Sources: Yun Naehyeon “Our Ancient History” – What is it we must currently do?

The following is a translation of the sixth chapter of Part V from Yun Naehyeon’s Our Ancient History.

V – 6. What is it we [Koreans] must currently do?

If we look at our history, the early period of Old Joseon possessed a high level of culture that rivaled China and Japan, but moving down through the historical periods, the phenomenon arose of slowed development. The result was that a circumstance arose [in which] during the later [premodern] era the power of the country and level of culture were behind China, and then in the modern period it even fell behind Japan.

Various causes could be suggested for the arising of this situation but two can be given as most fundamental. One is the geographic position of our country, the other is our stance (자세) [towards] the reception of foreign culture.

East, west and south, our country is surrounded on three sides by ocean and so exchange with other countries was difficult; the natural environment of Mongolia and [Russia’s] Maritime Province connecting to [our] north and northeast by land, is inferior and so the level of culture is low and has been unable to [positively] stimulate or influence us. The place from which we could receive stimulus and influence was the Yellow River basin to the west but China was blocking it. {How could China be blocking itself??!} Consequently our development had to rely on contact with China.

In addition to this, each time we adopted a new foreign culture it was used as the ruling [legitimizing] ideology (지배논리 lit. ‘logic’) and so it came to form the culture of the upper class whilst our culture was put below it. The culture and relationship of Buddhism during the Four Kingdoms (사국시대 aka Three Kingdoms + Gaya) period was so, and the culture and relationship of Confucianism during the Joseon dynasty was so; in the modern era the culture and relationship [to] the West has [also] been thus. As a result, our [own] unique culture (우리 고유 문화) with which our [Korean] race (겨레 gyeore) lived before the influx of the foreign cultures has ended up at the very bottom of our society.

Only the commoners (서민) of low social status who struggle economically have held on to it (lit. ‘live maintaining it’). As a result, we ourselves also regard it with disdain. Consequently our culture and foreign culture have been unable to stimulate and influence one another from an equal position. That is why it has been difficult for us to create [anything] new and [our] development has inevitably been retarded (더디다).

However, our surrounding environment and circumstances is now changing favourably towards us. In ancient times, active exchange was only possible between regions joined by land. But now is different. Transport methods have developed and so it has become possible to reach anywhere in the world within a day or two. Exchange has become that fast and active.

Not only that, communication technology (시설) has developed and with the appearance of the internet it has become possible for anyone to instantly exchange information with any place in the world with the click of a button. Geographic distance is no [longer a] problem. Further, our country is one of the most advanced in the field of internet usage. Consequently the geographical problem of our country has been completely solved.

Currently, international society is racing towards complete openness. Whilst crying out ‘globalization’ economic and cultural borders are disappearing. Because communication technology is developing and international society is opening; exchange between every region of the world is becoming extremely active and fast. It is becoming an environment as though international society were a single country. For us an extremely favourable environment is being made.

However, there is a point of extreme concern. The more active and speedier the information exchange, [the more] we must have a [set of] values (가치관) and culture strong enough to match (대응) it. Only then could contact and stimulus between our culture and foreign culture be [successfully] achieved and something new creatively produced (창출). If we don’t, then we will end up engulfed (매몰) by foreign culture incoming like a flood. On this point, [we] need a history education which is [made] ‘from-our-point-of-view’ (주체적 lit. ‘of juche ‘), positive and strong. We must strive to deeply embed our values and culture into our [daily] lives (생활).

To this end, we have to correct as soon as possible [our] stance towards the reception of foreign culture which up until now has placed foreign cultures on top of our culture making them the legitimizing ideology of the ruling [class]. Our culture has inevitably lost its luster and become shabby on account of the fact that only the commoners who in former days had no social position and were financially poor, held onto our unique culture [in their] daily lives. As a result, we ourselves also have ended up regarding our culture as superficial (천박하다). We made it like that ourselves.

Now we have reached the point where we are [no longer] able to distinguish even what is our culture and what is foreign culture. For example, we [are in] a situation where we mistake Buddhist and Confucian culture as our own. We are unable to distinguish between [actual] ‘Korean culture’ (한국 문화) and ‘Korean[-seeming]’ culture (한국적 문화), that is, [between] ‘our culture’ and ‘foreign culture that has come to seem like it belongs to us’.

It makes me think of words said by Professor Hwang Byeonggi (황병기) who majors in guk’ak (국악 ‘traditional Korean music’). When having tea together at a conference we were both participating in, this is what he said whilst lamenting the insufficient awareness (인식) about our culture. Professor Hwang said that he is sometimes asked by journalists why he [chooses to be] unorthodox (외도 lit. ‘outside path’). Professor Hwang was originally a graduate of the law school at Seoul National University. They are asking why did such a person become a Korean musician and not a lawyer (법조인).

He said he can’t believe (어이가 없다) he receives such a question. Guk’ak is our music and something of ours that our body naturally absorbs from when we are young, so how can practicing Korean music be called ‘unorthodox’ (외도)?! He said he rather thinks that if there is something ‘unorthodox’ it would be having studied law when he was a university student. Because the law we learn at our universities is in actuality a Western academic subject (학문).

