[KS] James Palais

john.treat at yale.edu john.treat at yale.edu
Sun Aug 13 23:54:00 EDT 2006

Although my area of specialization was different from Jim's, I never had a
better colleague during my eighteen years on the University of Washington
faculty.  What he knew about China and Japan --as well as Korea-- usually put
the rest of us to shame.  He was a regular presence at talks on any East Asian
topic, and mentored students (and junior faculty!) interested in all 
manners of
things.  I might also add that his politics were reliably right-on, even in an
institutional environment that did not always appreciate that fact.  I will
miss you, Jim.

John Treat
Chair, EALL
Yale University

Quoting gkl1 at columbia.edu:

>   The passing of James B. Palais is a major loss for the field of
> Korean Studies in the United States. Though not wholly unexpected
> given his protracted illness over the last couple of years, his
> death still comes as a blow. Long the professor of Korean history
> at the University of Washington, he leaves a bereft family, dozens
> of students now working in the field both here and in Korea, and
> many stunned colleagues and admirers around the world.
>   Jim was as well known for his feisty personality and marvelous
> sense of humor as he was for his teaching, his many important
> publications, and his leadership in the field. He was one of those
> people not inclined, as the expression goes, to suffer fools,
> although that characterization might be unkind and inappropriate
> for many innocent students who, looking for an easy course and
> finding that he had little patience for those who did not work hard
> and take Korean history seriously, were redeemed in the end by his
> obvious sincerity and their own change of heart. Still, some
> couldn’t measure up. As was said with nice balance in the Korea
> Times obituary already posted, “Many failed under him, but those
> who completed his courses know how warm-hearted he was.”
>   Jim’s Harvard dissertation and first major publication, <Politics
> and Policy in Traditional Korea> (Harvard Univ. Press, 1975) focused
> on the political and institutional history of the Taewongun era, in
> the course of which “traditional Korea” more or less came to an
> end. Until Jim’s book, western readers had only the dilettantish
> and superficial anecdotal coverage of the Taewongun that had come
> out of the late 19th century “yasa” discourse. After it, one could
> not only understand the underlying social and economic realities
> that the Taewongun had to face but also gain a superb introduction
> to the history and development of the earlier dynastic structures.
>   The work by which Jim will be remembered for a long time to come,
> <Confucian Statecraft and Korean Institutions: Yu Hyongwon and the
> Late Choson dynasty> (Univ. of Washington Press, 1996), went deeply
> into those structures, covering issues of class, education, slavery,
> land reform, taxation, commercial development, military
> organization, the monetary system, and many other facets of Choson
> dynasty life. On the one hand it is a superb exercise in
> intellectual history, focusing on the institutional thought of one
> of Korea’s greatest Sirhak scholars, Yu Hyongwon (1622-1673), as
> well as on the Korean and Chinese sources of that thought; on the
> other it is a thorough Palaisian inquiry into all of Korea’s
> traditional governing institutions, especially of the Choson period
> but not infrequently providing appropriate Silla and Koryo
> background as well. Although in Korea Yu remains one of the most
> widely read and admired Sirhak scholars, I doubt that anyone,
> whether in Korea or out, has ever read Yu Hyongwon as thoroughly or
> penetrated his thought as deeply as Jim did. Some may disagree with
> this or that of his judgments, but the price of overturning them is
> to do as much work as he did on this book—all four pounds and nearly
> 1300 pages of it. The same can be said about his many other articles
> and reviews, some of them of daunting length.
> 	Between these two major works, Jim researched and wrote the report
> <Human Rights in Korea>, published by Asia Watch in 1986. Apart
> from a short chapter by Bruce Cumings on North Korea and the
> preface, the entire book was Jim’s and dealt with South Korea and
> its military regimes during the quarter of a century beginning in
> 1961. Although this was a work of scholarship, it was also one of
> advocacy. It reflected one of his other sides—his strongly held
> values and his willingness to engage human rights and ethics
> issues, in Korea and elsewhere. Sadly, during the period covered by
> this report, there was no lack of egregious rights abuses in Korea
> to report on. Given that basic fact, Jim adhered to the same
