[KS] minjok, minjung, and a miscellaneous item

Brother Anthony ansonjae at sogang.ac.kr
Fri Jul 27 19:15:26 EDT 2007

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Interesting questions! It is probably always wise to tell oneself that one word in Korean (or any other language) cannot usually always be translated by a single word in another language. Words do not work like that (I think that the 19th-century Revised Version of the Bible tried to apply the 'one word for one word' principle and so proved that it is unacceptable. Koreans often use the word 'minjok' to refer to the entity known to outsiders as "Korea" -- they seem not to think of "uri nara" by a proper name very much, perhaps since the demise of Choson. The obvious title for that book would be "Tfe Catholic Church and Korean History" (now why, I wonder, do I want to reverse the order . . .?)
For Minjung, likewise, no one English word should be sought. In many cases it might need to be preserved as such, Minjung, and explained somewhere, since it is a label with a variety of social, ideological flavors attached. It was used in a variety of very different contexts, too, which makes it more important to keep "minjung' -- I think it was always a dissent word, whether in the anarchist milieu of the 1920s, the opposition to Syngman Rhee after 1945 or among the "liberation theologians" (particularly the Protestant ones)  of the 1970s/80s. It might be more "populist" than strictly "Marxist" in nuance.
The International Association of Comparative Korean Studies is a quite familiar organization among Korean Studies people, although a Google search suggests that it has an underdeveloped Internet presence, ie no home page? It originated in SNU and at least until recently its President was Prof. Kim Song-gon of the SNU English Dept. You might contact him . . . 
sukim at snu.ac.kr
Brother Anthony
Sogang University, Seoul
--- Original Message ---
>From : 
"DEBERNIERE JANET TORREY"<djt188 at psu.edu>
To : 
<koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
Date : 
2007/07/28 토요일 오전 3:34:36
Subject : 
[KS] minjok, minjung, and a miscellaneous item
Dear List Members,
I'm trying to find a good translation of the word "minjok," and wonder what's already out there that conveys the meaning adequately? I believe "minjok euisik" is sometimes translated "national consciousness," which feels pretty close to the Korean term in most of the contexts it's used, but somehow the parallel "national history" for "minjoksa" seems to weaken the connotation of "minjok" (which might also be translated "race" or "ethnic group"). Any ideas? Specifically, I'm trying to give an English approximation for a book titled, 
Minjoksawa Cheonjugyohoe (Minjok History and the Catholic Church)
 that examines the role of the Catholic Church in the development of the modern Korean nation beginning in the 19th c., but including Catholic involvement in social justice issues during the later 20th century.
On a related note, are there any agreed-upon translations of "minjung" in Korean Studies circles? For instance, is there a way to convey "minjung-eui dongyo" without resorting to something reductionist or Marxist when the phrase refers to indigenous movements and uprisings of the common populace as early as the mid 19th c.? Also, out of curiosity, what are some preferred translations of the term "minjung gayo" that refers to the genre of music popular with the student demonstrators of the 80s? I've heard "people's songs" or "songs of the masses," and I often explain it to non-Koreans as being similar to American folk-rock. Some representative singers from back then: Jeong Taechun & Bak Eunok, An Chihwan (although his more recent music might not quite fit), Kim Min'gi... As a former student-activist friend of mine once commented, you can almost smell the makgeolli when you listen to Jeong Taechun...
Finally (nostalgia aside) I'm trying to locate a journal called "The Journal of International Comparative Korean Studies" OR "The Journal of Comparative Korean Studies." Two different bibliographic references of the same article gave these two slightly different journal titles, but searches (including on major periodical list databases in my univ. library) have unearthed no such journal so far. Any leads?
Thanks very much for your time and attention,
Deberniere T.

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