[KS] About Park Ryol

Frank Hoffmann frank at koreaweb.ws
Wed Sep 13 21:37:41 EDT 2006

Vladimir wrote:
>And a little note about "chabyOng" - that seems to be an old classical
>term for poetic collection with diverce topics.

Fine, but the 1920s or 1940s were not in 
classical times. When I posted this I did not 
think of the fact that the poems were originally 
written in Japanese. This must just have been a 
one-to-one word transfer then.

Aidan wrote:
>- does there exist in English an uptodate book, or books, which
>gives a comprehensive and trustworthy overview of the many
>currents of Korean resistance and oppositional movements?
and ...
>The news - to me, anyway - that Korean anarchism is now being recovered
>in Taegu,

The last note .. that's a misunderstanding: There 
certainly were anarchists in the 1920s in both 
Seoul and Taegu, but after liberation Taegu was 
*continuously* the center for the rather small 
group and its activities. It's -- as always in 
Korea -- of course not anything new out of 
nowhere. It's Taegu because of the earlier 
mentioned Ha Ki-rak comes from Taegu and was a 
university professor there, an organizer and also 
a historian of anarchism. He had been an active 
anarchist during the colonial period.

About your questions as regards to the various 
groupings and relation to Communism: this is 
really complicated. I have followed this topic 
around for a long time, but don't want to answer 
here, not in this in this format. But here, very 
short, my own basic argument: Anarchism was 
indeed a very important movement in Korea (and in 
Europe, of course), but in the post-1945 cold war 
area the general emphasis was on totalitarism vs. 
democracy. Hannah Arendt published her works on 
totalitarism, and historians were busily writing 
about Communism and Nazism vs. democracy while 
anarchism was ignored. It was ignored because it 
did not succeed -- as Communism succeeded. There 
was not a single anarchist state! There were only 
a very few anarchist communities, e.g. the 
well-known "Christiania" in the center of 
Copenhagen (as a teenager I spent a summer there 
-- that was really something else ):: The fact 
that it did not succeed, of course, does not mean 
that it wasn't an important movement in its time 
that helped to mobilize many Korean youth, both 
in an intellectual sense and in a militant sense 
(fighting the Japanese). There were actors, 
writers, artists, and others being influenced by 
anarchist thought.

Same as with the Communist movement, if looking 
at the organizational structure you will see that 
regionalism and school and family ties played the 
most important role. That might not be so evident 
if only reading the "official" histories (mostly 
published by anarchist and pro-anarchist 
historians) but when you go through all the many 
volumes of Japanese Secret Police reports, 
Chinese Communist Party sources, and biographies 
of anti-Japanese independence fighters you will 
see that it was *largely* based on school ties, 
region (e.g. Taegu) and family ties -- not on 
political conviction per se, or social 
backgrounds, etc. The driving source was, this 
will not be surprising, nationalism and Koreans' 
desire for independence. We therefore find a wide 
spectrum of shadings within the anarchist 
movement -- some groups that understood 
themselves as anarchists, others that were later 
considered anarchists but understood themselves 
more as terrorist independence fighters but 
cooperated with the "real" anarchists, and so 

During the colonial period there were several 
centers where Koreans were active:
Taegu (and less important Wônsan), Tokyo and 
Osaka, China (mostly Shanghai and later 
Chongqing) and Manchuria. Groups did sometimes 
have contact to each other, but operated mostly 
by themselves.

If you wonder why someone would become an 
anarchist in the 1920s, we find the unique answer 
in the memoirs of Korean anarchists -- e.g. (very 
very intersting reading!):
    - Ryu Cha-myông: _Naûi hoeôk_ [My memoirs], Shenyang: Liaoning
        Renmin Chubanshe, 1984.
    - Chông Hwa-am: _I cho'guk ôdiro kalgôt in'ga: Naûi hoegorok_
        [Where to is my fatherland going?: My memoirs], Seoul: Chayu
        Mun'go, 1982.
    - Chông Hwa-am: _Ônû anak'isût'ûûi momûro ssûn kûnsesa_ [An
        anarchist in the making of modern history], Seoul: Chayu
        Mun'go, 1992.
    - Yi Chông-sik (ed.): _Hyôngmyônggadûrûi hangil hoesang: Kim
        Sông-suk, Chang Kôn-sang, Chông Hwa-am, Yi Kang-hun_ [Some
        revolutionaries' anti-Japanese reminiscences: Kim Sông-suk,
        Chang Kôn-sang, Chông Hwa-am, Yi Kang-hun], Seoul: Minûmsa, 1988.
These are really fun reading, and for anyone who 
might have mostly worked about Communism and 
reformist movements ("cultural nationalists") in 
colonial Korea, I think these memories offer some 
surprises and insights. ... They all give the 
same two reasons. Here a quote from above listed 
memoirs (p. 50) by Yu Cha-myông giving the first 
    "Because the fight for national liberation against the Japanese
    imperialist invasion had had become our foremost duty at this
    time [1920/21], I thought of the racial conflict as being as
    being an important matter. Consequently, I did neither understand
    some parts of the doctrine on class struggle presented in the
    _Communist Manifesto_, nor could I agree with them. From this
    time on I became more and more attracted by anarchism."
(Maybe someone has a better translation for 
"minjok mosun" which I translated as "racial 
conflict"? Maybe "national conflicts"?)
I think above argument does not require to be 
summarized. The second reason was the news about 
a historical incident (as it was experienced 
within the general historical context of Japanese 
colonialism, Russian Revolution, disappointment 
with Americans (keyword: Wilson's 14-point 
statement and doctrine of self-determination that 
was not applied to Korea), March First Movement, 
etc. It was the news of what had happened to the 
Kronstadt sailors after the Lenin and his group 
had successfully taken the revolution in their 
own hands. Japanese authorities, of course, were 
more than happy to publish extensively about the 
massacre, and this did indeed have a big impact 
then, as we see in many memoirs.