> ethical concerns in refusing to accept Korean financial support
> either for his own research or for the Korean Studies program of
> his university. Some in the field, like myself, differed with him
> on this in various degrees, but no one doubted Jim’s complete
> sincerity in adhering to his principles. With Jim, there was never
> any doubt as to where he stood on any issue, and he never lost the
> respect of his critics or held any grudges against them.
>   I first met Jim in 1963 while visiting Harvard. We were not far
> apart in age or in the circumstances--strictly matters of
> fate--under which we separately happened to decide on Korean
> Studies as a career. Neither of us were in the founding generation
> of our field; indeed if anyone could claim to be the founder of
> “Korean Studies in the United States,” both of us, then and now,
> would have acknowledged Jim's mentor, the late Prof. Ed Wagner, in
> that role. (I’m sure Jim would have been quite embarrassed at the
> Korea Times headline laying that mantle on himself.) Although Jim
> and I came from different programs (I from Berkeley), we were in
> one respect “tongch’ang” in that we did our dissertation research
> in Seoul at the same time in the early mid 60s. We would talk and
> debate Korean history issues up to the brim of many a curfew before
> one of us had to quickly jump in a taxi so that we could be off the
> streets before the witching hour of 10 p.m. We both had our young
> families with us in Seoul and enjoyed many good times together. In
> later years we would find ourselves participating in the same
> commitees and conferences and generally kept in touch.
>   All of Korean Studies will be the poorer for Jim's loss, but
> especially the field of pre-modern Korean history, which nowadays
> has a hard time attracting students. It is understandable that many
> are now drawn to the study of Korea because of its modernity and the
> intellectual challenge as well as the sheer excitement of studying
> it. There's no doubt as to the validity of this phenomenon. But
> some are also disattracted to more traditional studies by the
> difficulty of the source material and particularly by the necessity
> to learn classical Chinese. And some perhaps find the traditional
> Korean mindset and its relationship with Chinese culture
> uninteresting if not actually shameful from a nationalist point of
> view. Both Jim and I frequently encountered these attitudes, which
> we regarded as serious misunderstandings.
>   Jim's loss hits the premodern Korean field the hardest. Yet
> anyone who reads his work will see in his engagement with the
> entire community of today's Korean intellectuals and
> historians--just look at all those footnote citations!--an
> appreciation of the inescapable involvement of modern minds if we
> are to truly understand the past and our own modernity. The past is
> not fixed in stone, but changes as each successive modernity
> reexamines it, discovering new problems and new responses and
> enriching the living generation. Korea is not a bunch of periods,
> but a continuum that has endured for thousands of years. There are
> riches worth studying all across that span, and all of them are
> important for the identity of modern Korea. It's important not to
> always focus on the end of things.
>   The community of those who knew and loved Jim Palis is not small.
> His loss is a tremendous blow to our field, and to me a personal one
> as well.
> Gari Ledyard
> Quoting Baker Don <ubcdbaker at hotmail.com>:
>> I just received the sad news from the University of Washington
>> that James
>> Palais passed away today. It's a great loss to our field. I'm
>> sure in a day
>> or two somehow will send out an email obituary with details of
>> his
>> scholarly accomplishments.In the meantime, let me just say that
>> it is not
>> only his scholarship that will be missed. Those of us who were
>> lucky enough
>> to get to know Jim and work with him knew what a wonderful sense
>> of humor
>> he had. He also was a dedicated teacher of graduate students,
>> determined to
>> push his students to do the best they were capable of but doing
>> so with a
>> smile rather than a verbal whip. All of us who worked under him
>> can say we
>> have not only lost a mentor, we have also lost a friend.
>> Sincerely,
>> Don Baker
>> Associate Professor,
>> Department of Asian Studies
>> Director, Centre for Korean Research
>> University of British Columbia
>> Vancouver, Canada V6T 1Z2
>> dbaker at interchange.ubc.ca
>> >From: "Michael Allen" <allenm at byuh.edu>
>> >Reply-To: Korean Studies Discussion List
>> <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
>> >To: <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
>> >Subject: Re: [KS] Sin Ch'aeho and Taejonggyo
>> >Date: Wed, 02 Aug 2006 19:30:32 -1000
>> >
