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

Afostercarter at aol.com Afostercarter at aol.com
Mon Sep 9 11:25:15 EDT 2002

A quick footnote. I found all this extremely helpful.

1. Mike's lambasting at Kodae was exactly the sort of 
thing I meant in my Tanzania comparison. From my
limited experience, in other ex-colonies - which, after all,
means most of the world - such tensions simply don't
arise in the same way, or not to the same extent of closing
down debate. Disheartening, as you say.

2. Mike and Dr Tikhonov are right: one must not over-
generalize. Korea, like everywhere, is wondrously diverse.
I for one did not mean to lump everyone together. By
definition, kwago ch'ongsan is an argument, or many; and
argument entails different points of view.

Nonetheless, could one not argue that, despite this very
helpful elucidation of the different groups and their varied
agendas, that in some sense most if not all are engaged in a similar
kind of exercise? If so, is it not also a possible point of view
that the exercise itself as such, or some forms of it, may not
necessarily be a good idea for some reasons?

3. Andrei Lankov, as usual, hits the nail right on the head.
Two nails, indeed.

Aidan FC

In a message dated 9/9/02 03:32:41 GMT Daylight Time, mrobinso at indiana.edu 

> Subj:Re: [KS] History's twists: thoughts on kwago ch'ongsan and the MOPE 
> syndrome 
> Date:9/9/02 03:32:41 GMT Daylight Time
> From:<A HREF="mailto:mrobinso at indiana.edu">mrobinso at indiana.edu</A>
> Reply-to:<A HREF="mailto:Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws">Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws</A>
> To:<A HREF="mailto:Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws">Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws</A>
> Sent from the Internet 
> V. Tikhonov raises an important issue here.  I, for one, have more than 
> once made the mistake of reifying Korean views generalizing from a small 
> sample to the whole.  More often than not this is my own laziness...or the 
> desire to create a simple strawdog at which to shoot.  On both sides of the 
> divide (non-Korean and Korean historians of Korea) there is a tendency to 
> simplify the positions of the other.  I recently endured a three hour 
> lambasting at Kodae on the issue of whether or not one can speak of 
> modernity and colonialism in the same breath.  The discussion never left 
> the general issue of the rights and wrongs of how to view Japanese 
> colonialism in Korea.  The anxiety that drove my critics seems to be the 
> worry (overtly stated) that if Western historians were to re-cast the issue 
> of Japanese colonialism in Korea, then ordinary people would be "mislead" 
> about the historical facts of the Korea-Japan relationship in the 20th 
> century.  There was much of the feeling of a young group of Korean 
> historians intent on protecting or defending one "correct" narrative over 
> another.  What I found most disheartening ws the lack of argument about 
> interpretive issues or new historical questions, or assessment of sources.  
> It was mostly about a projection of how one narrative might be construed by 
> ordinary people.  
> And on the issue of reifying various historical lines.  This summer's issue 
> of YOksa pip'yOng does a fine job of promoting the view of a generalized 
> north american (incorrect) line of historical inquiry....neatly unified 
> around a teacher disciple network. 
> Mike R.    
> >> ----- Original Message ----- 
>> From: <A HREF="mailto:vladimir.tikhonov at east.uio.no">Vladimir Tikhonov</A> 
>> To: <A HREF="mailto:Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws">Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws</A> 
>> Sent: Monday, September 09, 2002 7:08 AM
>> Subject: RE: [KS] History's twists: thoughts on kwago ch'ongsan and the 
>> MOPE syndrome
>> 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...
>> V.Tikhonov 
>> 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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