The informaztion is from research of a fellow at the East West Institute and to me brings great context to if people and land can be technically called a part of a current, modern state when examining purely ancient history.
In the article, the "Northeast Project" professor Larsen breifly mentioned last week is traced back from its roots when promanent Chinese historians in the late 1980's began to suggest that Koguryo was an entity separate from Korea's Three Kingdoms. The main argument from the China camp is that Koguryo was ethically made up of minorities from China baring no connect to the development of Korea. Is China simply trying to identify themselves or is it simply an agressive move by the Chinese to establish unquestionable sovergenty at the China/ Korea border? This is where the history can be extrapolated and manipulated for political and national gain at the expense of the truth or neutral academia. The "Northeast Project" is a subject where North and South Korea can band together to make progress due to united interests. The marketing campaign of Koguryo mechandise displays this drive. But can an area of land retain and expose its Chineseness or Koreaness enough to be seen as the contemporary truth?
Asserting ownership of history based on ethnicity and ethnic influence is dangerous because it negates the collaborative effort of academia which at the core should be in pursuit of knowledge and not political foder. The mere fact that the Koguryo Tombs are co-registered as UNESCO World Heritage site for both China and North Korea exposes that in East Asia soverignty and identity are perceived in total proximity to ancient past. Next thing you know, Japan's Buddhist Temple at Nara will be taken as more Korean herritage than Japanese due to the heavy influence of Buddhism originating from Korea to Japan and the stylistic structure being so connected to Korean temples.

Chosun's fate: great power competition and inside struggle

In the previous class, we briefly covered history of Korea and also the end of Chosun dynasty. Anybody remember when Korea declared itself as an empire and who was the Korean emperor? Ironically, it was when Korea’s power was weakest in its entire history and King Kojong didn’t have meaningful political power over his country. And when Choson’s fate was declining, Kojong was trying to save his country by balancing great powers such as Qing China and Russia. However, his policy was counterproductive. First of all, the balance of power strategy was not for a small and weak country but for great powers. When he tried to take advantage of great powers, it created more dependency toward foreign countries and undermined independent political powers in domestic politics. The war between Qing China and Japan in 1894, and the Russo-Japanese war in 1904 were hegemonic war among great powers and Chosun became a war trophy for the winner, Japan.
Was there any possible solution to maintain Chosen’s independence? If Korea had great compromise and alliance between traditionalists and reformers which happened in Japan, it could be possible. However, political powers in Korea were so divided: Reformers like Kim Ok-gyun, traditional political power represented by Daewonkun, and grassroots movement such as Tonghak movement could never compromise or formulate combined political force to save declining country. Inside struggle among Korea’s political powers weaken Korea’s independent political power and outside competitions among great powers made Korea more dependent.

The Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace stormed by extreme rights

I read a news article that the Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace (WAM) was stormed by extreme rights in Japan. I couldn't find a English article, so I will briefly translate the Korean article and introduce the story.

The Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace (WAM) is a privately funded small museum in Tokyo, Japan, which is dedicated to the women forced into sexual slavery. According to the news article, the rightists stormed the WAM and shouted that "Comfort Women are prostitutes!" They identified themselves as members of 'the organization for withdrawal of Kono statement'. Their brochure also mentioned organizations such as the Association not approving special right to Korean residents in Japan, the Association against crimes by foreigners and so on. They terrorized people, especially staffs of the WAM, blocked the entrance and stayed until police came and asked them to leave.

I had chance to meet Ms. Nishino Rumiko, a founder of the WAM and other Japanese scholars and activists who are very conscientious in March 2007 in the US Institute of Peace symposium. She is very courageous but she felt some insecurity because the extreme rights has been threatened her and the museum. I worried about her and staffs of the WAM and I also worry about rising voice of extreme rights within Japanese society.

Maybe we will have chance to discuss about historical disputes about Japanese colonialism and atrocities. I also want to introduce an article about the WAM and other museums in Japan including Yushukan.
Revising the Past, Complicating the Future: The Yushukan War Museum in Modern Japanese History by Takashi YOSHIDA

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The "Great leaders" Birthday Party...Got tickets?

While I was reading Joo Eun's post link to the Chosun ilbo's english paper, I came across a story about Kim Jung Il's 2008 birthday party preparation. You know, my heart always goes out to the people of North Korea. We all know of the rampant poverty and starvation that exists there. So when the US cuts off its aid with north Korea (usually in response to some perceived slight committed by North Korea towards the US) then there is usually a loud response from the world's NGO aid agencies claiming that cutting aid to North Korea only hurts it's people. (report from bbc 2001.1.9)

And I buy that.

I believe that the North is heavily dependent on outside supplies coming from South Korea, the US and its only remaining ally China. However, events like The Annual Birthday Celebration give vindication to Conservatives in South Korea, The US and Japan who believe that the policy of shipping supplies to North Korea is a mistake and should be replaced with a hard line approach which includes squeezing the North until its government implodes regardless of the cost of human life that may result.