That there is a hierarchical relationship between our culture and foreign culture is because of the social and wealth differences between the people who posses those cultures. If genuine democracy were realized and all people became equal then culture too would become equal without hierarchy. However, in reality such a [stage] is still faraway. Differences between social position and wealth continue to exist and will do so for a long time to come; this is why there will also [continue] to be differences in education.

Consequently, whilst researching correct history (올바른 역사) and [promoting] history education, we must devote our energies to the task of searching for and establishing that which is ours [as opposed to foreign]. We must make [ourselves] realize the fact that it is not at all inferior (천박하다) compared to foreign culture, and we must strive for it to gain a place in our [daily] lives.

Intellectuals must strive: to no longer be history criminals (역사의 죄인) that value only foreign culture, in order that ours and foreign cultures can meet on an equal position, and ensure that at the centre [of such a meeting] is that which is ours. This is necessary not in order to return to the ancient era, but in order to develop towards a desirable future. (Yun 2003:188-92)

Yun Naehyeon 윤내현. 2003 (2014 5th reprint). 우리 고대사: 상상에서 현실로 (Our Ancient History: from imagination to reality). Paju, Gyeonggi province: 지식산업사. 231 pages.

Sources: Yun Naehyeon “Our Ancient History” – Confirming the psychosis of our society

The following is a translation of the fifth chapter of Part V from Yun Naehyeon’s Our Ancient History.

5. Confirming the psychosis of our society

We live in the midst of too many unhealthy (병적 lit. ‘diseased’) phenomena. Wherever one looks there is immoral, disordered and irresponsible behaviour. In the realm of politics where members of the ruling class of our country are gathered, they slander one another, pour insults, grab and fight, forgetting (lit. ‘in spite of’) [any notion of] dignity (체면). Wearing masks [of respectable] people they behave in an utterly unacceptable manner. They do not even know shame. Because they know no shame there is no effect even if one points out their mistakes and criticizes them. Clearly they are not normal [proper] (정상적) people.

In a book written by a foreigner, it pointed to our country as a place where past convicted criminals live proudly (떵떵거리다). That is to say our country is the country which has the most past convicted criminals in the ruling class. Every election it gets reported that amongst the candidates for positions in the National Assembly, regional assemblies or as chiefs of autonomous regions (지자체장) there are many past felons. That these people say they will become political leaders whilst having no shame about their past convictions is truly shameful (파렴치). They have no shame of their past convictions so will have no fear of the law. They are unafraid to go to prison. Considering it is quite common for these past felons to be voted in at elections, there is a problem also with the level of citizens’ consciousness.

A society in which every method of law evasion, illegality, corruption and deviation is practiced, people who get angry at the slightest matter, [constant] rushing regardless of time or place: considering all these, it is difficult to describe our society as normal. We have to say it has an abnormal aspect.

If we examine our ancient history [it can be seen] we were originally a truly talented minjok. Our attitude (자세 lit.’posture’) towards life was incredibly sincere and we had a superior culture. Not only did we love and help one another, [follow] correct etiquette and maintain order, we were a minjok with large hopes for the future, positively living [our lives]. Consequently, the psychosis (병리현상) evident in our society today is not the original nature (모습 lit. ‘shape/form’) of our minjok. Then where did the psychosis come from?

It is said that the [two] main causes bringing about mental (정신적) psychosis whether in individuals or groups, are wounded pride (자존심의 상처) and sense of inferiority (열등의식 lit. ‘inferiority consciousness’). Consequently, in order to find the cause of the psychosis in our society, it is necessary to examine if there were events when our pride was wounded or that resulted in a sense of inferiority.

The largest wounds our minjok has received have been from China and Japan. From the time when Silla begged help from Tang [China] in order to attack Goguryeo and Baekje, we came into the Chinese cultural zone (문화권) at an incredibly fast speed; in the early modern Joseon dynasty era Chinese Confucianism (유학) was adopted as the guiding ideology (지도이념) of politics and scholarship. At the core of the political philosophy of Confucianism is the so-called “all under heaven ideology” (天下思想) which says the Chinese celestial son (천자) must rule ‘all under heaven’ (천하). Consequently, our country [too] naturally had to be ruled by the Chinese celestial son. We had to accept the Chinese celestial son as our celestial son, China as a superior country (상국) and Chinese people as our masters (상전).

As a result of this, those amongst our ancestors with conscious [awareness] had their pride wounded, whilst the common people developed a sense of inferiority. This wounded pride and sense of inferiority was remembered in our subconscious (잠재의식) and transmitted through our genes; when in the real world [a similar event] was again experienced [by subsequent generations], it further accumulated and occupied a [still] strong[er] place in our subconscious. This social climate continued throughout more than 500 years of the Joseon dynasty. If one generation is calculated as thirty years, it survived through seventeen generations

It didn’t end there either. Continuing on from that our minjok experienced the forced occupation by the Japanese Empire. The Japanese Empire distorted our history and culture and so made us seem like our minjok was incapable and plagued by divisions and that we were people always jealous and envious of one another. Without a doubt the wounded pride our minjok received and sense of inferiority would have been enormous. Because we came under the rule of Japan which we had always considered a country significantly behind our own [in terms of cultural development], the wounded pride received and sense of inferiority must have been indescribable.

