Wednesday, February 24, 2010 0 comments

Muninn

I originally came across Konrad's blog through his efforts over at Frog in a Well, a collaborative history blog with dedicated entries for Korea, China and Japan. Normally I just read the Korean posts and I also make it a point to read the comments. Through a five part series he published, he caught my attention:
Early Western Perceptions of Koreans: Part I
Early Western Perceptions of Koreans: Part II
Early Western Perceptions of Koreans: Part III
Early Western Perceptions of Koreans: Part IV
Early Western Perceptions of Koreans: Part V

I would guess that most readers would not find his blog not extraordinary. It's a modest personal blog of a graduate student of East Asian history. What gets me is that he is very detailed about his research methods and writes down his thought process meticulously. Fortunately for me, I'm in a position to learn a lot from people who are in MA and PhD programs and Konrad's blog fits the bill to a T. One really gets a vicarious feeling from his frustrated posts about language study, sifting through archives in a Chinese library, finding a good program to organize pdfs for the dreaded dissertation and his helpful experiences as a Teaching Assistant. Notable posts include his: 2007 year in review, how to organize a jungle of pdfs, his thoughts on Hanja, Making choices in research methods, a great account of Foreigner Shock Meltdown, a nice background on the Seodaemun Prison Museum (서대문형무소 역사관),  faults of Archive Digitization, a surprising account of Anti-Korean sentiment in Taiwan, an entertaining post on code-switching, a three-part series on organizing information for dissertation writing, a new-fangled timesaving device known as a PDF scanner, and a little about his oral (general) exams. Thank you for blogging.

Kind readers, if there are any other blogs of this nature, for the love, share them.
UPDATE: Prison Notebooks will do nicely.
0 comments

Brief interview with a Korean History student

Similar to the email I had with the Seoul public school history teacher, a language school classmate's brother is studying Korean history here in Korea. What makes his story unique is that he's Japanese. The email is in Korean and other than the main points, I am unable to translate the whole email to post here. I'm sure with enough time and torture, I could do it but alas I seem to have more excuses than ability in Korean.

Essentially I asked him to tell me about his school life, how he got here, how's the program, etc. It's a pretty informal email but it did have some insight. I didn't realize he spoke such good Korean but then again, seeing as his classes are in Korean, he would have to be pretty fluent to catch everything in class.

Anyway, I asked him if he wouldn't mind me posting his response minus his name. I'm more than obliged to do so. Enjoy!
- - - - - - - - - -

안녕하슈~~ ^^ (죄송해요,, 이름을 보니깐 그냥 생각나서ㅋㅋ)
Matthew씨가 야후! 메일로 보내주셨는데, 야후 메일로는 한국말로 보내지 못해서 (글이 깨져버리기 때문에ㅡ;;)
네이버로 보내요ㅋㅋ


이야기는 제 누나한테서 대충 들었고요, (앗 아까도 말했군..)
제가 지금 다니는 학교가 <전남대학교>라 해서, 전라남도에 있는 대학교에요.
학생들이 대학교로 입학할라면 일단 다 서울쪽으로 가죠,
그치만 여기는 지방대 중에서는 그나마 괜찮은 대학교랍니다 ^^;
지방에서는 세 개 손가락으로 뽑힌다는 소리도,,,ㅋㅋㅋ 부산대, 경북대, 전남대~~


전남대에는 물론 외국인들을 대상으로 한국말을 가르치는 기관이 있어요,
뭐 언어교육원이라 하는데,,,,,,, 근데 여기는 별로 강하게 추천할 만한 데는 아닌 거 같고요..ㅠ ㅋㅋ
한국말을 제대로 배우고 싶으시면, 나중에 어느 대학교로 들어가든 간에, 일단 서울에서 하시는 게 제일 나울 듯해요.
그리고 나서 대학교를 골라야 되는데,

Matthew씨가 역사에 관심이 있다고 하셨죠?
구제적으로는 혹시 하고 싶은 시대가 정해져 있나요? ^^
저는 근대사를 전공해요, 근대 시기 목포(전라남도 바다쪽에 위치한 항구도시에요ㅎㅎ)의 도시 건설 과정에 대해 하고 있어요,
그래서 나중에 논문을 쓸 때 자료 수집을 하기 위해서 저 같이 지방사를 할 경우에는 연구 대상이 된 지방에서 가까운 것이 하나의 조건이 될거에요 ^^

