[KS] Re: Collaboration

Frank Hoffmann hoffmann at fas.harvard.edu
Fri Feb 5 15:19:19 EST 1999

Taehwan Han wrote:
  >... Instead of arguing
  >if Yi Kwang Su and other intellectuals were collaborating with the
  >Japanese colonizer, (...)
  >Thus, debating who was collaborators and who was not is too sterile

I think we didn't do this here.

And furthermore:
  >Rather, we should talk about why
  >the so-called collaborators are fabricated as real patriots of Korea.
  >This distortion of history has to be corrected. Otherwise, the
  >Korean history will repeat and can not escape from vicious cycles
  >of historical distortions.

If there is a "distortion of history" then there must be, as you clearly
indicate above, "correct history." This is the very point I tried to make
in my response to Jacqueline's posting: If revisionist history-writing is
reduced to 'get-the-record-straight' history, to "correct" "distortions,"
isn't this then jsut a reversal of the very history-writing being attacked.
In other words, making use of the very same methodology and simply
exchanging protagonists & ideology, which doesn't help us *understanding*
I think we have better alternatives here: Koen De Ceuster in his already
mentioned dissertation, for example, discusses the importance of Social
Darwinism in Korea since the late 19th century, and how Yun Ch'i-ho's views
were strongly influenced by Social Darwinist Christian thought and going
from here explains how he understood the British Empire with its
colonization of India as a natural, God-given and mostly positive
historical process. (Koen, correct me if I misread you.) On this basis it
is now much easier to understand Yun Ch'i-ho's activities before and during
the colonial period, his collaboration with Japan.
This is just one example of what I think modern history should provide us
with. Personally, after so many years in the field, a long-time student
like me feels really tired to read about the good guys and the bad guys.
Look what historians are writing about India, for example. There are some
fascinating studies ... you might not necessarily "buy" all of the
theoretical concepts, or be able to borrow them and apply them to the
Korean case, but at least something is going on that opens new ways to look
at history, that helps us understanding what was going on and what the
*context* was that made it possible. To mention just one example from the
field of art history, _Art and Nationalism in Colonial India, 1850-1922_ by
Partha Mitter (1994) gives me all the theoretical explanations (about
Indian colonial art) I've always searched to find for the Korean case.
Books like this are my caffeine drugs that I urgently need whenever getting
too sleepy from all the Korean biographical studies about the good and the
bad guys, the expressionists and abstrcationists - all these handy but
misleading markers.

Frank Hoffmann * 1961 Columbia Pike #42 * Arlington, VA 22204 * USA
E-MAIL:  hoffmann at fas.harvard.edu
W W W :  http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~hoffmann/


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