[KS] assessing historical meanings - Mr. Yoon

vladimir.tikhonov at ikos.uio.no vladimir.tikhonov at ikos.uio.no
Wed Sep 15 03:20:40 EDT 2010

Dear Frank, thank you very much for the detailed explanations on your
views. Now it looks as if we mostly agree with each other: that Stalinism
did cause enormous damage to the radical movements in colonial Korea (and
elsewhere) is irrefutable truth, and that Pak Hônyông, very unfortunately,
was just too disciplined a Communist to doubt the Comintern or Stalin's
line, is what most people who research on him (Yun Haedong, An ChaesOng,
Im KyOngsOk and others) say too. It is not, of course, that every
colonial-time Communist was a doubt-free Moscow follower - for one good
example, Kim Ch'Olsu, a Waseda graduate, Pak's rival in the fraction
struggles of the 1920s and long-term prisoner in the colonial prisons in
the 1930s, was in favour of much softer position on the issues of legal
vs. illegal work or collaboration with the colonial bourgeois-nationalist
mainstream than Comintern or Pak. Then, you have the people like Cho
Pongam - whose long-felt discontent about Stalin and Stalinism moved him
in the end, in 1946-47, from Communist onto the Social Democratic
positions. What his subsequent fate shows, however, was that in the realm
of Syngman Rhee's white terror, no "democratic socialism" talks would save
your life if you were deeemed really dangerous to the powers to be.

There is, however, one principal point on which I will it difficult to
agree with your position. It is the question of the relationship between
the world-historical phenomena and their local - that is, Korean, -
incarnation. I would view this relationship as rather dialectic (in the
Marxist sense of the word) than simply mechanical - that is, would rather
pay more attention to the quantitative (and resulting qualitative) changes
these phenomena undergo in the Korean context. After all, as even
postcolonial studies tell us, all things are being negotiated, and the
"locals" are not simply recipients of global teachings or trends - they
have the agency of their own. You, for example, probably agree with the
statement that Christianity, while hardly seen as a progressive force in
late 19th C. Europe or USA, did play a certain progressive role in
pre-colonial or early colonial Korea - by promoting female education, for
example. Then, why should we overlook the possibility of the independent
agency in the Korean Communists' case as well? After all, there
programme-minimum including mostly the points on which their potential
electorate would enthusiastically agree (radical land reform, 8 hours
working days etc.), regardless of any Comintern or Stalins' wishes.
Absolute majority of Communist-led strikes were fought on local, concrete
demands, first and foremost. And Pak Hônyông's dim view of nationalist
diehards and the ideological dangers their bomb-throwing tactics might
imply - could not it be as much a product of his own experience in dealing
with this sort of public as it was an outcome of Moscow-produced theories?

Best wishes,


> 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
> --
> --------------------------------------
> Frank Hoffmann
> http://koreaweb.ws

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