[KS] Re: To the Observer of Korean Politics

C.E.Williamson uiliwill at nuri.net
Sun Oct 21 23:38:27 EDT 2001

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Mr. Eggert:  

Yes, your point is valid and of course I agree.  A whole lot of capital
was pumped into the ROK during the 50s and 60s and began to diminish,
apparently in proportion to the strength of capitalism catching on, as
time went on.  I think Confucianism did have a great deal to do with how
the capital was used and distributed under Park, Chun and Roh.  In other
countries where democratic capitalism has faultered even more than in
the ROK, the elite apparently held onto more than did the elite under
Park, Chun and to a lesser extent Roh.
I am not one to preach to the many experts in this forum on Confucianism
and its ethics in the Korea of the 50s to 80s, but in my readings, it
played no small part in how money flowed throughout society.  

The walled houses in the rural areas and the tendency of Koreans at that
time to rely on various traditional forms of organizations began to give
way to varous new forms of inticements, all of course involving some
form of cash reward.  If not a few hundred won in an envelop to vote for
a certain candidate, then a pair of shoes, etc.  Later on during the
SaeMaul Movement, it appears that people in villages were inticed (even
coerced) to gather together to discuss ways of identifying local
problems and come up with solutions, bridges or dikes for example. 
People were rewarded for participating by receiving not only grants to
pay for materials to build things, but also a little extra cash for
their efforts.  This system not only encouraged capitalism but also
citizen interaction for the sake of the community-- all directed toward
modernization.  Without such efforts at stemming from the national
level, it would appear that farmers in the rural areas would have been
content to go on as they had for centuries living in the same style.  

And...my readings tend to convince me that because the central govenment
provoked people, there came some confusion about how one was supposed to
live.  Afterall, living in one way with one steadfast value system for
centuries is no easy habbit to break without some form of outside

Some complained louder than others and some did more to resist change
than others.  One interesting point is that much opposition to carving
out new highways, for example, was actually based on geomancy and the
belief that the flow of Ki would be disturbed--that would be bad for the

While westerners may find such criticism laughable, Koreans actually
believed in Ki and still do today. While my examples are sparse due to
trying to be concise on this forum, there are numerous such cases where
tradition conflicted with the intents of modernization and development. 
Many such obstacles to democratic capitalism did not and do not exist in
the West.

That is why I challenge the bureacratoc authoritaranism paradigms that
popularly characterize modern S. Korea's dictatorship era since those
model stem from the Grecco-Roman value system and tradition.  

I appreciate your questions. They stimulate my thought.  It is very easy
to just agree and agree with what has been written, especially by
Western Scholars.  I try to view Korea from all views to draw my own
conclusions, immediately I am call self-styled. I take because of my
views I am not part of any school of scholarship. Certainly, I am not
perfect, but neither are the theories that have attempted to put Korea
into the Western Scholarship caste of Bureacratic Authoritarianism. 
Afterall, if the so-called Korean dictators were truely of the Western
dictator type, then how did so much good come from their regimes? 

That is not to imply that I am for down right evil practices like
torture, which did happen.  But, then from the Korean perspective, those
that wound up being tortured expected to be tortured since at that time,
the values of Western Human rights did not prevail in the minds of the
Korean people, yet it was still universally wrong and deserved to be
changed and with time was changed and still is changing. We may say
something is "universal," but if a culture never experience that
particular "universal" element, then that culture may not perceive that
particular element as a "universal" value.  Having said that, please
understand that within Korea's Confucian Value system there are human
"rights" values that we Westerns might conclude to be strange and not
acceptable. So, in the end the shear power of the West stands to make
the ultimate judgements.  I think we need to be a bit more sensitive as
well as aleart to the good that gets tossed out with the bad.
I hope I have not offended anybody again by voicing my humble opinions
in the forum.

Clarence E. Williamson

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Marion Eggert" <Marion.Eggert at ruhr-uni-bochum.de>
To: <korean-studies at iic.edu>
Sent: Friday, October 20, 2000 4:33 PM
Subject: Re: To the Observer of Korean Politics

> Dear Mr. Williams:
> How much money did the US and Japan pump into South Korea under Park,
> for what reasons, and under what conditions?  Were not efforts to build
> democratic nations (in the sense of holding free elections, that mostly
> would result in left-leaning governments) in third world countries
> frustrated world-wide by the immediate revocation of financial support
> in those cold war times?  South Korea was fortified at all costs as a
> strategic bulwark against the spread of communism in East Asia.  Where
> do you think the tiger genes came from?  Confucianism?
> Another observer,
> Marion Eggert
> --
> Prof. Dr. Marion Eggert
> Ruhr-Universität Bochum
> Fakultät für Ostasienkunde
> Sektion Sprache und Kultur Koreas
> 44780 Bochum, Germany
> tel (0234)-3225572
> fax (0234)-3214747

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