[KS] Peer Gynt to collaboration...

Pak, Jacqueline jypak at ipo.net
Tue Feb 9 12:26:40 EST 1999

Dear List,

As the lovely, spritely melodies of Edvard Grieg swirls around my head, I
think that, perhaps, we all begin as Peer Gynt...

One of the benefits of greater scrutiny of the collaboration issue in Korea
in the past decades is that such revealed that collaboration (from a single
deed to a life-time of activities) was embarrassingly widespread and cut
across class, ideology and region, etc. For example, the new Dictionary of
Korean Socialists lists all too many leftist collaborators.  From my own
study, I too have discovered that opportunism and betrayal happened often
enough in the course of anticolonial struggle, whether they be
nationalists, communists, or anarchists. Thus, an ideologically framed or
deterministic discourse may not be too helpful concerning the issue of

Certainly, prominent modernizers, reformers, and educators like Yun Ch'iho,
Yi Kwangsu and Kim Songsu, among others, faced narrow range of choices
every day from within the country under colonial Japan.  Far more so than
the exiled revolutionaries who, for better or for worse, operated from

In this regard, Choong Soon Kim's recent biography of Kim Songsu (A Korean
Nationalist Entrepreneur: A Life History of Kim Songsu, 1891-1955) appears
to contest and challenge some of the earlier findings by Eckert in his
"Offspring of Empire" book.  While Kim's work is less theoretically
sophisticated, he attempts to shed more light on the turbulent life of Kim
Songsu, including the complex nature of his colonial circumstances and
human motivations. 

Certainly, the debate about the nationalist vs. collaborator as well as
modernization vs. exploitation under the colonial rule continues. 

Jacqueline Pak


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