[KS] minjok, minjung, and a miscellaneous item

Michael Robinson robime at indiana.edu
Fri Jul 27 16:57:30 EDT 2007

Dear Deberniere: 

This comes up occasionally.  I would look to Henry Em's discussion of the minjok in his "Minjok as a Modern and Democratic Construct: Sin Chaeho's Historiogrpahy" in Shin and Robinson's Colonial Modernity in Korea.  He has a lengthy discussion of minjok....I think minjung as well.  I'd think "ethnic nation" as its translation, but that is awkward.  There is the connotation of race so it leans toward the trans of the nation in the sense of the "the people."  National History seems fine when translating the title you mention.  Minjung is of course more slippery becauase of the movement of the 70s and 1980s.  Here "masses" seems to work well as in "the laboring masses."  But then that has a Marxist tinge...and the movement also discussed the minjung as those, underferentiated, who were oppressed.  19th century minjung uprisings are usually peasant uprisings, here the common folk.  As for the Journals I don't know. 

Mike R.
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  To: koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws 
  Sent: Friday, July 27, 2007 2:34 PM
  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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