그리고 한국 고대사, 중세사, 근세가, 근대사, 현대사... 여러 분야 중에, 각각에 실력이 뛰어난 교수님이 있단 말이에요ㅎㅎ
입학하기 전에 되도록이면 앞으로 하고 싶은 연구 분야, 시대 중에서 어떤 교수 밑에서 하는 게 좋을지, 교수를 알아보시는 게 좋을 거에요 ^^
덧붙여서 다른 분야에서도 마찬가지겠지만,
(성격 등등)잘 맞는 교수님, 잘 이해해주는(외국인에 대한 이해심이 많은) 선생님 밑에서 하는 것을 강추합니다ㅡ; ㅋ
자기가 하고 싶은 분야도 중요하지만, 교수와의 궁합 또한 중요해요..
아무튼 대학원에서 제일 중요한 것은 졸업논문이기 때문에, 일단 그것을 유념하시고,,,

수업 진행 방식은 왼만하면 다 한국어로, 물론 쌤들이 쓰는 말의 수준이 좀 높죠, 워낙 날마다 미친듯이 공부만 하는 사람들이다보니.. ㅋㅋ
그치만 자기 전공분야에서 쓰는 말만 알아도 어느정도 수업에 때라갈 수는 있을거에요 ㅎㅎ
물론 기본적인 어휘를 많이 알고 있으면 좋은데, 수업을 듣다보면 처음에는 뭔 말인지 이해못하다가
한달~한학기 정도 지나면  하는 말이 귀에 붙어서 익숙해질테니깐요ㅎㅎ
처음에는 힘들긴 하되 점점 이헤되기 시작하면 할만해요 ^^


우리 대학교 같은 경우에는 수업료가 한 학기에 한 180만원 정도 되요,,
물론 장학금 제도도 있으니까 전부가 아니어도 어느정도는 보상해줘요 ^^
저도 처음에는 장학금을 받았었는데 성적이 안좋으면
(보통 A를 유지해야 하는데 B이하를 받았을 때 - 보통 대학원에서는 아무리 공부를 못하더라도 그런 경우가 흔하지 않지만)
다음학게에는 장학금이 지급되지 않을 수도 있기 때문에 조심해야 되요,,
이것도 학교마다, 과마다 다르니까 많이 좀 알아볼 필요가 있겠죠,
근데 보통 외국인을 대상으로 한 장학금 제도가 있을테니까 많이 걱정 안하셔도 될 듯함,,
그리고 어떤 대학교에서 권력을 가진 선생님이 꼭 몇 명씩 있잖아요?ㅋ
거의 모든 일은 교수님에게 걸려있기 때문에ㅋㅋㅋ 잘되면 교수님이 그냥 알아서 다 챙겨주실거에요,,

기숙사는 우리 전남대가 유일하게 할 수 있는 자랑거리인가?ㅋㅋ일단 기숙사가 많아요ㅎ
우선 식사를 제공해주는 기숙사가 있는데,
이 기숙사에는 대략 한학기에 120만원 정도 들어요.(한달 20만원 정도?)
저같은 돈이 없는 불쌍한 외국인들은 싼 대신에 건물이 지저분한 기숙사로 입주해야 되는데ㅡ;ㅋㅋ 한학기 60만원 정도 해요(한달 약 10만원)
식사를 제공 안해준 대신에 취사실이라는 역시 지저분한 부엌이 있는데, 거기서는 가스를 쓰는 데 10분 100원인가? 코인을 넣아야 되요,,
그리고 두 기숙사에는 또 1인실이랑 2인실이 있는데, 1인실은 2인실 방 값의 두배를 내야 되요,,
200만원 넘는다는 말이죠,,ㅋ (식사 제공 안한 기숙사는 약 120만원이고)
밥이 나오는 기숙사에서는 따로 공용 샤워실이랑 개인 샤워실(화장실도 마찬가지고)이 비치된 방으로 나눠지는데,
물론 개인 방에 둘 다 비치된 방이 좋죠, 비용도 같으니까 ^^

근데 서울 쪽의 하교나 사립 대학교보다는, 국립 대학교가 전체적으로 모든걸 싸게 해결할 수는 있으니까 그런 부분에서는 좋아요ㅎㅎ
서울은 물가가 세니까,, 못 쓰것어,,,ㅋㅋ
기타 자세한 정보는 홈페이지에서 확인 해보세요~~ ㅋㅋ


전대 홈페이지

생활관 (기숙사)

인문대 사학과 (역사 학과를 말한 거임)