On 15 August 1945 we welcomed liberation. However, our ancestral land (조국) became two parts and the Korean War (6.25전쟁) which began in 1950 deeply wounded us. As a result we were overwhelmed [by the idea that] ‘our minjok has no means [to better itself] (별수)’, [this] self-deprecation and scorn overwhelmed us. Think about it. To have experienced this kind of history and not develop a psychological disorder (정신질환), that would rather be the strange[r] matter.

Now we must undo (해소) the wounded pride and sense of inferiority that formed over the course [of this historical experience]. We must cleanly wash such things out from our subconsciousness (잠재의식) and place in there positive thoughts filled with confidence. We must strive to realize the fact that we are a talented minjok and the fact that we are a minjok pursuing cohesion (단결) and harmony (화합).

However, it is not enough to simply acknowledge that it is good to [only] think and say such things. More so than normal [healthy] people, patients of schizophrenia have a tendency to be distrustful of all things. Consequently, even if you say “our minjok was originally a talented minjok,” they will not believe it. It is [simply] dismissed (일축하다) as the words (소리) of nationalists (국수주의자).

Consequently, we must absolutely prove it from within history. On this point, too, the work of correctly researching and teaching (교육) our history is extremely important. The researching and teaching of correct history transcends the dimensions of simply correcting history, establishing the minjok identity, or planting pride; we must understanding the fact that it also plays an extremely important role in the treatment for our society’s psychosis. (Yun 2003:183-87)

Yun Naehyeon 윤내현. 2003 (2014 5th reprint). 우리 고대사: 상상에서 현실로 (Our Ancient History: from imagination to reality). Paju, Gyeonggi province: 지식산업사. 231 pages.

Sources: Yun Naehyeon “Our Ancient History” – How was our minjok’s advancement into outside [regions] in the ancient period?

The following is a translation of the fourth chapter of part IV from Yun Naehyeon’s Our Ancient History.

4. How was our minjok‘s penetration/advancement into outside [regions] (대외진출) in the ancient period?

History textbooks and general surveys (개설서) have focused on our minjok’s internal (국내) activities and so they have neglected external/foreign (대외활동) activities. As a result it has become assumed (인식되다) that from ancient times we were a minjok living (영위하다) passive lives. However the facts are not so.

It can be observed from our ancient history that Old Joseon was a large country encompassing (아우르다) both the Korean peninsula and the whole of Manchuria, and the countries which succeeded it were all extremely active in foreign affairs (대외활동). A part of the Suksin people (肅愼族 Ch. Sushen) who themselves constitute a part of our minjok, migrated to Primorsky Krai (연해주) [region] and established a country called Eumnu (挹婁 Ch. Yilou) whilst a part of the Buyeo people (夫餘族) migrated to a region of Siberia north of Primorsky Krai and established a country called Dumangnu (豆莫婁 Ch. Doumolou). [In this manner] the active territory of our minjok was expanded towards the northeast [all the way] up to Primorsky Krai and Siberia.

Founded in today’s Liaodong (遼東), Goguryeo once invaded [all the way] to Taiyuan (太原) of [China’s] Shanxi province (山西省); it reclaimed the western part of present day [sic because it no longer exists] Liaoxi (遼西) which had been former land of Old Joseon, and sought to restore the ‘order under heaven’ (천하질서) of Old Joseon with its territory extending to the vicinity of Beijing. Generally it is said that the territory of Goguryeo extended [only] up to the Liao river (遼河) but this is a mistake.

There are often people who speak as though our minjok [displayed only] a passive stance having only ever defended [itself] against invasions of other minjok, but this is not at all the case. In wars against the Eastern Han, Goguryeo was often victorious and it won nearly all of the major wars. These facts are clearly recorded in the “Dongyi Accounts” (東夷列傳) of the Houhanshu and the “Goguryeo Basic Annals” of the Samguk-sagi.

In later times the war in which [Goguryeo] General Eulji Mundeok was victorious against Sui Emperor Yang (隋煬帝) pushed the Sui country [dynasty] towards collapse. At the time, Goguryeo was a powerful eastern country whose enormous territory included today’s [sic] Liaoxi region; Sui country was extremely afraid of Goguryeo and so they thought their own country would not be safe if Goguryeo were left alone.

This is why Sui emperor Yang thought that he must attack (치다) Goguryeo even if it meant risking the fate of the country. At the time the standing army of Sui was 1,130,000 [men] but this figure was exaggerated to two million, [however Yang’s army] enlisted four million men. In order to attack Goguryeo, Sui mobilized close to some 5,130,000 men.

If he mobilized 5,130,000 able men, no matter how large a population they had, it was a war that inevitably risked the [wider] fate of the country. In this manner of war Sui emperor Yang suffered a crushing defeat against the small Goguryeo military led by Eulji Mundeok.

Internally, able men were regularly being mobilized for corvée duty on construction works such as the Grand Canal and so the agricultural economy became impoverished; with dissatisfaction rising over this; when [Sui] suffered a crushing defeat against Goguryeo, an uprising occurred in Sui against the imperial house (황실). As a result Sui collapsed.

Consequently General Eulji Mundeok’s victory did not stop simply at having defended against the Sui invasion but [it] pushed Sui all the way to collapse. Goguryeo led a large victory that ‘left a path in history’ {or the history of war} [through the] war in which with a small military strength, it repelled Sui who had mobilized the largest number of people [for an army] in world history.

