[KS] Gwageo cheongsan (Kwageon ch'eongsan)

Robert Ramsey sr1 at umail.umd.edu
Tue Sep 10 16:19:46 EDT 2002

Just a footnote to Gari's message.  The 1974 Nihon Kokugo Daijiten, though making no explicit 
claims, generally gives what the editors believe to be something close to the earliest 
citations.  In this case, the technical accounting term, "liquidation," is of course the first 
entry for _seisan_, and the two citations given for the entry are both from the Meiji period, 
one from a Japanese-English dictionary and the other from an 1871 shinbun zasshi.  
	But the kwake chengsan usage is the second entry (out of four) offered by the 
dictionary: "bringing an end (kimari o tsukeru koto) to a relationship or matter of the past", 
and the various citations for that, too, are from the Meiji--in this case works of fiction.  
The editors don't say anything about "... starting life again," but I notice the much older 
Koojien dictionary (my copy is from 1955) has as part of the definition of "kako no kankei 
jikoo, mata wa shugi shisoo nado o kirei ni sutesaru koto" the phrase "kirei ni" ('cleanly').  
It may be a bit of a stretch, but if I had to guess, I'd say that's where Kenkyusha and maybe 
Kim Minswu, too, got the interpretation of starting life again.  Maybe that was what Meiji 
usage implied, but I wonder why the Nihon Kokugo Daijiten folks would have seen fit to edit all 
that out of their definition...

On Mon, 9 Sep 2002 23:23:10 -0400 (EDT) Gari Keith Ledyard <gkl1 at columbia.edu> wrote:

> 	Interesting and stimulating, all this stuff on chengsan.  Most of
> the postings assume a negative connotation in the term, and I started out
> that way myself.  But as I got into the dozenth reponse, I took a look at
> the dictionary.  Chengsan's main meanings come from its being a technical
> term in accounting, and "liquidation," as in settling bankruptcy cases,
> certainly has a chilling tone when applied to the writing of history.
> But the dictionaries cite a special idiom when used with "kwake" (as usual
> with me, I use the diacriticless Yale system when on email).  Kim Minswu's
> dictionary, definition 3 reads as follows: Kwage uy motun il.ul kkaykkus.i
> ssise pelim (wash cleanly away everything from the past), and then adds in
> English, "atonement."  That certainly was somewhat of a disconnect for me,
> but then I checked the always reliable Yale dictionary, where Martin and
> Chang cite the sentence "kwakerul chengsan hako, say salam.i toyta"
> "Chengsan the past and become a new person." That's the way one might
> english the bare phrase.  But Martin and Chang are always good at getting
> just the right word; they say, "buries one's past (calls it quits with)
> and turns over a new leaf."  That definition ironically would seem to be
> exactly what Aidan wants to see, and goes some way to explaining Kim
> Minswu's at first puzzling "atonement." I would settle for "come to terms
> with the past and get on with it."  (Leonid Petrov noted this sense but
> preferred to develop his remarks along the lines of a critical
> re-examination of the past--which of course is a worthy course.)
> 	 Judging from some of the postings, this is seen as a neologism
> and a buzzword in todays popular discourse in Seoul (this kind of thing is
> what one misses by not going to Korea more frequently than I do).  But
> "kwake chengsan" seems to have been quite well established already in the
> middle of the last century (both Kim Minswu and Sam Martin started their
> lexicography in the 1950s), and that led me to poke around in the usual
> places for antecedants, and lo and behold, one more colonial relic!
> Kenkyusha cites Japanese usages with "seisan" (chengsan) such as: "bury
> the past and start life again"  and "commit suicide in atonement for one's
> crime."  The latter is probably too Japanese to be digestable in Korea,
> and in any case one would hardly consider that it's the Koreans who have
> to atone for colonialism... Still, the flotsam and jetsam of atonement
> washed up on the beach of Kim Minswu's lexical notes.
> 	 In spite of my etymological obsessions, I do see and appreciate
> the more serious issues that many of the postings raise and I got
> something worthwhile out of every single one of them.  But can anyone tell
> me why, with all the richness of Korean history and life, we only seem to
> have such discussions once in a blue moon?  Why does this list not teem
> and bristle with such meaty talk every day?  This is I think the third
> time I have raised this question on this list, but no one ever has an
> answer for it.  Why?
> Gari Ledyard

Robert Ramsey
sr1 at umail.umd.edu

More information about the Koreanstudies mailing list