너무 많이 길어졌죠, 쏘리요ㅡ;
만나서 얘기할 수 있으면 좋은데 서울까지 머니까 못가겠음,,ㅋㅋ 아쉽네영ㅠ

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 0 comments

Free Korean History

Free is good. Knowledge should be free and a little free book or two now and then is always welcome. But as a good scholar should always keep in mind, consider the source of the information and analyze it's neutrality. Sometimes a hard thing to find on subjects like Dokdo. Here's a short list of free resources (other than the ones found in the sidebar of this blog):
If you know any other resources, please let me know!
Monday, February 22, 2010 0 comments

Korean History Journals

When it comes to my history of learning about Korea, I started lowtech by just listening to stories from family and friends about grandpa in the Korean War, my friend's mom making 김치 and of course those curious little rods of rice wrapped in seaweed from my buddy at my nanny's house when I was four years old. When I got older, I found some compelling articles from Korean newspapers and eventually a few interesting blogs that were written quite informally and oftentimes turned into mouthpieces of aggression and frustration. I then moved on to Korean culture overview books found at Barnes and Noble near my apartment in college. Once I thumbed through a few a got more specific and ventured into topics I didn't really know much about.

I would say that I'm only slightly above this stage now. I've amassed a decent collection but true knowledge isn't based on my accessibility of books and being able to read quickly. My next step is to get into academia. It's a bit intimidating seeing as how they can be a bit dry at times (not to mention lengthy). Nonetheless, I am genuinely interested in learning more and a few journals would certainly compliment my current hunger for printed material. First things first, what is out there? UPDATE: added three more.
If I'm missing any, please let me know!
2 comments

Where to buy history books about Korea?

I love getting new books. Something about the passing of knowledge in written form captivates me. I can't really express it more clearly than a restrained yet triumphant "아싸!".

Where is one to find English language materials? My Korean is not par enough to start reading Korean texts so in the meantime, I'm stuck acquiring new knowledge through my native language. There's many ways to get new books but it may not be as simple as one might guess. Despite the internet age, English language Korean history is still a relative niche in terms of accessibility. While far from impossible, living outside of Korea makes things considerably more difficult despite the modern convenience of worldwide delivery. I easily doubled my collection simply by living in Korea and having easy access to Korean bookstores. Normally the answer would be to order these same books over a Korean retailer's website and have them delivered internationally but we all know that a foreigner has a snowball's chance in hell in successfully ordering a product on a Korean website. So, if you live in Korea or are just visiting and want to pick up a few books during your visit, I would recommend the following places:
UPDATE: found a great link courtesy of the East Asian Libraries and Archives

- Living in Korea - 
영풍문고 - Yong Poong Bookstore
(한국어) (English) (Directions)
By far my favorite place simply because the English language section is huge. Furthermore, they have the best selection of rarities, translations of Korean literature, reprints and modern harder-to-find texts. I can't speak for their service because usually I just come in, look around and walk out with more than what I thought I was going to buy. The prices are more than reasonable. If you live in Korea, this is the place to go.

교보문고 - Kyobo Bookstore
(한국어) (English) (Directions)
The foreign book section is humongous but the Korean history books leave a lot to be desired. I can't fault them though - there's a lot to look through but you might have to hunt for them. In addition to the few shelves dedicated to Korean history, check over by the Korean language textbooks near the entrance. Plenty of reprints, culture guides, coffee table photo album books and the occasional gem or too. Kyobo also has a great ordering service. Free, quick and efficient. If it's in print and in the country, they can order for you. Just ask any of the many English speaking staff members.

밴디앤루니스 - Bandi & Lunis Bookstore
(한국어) (English) (Directions)
Don't write this one off just because there's too other power house mega-bookstores nearby. No joke - the three largest bookstores in Korea seem to be all within a stone's throw of 종각 (and 광화문). Bandi has a few other rarities in their modest section. What surprised me the most is the selection of Korean children's books in English, Fine Art texts and a few other curious additions. If you can't find what you're looking for, maybe these guys have it. Plus, it's right there in the subway stop - trust me when I say that if you've been in 종각, you've seen this bookstore.

What The Book?
(한국어) (English) (Directions)
I've personally never purchased from them but I imagine that they might be willing to help you if you were really in a jam. Other left-field choices include Aladdin books

- Living Outside of Korea -
Amazon
(한국어) (English
One would think such a gigantic online retailer like Amazon would have any book written in English that's ever been published but sadly many great books are simply not available for whatever reason. It's still a great resource and I use it for my wishlist and keeping track of prices but there are just some books that won't ever be on here for some reason. Still, it's still by far the best resource for online shopping worldwide.

Royal Asiatic Society
(한국어) (English) (Directions)
Korea's branch of the Royal Asiatic Society dates back to 1900 and has published numerous personal accounts, diaries, manuals, primers and other useful texts including their own journal Transactions. They ship domestically and internationally. I've purchased several seemingly out-of-print books with ease simply via email. Being a member doesn't hurt, either. RASKB has published countless classics.

