[KS] Gwageo cheongsan (Kwageon ch'eongsan)

Yong-ho Choe choeyh at hawaii.edu
Sat Sep 7 17:45:04 EDT 2002

I challenge the basic notion of "kwago ch'ongsan" or cleansing the 
past.  How can one cleanse the past?  One can only study and learn lessons 
from the past so that we do not repeat same mistakes.  There is no way one 
can undo the past.  The current trend of "kwago ch'ongsan" in S. Korea is 
inclined to finger-pointing, rather than making soul-searching examinations 
of the past mistakes. If one needs a "kwago ch'ongsan," it should be left 
to historians to examine comprehensively---free of prejudgment---complex 
factors and circumstances within which one may have acted in certain ways 
in the past.  I raise this question because I am alarmed by the recent 
attempt of "kwago ch'ongsan" dealing with the issue of the collaboration 
under the Japanese colonial rule.

At 04:49 PM 9/5/2002 -0500, Michael Robinson wrote:
>Dear Korea Journal:
>An interesting question to be sure.  my first thought for translation was 
>"settling accounts from the past".  I then read to the bottom of your 
>message at see that in the Korean context there is more than a neutral 
>balancing of accounts....but more a desire to insert the idea of 
>correcting previously poorly kept and inaccurate accounts.  I would 
>suggest the neutral idea of balance.
>And for the wider audience of the list, I find it interesting that the 
>Journal's question arrives on the same day that our friend in Hungary is 
>asking about the politics of memory.  In response to his query....you 
>might consider that the era post-1945 is both a time of actively 
>"forgetting" as well as a struggle to selectively remember.  My sense is 
>that if we are to discuss some "Korean tradition" with regard to 
>memorialization, we must consider the long history and active present of 
>hagiography both official and private in Korean society.  Statues, parks, 
>grandiose buildings, etc. are new....the idea of spinning the memory of 
>one's relatives or working to resurrect the name of same....has been an 
>active Korean pastime for a very long time.  The Korea Journal question 
>falls as a project somewhere between official memory...that cultivated and 
>enshrined by the state...and the private cultivation of memory in 
>foundations, collected writings, genealogies, etc.
>Mike Robinson
>----- Original Message -----
>From: <mailto:kj at unesco.or.kr>Korea Journal
>To: <mailto:Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws
>Sent: Monday, September 02, 2002 4:09 AM
>Subject: [KS] Gwageo cheongsan (Kwageon ch'eongsan)
>Dear list members,
>The KOREA JOURNAL will deal with the special issue titled 
>"Gwageo  cheongsan (MR: Kwago ch'ongsan) in Korean Modern History" in its 
>2002 autumn issue. Articles in this issue will analyze the development, 
>significance and future tasks concerning gwageo cheongsan. Articles to be 
>published in this special issue are as follows.
>1. "Gwageo cheongsan" in Modern Korean History
>2. Refracted Modernity and the Issue of Pro-Japanese Collaborators in Korea
>3. How To Reveal the Iceberg under the Sea?: The Problems in Historical 
>Clarification of the Korean War
>4. The Significance of "gwageo cheongsan" of the December 12 Coup and
>the May 18 Gwangju Uprising
>5. Attempted "gwageo choengsan" in April Popular Struggle
>6. Finding the Truth on the Suspicious Deaths Under South Koreas Military 
>7. State Violence and Sacrifices under Military Authoritarianism 
>and  Dynamics of "gwageo cheongsan" during Democratic Transition
>However, we have had difficulty in translating "gwageo cheongsan" into an 
>appropriate English term. Some alternatives have been suggested such as 
>"dealing with the wrong past," "liquidating the past," "rectifying the 
>past," and "righting past wrongs," but none of these is satisfactory. We 
>ask anyone who is struck with a good idea regarding this matter to let us know.
>Korea Journal

Yong-ho Choe
Department of History
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Honolulu, HI  96822

Tel: 808 956-6762
Fax: 808 956-9600
E-mail: choeyh at hawaii.edu

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