Anywho, its a good article I urge those who don't know about the annual "party" to check it out. The final quote in the article represents frustration from those trying to help the people of North Korea.

Song Dae Sung (from a South Korean think tank):
"If North Korea had bought rice or corn with the money it has spent preparing for Kim's birthday, it could have solved much of its food shortage problem for its citizens."

Yeah yeah yeah....Food shortage my foot, Let's Party!!!
Bring on the Joy Brigade!!!

(footage from last year's soirée)
(wait do I see Lee Hyo-lee over there? Do you think Shinhwa is invited?)

South, North Scholars Making Historical Dictionary

There is an interesting attempt between South and North Korea. They are making history dictionary together!!
There should be problems and conflicts too. That is because they perceive some people more important than others. For example, as we learned in the class, North Korean people value the warriors more whereas South Korean people value scholarly figures more. (These are shown in the stamps of North Korea and bills of South Korea).
1919 is a good point to end on since it ends before disputed figures such as Kim Il Sung really start to take active roles in Korean history.
Going back even further, Tangun is another problem since North says they found his bones. Can "myth" go into a "historical" dictionary? Is Kija counted or not? This would not really work well if you are trying to give the impression that Korean culture is ancient and unique...

Here is the link of the article:)

Source: Digital Chosunilbo (English Edition) : Daily News in English About Korea
Address :
Date Visited: Mon Feb 04 2008 07:09:59 GMT-0500 (Eastern Standard Time)

Monday, February 04, 2008

Gyeongsang vs. Jeolla an ancient rivaly continues...

Regional rivalries exist here in the United States. Usually, when we think of regional rivalries it eventually translates into college football or basketball rivalries. For example, University of Texas at Austin vs. University of Oklahoma or, my alma mater, University of Missouri vs. University of Kansas. I like this rivalry the best, not only because it involves the University of Missouri, because it is a rivalry that carries back well over a century to the pre-Civil War bloody fight between slave state supporters from Missouri and those "Jayhawkers" (mostly abolitionists transplants from north eastern states) from Kansas. Being from Kansas city, A city that straddles the Missouri/Kansas border, there are glaring cultural differences between the two states. and to most people not from this area the differences may seem so minute that they appear insignificant. For those of us that live there the differences are very real and are often magnified in college basketball or football games.

Okay, so what does American college sporting rivalries have to do with two regions in South Korea?
Simple. Imagine your favorite college rivalry, like say the KU/MU rivalry, multiply it by 50, stick it in the freezer, take it out put it in a pan of Hot oil and maybe you can begin to imagine a particularly hot (and sometimes not) regional rivalry.

As, I mentioned in my last post some of the first visiting Korean students and scholars that I met were from Kwangju in Jeolla province. As I mentioned before they were quick to differentiate themselves from their counterparts from other regions. I also noticed that they would get really worked up when speaking about Pusan people. One of my friends once told me that during his military service he was given a hard time by one of his drill instructors from Gyeongsang province. He said that the only reason that he was hard on him was because my friend was from Jeolla. Another friend stated that she had heard that most of the troops that fired on the protesters during the Kwangju democratic movement were from Gyeongsan (remember not my words).
Of course, when I lived in South Korea I lived in Pusan (to the chagrin of ) of my Kwangju friends. In Pusan I heard the exact opposite of the Kwangju perspective, right?

Actually, not really.

When I spoke of a rivalry between the two provinces most Pusan people would say: "yes there was some problems at one time but not anymore." And that is true...kind of. The two provinces have been trying to close the partisan gap. This article (found here on the Kyeongsang nam do government website) speaks of the joint new year convention held last month:

"South Gyeongsang Province and South Jeolla Province have decided to jointly hold a New Year greeting event for successful hosting of Ramsar Convention and harmony of Gyeongsang and Jeolla provinces on the New Year day of the Year of the Rat at Suncheon Bay, one of the world's five mud flats. It is also designed to publicize the Ramsar Convention nationwide and enhance synergy effects of Ramsar wetlands."

But every now and again I would witness some semblance of rivalry. For example when trying to schedule a KTX train ride from Pusan to Kwangju I found that no such train ride existed.
For that matter, I can go from Pusan to almost anywhere in Korea EXCEPT Kwangju.
When I ask some people who I worked with (all from Kyeongsang) about this they replied jokingly: "Well, there is NO reason to go THERE."
This could all just be a coincidence and no real proof that the rivalry still exists but when I would ask people from both Jeolla and Kyeongsang about the absence of a direct KTX train between the two Major cities they would roughly have the same explanation:
Perhaps it is because of the bad History.
That history that carries back centuries to the three Korean "Three Kingdoms Period" where the Silla Dynasty (roughly in modern-day Kyeongsang Province) and the Pahkje Dynasty (roughly, in the modern-day Jeolla Province were in a life or death struggle until it's defeat (by unified Silla and Chinese T'ang dynasties) and subsequent fall of Paekje in 660 AD.