Seoul Selection
(한국어) (English) (Directions)
Online retailer and brick and mortar publisher and distributer based in Seoul, Seoul Selection is how I find out when new Korea-specific books are published. Their website is easy to use but I must admit that I have yet to purchase a book from them. Regardless, they print English and Japanese language books about Korea including some under-the-radar gems. Not to be missed.

Half
(한국어) (English)
Ebay's textbook online retailer, I use Half when Amazon seems a bit pricey. I have countless bargains from this used and new book retailer.

Korean Historical Connection @ Hong-Ik University
(한국어) (English) (Directions)
Another service that I have yet to use but seems quite valuable. If you need a resource but don't know exactly what it is or what it might be called, get set up with them and they'll do the legwork for you and send it to you overseas.
- - - - - - - - -

Of course your local Barnes and Noble might have some of the more common books but honestly with the ease of Amazon's internet interface and low prices, it's hard to justify a brick and mortar shop for this type of product. Let's face it, Korean history is not the best-selling genre that fiction or self-help is.

If you're just looking to copy or peruse through some archives, I've got the link for you. Here's a list of libraries and archives in Korea.

UPDATE: A similar post with helpful pointers can be found over at Korean Modern Literature in Translation.
Thursday, February 18, 2010 1 comments

Know your 'Hak'

I don't know about you, but when I read about trouble in old Korea involving social upsetting movements and just all around blasphemy, I can't help but get my 'haks' mixed up. Which 학 is which? It seems we have three flavors to choose from: 실, 동, 서. A brief summary if I may.

UPDATE: In research for this small post, I was disappointed to find that there was no wikipedia article on Seohak. So I created one. Ah.. you never forget your first...But it soon turned into a case of "If you give a mouse a cookie...". Once I created that page, I also went on to create a page on the Catholic Persecution of 1801, the founder of Donghak, beefed up a few other related pages and added a few links here and there. It turned into a few several hour project but I'm happy with it. I'm actually starting to accumulate a decent contribution history. My contributions aren't perfect but they should get the ball rolling for future edits.


Silhak (한글:실학, 한자:實學, "Practical Learning")
(실 = practical, actual) (학 = school of thought, studies)
Sometimes written as Sirhak, this movement was a social reform movement originating after the 1592 Japanese Invasion (임진왜란). Essentially, this reform movement was an attempt at Korean nationalism and a self-identity separate from China's ever present sphere of influence. It gained momentum by appealing to the lower classes who had a lot to look forward with such promised improvements. It's also intrinsically tied to the introduction of Christianity (namely Catholicism) into Korea. Although they were not mutually exclusive, not all Silhakers were Seohakers (yes I just created those terms).

Donghak (한글: 동학, 한자: 東學, "Eastern Learning")
(동 = east)
This "Oriental Culture" movement was deemed a religion but like all religions, many of the precepts are philosophical in nature. The donghaks are noted for cutting their long hair short. Donghak, unlike the other movements, had a distinct leader and founder (Choe Je-u). This movement was established in 1860 and was fiercely opposed to the Seohaks. They still exist today in an evolved form known as 천도교.

Seohak (한글: 서학, 한자: 西學, "Western Learning")
(서 = west)
Many of the Silhakers (yes, there's that made-up term again) were also active in this movement. This was essentially the introduction of Catholicism to Korea. It also brought with it western technologies but was initially dismissed as a Buddhism knock-off. What's important to note is that Seohak represented social and religious change that was considered dangerous. Subsequently, many Seohak believers were persecuted. 
Wednesday, February 17, 2010 0 comments

Korean and Japanese textbook differences

Objectivity is something that I imagine all good teachers, historians and writers strive for when interpreting history. Of course I am viewing the world through my own unique cultural lens as we all are but I try to view history without taking a modern agenda but like all human beings, it's hard not to listen to the little angel and devil on your shoulder sometimes.

I ran across this chart last week on VANK's website and although I haven't really delved into it, I still wanted to share it. Before you take it all to heart, perhaps a trip to wikpedia's entry on VANK is well worth a few moments of your time. "Consider the source" my mother always said.

Speaking of which, I cannot for the life of me find the original article as listed at the bottom of the chart. Anyone have a link?

UPDATE: I forgot to link back to what got me thinking about this in the first place. Japan recently apologized to Korea. Why? Read on, kind reader.

