[KS] Korean position

Eugene Y. Park eugene.y.park at uci.edu
Sat Jul 26 21:02:21 EDT 2008

Dear Mr. Capener,

>From your wording, I wasn't so sure who makes assumptions about a "Korean
position" when it comes an academic inquiry. As a premodern Korea
historian (esp. social history of early modern Korean from about 1600 to
1910) working in the US, good 70 percent of relevant academic publications
that I have to critique are by South Korean scholars.

Among their writings, I do find certain common tendencies as well as a
growing diversity of viewpoints. A poignant example would be the ongoing
controversy surrounding the New Right's intepretation of modern Korean
history. As you must be aware, the role played by the colonial rule in
modern Korea's economic growth continues to fuel a heated debate even just
among the South Korean historians. Arguably there are 3 distinct
positions: (1) late ChosOn Korea was already experiencing capitalism; (2)
Japanese colonial rule laid the groundwork for South Korea's economic
growth; and (3) South Korea deserves credit for its economic growth.

In sum, I think we all should be cautious about speaking of a "Korean
position"--if there is such a thing. Even with the Tokto controversy,
which apparently got you to raise the position issue, at least the South
Korean scholars that I interact with (and they come from scores of
insitutions in the country) have different ideas about what South Korea
needs to do.


On Fri, July 25, 2008 18:17, Steven Capener wrote:
> Dear all,
> Let me start by saying no personal offense is intended to anyone. However,
> am I the only one that finds this recent statement problematic?
> "Your message only supports and reinforces my suspicion and puzzle how
> unsympathetic the international opinion may be to Korea. That some of
> similar voices should come from those who are in Korean studies and should
> at least try to understand the Korean position puzzles me, though."
> There are many reasons why 'international opinion' is often unsympathetic
> to Korea but that would take this discussion in another (probably
> unproductive) direction entirely. The second part of the assertion,
> however, is very relevant to this discussion and is a position I've
> encountered many times in Korean studies. This is the idea that in
> academic inquiry there is a 'Korean position,' not a conclusion naturally
> arrived at as the result of objective research. It is in effect starting
> with the conclusion one wants and researching backwads selectively to
> demonstrate that conclusion. This approach is most obvious in research
> done in Korea on the colonial period (particularly in history and
> literature). The other problem with this statement is the implication of a
> requirement of loyalty or sympathy to a position because it is Korean. 
> It seems to me this approach to area studies would be a problem wherever
> it may be applied.      
> Respectfully yours,
> Steven D. Capener 
> --- On Wed, 7/23/08, Young-Key Kim-Renaud <kimrenau at gwu.edu> wrote:
> From: Young-Key Kim-Renaud <kimrenau at gwu.edu>
> Subject: Re: [KS] Library of Congress Korean Controversy
> To: "Korean Studies Discussion List" <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
> Date: Wednesday, July 23, 2008, 2:29 PM
> Dear David,
> Your message only supports and reinforces my suspicion and puzzle how
> unsympathetic the international opinion may be to Korea. That some of
> similar
> voices should come from those who are in Korean studies and should at
> least try
> to understand the Korean position puzzles me, though.
> It is fine that you or anyone else considers a particular message spam
> mail,
> “nationalistic” or not. I usually just delete, and never answer, any spam
> mail I get, however irritating or preposterous it may be, and you should,
> too.
> And many LIST members, who may agree with you and Scott in this case do,
> wisely. It is probably why no one is responding to Scott’s two questions.
> I will say why I have not responded, against my own pledge not to get
> involved
> in this type of “conversation,” because you seem to suggest that no
> response possibly means nodding approval to his provocative (to Koreans
> and I
> am sure, to many others) suggestions. Clearly what Scott says has the feel
> of a
> “legal” argument. I am not a lawyer and am incapable of providing a good
> “legal” response. However, I can still give my reaction to them as a lay
> person with hopefully good common sense:
> (1) The expression “terra nullius” does not apply to Tokto. The islets’
> existence was long known and the place even had a name, however it was
> referred
> to. Just because Japanese declared it had been “a land belonging to no
> one,”
> does not make it so. It is like someone coming to an unoccupied home, and
> claiming that it is theirs because it was left empty. Finally, it is
> noteworthy
> that because of various obvious self-contradictions, the Japanese Foreign
> Ministry’s website
> (http://www.mofa.go.jp/region/asia-paci/takeshima/position.html) no longer
> claims that Japanese incorporated Tokto as a “terra nullius.” How would
> you
> contest the comments in the website
> (http://www.geocities.com/mlovmo/page4.html)
> that
> “The Cairo Conference of 1943 stipulated that ‘Japan will be expelled from
> all territories which she has taken by violence and greed [since the time
> of
> the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95].’ Considering Japan´s methods, there can
> be little doubt that Japan´s annexation of Dokdo in 1905 (along with all
> other
> Korean territories by 1910) falls within the definition of territories
> taken by
> greed, as defined by the Cairo Declaration.”?
> How do you prove that Tokto incorporation had nothing to do with
> colonization
> of Korea and the general expansion effort by Japan?
> (2) It is true that the islets were left out in the Treaty of San
> Francisco,