Before the establishing of Sui country, at the time when Goguryeo restored the present day [sic] region of Liaoxi which was the former land of Old Joseon and made it its own territory, Baekje [people] were crossing the ocean and occupying the east coastland region of China. In 246 during the period of the Chinese Three Kingdoms (Wei 魏, Shu 蜀 and Wu 吳), the governor of You province (幽州刺史) Guanqiu Jian (毌丘儉) of Wei country invaded Goguryeo and reached the capital of Hwando-seong (丸都城). At this time, taking advantage of the empty You province, Baekje had jwajang ‘general of the left’ Jin Chung (左將 眞忠) attack it and establish the Baekje commandery (百濟郡) in the region of Beijing and Tianjin (天津). Subsequently Baekje widened its power southwards advancing not only into the regions of Shandong (山東星), Gansu (江蘇省) and Zhejiang (浙江省) provinces, but also the region of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Prefecture (廣西壯族自治區).

Baekje’s rule over the east coast region of China continued for more than 340 years lasting until just before Sui unified China. Rule over the east coast region of China continued even while the Baekje capital moved [first] from Hanseong (modern Seoul) to Ungjin (modern Gongju), and then to Sabi (modern Buyeo). There is the possibility that rather than wasting the country’s strength confronting Goguryeo in the Han-gang river basin [of Seoul] Baekje perhaps judged it to be more advantageous to abandon (포기) that place and [instead] expand [its control over] the ‘rice bowel’ region (곡창지대) of China’s eastern coast. These facts tell us that Baekje was a powerful thalassocracy (해양국가 lit. ‘maritime state’).

As Sui country unified China, Baekje was pushed out of the east coast region of China, but subsequently during the Tang (唐) period descendants of our minjok established an independent regime (정권) there. This was the Chicheong-beonjin (淄靑藩鎭 Ch. Ziqing-fanzhen) of General Yi Jeonggi (李正己). With its territory [covering] the present day Shandong province (山東省) [of China], Chicheong-beonjin was ruled for 55 years by a single house with General Yi Jeonggi’s son, Yi Nap (李納), succeeding him, and then continuing with Yi Nab’s son, Yi Sa-go (李師古) and Yi Sa-go’s younger brother Yi Sado (李師道).

After Tang country overthrew Goguryeo and Baekje in alliance with Silla, more than 200,000 Goguryeo people were dispersed and moved to regions of China; General Yi Jeonggi’s clan seems to have moved to Shandong province at that time. General Yi Jeonggi achieved military recognition and made a name for himself at the time of the An Lushan (安祿山) rebellion [c.755-63]; later he gained the trust of people around him and became the jiedushi provincial military commander (節度使) of the Chicheong-beonjin. Although he became jiedushi through the power of Tang, in Chicheong-beonjin he implemented unique laws and systems and behaved independently whilst opposing the Tang country imperial house (황실). It was an independent regime established in China by remnant people of Goguryeo.

Even whilst having hostile relations with the Tang country imperial house, the Chicheong-beonjin formed friendly relations with Balhae; [both] political exchanges and economic trade were frequent. [Both] Chicheong-beonjin and Balhae were established by remnant [survivors] (유민) of Goguryeo, Yi Jeonggi and Dae Joyeong; if they had maintained friendly relations with one another whilst opposing the Tang imperial house, what thoughts must they have had? Perhaps they intended to combine their strength and restore the great climate (?? 기상) and philosophy (사상) of Goguryeo. Chicheong-beonjin existed for 55 years before being destroyed by a Tang attack that mobilized the entirety of [Tang’s] national strength during the reign of Tang [emperor] Xianzong (憲宗 [r.805-20]).

19 years later, Commander (大使 daesa) Jang Bo-go (張保皐) of Silla advanced once more into this [same] region. Commander Jang Bogo had originally crossed to China from his home on present day Wan-do island and risen to the rank of xiaojang [in the] Wuning army (武寧軍의 軍中小將), however seeing that Silla people were being caught and sold by Chinese pirates, in 828 he established the Cheonghaejin [base] (淸海鎭) on Wan-do island in order to stop this.

Making Cheonghaejin his main base, Commander Jang Bogo controlled the southern Japanese archipelago and the east coast region of China; he established a thalassocracy (해상왕국 lit. ‘kingdom on the sea’) centered on our country [aka Korea] connecting the Japanese archipelago and China. Not only did Commander Jang Bogo rule this region, he utilized it as a route for international trade. Using this [infrastructure] trade was conducted even with faraway Arab regions. Activities [constituting] world trade (종합무역) were begun.

The east coast region of China that Commander Jang Bogo controlled extended from Shandong province in the north to Zhejiang (浙江省) province in the south, but the central region was Shandong and so it was the [same] place that had been General Yi Jeonggi’s Chicheong-beonjin and, previous to that, the region ruled by Baekje. That General Yi Jeonggi had been able to cultivate the Chicheong-beonjin as an independent force opposing Tang, and that subsequently Commander Jang Bogo had been able to control this region was [only] possible because of the historical background that it had [previously] been ruled by Baekje.

The advancing of our minjok into the Wae [aka Japanese] archipelago also began at an extremely early period. Many elements of our neolithic culture have been discovered in the Jōmon culture (縄文文化), the neolithic culture of Japan, and so it tells us that at the period of the Jōmon culture, our neolithic culture had already been transmitted to Japan. In particular, the Yayoi culture (彌生文化) that continued from C3rd BCE to C3rd CE was formed [as a result of] the transmission of our bronze age culture, iron age culture and rice farming [technology].