Subject
What Japanese Textbooks say
Korean Analysis
Mimana: Ancient Japanese occupation post in Korea
* Japanese forces from the Yamato court advanced to the Korean Peninsula across the sea and established a military outpost named Mimana.*The Yamato forces formed an alliance with Paekche and Silla to fight against Koruryo during the Three Kingdoms Period in Korea (in the late 5th century).
*Koguryo suffered serious setbacks due to resistance from Japanese forces based in Mimana and Paekche
* Yamato failed in its attempt to advance further into the peninsula and retreated from Mimana.
* Despite their research for the last five decades on the theory that Japan operated a military outpost named Mimana in Korea, both Korean and Japanese historians have failed to verify this theory.* This is a clear mistake.  According to the epitaph for King Kwanggaeto of Koguryo, the forces of Koguryo participated in the battle to assist Silla on Silla's request, and drove away the invading Japanese forces 
* Such a description is possible only when it is based on the hypothesis that Japan had its forces permanently deployed in Korea. But there are no historical records from Korea relating to Japan's activities on the Korean Peninsula, not to mention its operation of a permanent outpost of any sort. So, the description must be deleted.
Relations among the Three Kingdoms in the late fourth century
* Koguyro made a strong offensive against the other two Korean kingdoms - Paekche and Silla - which ruled southern regions of the peninsula.
* This is a clear distortion of historical facts.  Koguryo supported Silla in the latter half of the fourth century.
Internal and external relations of the Three Kingdoms in the sixth century
* Koguryo began to wane and so did Wei, a northern Chinese dynasty that supported Koguryo.* Koguryo and Silla formed a military alliance and stepped up their offensive against Paekche.
* This argument is groundless. In the sixth century, Koguryo confronted Wei militarily.* This is an indisputable error.  In fact, the two small kingdoms of Silla and Paekche formed an alliance to cope with the southern advance of Koguryo.
Three Kingdoms' diplomatic relations with Yamato
* Koguryo suddenly approached the Yamato court, while Silla and Paekche began to offer tributes to Yamato.
* This argument is solely based onNihon Shoki, an ancient Japanese history book whose credibility is widely questioned as it combines legends and facts. (No historical records in Korea and China mention Korea's tributary relations with Japan at this time.)
Japanese pirates
* The Japanese pirates known by the name of wako included Koreans as well as Japanese.  But, in fact, the majority of the pirates were Chinese.
* Wako is described as pirates who included Koreans and Chinese, in order to give the impression that wako pirates were not solely comprised of Japanese people.
Korea's state name
I* General Vi Song-gye brought down the Koryo Dynasty and established the Yi Choson in 1392.
* "Yi Choson," a derogative name used by the Japanese colonialists, is used again, instead of the official name of the dynasty, Choson.
Hideyoshi Invasion of Korea
* The title reads "Sending Troops to Korea."* Toyotomi Hideyoshi sent troops to Choson as part of his grandiose dream of conquering Ming China. The second stage of his plan was to conquer India.
*As a result of Japan dispatching its troops, the land of Choson and the lives of the people were remarkably dilapadated.
* The historical fact that Japan invaded Korea is concealed with the passive description that it "sent troops."* Causes of the invasion are attributed merely to Hideyoshi's personal illusion of conquering Ming China.
* Description of the damage caused by the Japanese troops is scaled down.
Korean emissary to Japan
* The Bakufu military government of Japan re- stored diplomatic relations with Choson (in the wake of the Hideyoshi Invasion).*Choson dispatched royal emissaries whenever a new shogun, or supreme military leader, took office.
* A Japanese trading post for commercial activities with local Koreans was opened in the southern Korean port of Pusan.
.The postwar normalization of diplomatic relations between Korea and Japan was made possible by the relentless efforts of Japan's shogun, Tokugawa leyasu. Such a simple description of the final result might lead to the misunderstanding of the entire process.*Korean diplomatic delegations are simply labeled as congratulatory royal emissaries, without duly describing the purpose of their visits or Japan's purpose of inviting them.
.By stating that the trading post was set up by Japan as part of its administrative system, the fact that the Korean government permitted Japan to establish the post has been ignored.
Korea's perception of Western powers and its international status
* East Asian countries were, in general, not fully aware of the imminent military threats from the Western imperial powers (in the late 19th century).* Choson; which was a vassal state of China, was no exception.
*Korea's response to the military threats of Western powers is downplayed by comparing it with the Japanese way of (effectively) dealing with them.* Korea is erroneously defined as a "vassal state" of China. There is no explanation of the China-centered tributary system in dynastic times, or how a tributary state differed from modern colonies.
Korea and the pre-modern international order in East Asia
