[KS] Origin of term "자연부락"?

Knoob, Stefan stefan.knoob at asia-europe.uni-heidelberg.de
Thu Jun 30 12:44:01 EDT 2016

Dear Tommy,

The claim that 자연 부락 (or 자연 촌락) is a Japanese colonial invention or indeed a Japanese concept is certainly false. To confirm this, all you need to do is to google the Hanca version 自然 部落 ㅐor 自然 村落 and you will see that there is not a single Japanese language source that pops up with this term. (There are, however, lots of Chinese-language results which I am not qualified to interpret). Equally, Japanese on-line dictionaries only produce blanks for this term. It is, however, probably correct that - like so many other academic or administrative terms - the term 부락 in its modern usage was imported to Korea from Japan, where the term 部落 was originally used at least since the Meiji restoration as a Japanese administrative and human-geographic term corresponding to the English-language word "hamlet" or "settlement". That is a small size village unit consisting of no more than a small number of houses. Probably the same goes for 촌락 though Japanese dictionaries suggest that 村落 in Japanese has a somewhat different meaning as a higher-order term referring to any type of village.

Anyway, in this technical usage the term 部落 was also used about small Korean settlements by Japanese academics as one can see if one googles "朝鮮 部落". An example mentioned by Korean internet discussants is the Japanese geographer Zenshu Eisuke who used it in studies on consanguineous villages 同族部落 though in other contexts he used 聚落 or 農村. Another title I found was a small 1924 booklet published by the Government General entitled 朝鮮部落調查報告. So it looks like Japanese academics used it for Korean village settlements in line with the usage as a term of human geography in Japan at the time. Korean websites make much of this fact to conclude that Koreans should not use this word anymore as it smells of Japanese Colonial oppression. These websites also mention the above academics and they were of course associated with the Government General but I have not been able to confirm whether the term was actually widely used by the administration. Certainly Google searches of "朝鮮 部落" don't yield any evidence in this direction.

A further twist in the matter is the fact that the Japanese term 部落, although initially a technical term in human geography, has become strongly associated with the Japanese outcast class of Executioners, Undertakers, Slaughterers and Tanners that were historically called Eta 穢多. Roughly corresponding to the 백성, people in this class were considered absolutely unclean and the class was associated with such strong tabooisation that many Japanese dictionaries did not contain the Taboo term eta 穢多 until at least the late 1980s (the big Kenkyusha Japanese-English dictionary that I possess is an example). After segregation was legally abolished following the Meiji restoration, administrators involved in identifying Eta-settlements, a task originally undertaken for the purposes of integration policy, started using the term tokushu buraku 特殊部落 for these settlements. This then lead to the emergence of the term burakumin 部落民 as a euphemistic term to replace the taboo term eta and it also became used by the political associations representing these people themselves. As a consequence of this, the term 部落 is now commonly understood as referring to the former Eta ghettos, many of which remained ostracised and/or underdeveloped well into the 1980s and 1990s. And like any term associated with discrimination, the term 特殊部落 itself is now considered by many to be derogatory and has been ​abandoned for the new term Dowa Chiku 同和地区 (assimilation districts) and the word Burakumin 部落民 for Dowa Chiku Shusshinsha 同和地区出身者. In addition, as Buraku 部落 came to take on the meaning of "outcast ghetto" it started to be used in the combination 朝鮮人部落 to refer to areas with high concentrations of Koreans.

Against this background, the fact that the Japanese origin of 부락 is worth remarking upon (let alone worth criticising) must be understood in terms of the interplay between Korean sensitivities about the violence and discrimination of Japanese rule and the association of the Japanese term 部落 with the discrimination against the Eta/Burakumin, as well as the Koreans in Japan. There is, however, no evidence that the Japanese scholars and administrators of the colonial period used this word as anything but in its original usage as a technical term. Insofar, the Korean adoption of the word 부락 ist just as problematic or unproblematic as the adoption of the term 회사 or 국가 or 도시 or 민족 or 공산주의  or any other of the myriad Chinese-character-based words that were either coined or given its modern meaning by the Japanese.

To conclude, the term 부락 in its modern-day usage is probably adopted from the Japanese 部落 in its technical usage as a term of human geography as it was common through the first half of the 20th century. There is, on the other hand, little evidence that it was used in the discriminatory sense that has become dominant during the past 50-60 years. Lastly, the term 자연 부락 has never existed in Japan but was a coinage originating in Korea, probably during the "National Romantic" phase of the Park Chung Hee era. The fact that the supposed origin 자연 부락 in Japanese(surely false) and the origin of 부락 in the Japanese of the colonial period (probably true) are such an issue has probably to do with strong association of the Japanese term 部落 with discrimination of "unclean" or "second-class" minority groups in Contemporary Japanese. But, to reemphasise, it is not likely to have been used in this discriminatory sense during the colonial period.

I hope this sheds some light on the issue for those interested and will, of course, be happy to stand corrected if somebody unearthes other facts




Dr. Stefan Knoob
Lecturer in Korean Language and Korean Studies

Exzellenzcluster "Asia and Europe"
Karl Jaspers Centre
Voßstraße 2, Building 4400
69115 Heidelberg
From: Koreanstudies <koreanstudies-bounces at koreanstudies.com> on behalf of TOMMY TRAN <ogedei at ucla.edu>
Sent: 29 June 2016 23:35
To: koreanstudies at koreanstudies.com
Subject: [KS] Origin of term "자연부락"?

Dear all,

While working on dissertation research in Cheju, a local intellectual and colleague informed me that "자연부락" (or 자연촌락) was a Japanese colonial invention. The term is still used on Cheju among geographers (notably in the 제주도지 [2006]) and for tourism reasons. I was wondering if anyone knows when this term came into being and how long has it been used in Korea. Also, are there any particular books or articles (in Korean or in English) on the topic?

Best regards,
Tommy Tran
Graduate Student
University of California Los AngelesT
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