> most probably inadvertently because they were considered so insignificant
> at
> that time, but in the absence of the reason why they were, I do not see
> why it
> makes them “legally” still belong to Japan. I understand that common sense
> and usual understanding always mean something legally even when things are
> not
> clearly written down, especially when it seems to have been the general
> understanding even by the Japanese that Tokto belonged to Korea.
> In my last posting I referred to a very specific and what I considered
> important website with a 1936 Map by the Japanese Army General Staff
> Office
> (http://www.geocities.com/mlovmo/page27.html), which
> “places Dokdo and Ullungdo in the region of Korea. It is highly likely
> that
> SCAP GHQ used maps like these when they decided to exclude Dokdo from the
> Japanese territorial sphere.   These maps are a reminder of the commonly
> accepted view of Dokdo´s sovereignty (in both Korea and Japan) prior to
> the
> late 1940s and early 1950s.”
> (3) One more comment about the claimed “non-interference” and
> “neutrality.” I also pointed out the opinion expressed in the geocities
> site on “The United States' Involvement with Dokdo Island (Liancourt
> Rocks): A Timeline of the Occupation and Korean War Era
> (http://www.geocities.com/mlovmo/page9.html),” which includes the
> following
> comments:
> “Looking back at the Occupation and Korean War period (1945-1954), the
> available evidence suggests that many of the key decisions related to
> Dokdo
> were made by the United States, and not Korea or Japan.   As a result of
> the
> decisions made by the United States in 1951, a basic framework for
> Korea-Japan
> relations, including the Dokdo issue, was established.   The Japanese
> government worked very hard in getting the U.S. government to recognize
> Dokdo
> as Japanese territory during the process leading up to the signing of the
> San
> Francisco Peace Treaty.   On the basis of this effort Japan began to
> publicly
> lay claim to Dokdo.   American diplomats supported the Japanese position
> on
> Dokdo until the mid-1950s. However, upon realizing that the Dokdo issue
> was a
> potential tinderbox that was capable of disrupting Korea-Japan,
> Korea-U.S., and
> Japan-U.S. relations, Washington began to feign a neutral position on this
> issue.”
> So, how does this make the US so "neutral" and "fair"?
> Now, David, why don’t you also ask why these various specific points
> presented in the site (http://www.geocities.com/mlovmo/) that I threw to
> the
> LIST for discussion are not commented on by the LIST members?
> Cordially,
> Young-Key
> =========
>>From 	David Scofield <D.Scofield at sheffield.ac.uk>
> Sent 	Wednesday, July 23, 2008 7:05 am
> To 	jsburgeson at yahoo.com , Korean Studies Discussion List
> <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
> Subject 	Re: [KS] Library of Congress Korean Controversy
> Scott has made some excellent points here (I think nationalistic spam sums
> the
> original post quite well), and his queries (posted below) cut to the heart
> of
> the dispute.
> I'm surprised there are no responses to his core questions...
> "1. It is frequently claimed that Japan "stole" the
> Dokto-Takeshima islets in
> 1905, but from my understanding they were unoccupied at the time and thus
> Japan
> invoked the principle of "terra nullius" in justifying its claim to
> them. Is it
> too much of stretch, then, to claim that their occupation was quite
> separate
> from Japan's subsequent colonization of Korea?
> 2. The islets were not covered in the Treaty of San Francisco, so from a
> strictly legal standpoint wouldn't the islands legally still belong to
> Japan if
> sovereignty over them was not legally and formally handed back to the ROK
> in
> 1952? Historical arguments aside, is not this lack of legal clarity
> sufficient
> proof for the existence of a "dispute" which many on the Korean side
> claim does
> not exist?"
> David
> Quoting "J.Scott Burgeson" <jsburgeson at yahoo.com>:
>> Gene, all I will say is that I retracted the term "spam" (even
> though a
>> certain someone has clearly avoided my request for dialogue on this
> issue),
>> and I wonder if I really seem to think that Dokdo-Takeshima is a
> "non-issue"?
>> "Neutral" is a loaded term now? What's next, being
> "fair" and "objective"? As
>> for "lobbying" for a foreign government, Hana Kim is not a US
> citizen so what
>> is a better term for me to have used in her case?
>> Around and around and around in circles we go!
>> --Scott Bug
>> --- On Tue, 7/22/08, Eugene Y. Park <eugene.y.park at uci.edu> wrote:
>> > From: Eugene Y. Park <eugene.y.park at uci.edu>
>> > Subject: Re: [KS] Library of Congress Korean Controversy
>> > To: "Korean Studies Discussion List"
> <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
>> > Date: Tuesday, July 22, 2008, 4:58 PM
>> > Dear Scott,
>> >
>> > I appreciate the spirit of your suggestions, but some of the
> "incidental
>> > rhetorical terms" that have been used--"lobbying" and
> "neutral," for
>> > example--seem pretty loaded to me. And didn't this whole
> discussion get
>> > started on the questions about "nationalistic spamming"
> over "non-issues"
>> > and "lobbying?" Again I do not know Hana Kim, but to
> suggest, for example,
>> > that the hapless librarian was lobbying for a foreign government
> seems
>> > like a serious charge to me. What do you think?
>> >
>> > Of course, there's the islet question itself, on which I think
> we've
>> > already had plenty of discussions here in the past, if I'm not
> mistaken.
>> > In this light, each of the two statements that you make (below) seem
> to
>> > oversimplify the frustratingly complex situation.

Eugene Y. Park
Associate Professor
Department of History
Krieger Hall 200
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697
Tel. (949) 824-5275
Fax. (949) 824-2865

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