* Chosun (Korea) and Vietnam were both conquered by the successive Chinese dynasties, but Japan remained independent of the China-centered world order and enjoyed freedom.
* The nature of pre-modern relations among nations in East Asia is distorted.  Recognition of new monarchs and the offering of tributes constituted a diplomatic formality between China and the smaller countries that surrounded it in pre-modern times. China never interfered with Korea's internal affairs.* Japan, in contrast to Korea, is mistakenly defined as an "independent sovereign state;' omitting the fact Japan remained a part of China's tributary system until the 17th century.
Juxtaposing the social characteristics of Korea and Japan
* There is a theory that China and Choson (Korea) couldn't successfully cope with the (military) threats from Western powers because their societies had traditionally been ruled by Confucian scholar-officials (unlike feudal Japan, which was built around military values.)
* This is an account intended to promote the unfounded view that Japan's military society was superior to the civilian social systems of China and Korea, thus implicitly justifying Japan's aggression into these countries in later years.
"Punish Korea" Campaign
* In 1873, a group of Japanese military activists contended that Japan should launch a military attack on Korea in punishment for disrespectfully refusing Japan's official request to open its ports.* It main proponent, Takamori Saigo, volunteered to die a sacrificial death in Korea in order to provide Japan with an excuse to attack Korea.
* The overall background leading to Korea's refusal is ignored. The background is deliberately ignored to defend Japan's attempts to abrogate traditional diplomatic procedures between the two countries.* This account is misleading because it is based on a hypothesis that Saigo might have been murdered in Korea.
Kanghwa Island Incident
* A skirmish broke out between Japan and Choson off Kanghwa Island as Japanese warships took measurements, as well as conducting other activities, in a show of force without Choson's permission.
* It is not stated that Japanese warships intentionally provoked Choson into opening fire, not to mention who triggered the skirmish, why and how.
Threat from Korea
* The Korean Peninsula is tantamount to a forearm protruding from the continent to Japan.*If the Korean Peninsula came under control of a nation antagonistic to Japan, it could be used as a launching paid for an invasion of Japan.
* Japan's invasion of Korea is justified as indispensable for its security through the description of the Korean Peninsula as an intimidating geographical position.  Likewise, both the Sino-Japanese and the Russo-Japanese wars were justified as inevitable for the cause of Japan's self-defense.
Japan's plans to neutralize Choson
* Some Japanese government officials argues that Japan should request to other concerned nations that they sign a treaty to neutralize Choson and that Japan must strengthen its military to guarantee Choson's neutrality.
* A short debate on the possibility of neutralizing Choson in the Japanese government has been overstated with the intention to whitewash Japan's oppressive policy in Korea.* The fact that Japan's military buildup was aimed at occupying Choson by force has been covered up.  Instead, it is incorrectly stated that Japan reinforced its military to help  Choson maintain its neutrality.
Modernization of Choson and its relations with Japan
* Since Choson opened its doors to the outside world, Japan has supported the military reforms of the Korean dynasty as part of its efforts toward the modernization of Choson. It was vital to the security of Japan that Choson developed into a modern state capable of self-defense without yielding to foreign domination.
* Japan's intention to expand its influence on Choson is covered up. It is portrayed as if Japan contributed to Korea's independence through its military assistance, which is a gross distortion of historical facts.
Sino-Japanese conflict over Choson
* Qing China came to regard Japan as a prospective enemy for fear of losing control over Choson, which was its last potent tributary state.* In 1884, Km Ok-kyun lead a coup...but the Qing military effectively quelled the pro-Japanese forces.
* This is a unilateral description of confrontation between Qing and Japan over Choson.  In fact, Japan considered China to be a potential enemy.* Kim Ok-kyun and his fellow progressives are mistakenly defined as a pro-Japanese party.
Tonghak movement of farmers and the Sino-Japanese War
*In 1894, a peasant insurrection called the "Tonghak Riot" broke out in the southern region... the Tonghak Party was a group of people who believed in the "Eastern Learning" as opposed to the 'Western Learning" which referred to Catholicism.*Peasant militias approached Hansong, the capital of Choson.
* Choson asked China to send troops... Japan also dispatched its forces to Korea under an agreement with China... a military collision broke out between Japan and China, which led to the Sino-Japanese War.
.Tonghak was a movement against the corrupt government and foreign forces, so it is inappropriate to refer to it as a "riot." It is also misleading to reduce the peasant movement to a movement of a certain religious group.* This is an unquestionable mistake.  Tonghak militias did not "approach the capital," but they only occupied the city of Chonju in the south.