>> >Hi Richard (and anyone else interested),
>> >
>> >I didn't reply to your original query because I am smack in the
>> middle
>> >of a major relocation (to Dubai), and simply didn't have time to
>> make
>> >the more extended response I would like to.   But the very short
>> version
>> >is that I have seen references to Sin Ch'aeho's reputed
>> affiliation with
>> >Taejonggyo in more than one Korean secondary source.  It is a
>> highly
>> >problematic claim, however, the deeper you delve into Sin's
>> thinking,
>> >and especially into the complex migrations in his thinking over
>> time.
>> >(For all I know, the same may be true if you delve more deeply
>> than I
>> >have into Taejonggyo.)  As others have pointed out, however, it
>> is not
>> >difficult to see why adepts of Taejonggyo would be interested in
>> >claiming Sin as one of their own--and the tendency may be even
>> more
>> >pronounced after 1971 (the date of the book you mentioned), when
>> Sin's
>> >own reputation in Korea received new life in the name of a new
>> Park-era
>> >agenda.
>> >
>> >I discuss this a bit in the book I am finishing, but
>> unfortunately for
>> >the current discussion most of my material is in boxes right
>> now, making
>> >the move ahead of me.  Stay tuned . . .
>> >
>> >Michael Allen
>> >
>> > >>> rick_mcbride17 at hotmail.com 07/28/06 12:08 PM >>>
>> >I would like the thank the participants for their stimulating
>> discussion
>> >of
>> >my question regarding the relationship between Sin Ch'aeho and
>> >Taejonggyo.
>> >Let me explain here the background behind my asking the
>> question, which
>> >may
>> >add a further level of complexity to the issues that have been
>> >discussed.
>> >
>> >One of the referrees of my article titled "Silla Buddhism and
>> the
>> >Hwarang
>> >segi Manuscripts," which will be published in Korean Studies 31
>> >(forthcoming, 2007) introduced me to an interesting source:
>> Taejonggyo
>> >ChonggyOng Chongsa PyOnsu WiwOnhoe, ed.  <<Taejonggyo chunggwang
>> >yuksimnyOnsa>> (Seoul:  Taejonggyo Chongbonsa, 1971 [Tan'gi
>> 4428]).
>> >
>> >This 60 year history of Taejonggyo is interesting because it
>> contains a
>> >biography of Pak Ch'anghwa (1889/1895-1962), the reputed
>> author/copyist
>> >of
>> >the Hwarang segi manuscripts on pages 865-867.    Pak Ch'anghwa
>> is
>> >usually
>> >said to have been born in 1889 but this biographical account
>> says he was
>> >
>> >born in 1895.  It refers to his working for the Japanese
>> government in
>> >the
>> >1930s and early 1940s and records his death in 1962.  Most
>> importantly
>> >it
>> >says that he joined Taejonggyo in 1949.   No Korean source on
>> the
>> >Hwarang
>> >segi manuscripts mentions Pak's affiliation with Taejonggyo.
>> When I
>> >attended the "Iryon and the Samguk yusa" conference sponsored by
>> the
>> >Iryonhak Yon'guwon and the Academy of Korean Studies last week,
>> my
>> >colleagues in Silla history were impressed by this
>> information--they had
>> >
>> >never known such a connection existed.
>> >
>> >In pointing out this source, the referee indicated that Pak's
>> >affiliation
>> >with Taejonggyo hints at some important things:  "[I]t is not
>> fully
>> >implausible that he may have cherished an interest for this
>> nationalist
>> >religion already in the colonial days.  However, unlike such
>> >Taejonggyo-affiliated historians as famous Sin Ch'aeho, Pak
>> emphasized
>> >Silla, and not KoguryO, as the Korean nation's presumed
>> 'spiritual
>> >origin.'"
>> >   The referee went on to encourage me to provide additional
>> biographical
>> >
>> >information on Pak Ch'anhwa.  I did not do it in this paper but
>> plan to
>> >spend much more time on this in another article I have in
>> progress on
>> >the
>> >significance of the Hwarang segi manuscripts.
>> >
>> >This is the reason for my inquiry about Sin Ch'aeho and
>> Taejonggyo.
>> >I've
>> >read some of Sin's works, such as his biography of Ulchi
>> MundOk--but I
>> >never
>> >heard of his affiliation with Taejonggyo before.  It appears
>> that Sin's
>> >connections to Taejonggyo are problematic indeed.  In perusing
>> the more
>> >than
>> >1000 page (handwritten) Taejonggyo history I did not find any
>> >biographical
>> >listing for Sin Ch'aeho--so at least in 1971, Taejonggyo did not
>> claim
>> >him
>> >as a member or adept.  Then again, since there is no index I
>> have not
>> >exhausted the information in this book.  However, many of you
>> have
>> >suggested
>> >compelling reasons why Taejonggyo adepts may have been
>> influenced by
>> >him.
>> >
>> >Best
>> >Richard McBride
>> >Post-doctoral Fellow in Korean Studies and Buddhist Studies
>> >Washington University in St. Louis
>> >
>> >_________________________________________________________________
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