[KS] History's twists: thoughts on kwago ch'ongsan and the MOPE syndrome

Vladimir Tikhonov vladimir.tikhonov at east.uio.no
Mon Sep 9 08:08:12 EDT 2002

Judging from my experience of contacts with the people from the 
"headquarters" of "yOksa ch'Ongsan", The Minjok munje yOn'guso, there is no 
"unified" narrative of "clean" past there. Those who invoke the motif of 
"settling the scores with the past", seem to represent, at least several 
very different political/cultural agendas. There are "traditional" 
nationalists who seek to further "glorify" the exiles' "independence 
struggle" (Kim WOnung, the MP who leads the "ch'Ongsan" campaign in 
parliament, seemingly belongs to this category - he has grown up in the 
clan with strong "hangil minjok undong" credentials). But there are also 
the moderate academic progressives: the people who are academically 
interested in tracing down the links between the Late Choson, colonial and 
South Korean post-colonial elites, but certainly are not going to "pugwan 
ch'amsi" the "collaborators". Serious scholars, like Ha WOnho, and popular 
history writers, like Yi DOgil, seem to be closer to this direction of 
work. Then, there are certainly some left radicals, who seek to undermine 
South Korea's ruling elite's national(ist) credentials through playing up 
the question of the colonial roots of "their" wealth and power (in some 
cases, like that of Yi Hwech'ang, the colonial roots are only too 
obvious...). But this last group's influence seems to be rapidly 
diminishing recently, given the general trend of questioning leftist 
nationalist meta-narrative in S.K. academia (look, for example, how An 
ByOngjik, former "minjung" theoretic, changed his views recently). All in 
all, the use of one and the same semi-Confucian slogan of "YOksa ch'Ongsan" 
should not obscure the diversity and huge internal contradictions inside 
the movement. The worst mistake foreign "Korean experts" usually make is to 
lump "all them" together on ethnic (and, I feel, in many cases 
unconsciously even on racial) grounds...


At 07:02 09.09.2002 +1000, you wrote:
> >  If we self righteously claim that we see history as multiple voices 
> then why the cant against  some Korean historians that might want to 
> distill their version into a single mononarrative.....against all 
> reason.  Let them.  AFterall isn't it just another of the many voices and 
> narratives that history produces.
>Yes. But many people in Korea tend to believe that this is the only true 
>narrative. The use of the term 'kwago ch'ongsan' tesifies to this. This 
>meant to be the 'clean' historty while other narratives are 'polluted'.
> > In my reading of kwago chongsan there is a reasonable meaning of 
> balancing accounts.....whereby previously repressed voices are recorded 
> on the leger.
>The problem is that old heresy does not necessirily behave nicely when it 
>is promoted to a new orthodoxy.
>Andrei Lankov

Vladimir Tikhonov,
Department of East European and Oriental Studies,
Faculty of Arts,
University of Oslo,
P.b. 1030, Blindern, 0315, Oslo, Norway.
Fax: 47-22854140; Tel: 47-22857118

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