.Japan sent its troops to Korea under a strategy to provoke a war with China. Itwas not a mere countermeasure to cope with China's action.
Russo-Japanese War
* Russia constructed a military base in the northern part of Choson. * It was evident that Russia's military in the Far East would grow so powerful that Japan could hardly match it ...The (Japanese) government decided to wage a war against Russia before it was too late.
* After the war ended, Russia recognized Japan's rule of Korea (Choson)...It was a momentous war that brought victory to a non-white race of people over Russia, an empire of white people with the world's largest army.  The victory inspired tremendous hope for independence among the oppressed nations around the world.
*It was not a military base but in fact lumber camps that Russia built in northern Korea.* Although Japan instigated the war against Russia, it is erroneously stated that the war broke out because Japan felt threatened by the Russian military.
*Japan's true aim was to secure hegemony over the Korean Peninsula and Manchuria.  But it is deliberately covered up and the conflict is glorified as a "war between races."
*It is erroneously stated that Japan gained recognition of its domination of Choson and at the same time gave hope for independence to other oppressed nations.
Forcible annexation of Choson
* The Japanese government believed that Korea had to be annexed to guarantee Japan's security and protect the interests of Manchuria.  Britain, the United States, and Russia held each other in check to prevent their rivals from strengthening their influence on the Korean Peninsula.  They did not oppose Japan's annexation of Korea because they believed it would help stabilize East Asia.* There were some voices within Korea accommodating Japan's annexation.
* The forcible nation of Japan's aggression and the process of annexation of Korea are covered up in this passage.  Annexation is described as an act carried out with international recognition.* Descriptions of nationalist struggle by the militia and the individual patriotic activities, including the assassination of Ito Hirobumi by Ahn Jung-gun, are minimized, while a limited number of pro-Japanese Koreans are deliberately highlighted.
Development of the colonized Korea
* For the colonized Korea, Japan pushed ahead with development projects, building railroads and improving irrigation facilities.
* The description reflects the opinion of the Japanese colonialists who insisted that Japan's development projects contributed to the modernization of Korea and benefited its people.  But they were in fact designed to facilitate Japan's colonial rule and exploitation of Korea.
The Great Earthquake in 1923 and Koreans
* At the time of the Great Earthquake that shook the Kanto region on Sept.1 , 1923, rumors spread that Koreans and socialists were attempting to exploit the chaos to engage in subversive activities. Therefore, Japanese civilian security forces killed Koreans and Chinese.
* The massacre by the Japanese military and police has been covered up. Despite that most of those killed were Koreans (about 7,000), the victims are lined up in the order of "socialists, Koreans and Chinese" for the purpose of playing down the sacrifice of Koreans that was the core of the incident.
Forced  conscription
* Conscription for wartime labor and military service also took place in the colony.* Young Korean men who volunteered for conscription (picture caption). In Korea, a voluntary draft system was implemented... Many ordinary Koreans, including women and children. fell victim to the policy.
* It is not clearly stated ho the conscripted workers were exploited.* The forcible nature of the draft system is distorted to suggest that Koreans voluntarily participated in the war.
Sexual slavery
* Omitted
* Two special reports on military slavery and sexual crimes in wartime, which have recently been submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, denounced Japan's use of the "comfort women" as a wartime crime against humanity.*The Japanese government also admitted in a statement in August 1993, that the Japanese army was involved in the establishment and operation of military brothels and that the "comfort women" were mobilized, moved (to the battlefields) and managed against their will both by coercion and cajolery.
Assimilation policy
* In Korea, Japan stepped up  its policy to assimilate Koreans into the Japanese society.* Koreans were forced to assimilate in ways worthy of being considered "people of the Emperor."
* The policy to Japanize the Korean people is not clearly explained.  Nor is it sufficiently described how Japan exploited Korea.  The Korean people are vaguely treated as part of the Japanese nation, thereby misrepresenting the nature of Japan's colonial policy.* Details of the assimilation policy are ignored. It must be stated that Koreans were forced to pay homage at Shinto shrines, adopt the Japanese family names and learn Japanese, etc.
Korean War
* The UN forces under the command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur made a counterattack...Chinese troops sided with the North Koreans.* The war situation became stalled near the existing borderline of 38 degrees north latitude.
* The South Korean forces are ignored as the war is depicted as a conflict between the UN forces against the allied forces of China and North Korea.* The 38th parallel is mistakenly referred to as the national border, giving the impression that Korea has been divided for a long time.


