[KS] Mein Kampf

Frank Hoffmann hoffmann at koreanstudies.com
Sat Aug 10 14:26:04 EDT 2013

Little to add to Professor Cumings' summarizing notes (based on his own 
research) about Yi Pŏm-sŏk, his Chosŏn Minjok Ch'ŏnngnyŏndan and 
Nazism. That all makes perfect sense. 

Maybe this: with the Internet and all its amazing possibilities of 
information gathering I noticed that some of my own perceptions are 
changing, caused by the connections we are now able to make, that 20 or 
30 years ago were just not visible so easily, because we could not make 
keyword and name searches in millions  and millions of documents, or 
even in "just" the major Korean newspapers. For a small piece I am 
preparing right now (that's how I got to that Yi Pŏm-sŏk quote) I am 
looking at Korean students in Europe during the 20s, 30s, and 40s, and 
while already having done exactly that many years ago, what I am now 
able to find is very amazing when it comes to how much details can be 
found, and what connections can now quickly be checked and established 
between the various 'players.' 

FOR EXAMPLE, Professor Cumings mentions "An Ho-sang [1902-1999], the 
first Minister of Education"--one of those who had studied in Nazi 
Germany, and indeed a convinced Nazi. I suppose that must be the reason 
why the Deutsch-Koreanische Gesellschaft e.V. (German-Korean 
Association) continuously honored this specialist of Hegel and a 
Koreanized version of Aryan race theory (_The Korea-Dong-I Race_, 
1972/1974) with short biographical essays until even after his death. 
In 1974 the West German government went as far as to award him the 
Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit (Verdienstkreuz 1. Klasse) for 
his continuous wonderful service to spread "German" "culture" to Korea. 
Alles ganz wunderbar, if people stick to their convictions!

But in spite of An's continuos role in all kind of organizations, 
mostly in Korean academia--and here I come with my note about the 
connections and details that do change (at least my) perceptions of 
what role which people played: An Ho-sang left Germany years before the 
Nazis came to power, was later mostly influenced (and consequently 
influenced others) by Nazist "philosophy" and various other 
publications, both from Germany and through his study of Japanese 
materials. But there is another player that is completely new to me, 
and that is Kang Se-hyŏng, born in 1899 (anyone finds out when he 
passed away, please let me know, thanks!). He had this typical 
upper-class career, got imprisoned for over half a year because of 
activities during the March First Movement, but then studied philosophy 
at both Waseda U and Sophia University in Tokyo. (As late as the late 
1980s, as I recall, I still met a professor from Sophia U praising 
Fascist ideologies in private conversations. And you can also see that 
if you go through their university journals, of the Philosophy Dept.) 
So, Kang Se-hyŏng got nicely prepared there with pre-Nazi nationalist 
and race theories. He then went on to Berlin and studied philosophy 
here, during the 1930s, and became an ardent propagator of Nazism and 
the Hitlerjugend (HJ, Hitler Youth) to Koreans (plenty of articles!). 
The Hitler Jugend organization thanked him in person. I only became 
