The Korean Nationalism
(a short reading reaction posting by Inyeop in Seoul)
Much of the Korean national identity and sense of Korean nationalism was constructed during modernization by the state. Experience of the Japanese colonial rule and Korean resistance, the Korean War and the rebuilding of state, the military dictatorship and the economic development created fundamental elements of the Korean identity. And considering exchanges and wars in Korean history, Monolithic ethnicity can be seriously challenged, and it is now being more undermined by globalization.
However it is also true that the Korean identity cannot be reduced as a purely modern creature. Traditionally, factors like Culture, heritage, lineage, bloodline, genealogy, history has been much more important in Korean society than western states. For example, Koryo wanted to found their heritage from Koguryo, and Choson wanted to follow the Old-Choson by naming after these countries. And the ethnicity in the Korean society has been relatively monolithic in comparison with western societies. For example, the U.S. has been multiethnic society from its early history, and we cannot simply say that the degree of ethnic composition of both countries are same.
Therefore, I think the identity of Korea is a product of both a long-term and a short-term construction and it is still being constructed. State was a main player during the modernization period but the Korean civil society was developed with the democratization, and dynamically operating with diversity.
One of the problem in the Korean nationalism is it’s linkage with painful history of modern period. Korean national identity was developed during the resistance against Japanese colonial rule and there is strong feeling of being victimized in the Korean nationalism. And this tendency was maintained or amplified by explosive issues of historical and territorial conflicts with neighboring countries. As we saw in the Chinese reaction to the Tibetan incident and western criticism, the country or people obsessed with victimization complex tend to have difficulty in self-reflection while easily blaming others. It could strengthen the myth of monolithic ethnic and drive the country into a closed and exclusive nationalism.
Therefore the civil society of Korea should make effort to resolve historical problem by reconciliation and common understanding of history with the neighboring civil societies, and try to reflect and overcome negative elements of nationalism within our society. It is essential for the peace and prosperity of East Asia to build open national identities of coexistence and common identities among East Asian countries.