[KS] assessing historical meanings - Mr. Yoon

Frank Hoffmann hoffmann at koreaweb.ws
Fri Sep 10 16:05:00 EDT 2010

Thank you Vladimir. Again a very interesting 
read. What you explain now makes sense to me. I 
just like to add this:

What is highly fascinating is that many of the 
leftist activists (from colonial Korea and China) 
were active well into the 1960s--turned down 
somewhat, and oftentimes 45 degrees turned in 
direction (e.g. as Social Democrats). But when 
first looking at the political history of the ROK 
after liberation to the 1960s I was quite amazed 
to see this. It was unexpected to find all the 
same names re-appearing again and again, 
reshuffling their resources over and over and 
building one new party after another. They all 
only disappeared in the later 1960s, in most 
cases for natural reasons, having become aged or 
passing away, parallel to Pak Chung Hee's 
tightening of the grip, it seems.

Many historians will probably agree with your 
analysis and evaluation (in your last response) 
of post-liberation South Korean creations of 
heroic figures and all the overtones. What I 
still question though is the role and judgement 
of Communist leaders like Pak Hônyông: as you 
mentioned, Moscow in 1932 was not exactly a place 
for free and independent thinkers. That's put 
very mildly! When you look through the published 
memories or diaries or letters (of people like Yu 
Rim and other leftist activists) you will find 
that many engaged young Koreans who would 
otherwise very likely have followed the Communist 
cause were completely turned off by reading about 
the circumstances of Stalin's takeover in 1924, 
and other Bolshevik suppression strategies even 
before that. Now, you can separate the Korean 
Communists from Moscow--but then, you obviously 
cannot when quoting Pak Hônyông who physically 
sits in Moscow while making such a statement. 
What I mean is that there were quite a number of 
young engaged Koreans out there who, already in 
the 1920s, saw the signs of the time, the signs 
for an extremely brutal dictatorship--Stalin and 
his Party murdering or putting into the Gulag 18 
million people, as we know by today. Why would 
the views of someone who just received the 
blessings by such a brutal dictator in Moscow be 
considered to have "well-measured" views of the 
situation, where even today "there is little to 
add to"? THAT is what I had some problems 
with--in your first response. That seems 
romaticizing the early Communist movement and 
their leaders. While what you pointed out in your 
last response about the construction of South 
Korean heroic figures makes perfect sense, 
establishing someone like Pak Hônyông and his 
1932 views as a moral counterpart to that has a 
taste of the grotesque to it, also if you 
consider how the North of the country looks today.

Best wishes,

Frank Hoffmann

More information about the Koreanstudies mailing list