ware of Kang by that mentioned Japanese scholar, Fujii Takeshi, just 
two days ago--am still looking into various documents. But yes, it 
seems he met and likely influenced Yi Pŏm-sŏk (when he visited). Kang, 
other than An Ho-sang, seems to have had a rather limited intellectual 
capacity--Kang did fall for the most brainless and barbaric Nazi 
slogans (even from a contemporary point of view), and he translated 
everything nicely into Korean (and Japanese)--did not even transform 
like An did with his "Dong-I Race" theory to East Asia. But what I see, 
after just going through a lot of documents, is that he was the guy 
that did actively split the Korean community in Berlin and the rest of 
Europe--that's how it looks to me. He was able to do so because of his 
work with and for the German-Japanese Society, which had a similar 
control and spy function than later the post -1945 cultural sections of 
embassies (e.g. the that of the ROK embassies). Koreans active in the 
cultural area, arts, literature, teaching at universities, etc., had to 
do most of that during the Nazi period by working with the 
German-Japanese Society. In any case, while no great intellectual but a 
man with a slave mentality and a devotee to pure Nazism, he still 
gathered power and and was one way or another seemingly convincing. At 
the other end of the scale, as a left-wing activist and amazing scholar 
(responsible for the standardization of today's Korean orthography) was 
Yi Kŭng-no (alias Li Kolu, 1893-1978) who had also studies philosophy, 
but actually was one of the most important Korean "Han'gŭl scholars," 
and the main organizer of Korean anti-Japanese demos in Germany and 
Europe. Both were at different times in Berlin, but both left their 
followers and organizations, as it now seems. After Kang Se-hyŏng had 
returned to first Japan, and later to Korea, he continued to be active 
in politics, became a member of the ROK National Assembly and the 
Director of Department of Defense (do I translate that correct? 국방부 
정훈국장). (His wife, by the way, Wikipedia knows it all, is former 
Prime Minister Lee Hoi-chang's aunt, which is not all too surprising: 
http://ko.wikipedia.org/wiki/강세형). Kang Se-hyŏng had his hay days in 
the late colonial period and the years after liberation, exactly as one 
of the main propagandists for the Chosŏn Minjok Ch'ŏnngnyŏndan, and 
other groups he tried to establish--all seemingly modeled on the 
paramilitary Hitlerjugend. After the Korean War, of course, and with a 
continued strong American lead and pressure for some sort of democracy, 
that was even too much for the Rhee government. Have a look at a 1955 
newspaper article, a very bitter-sarcastic attack against Kang, who is 
even (still being an Assembly man) declared a psychopath, a mental 
case, because of his open propagation of Nazi ideologies. The article, 
though, makes very clear that Kang himself was absolutely straight 
forward about all this, even declared himself to represent the "German 
faction" within the Assembly--that is the Nazi-trained 
ultra-nationalist faction. By 1955 his time of influence was over, but 
in the 40s he was the man.
There is *much* more to all this … will try to put part of that into 
the texts I mentioned.

