[KS] Koguryo part of China?

Andrei Lankov Andrei.Lankov at bigpond.com
Fri Jan 2 20:14:08 EST 2004

Dear Lits members,

Re Kirk Larsen's comments

>The notion of continuity between Koguryo, Parhae, and later elements of the
"pastoral/agricultural northern continuum" represented
>by the Khitan, Jurchen, and Manchu was explicitly invoked by at least some
Korean historians and/or nation-building intellectuals in
>the late 19th century. However, they apparently did not see this as
negating the claims to the Koreanness of these territories and
>peoples.  Andre Schmid, in his _Korea Between Empires_ notes that one Kim
Kyo-h^on argued that:

>"the period after 1644 was designated the Chosôn-Qing period, or
alternatively, the Southern Chosôn and Northern Qing. In short,
>these two dynasties represented for Kim the northern and southern branches
of the same minjok, establishing separate, coexisting
>regimes" (Schmid, Korea Between Empires, 196).

The same veiw is still expressed occasionally in South Korea, especially by
the scholars who gravitate towards the rightist or "conservative" brand of
nationalism. See, for example, Kenneth B. Lee. Korea and East Asia: The
Story of a Phoenix. (published in the US in English by Praeger in 1997).
>From this book readers learn that  "[t]he eastward migration of a loosely
organised federation of Korean tribes took many centuries. These easternmost
tribes spoke the same language and had the same customs and temperament.
They created the great empires of Khitan, Chin, Koguryô, and Ch'ing of
Manchus in East Asia" (p.7).

>I doubt that many in Beijing would take to the notion that the Qing was a
"Korean" dynasty. I wholeheartedly agree with the notion
>that imposing present-day political and cultural sensibilities back on to
peoples and places of the past is fraught with difficulty. But
>the reality is that people will likely to continue to do so as long as
national identity is a significant determinant of political borders. As
>Ernest Renan once said, "getting its history wrong is part of being a

I completely agree with your statement. Alas.

Incidentally, the Koguryô question took special dimensions in North Korean
history writing. The Koguryô borders in later periods of its history were
roughly similar to the present-day borders of the DPRK, thus in the  North
Korean official version of history (far more nationalistic than its South
Korean counterpart) from the 1960s Koguryô is eulogized as an embodiment of
the true national spirit. It is presented as champion of Koreanness against
treacherous pro-Ame... sorry, pro-Chinese South, represented by Silla. In
the DPRK version of history Silla leaders are depicted as traitors, since
they used the foreign forces to fight with (supposedly) fellow Koreans from
Koguryô. The analogies are simple Koguryô =DPRK, Silla=ROK, Tang=USA. This
is, indeed, to borrow Kirk Larsen's remark, "imposing present-day political
and cultural sensibilities back on to peoples and places of the past" taken
to the extreme.

And, once again, Koguryo people were not linguistic ancestors of the
present-day Koreans, from what we know it appears that their language was
probably closer to Japanese. In general, it indeed was a part of "coherent
pastoral/agricultural northern continuum that inhabited what is today
China's Three Northeastern Provinces", as John Jamieson wrote (I'd add to
the Three Provinces large parts of Mongolia, Southern SIberia and Russia's
Maritime Region). Of course, the North Korean scholars - unlike their South
Korean colleagues - cannot even hint at this as well as at possible language
connection with Japan. The Great Leader himself once explained that Korean
and Japanese are not and cannot possibly be related, and all people who say
otherwise are reactionaries or Japanese spies.

Happy New Year!

Andrei Lankov

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