Ahhh, dates and names boo!!! hiss!!!!

What is this a History class or something?

Well, during the 2004 elections, Roh Moo-Hyun (who was actually born in south Kyeongsang)and the "URI-party" or "Our Party" won the presidential election; It was easy to see the political divisions were parallel with the historical regional ones.

So is there some kind of connection historically?

Here is a map of The Three (or four) Kingdoms during their height in the 5 century AD.
and Now a map of the 2004 elections

and finally the KTX Gyeonbu line

Coincidence or maybe not.
What do you think?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Korean shamanism


I found this article from July 2007 about Korean shamanism. When I took Korean Civilization during my undergraduate studies, we talked a lot about this subject, especially about the importance of women in the rituals. Then when I went to Korea last year, I saw the role it still plays in Korean culture today. My roommate, a Korean middle school math teacher, was always very tired. Her mom said it was because she was being haunted by a spirit that was draining her energy. My friend's mom made her send three pairs of her underwear to her. Then her mom took them from Mokpo to Busan so her and her friend could beat them with magic sticks to scare the spirit away from my friend. When my friend was explaining why we had to go to the post office to mail her used underwear, she looked at me with a confused look and said, "My mother says she is Catholic, but she still believes in spirits and beating underwear. I don't know. My mom is Korean. This is what Korean moms do." I asked her if she thought it would really work, and she said she didn’t know.

To end the story.. my roommate was still tired all the time, but I think it was because the students were draining her energy rather than an evil spirit.

USS Colorado: Up Close and Personal

As I leave the US Navy in March after an almost-10 year career, the emotions I have run bittersweet.  My transition to active duty military to unemployed (yikes!) full-time graduate student has been a unique period of introspection.  I’ll certainly miss the close friendships that I’ve made, the common sense of selfless service among the men and women that I’ve sailed with, traveling Southeast Asia on the government dime, and having the best job in the world as a jet pilot on an aircraft carrier.  And I'll ALWAYS miss looking out over the water on a moonlit night as I sailed the Pacific.  On those nights, I tried to imagine what my predecessors thought while sailing these same waters during the Vietnam War, WWII, and the US Navy’s first forays to East Asia.  I’m sure we had many things in common.

Now at GW, I look forward with great excitement and a LITTLE anxiety about what the future holds for me.  But I have to say that our brief discussion last week on US Naval campaigns in Korea during the end of the 19th Century provoked my curiosity and took me back to my days at sea.  It made me wonder what those sailors on the USS Colorado were thinking when they ventured into the Han River on June 1, 1871.  Were they truly surprised by the Koreans' reaction? Who really shot first?  These questions and others compelled me to look a little further into this campaign.

I found these letters written by Capt. McLane Tilton, US Marine Corps.  Capt Tilton led the marine combat detachment from the decks of the USS Colorado to the shores of Kangwha Island, and these letters sent home to his wife Nannie were archived by the Naval Historical Center right here in DC.

Capt. Tilton’s letters provide us with a vivid and, at times, horrific description of US combat engagement with the “Coreans” in early June 1871.  His writings are a strange juxtaposition of demonization and appreciation.  On one hand, Capt Tilton was worried about the prospect of facing “10,000,000 savages”. (Ok, Capt Tilton. Maybe that was a little hyperbole there, but I get the point.)  On the other, he’s calls Korea “beautiful” and “everything is pretty and green”.  I also think it’s interesting that Capt Tilton noted the Koreans had no desire to communicate and in fact retreated when US forces initially approached the western shores. That should’ve been interpreted as cautionary indicators of a Korean defensive posture.  I mean, it seems to me the writing was on the wall. How else should the Koreans respond to US forces entering the river?  And I’m still not sure why the USS Colorado commander decided to go back into the river and attack the Korean forts in response to shots fired at the US detachment.  Sure, US forces gained approval to take surveys from lower-level diplomats, but the letters acknowledged the importance of getting this consent from top-level officials.  In my mind, the US commander assumed the risks when he accepted the approval from less than superior authorities.  Really, why would the Koreans apologize?  And besides, was Korea not a sovereign nation-state able to take defensive measures against an intruding force if necessary?  Hmmm…I guess imperialist powers weren’t really into that whole sovereignty thing. It made me think what would’ve happened if the roles were reversed.

Overall, I enjoyed reading these letters.  Whatever you may think of the cause of the war, Capt Tilton's letters capture the essence of being at sea for months on end, the violence of armed conflict, the love and longing for family, and the need to tell someone all about it.

To me, some things just never change.