[KS] assessing historical meanings - Mr. Yoon

vladimir.tikhonov at ikos.uio.no vladimir.tikhonov at ikos.uio.no
Wed Sep 8 16:46:00 EDT 2010

Dear Frank (and others),

I am afraid that there was some misunderstanding involved here. While it
is completely true that  Pak Hônyông's approach generally followed
Comintern's logic - quite expectedly, I would say, - I do not think that
either Pak or his comrades in colonized Korea were simply obsessed with
"world revolution" to the point of ignoring everything else. In fact, from
what I read, it looks that in the 1930s the Korean Communists wisely
shifted there efforts from "party building" to the organizational work on
the factories, at the peasant associations, and even among the students
and college teachers (including even Keijo Imperial University) - and
gained good results, leading some important and influential struggles. You
can look, for example, at 1931 solidarity strike at 26 rice mills in
Taegu, or 1934 HamhUng steelmill strike etc. Solidarity strikes were quite
rare until the late 1920s, but became quite common during the peak of the
workers' striking activity in the early 1930s, in the wake of the Great
Depression. Communists and other leftists who were in many cases leading
the strikes in the 1930s, paid grave price for this - only in 1930-35,
1,795 people were arrested in Korea in connection with the revolutionary
workers' movement, and more than 70 "red" unions destroyed by the police.
For all these people, who were basically fighting for their wages, for the
reinstatement of the fired comrades, for their human dignity as workers
etc. - and for the "world revolution", but on much more abstract level -
the "heroic deeds" of the middle-class nationalist radicals like Yun were
something very remote and indeed foreign. Workers and peasants were in
most cases in no position to use violence - that meant to give an
immediate pretext for violent suppression. And Pak Hônyông, the person who
could legitimately claim to represent their interests, was explaining to
his public that the "heroic deeds" of this type were also dangerous,
since, once appropriated by the right-wingers, they would strengthen the
positions of the radical nationalist Right - the people of Kim Ku's type.
I am afraid that he was somewhat prophetic in saying so. And in today's
South Korea, everybody is expected to know Yun Pong'gil, while much more
inclusive and were meaningful struggles (mainly strikes) led by the people
like Yi Chaeyu in KyOngsOng or Yi Chuha in WOnsan, are known to a handful
of specialists at best. Politics of collective memory, so to say...



> From how you summarize Pak Hônyông's 1932 text,
> this sounds -- as expected -- like a Communist
> take on the bombing incident. Again, this is the
> very same interpretation you find e.g. in all the
> 1980s and 1990s PRC works mentioning it (or
> ignoring it, for the same reason). I cannot see
> anything "balanced" in this view. If thought to
> the end, if you continue this line of logic, you
> basically suggest that only the world revolution
> will solve all problems. If you turn the burner a
> step lower, then it still would have been
> revolution and/or military victory over the
> Japanese in Korea. I really cannot see that this
> would be the measurement of history and
> influences. A people also consists of not just
> the "working classes" but also of a middle class,
> of intellectuals, an upper class ... and the Yun
> bombing did influence them in various ways, and
> did influence how the Koreans in China were able
> to work with the Chinese. That does not count?
> And does it not count that -- as Jim Thomas
> pointed out -- that many Chinese scholars even
> today have that incident in the back of their
> mind when talking about Korean resistance during
> that period. However you evaluate or name such
> attacks (patriotic or terrorist brutality),
> influences are not just measured in terms of
> world revolution and freeing "working classes," I
> think.
> Best,
> Frank
>>Dear all,
>>It looks very unfortunate to me that one very
>>principled and rather balanced contemporaneous
>>evaluation of Yun Pong'gil's act seemingly
>>evades the attention of the discussants here. I
>>am thinking about Pak HOnyOng, the then
>>Moscow-based Korean Communist leader, who, in
>>his July 1932 piece, "What the Shanghai Bombing
>>Incident Means?", gave a judgment of Yun's act
>>which still seems to be surprisingly
>>well-measured. He did not see it as "violence",
>>of course, since the actions of the Japanese
>>military were incomparably more violent; he even
>>mentioned that the "incident" was a "joyful
>>occasion", quite understandable impression from
>>the viewpoint of the citizens of an occupied
>>country. But he judged it to be not only of
>>little use in the course of working classes'
>>anti-imperialist struggle, but also directly
>>harmful, since it was inculcating the illusions
>>of individual struggle in the minds of the
>>people, essentially putting an obstacle on the
>>way of the more organized class resistance. He
>>also foresaw that Yun's act would be politically
>>used by the extreme right-wingers among the
>>China-based Korean emigres for their own
>>self-advancement. I am afraid that there is
>>little to add to this analysis even now - yes,
>>Yun's act was, of course, seen as legitimate by
>>the majority of politically conscious Chinese
>>and Koreans; but it hardly had any direct
>>relationship to the real-life struggles of the
>>majority of the colonized Korean population -
>>striking workers, tenants on dispute, striking
>>school pupils etc.
> --
> --------------------------------------
> Frank Hoffmann
> http://koreaweb.ws

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