by Choe Yong-shik, Hwang Jang-jin and Kim Min-hee, The Korea Herald May 9, 2001
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Book Review: The Dawn of Modern Korea

Title: The Dawn of Modern Korea
Author: Andrei Lankov
Paperback: 376 pages
Publisher: EunHaeng NaMu (December 10, 2007)

ISBN-10: 895660214X
ISBN-13: 978-8956602141





Dawn of Modern Korea is a light collection of beefed-up articles originally published at the Korea Times by North Korean expert and Kookmin University professor Andrei Lankov. The collection reads smoothly cover to cover as well as in a non-contiguous manner. Curious about the establishment of the Blue House, telephones or Chilsung Cider? Turn to the chapter and have at it. This book is full of firsts and more than likely whatever you're thinking of is bound to be in here.

One of my favorite aspects of the book is the inclusion of both romanization systems. When a new term is introduced in Korean, the author provides the word in both the McCune–Reischauer and Revised Romanization. I hope other authors follow this trend in absence of printing the actual word in Korean in parathesis.

One also has to respect a man whose first language is not English to write such a good book. Having said that, there is a certain flair that is missing from this book. The articles are a bit formulaic and somewhat dry. The point gets across but there's little fun in getting from point A to point B. The occasional turn of phrase and tongue-in-cheek reference are delightfully appreciated but they are few and far between.

In addition, the photos included are a mixed blessing. They compliment the book nicely and appropriately in many cases but in several articles they just seem so out of place. In one instance the subject was about the original author of the national anthem but the included photo was of an intersection. Furthermore the cover of the book is used twice - one quite appropriately about the first automobile and the other for a section on prostitution. One can't help but get the 'working the street corner' vibe from this curious choice.

If it sounds like I'm ripping the book apart rest assure that I had a blast reading it. Although Lankov's writing style isn't my favorite, I like Lankov's approach and choice of topics. The histories more than make up for whatever writing flair may or may not be missing from this excellent collection of firsts. It's a good read and well worth reading.

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It's a shame that this book might get compared to Robert Neff's arguably better recent publication because this book is good in its own right. I like both for similar reasons but I still prefer Neff's depth and story-telling ability over Lankov's 'just the facts, ma'am' overview. Plus, Lankov's book had a few more typographical errors than is usually acceptable for a print. When the error count gets to be close to ten, it gets harder to forgive.

But like I mentioned, this is still a good read full of great history and well worth picking up for anyone looking for an introduction to Korea's transition to modernity. Professor Lankov's work is indeed a stand alone accomplishment with a wide appeal.
Monday, February 8, 2010 0 comments

Book Review: The Founding of Catholic Tradition in Korea

Title: The Founding of Catholic Tradition in Korea
Author: Yu Chai-shin
Paperback: 212 pages
Publisher: Asian Humanities Press (January 2002)

ISBN-10: 0895818922
ISBN-13: 978-0895818928 





This book is the red-headed stepchild of prominent texts on Catholicism in Korea. First and foremost, little is published about this book so I was both a bit curious and skeptical at first. I have been pleasantly surprised before by hidden gems but this book was merely a reprint of six essays from the late 1980s sandwiched in between a preface and epilogue by the editor. Yawn.

Each of the essays have a different author save for one repeat author who thankfully happens to be the best of the bunch. Unfortunately for an English speaking audience all content seems to have been originally written in Korean and translated later or written by those whose first language is not English. I'm not criticizing the book solely on this point but there are times when there's a grammatical or spelling error on every single page of the book. It becomes not only distracting but it hurts the overall argument of the book. It's sloppy mistake to an already dry book.

I can't criticize for not trying as there are some interesting pieces to be found but that doesn't excuse the confounded first chapter and that all-too-common uniquely Korean propaganda voice appearing in the last two chapters. A lack of any sort of art or photos makes this already questionable title a less polished presentation. Furthermore, I can't seem to find a definite answer as to when this book was actually originally organized. 1990? 2002? 2004?

Ultimately, I finished the book in a bad mood because it left more questions than it answered. I purchased it because I was curious about Korea's history of Catholicism and while I was able to pick up some very interesting bits from the late 1800s I was shocked to find very little post-Korean war material despite an entire chapter devoted to this very period. The saving graces is the editor's mildly interesting epilogue on indigenization and the third chapter titled "The Chosun Government's Measures Against Catholicism". Other than that, look somewhere else because this isn't what you're looking for.

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It's a shame because I had high hopes for this one. I'm not too bummed because I saw another book along the same lines in waiting. Also, recently I ran across an oldie that seems to be a bit thicker and probably closer to what I was looking for in the first place. Oh well. Better luck next time.
 
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