In any region of the world which undergoes a normal process of development, it is common for there to first be a bronze [age] culture and [only] after a quite long time has passed does the iron [age] culture appear. In our country and Manchuria bronze age culture appeared around 2500~2600 BCE, and advanced (진입) into iron age culture around 800 BCE. However, in the Wae archipelago, bronze age culture and iron age culture appeared simultaneously with the Yayoi culture.

This is because, due to our country and the Wae archipelago being divided by the sea, our culture was not transmitted to the Wae archipelago regularly, [instead] during one period the culture which had been attained up until then was transmitted all in one go. The result was the occurrence of the phenomenon of bronze age culture, iron age culture and rice agriculture, which had [all] been attained by our minjok up until that time, being transmitted all in one ago [to Japan from] around 300 BCE.

The fact that their culture was transmitted from our country can be understood from the point [of fact] that bronze and iron implements/vessels of the early Yayoi culture being unearthed on the Wae archipelago are the same as those unearthed in our [own] country. These were not made on the Wae archipelago but imported from the Korean peninsula. Japanese term these artefacts as ‘shipped bronze items’ (舶載銅器) and ‘shipped iron items’ (舶載鐵器). [Both] dolmen, and stone implements and clay vessels unearthed at dolmen sites which [all constitute] important elements of Yayoi culture are the same as those unearthed in Korea. This tells us that the Yayoi culture of the Wae archipelago was realized through transmission of our bronze age and iron age cultures.

In our [own] history [the period] from 300 BCE to 300 CE [corresponds] to the late Old Joseon, its collapse and the formation of the Multiple States period (열국시대), and so was an era of political turmoil. Consequently it is thought that people from our country advanced into (진출) the Wae archipelago in order to avoid the political turmoil of this period and open up (개척) a new region. The region of early penetration was Kyūshuū (九州) in the southern region, and in the later era they gradually expanded northwards. Recently a Japanese research team has discovered (밝혀내다) that people of the Yayoi culture had the same genes as people from our country.

Until that time there had been no state (국가) on the Wae archipelago. However, in our country Old Joseon had already been founded in 2333 BCE and so the people who advanced into Japan from our country already had the knowledge about states because they had lived for a long time in a structure called a state. Based on their own political experience, these people formed groups in each region [of Japan] and established countries [there]. In this way small states (소국) [began] appearing here and there [throughout] the Wae archipelago. Using the names of their motherlands (모국) they named their own countries [established in Japan] Goguryeo, Baekje, Silla and Imna (Gaya).

Subsequently around the C4th CE, a new [wave] of migrants entered [Japan coming] from our country and created the Kofun culture (古墳文化); through a process of unification (통합) between the small [Yayoi] states that had previously existed and the newly arrived groups, the state called Japan emerged around the C7th CE. Thus it can be said that the appearance of political powers (세력) and emergence of states on the Wae archipelago was the result of our minjok migrating [there].

As has been examined here, the foreign activities of our minjok in the ancient period was extremely energetic (활발). The territory [of these activities] reached the [Russian] Maritime Provinces and Siberia in the northeast, beyond Beijing to Taiyuan (太原) in the northwest; crossing the Yellow Sea in the west [they] ruled over the east coast region and southern part of China, and to the southeast, they advanced into the Wae archipelago and established sub-countries (분국) there. Whilst politically ruling these regions, our minjok simultaneously developed the cultures there. [Thus] our ocean and marine industries and international trade [today] possess this historical tradition. (Yun 2003:130-37)

Yun Naehyeon 윤내현. 2003 (2014 5th reprint). 우리 고대사: 상상에서 현실로 (Our Ancient History: from imagination to reality). Paju, Gyeonggi province: 지식산업사. 231 pages.

Sources: “Our Ancient History” – Yun’s opening address and Joint Statement from the 2002 South-North conference on Dan’gun and Old Joseon

“Historians’ Joint Academic Symposium on Dan’gun and Old Joseon” Opening address
I am Yun Naehyeon, chairman of the Dan’gun-hakhoe (단군학회 ‘Dan’gun Society’) from Seoul.

Esteemed [colleagues] (존경하는) Ryu Mi-yeong, chairman of the Dan’gun Minjok Tong’il Hyeophoe, Kim Jeong-yeong (사회과학원 부원장님), Heo Jongho (조선력사학회 회장님) and Jeong Changgyu (력사연구소 소장님), I am extremely pleased to meet in this way. And I thank you for your many efforts in making possible this event.

Ladies and gentlemen gathered here from South and North, good afternoon. It is truly a pleasure. My heart is pounding. I am deeply moved with appreciation. 57 years since the division of our ancestral land (조국), 57 years since the [Korean] minjok was split, our scholars from South and North are holding here in Pyeongyang at the Inmin-munhwa-gungjeon (인민문화궁전 ‘People’s Palace of Culture’) a joint academic symposium about Dan’gun, the founding progenitor of our minjok, and Old Joseon, the first country our minjok established. How filled with emotion this event is. It cannot but be a truly honourable occasion.

Research about Dan’gun and Old Joseon is not merely the confirmation of historical facts, but an undertaking to establish the value and identity of our minjok, and to confirm and restore the homogeneity of the minjok. This undertaking prepares the foundation stones for the coming unification of [our] minjok and advances the unification of [our] ancestral land.

