[KS] assessing historical meanings - Mr. Yoon

Frank Hoffmann hoffmann at koreaweb.ws
Wed Sep 8 19:08:58 EDT 2010

Dear Vladimir:

Interesting read -- thanks!
Okay, but where is the misunderstanding? Can you 
try to nail it down further, if you have the time?
The response was only about (a) the Pak Hônyông 
text--as you summarized it, and (b) your own 
historical evaluation of that text 
("well-measured" and "there is little to add to 
[Pak's] analysis"). It was not a response about 
Pak's wider activities or the Communists' 
maneuvering and tactics in Korea. To clarify 
further from my end, I wanted to point out that 
anti-colonial activities of people that are 
counted into the nationalist (or radical 
nationalist) camp were also of great importance, 
had also influences, even though many of their 
acts had more symbolic importance than say the 
organization of labor strikes within Korea, short 
and long term influences. In your posting you 
quoted (or summarized) Pak Hônyông's text without 
distancing yourself from it, basically 
subscribing to its logic of >>only activities 
that involve the colonial masses and that aim at 
enhancing their life conditions are worth 
historic attention<< (or something in that line 
of thought). I would like to question that this 
(unrevised-old-style-Leftist) approach can be 
sustained. It could not even sustained in the 
1930s--could it?

>>  And Pak Hônyông, the person who could legitimately claim to
>>  represent their interests (...)

Well, again, that's one of the points, yes? Could 
he claim "legitimately" to represent anyone 
outside the Korean Communist Party? Was he 
elected by the workers (or even workers and 

>>  only in 1930-35  1,795 people were arrested in Korea in connection
>>  with the revolutionary workers' movement (...)

Everything is relative, especially statistics. 
For example, at the lengthy Minneapolis 
Teamsters' Strike ('Local 574') in 1934 alone, 
under Trotskyist leadership, 30 to 40,000 people 
marched for workers' rights (about half of them 
were workers). I didn't look it up, but likely 
there were more arrests done at that one strike 
than during the entire colonial period in Korea, 
as far as union  related arrests go -- and this 
was in just one American city. And in 
Berlin/Germany the same would be true for many 
early 1930s strikes and demonstrations, not to 
talk about the many almost clubbed to death by 
Weimar police. Statistics always only make sense 
in a wider context. What is the context here? The 
industrialization of Korea really only gathered 
speed in the late 1930s. In the 1920s the 
proletariat was small (you mention that there 
were no solidarity strikes until the late 1920s 
-- well, also because there were not that many 
workers). Then again, it might be useful to 
compare those strikes to strikes in Japan, where 
of course the labor movement and the leftist 
movement was far more active and organized than 
it ever was in Korea. If I now take the fact into 
account that Korea was during most of the 
colonial period NOT a fully industrialized 
country with an overwhelmingly large proletariat 
(what was the percentage of industrial workers by 
1945?), but rather a still rural society with 
still traditional feudal structures, etc., then 
maybe those nationalist "right-wing" acts of the 
Kim Ku type were after all not that meaningless 
for Koreans--at the minimum creating "heroes" to 
look up to.


Frank Hoffmann

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