Of course, such rationales had 50 years to 
develop -- and if we think of the young age of 
these anarchist rebels (around 20, in most 
cases), other less rational causes might have 
also played an important role (groupings, as 
mentioned). After all, Western political theories 
still remained disintegrated in a country that 
had more or less disintegrated itself from the 
rest of the world for so long. Aidan's remark 
shows that this was so for several more decades: 
"In the 1980s South Korea seemed a late-Marxizing 
country, with most of its far left ideological 
discourse sounding like ill-fitting imports." Oh 
yeah. Because they have not had an opportunity to 
appreciate their own developments ... such as 
Minjung and all that relates (theory, 
historiography, theology, art) -- instead of 
further developing it, it just gets cracked and 
trashed and historicized as if it were some sort 
of embarrassing accident.

Last remark -- your post-1945 period & anarchism question:
In short, from the 1930s on it became pretty 
meaningless. Same as in mainland China we see 
former anarchists still being around and being 
active in political life, but integrated in the 
new power structures. By the 1930s those 
anarchists that were still active where either in 
Japan or in China, and they moved back to Korea 
slowly. Chông Hwa-am, for example, lived until 
1950 in Hong Kong. Others like Yu Cha-myông 
decided to stay in China. Again others returned 
to North Korea as late as the late 1950s. None of 
the prominent anarchist activists were considered 
to be dangerous by the U.S. Military Government. 
The leader of the returnees from China, Yu Rim, 
and the party he had organized, the Tongnip 
Nodong-dang, was even seen as rightist. He was 
even elected as Speaker of the ROK National 
Assembly. Under Syngman Rhee "anarchism" was not 
an acceptable term to use, or political concept 
to follow. Yu Rim, Chông Hwa-am and others 
therefore shifted to a political agenda that can 
probably best be described as social-democratic. 
In late 1955 Sô Sang-il and Chang Kôn-sang, both 
former anarchists, established the Chinbo-dang 
which was more left-wing than the earlier 
parties, and Chông Hwa-am established the 
Minjusahoe-dang with Yi Chông-gyu, another 
prominent former anarchist. Yi Chông-gyu then 
also had an important role in the April 
Revolution that should drive Syngman Rhee out of 
office. As you know the April Revolution started 
with the so-called "Demonstration of the 
Professionate." Well, it was actually several 
professors who all knew each other from their 
days in Beijing (!) who organized the 
demonstration, including Yi Chông-gyu. After 
Rhee's fall Chông Hwa-am and former anarchists Yi 
Ûl-gyu and Yi Kang-hun (see above listed book by 
Yi Chông-sik) founded yet another party, the 
Unification Socialist Party (Jan. 1961). The 
party included in its program, among other 
things, direct economic exchange with North Korea 
and demanded a second land reform to abolish the 
tenant farming system (which had been responsible 
for much of the political unrest in pre-1950 
Korea). The party also planned to ban the selling 
and buying of private farmlands. All this is not 
anarchist, but you can see how these former 
anarchists had transformed themselves into 
social-democrats to go with the times. Then 
again, same as the anarchist movement before the 
anarchist transformed social-democrats did not 
succeed either. What we read in the standard 
histories is therefore all about the harsh 
Syngman Rhee regime, then the short and impotent 
Chang Myôn government, followed by generalissimo 
Park and his classical modern blue-red-yellow 
Saemaul development fascism. Not that any of this 
is "wrong" -- histories are always right, but it 
is certainly important and fascinating to do 
further research and see what all these 
"non-succeeder" movements like anarchism have 
moved and influenced. That would be more of an 
intellectual history then (don't have a better 
term). The 1980s Minjung movement was certainly 
heavily "influenced" (in so many different ways!) 
by the writings and spirit of the post-liberation 


Frank Hoffmann

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