[KS] Gwageo cheongsan (Kwageon ch'eongsan)

Eugene Y. Park parkey at benfranklin.hnet.uci.edu
Mon Sep 9 17:15:59 EDT 2002

Dear Mr. Sparks,

I would like to caution you against lumping all historians/history 
professors into those hailing from politically, economically well 
endowed families.  Perhaps you pushed your point too hard here, or have 
I (and I'm sure many others on this list) been talking to too many 
academics from blue-collar backgrounds?

One can even argue that humanities professors in general, including 
historians, are NOT such influential figures in South Korean politics 
and society.  For one thing, I've sat through so many conversations with 
non-historians and non-academics in South Korea who simply cannot 
understand that historians are just as professional in what they do as 
are attorneys, lawyers, doctors, and engineers, whose expertises they 
don't seem as eager to challenge.  How often I have heard from many 
South Korean parents while waiting to board an Asiana flight that, upon 
their learning what I do, I chose an easy profession, since all I have 
to do is to read a few history books and teach them IN KOREAN (of course 
not true) to a bunch of Korean-speaking kyop¡¯o (again, not true) in the 

Also, how much do you think the current, popular understandings of 
Korean history--as represented in news paper and magazine articles, 
school text books, period dramas, and ordinary people¡¯s 
conversations--reflect the latest findings/insights of prefofessional 
historians?  I can perceive a disturbing gap, and I¡¯d like to give 
Prof. Yong-ho Ch¡¯oe a benefit of the doubt, since this is what I 
thought his comments addressed among other things.

Moreover, again speaking of all these supposedly well-connected history 
professors in South Korea, I urge you consider how likely it would be 
for any history professors at the major universities to be even 
considered for the currently vacant prime minister post, about which I 
read in the South Korean dailies that the government is struggling to 
find an 
individual of good character who hasn¡¯t done all the wrong things.  

Overall, the South Korean society continues to speak of a crisis in the 
humanities, and this crisis is reflected in problems ranging from the 
lower entrance score average to the widespread unemployment problem 
among even the SNU Kuksahakkwa Ph.D.'s to the generally low stature of 
history professors in South Korean politics, society, and 
culture--certainly when compared to those in the social science.

All the same, though, I wholeheartedly agree with you on the point that 
we must all be careful not to suggest that only the historians can write 
history in isolation from the rest of the society.

Gene Park

Jason Sparks wrote:

¡°Is there any compelling reason why those Koreans NOT politically or 
well-placed enough to be academics should be excluded from historical

¡°It always seemed curious that professors who traditionally benefit 
from the
necessary family connections and social status that would be the 
for professorships in Korea, would be generating discourse that actively 
exclusively looked beyond the very proximal issues of social class and 
justice among Koreans, in an effort to raise student ideological ire at 
more distal bogey men (Japan, USA) OUTSIDE Korean life.¡±

Eugene Y. Park
Assistant Professor of Korean History
Department of History
Krieger Hall Room 200
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-3275
Ph. (949) 824-5275
Fax (949) 824-2865

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