[KS] Chuch'e

Frank Hoffmann hoffmann at fas.harvard.edu
Mon Feb 11 15:43:38 EST 2002

Bruce Cumings wrote:
>There is a very good book to be written someday on the degree to 
>which interwar Japan influenced North Korea; mostly I've just heard 
>anecdotes from Japanese old enough to have lived through that period 
>who later visited North Korea in the 70s and 80s, and found it much 
>more reminiscent of Japan in the 1930s-early 40s than they could 
>ever have imagined.

I'd like to add that Bruce Cumings' observation can thoroughly be 
attested in the arts for exactly that period -- from the late 1960s 
onwards. As I have already argued in some conference papers (not in 
print yet ... will come...), the final version of Chsosônhwa -- North 
Korea's "Korean-style painting" (that is, the modernized version of 
traditional brush painting) -- is very closely related to the 
late-colonial version of Tongyanghwa in Korea (late 1930s and 1940s), 
which was again strongly influenced by Japanese Nihonga (modernized 
traditional painting in Japan, since Meiji period). The very fact 
that the P'yôngyang Art Museum devotes an entire wall of its first 
floor to some prominent colonial period painters like Kim Ûn-ho, Kim 
Ki-ch'ang is telling! Kim Ûn-ho, is known for having painted a very 
Japanesque style in the 30s and 40s. Both he and Kim Ki-ch'ang did 
live in SOUTH Korea after 1945. Kim Ki-ch'ang, as you know, is South 
Korea's most prominent brush painter today, and his style sure is 
outstanding -- but as a young painter in the early and mid-1940s his 
work was very different, very much influenced by nihonga. An 
Chung-sik, who died in 1919, is also on display at this wall, as 
possibly the first major figure having been influenced by nihonga ... 
most of the pieces in P'yôngyang are -- and these are on *permanent* 
exhibit -- pieces that are basically mirroring the late 1930s, early 
40s taste in colonial Korea RATHER THAN JAPAN!!!

I think it is time to to forget about -- well, more academically -- 
to reformulate the idea that Japan was copying "the West" and Korea 
was copying Japan. If looking at art, for example (but by no means 
only art) in colonial Korea I see something very different than in 
Japan at the same time or 10 years earlier -- however you look at it, 
it is not an imitation. Even when "imitation" or a "remake" was the 
aim of a certain individual, the outcome looks quiet different, the 
social-economic setting was different, the cultural background was 
difference, the audience (in the arts) was different ...  Why would 
we care too much if chuch'esông etc. is a Japanese term? Even misul 
is a Japanese neologism; that sure doesn't mean China (meishu) or 
Korea doesn't have art, yes? As a historical footnote that's 
interesting -- and yes, we notice that certain ideas were "in the 
air," but isn't what North Korea made of it quite different? -- and 
isn't that a quite different political structure? As for my art 
example -- we sure see those influences, we see them very clearly 
(although nobody writes about them in S.K., it seems, as it isn't 
fashionable anymore to do so with the new romantic imaginary of 
*selected* aspects of North Korean social, political and cultural 
life that nurture nationalistic concepts of unity and nation). 

Frank Hoffmann

Frank Hoffmann
http://KoreaWeb.ws  *  Fax: (415) 727-4792
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://koreanstudies.com/pipermail/koreanstudies_koreanstudies.com/attachments/20020211/45201efc/attachment.html>

More information about the Koreanstudies mailing list