Esteemed North [Korean] scholars.

Ourselves coming from the South know very well that you have already achieved many results in your research about Dan’gun and Old Joseon. We also know that you have excavated various Old Joseon period sites. We extend our congratulations and praise for the many undertakings/projects you have achieved. On our Southern side, too, we are enthusiastically researching Old Joseon’s history from various angles. Now, if through this joint academic symposium of Southern and Northern scholars, the research results previously obtained by Southern and Northern scholars are combined, the history of our minjok will become enriched a level further.

There is much we are curious about one another. There is much we wish to ask. However, in the short time of today’s academic symposium, we will not be satisfied about everything we want to know. Just as our proverb say’s “How can [we] be full from just one spoonful of rice?!”, we cannot be satisfied immediately, but I believe we will gradually become satisfied if we continue [these] South-North academic symposiums in the future.

There is also the proverb “The beginning is half [the achievement]”. Today our minjok coming from South and North will have celebrated the Gaecheon-jeol festival together and even held a joint academic symposium, so we could say that we have already achieved half of the task of our unification. If we achieve just the remaining half then the unification of our minjok and ancestral land will be complete. In order to achieve the remaining half I want to take the opportunity to propose that joint academic conferences and joint research be continued with [scholars] regularly travelling between Seoul and Pyeongyang. And, I ask the Southern and Northern scholars gathered here to lend their active support in achieving this proposal for the advancement of the unification of the ancestral land and minjok.

I finish my opening words by extending deepest thanks to those involved in enthusiastically welcoming us all from the South and making our stay comfortable, to the citizens of Pyeongyang and [our] Northern brethren/compatriots (동포). Thank you.

2002.10.03. CE.
Dan’gun-hakhoe chairman, Yun Naehyeon

Place: Pyeongyang Inmin-munhwa-gungjeon (People’s Palace of Culture)

(Source – Yun 2003:25-7)

Joint Statement

At a time when the intention and fervent wish is rising up of the 70 million [strong] gyeore (aka Korean race) seeking to realise the reconciliation, union (단합) and unification of the [Korean] minjok based on the spirit of the historical June 15th South North Joint Declaration, celebrating Gaecheon-jeol [together] the South’s Dan’gun-hakhoe and the North’s Ryeoksa-hakhoe have jointly held in Pyeongyang the “Historians’ Joint Academic Symposium on Dan’gun and Old Joseon.”

Participating in the symposium were Southern and Northern historians, archaeologists and university lecturers (대학교원들) [as well as] Southern and Northern representatives who were [also] participating in [wider] Gaecheon-jeol events.

At the symposium, questions including the foundation year of Dan’gun Joseon and the character of its society, its central heartland and territory, examination of Dan’gun related archaeology and written sources, and historical study concerning the Dan’gun myth were discussed seriously and candidly (허심탄회) through the format of paper presentations and panel (or round table 좌담회) discussions; the following points were jointly agreed upon.

Firstly, Dan’gun is an actual historical person; he is the founding progenitor who established the first state of our minjok.

Secondly, our minjok is the Dan’gun Minjok in possession of a near-eternal (유구하다) history; we place weight on the fact that various history books, beginning with the Samguk-yusa, record that Pyeongyang was the central heartland of Old Joseon.

Thirdly, Old Joseon was a strong and great country (강대국) which had as its basic territory the expansive region of today’s Korean peninsula and northeastern Asia.

Fourthly, South and North historians will energetically strengthen the scholarly bonds [between them] and actively carry out joint cooperation for the purpose of illuminating the 5,000 year near-eternal history of the minjok and firmly defend (고수하다) its superior nature (민족성).

Fifth, South and North historians will hold deep the sense of one’s life mission (시명감) carried before the minjok, and strengthen solidarity between South and North historians; they will actively continue to contribute to the great undertaking of combining the strength of our minjok between ourselves and unifying the ancestral land (조국) through continuing to deepen research on the history of [our] minjok from a position of ‘love for the country and love for the minjok‘ (애국애족).

South side Dan’gun-hakhoe          North side Ryeoksa-hakhoe
Yun Naehyeon                                  Heo Jong-ho

October 3rd 2002, Pyeongyang

(Source – Yun 2003:21-2)

Sources: Yun Naehyeon “Our Ancient History” – 2. The South-North Joint Academic Conference opens in Pyeongyang

The following is a translation of the whole second chapter of Yun Naehyeon’s Our Ancient History. It contains a description of the historic joint conference on Dan’gun and Old Joseon held between Northern and Southern scholars during the height of South Korea’s Sunshine Policy of engagement (at all costs).

I include first, also, the beginning half of the third chapter which gives details of their schedule.

The phrase ‘South-North’ would sound more natural in English as ‘North-South’ but I have maintained the original word order which is natural to Korean (and therefore does not carry any political emphasis of South coming before North).

extract from:
3. Presenting the “Joint Statement” (공동보고문) of the South-North Academic Conference

Pyeongyang was somewhere far but near. On October 1st 2002 CE, [we] boarded the Air Koryo [plane] sent for us from North Korea; less than one hour after departure from Incheon Airport we arrived at Pyongyang Sunan Airport. 57 years since liberation, we are [still] unable to freely travel this short distance. Whilst hearing the cabin crew’s announcement that we had arrived at Sunan Airport, [I felt] relief, excitement and expectation mixed together and wondered if it had really taken three years’ effort to come this near distance.