Mentioned newspaper clip -- see below.

-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: KANG_1955.jpg
Type: image/jpeg
Size: 236863 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <http://koreanstudies.com/pipermail/koreanstudies_koreanstudies.com/attachments/20130810/48f3c359/attachment.jpg>
-------------- next part --------------

On Fri, 9 Aug 2013 22:34:27 -0400, Bruce Cumings wrote:
> It has been amusing to read the various posts on Kim Jong Un 
> allegedly handing out copies of Mein Kampf  to aides and associates. 
> First, the explicit or implicit assumption that this is just one more 
> good reason to revile this regime, more evidence of its depravity 
> (even though we have no proof that the story has any basis in fact); 
> then a couple of people point out that this book can also be found 
> fairly easy in South Korea; then the trail of this discussion grows 
> cold, until Frank brought us today's learned post by a Japanese 
> historian--with the tag that I might also have written about this 
> same phenomenon. I appreciate the reference and truly loathe tooting 
> my own horn. But my discussion of these very same things runs through 
> both volumes of my Origins of the Korean War--yet often I was just 
> representing what secret internal American reports in the late 1940s 
> said over and over again: that Yi Pom-sok's "Blue Shirts" were 
> offshoots of Chiang Kai-shek's fascist youth wing by the same name 
> (Chiang, of course, chose blue in the 1930s because black, brown and 
> green were already called for; Yi Pom-sok was just copying Chiang); 
> that the U.S. Occupation tried to clean up his Blue Shirts by 
> officially funding and sponsoring them as the Korean National 
> Youth--yet the KNY was secretly reported over and over again to have 
> been engaged in terrorist activities; that a more virulent "youth 
> group" (many members were in their 40s), the Northwest Youth, was a 
> self-proclaimed terrorist organization, wreaking havoc throughout the 
> South; that An Ho-sang, the first Minister of Education, was a clear 
> fascist who admired Hitler and German philosophy and had a degree 
> from Jena University in Germany (he was no dummy, a very interesting 
> man in many ways, who trumpeted the chuch'e idea--his version--in his 
> books and speeches; but still, a fascist); that the head of the Seoul 
> Metropolitan Police, Chang T'aek-sang, was another admirer of fascism 
> who was still sporting a Hitler/Tojo/Charlie Chaplin-style moustache 
> in 1947, when it had, so to speak, gone quickly out of fashion 
> elsewhere in the world--and on and on. Yi Pom-sok's leadership of the 
> KNY made him very powerful; he was South Korea's first Defense 
> Minister. You find in his writings of the time similar emphases as in 
> Dr. An's, if in short form: admiration for Hitler and fascism, 
> discussion of chuch'e, focus on "one singular, pure ethnic people," 
> namely the Korean minjok--and then of course we had Syngman Rhee's 
> ideology, Ilminjui, which Americans could never understand; this too 
> was a reflection of Chinese influence, but instead of Sun Yat Sen's 
> progressive Three People's Principles, you have Rhee's One People 
> Principle: Koreans first, Koreans always, Koreans forever. But one 
> can understand the popularity of such ideas: 80 years of history had 
> taught Koreans that if they don't look after their own interests and 
> focus on them, they can be sure no one else will.
> To study Korea as a foreign scholar is to engage in a profound 
> exercise in difference: in the late 1960s translations of Mein Kampf 
> were available in most book shops in Seoul, and on street book carts; 
> I saw them many times, but I did not know the meaning of what I was 
> seeing--what was the attraction of this book, which is mainly an 
> ignorant stew of racial and ethnic stereotypes? A leader whom I 
> admired from the late 1940s, Yo Un-hyong, like so many other leaders 
> at the time, referred to mein kampf--my struggle, naui t'ujaeng. That 
> doesn't make him a fascist, but it does make him different from 
> liberal imaginings. After he was assassinated in July 1947--with the 
> support and connivance of Chang's police, I am convinced--at his 
> funeral huge, swaying crowds carried signs saying this: Sun of the 
> Nation (minjogui t'aeyang). Need I point out that North Korea was 
> already saying the same thing about Kim Il Sung?
> People like Yo, Kim, An, and indeed both Korean regimes, came out of 
> an interwar milieu that had turned much of the world toward extremes 
> of left and right, with the middle ground falling away; liberalism 
> was barely breathing, except in the US and UK (and in both it was 
> also threatened by extremes of left and right). Yet always, always, I 
> would read internal laments by American officials that these very 
> same folks--Yo, Kim, An, Rhee--were not putting down the roots of 
> liberalism.
> Anyone who has read H. D. Harootunian's Overcome by Modernity would 
> not be surprised by Deputy Prime Minister Aso Taro's remark last week 
> about Hitler doing a good job in revising the Weimar Constitution. 
> These are outbursts from the political id of the rightwing of the 
> LDP. They are manifestations of a time when fascist ideology was 
> dominant in Japan, when Prime Minister Abe's grandfather, Kishi 
> Nobosuke, was a rising star in Manchukuo. Both Koreas emerged from a 
> similar interwar milieu. The occasional remnant signs of this past 
> are no more surprising then the continuing reverence among many 
> Lousianans for Huey Long, whose statue stands outside the Capitol 
> Building in Baton Rouge. 
> Santayana was not quite right when he said that those who cannot 
> remember history are bound to repeat it. It is more a matter of not 
> knowing history, of studying a country and a civilization going back 
> to antiquity without taking upon oneself the necessary labor of 
> trying to exclude one's own dearest beliefs, lest they cloud an 
> apprehension of Korea's very different historical roots.

Frank Hoffmann

More information about the Koreanstudies mailing list