We were met by North Korean representatives; the nine Dan’gun-hakhoe (‘Dan’gun society’) affiliated scholars and more than one hundred members of various groups who were visiting Pyeongyang in order to participate in the ‘Joint minjok event for Gaecheon-jeol’ followed an itinerary agreed by the Southern and Northern sides.

On the morning of October 3rd, Gaecheon-jeol [day], [we] attended sacrificial rites (제례) for Dan’gun and a commemorative Gaecheon-jeol ceremony at the Dan’gun tomb; in front of the tomb we watched performances by art troupes. In the afternoon, we held the “Historians’ Joint Academic Symposium on Dan’gun and Old Joseon” at the Pyeongyang Inmin-munhwa-gungjeon (People’s Palace of Culture). On the 2nd and 4th, before and after, we visited Myohyang-san and Guwol-san mountains that have sites and legends related to Dan’gun; on the 5th we returned to Seoul. (Yun 2003:19-20)

2. The South-North Joint Academic Conference opens in Pyeongyang

October 3rd 2002 CE is truly a day worth remembering. [This] is because it was the day on which Southern and Northern historians gathered in the Inmin-munhwa-gungjeon (People’s Palace of Culture) in Pyeongyang and held a joint academic symposium. This symposium was the first ever joint conference held on the peninsula by historians of South and North. Before then Southern and Northern scholars had met several times at international conferences held in third countries such as China and Japan. However, this was the first time to hold an academic event jointly organized (주관하다) by Southern and Northern scholars on the peninsula.

This academic conference was jointly hosted by the Dan’gun-hakhoe (단군학회 ‘Dan’gun Society’) of the South, headed by the author (i.e. Yun Naehyeon) and the Joseon-minjuju’ui-inmin-gonghwaguk Ryeoksa-hakhoe (조선민주주의인민공화국 력사학회 ‘History Society of the DPRK’) (shortened to Joseon-ryeoksa-hakhoe 조선력사학회 ‘Joseon History Society’) of the North, headed by Heo Jongjo. The official title of the conference was “Historians’ Joint Academic Symposium on Dan’gun and Old Joseon” (단군 및 고조선에 관한 역사학자들의 공동학술토론회).

This conference was achieved through the efforts of the Dan’gun-hakhoe. The Dan’gun-hakhoe was founded with the intention of comprehensively (종학적) researching our history and culture from various angles and establishing (정립) the value and identity of our minjok. In such an undertaking (작업) [we] believed that of course Southern and Northern scholars must jointly participate. Consequently, since the early stages of founding we had tried to hold a joint South-North academic event. However, the circumstances were such that there were many stumbling blocks [impeding] the progress for such an event. Then from a few years back the situation greatly improved and within the Dan’gun-hakhoe we actively tried to make contact with North Korean scholars.

Members of the Dan’gun-hakhoe met with relevant North Korean officials (인사) in Beijing several times; they even directly entered North Korea and conveyed the idea (의사) of holding a joint conference. We also conveyed that because the name of our society was Dan’gun-hakhoe it would have been good to make it a celebratory (기념) conference for the Gaecheon-jeol festival. The North Korean academic community also basically agreed with our opinion. However, travelling between South and North could not proceed simply through the will of scholars. Various circumstances had to come into [positive] effect (작용하다) starting with the politics, and so it took several long years before [the plan] was carried out.

In the meanwhile there were many difficult points, but ultimately the conference proceeded in an extremely satisfactory manner. The North Korean scholars eagerly (반갑게) welcomed us; they also knew our research (연구 업적) in a comparatively detailed [way]. Amongst the North Korean scholars, there were some the author had [previously] met at conferences in third countries, but even those [I] met for the first time told [me] they had read my writings and treated [me] like an old friend.

Aside from the author, there were participating on the South side professors: Sin Yongha (Seoul National University), Lee Hyeonggu (선문대 Sun Moon University), Kim Sang-il (한국신학대 ?Seoul Theological University), Jeong Yeonghun (Academy of Korean Studies), Choe Gwangsik (Korea University), Lee Jaewon (한국체육대 Korea National Sport University) and Bak Seonhwi (상명대 Sangmyung University); Ju Ja-mun, director of the Haksul-jinheung-jaedan (학술진흥재단 ‘Foundation for the Promotion of Scholarship’) also participated in order to [show] encouragement and support.

On the North side the [following] scholars participated: Heo Jongho (사회과학원 ‘Academy of Social Science’ ASS), Ji Seungcheol (ASS), Son Yeongjong (ASS), Nam Il-ryong (김일성 종합대 Kim Il-sung University), Han Seonhong (김형직 사범대 Kim Hyong-jik University of Education), Seo Guktae (ASS), Kim Yucheol (Kim Il-sung University), Jeon Daejun (ASS), Seok Gwangjun, Son Suho, Kim Dong-il, Choe Yeongsik and Song Suntak.

The audience [was made up of] various groups who were visiting Pyeongyang [from the South] in order to attend the Gaechaeon-jeol events; [the number of people included] more than a hundred from the South and more than 250 from the North. The Northern [attendees] were said to include history staff members working at Pyeongyang city universities, research institutes, and middle and high schools.

There were originally going to be five scholars from each side, South and North, presenting, but because of time problems it was unavoidably limited to four. After chairman Heo Jongho and the author had each given an opening address, the Southern and Northern scholars presented their papers in order. The titles of the papers were as follows:

Southern side
Yi Hyeonggu: “Dan’gun relics (사적) and Dan’gun historical sources [of] Ganghwa-do island”

Choe Gwangsik: “A way to overcome differences (편찬) in understanding of Dan’gun between South and North”
Jeong Yeonghun: “Retrospection and tasks [ahead] of Dan’gun minjok ideology”
Kim Sang-il: “Thesis on shared civilization and Dan’gun philosophy (사상)”
Yun Naehyeon: “Research on the position of Old Joseon’s capital and its [subsequent] movement”

Northern side
Son Yeongjong: “Understanding of the secret history(/ies) (비사) related to Dan’gun and Old Joseon”
Nam Il-ryong: “Ancient fortresses in the region of Pyeongyang”

Han Seonhong: “On the establishment of Old Joseon and its social character (성격)”
Seo Guktae: “Early Dan’gun Joseon period remains and artefacts recently excavated in the region of Pyeongyang”
Kim Yucheol: “The centre and territory of Old Joseon”

Most of the North Korea presenters were senior scholars aged over sixty and their attitude (자세) towards the symposium was incredibly scholarly and serious. Everyone on both sides thoroughly discussed only the historical questions and [no one] made any mention of politics. At this conference we were able to gain a perception into the North Korean scholars’ fields of interest and research trends; it would have been similar for the Northern scholars [towards us].

Another large result achieved at this academic conference was the presentation of the South and North scholars’ “Joint Statement” {same as the above link} (공동보도문). This was composed as a request of the Northern side; at the end of the conference it was jointly read out by Northern group head (단장), Heo Jongho, and Southern group head, the author. The main points were strengthening the scholarly bonds and joint cooperation between South and North Korean historians, and deepening research into minjok history. [I] earnestly wish it will be achieved. (Yun 2003:14-8)

Yun Naehyeon 윤내현. 2003 (2014 5th reprint). 우리 고대사: 상상에서 현실로 (Our Ancient History: from imagination to reality). Paju, Gyeonggi province: 지식산업사. 231 pages.

Sources: “Our Ancient History” Yun Naehyeon

우리고대사 - 유내현 1080

Yun Naehyeon 윤내현. 2003 (2014 5th reprint)우리 고대사: 상상에서 현실로 (Our Ancient History: from imagination to reality). Paju, Gyeonggi province: 지식산업사. 231 pages.

Contents Forward – Why are we currently talking about ancient history?

I. Minjok history must be shared by [both] South and North.

1. We must restore the homogeneity (동질성) of the [Korean] gyeore (겨레 ‘race’) 2. The South-North Joint Academic Conference opens in Pyeongyang 3. Presenting the “Joint Statement” (공동보고문) of the South-North Academic Conference 4. Preparing the academic conference whilst pressed for time 5. We are the same minjok [and] one bloodline    [see below for translation] 6. Dan’gun must not become an object of disputes

II. What does [our] minjok mythology tell [us]?

1. Is the Dan’gun myth a fabricated tale? 2. The Dan’gun myth is our ancient history (상고사) 3. The Dan’gun myth is the origin [representation] (원형) of a complex (종합) culture 4. ‘Three’ is the basis for the structure of our consciousness (의식구조) 5. The Dan’gun myth lives in the [Korean] minjok‘s history 6. What is it we are pursuing? 7. Let’s revive the Hong’ik-in’gan philosophy (이념)

III. How is our historical consciousness?

1. Did our minjok and culture come from outside [of the Korean peninsula]? 2. Perhaps our stuff (것) went out [to the world] 3. Must we only match our history to the Western frameworks? 4. The societal structure of our country and the West is different 5. Let’s take an interest in the ancient remains in the region of Manchuria 6. The Japanese Mimana office (임나일본부) was located in Okayama [prefecture of Japan] 7. Let’s know about not only Go Seonji [高仙芝 Gao Xianzhi] but also Yi Jeonggi [李正己 Li Zhengji] 8. Let’s take modern Chinese research into ancient history as a good example (교훈 lit. ‘precept’)

IV. What does ancient history tell [us]?

1. Who were the central tribe (종족) of our minjok? 2. Were the Dong’i [東夷 Dongyi/East Yi] Chinese or our minjok? 3. In the Shiji [史記] why was Gi Ja unable to [achieve] independence? 4. How was our minjok‘s penetration/advancement into outside [regions] (대외진출) in the ancient period? 5. What kind of reforms did Laozi and Confucius dream of? 6. What lesson (교훈) does the Shiji teach us? 7. What is the “Bayi-liezhuan” (백이열전) chapter [in the Shiji] telling us?

V. Who are we?

1. Establishing the very first country in East Asia 2. How is the ability of our minjok 3. There is something that we must absolutely know/understand 4. What are the problems with our society? 5. Confirming the psychosis of our society 6. What is it we must currently do? 7. Surveying (전망) the future of our minjok

VI. A history of unification; now it must become different

1. What is the Gaecheon-jeol (개천절) [national foundation festival] to our minjok? 2. Do we have true ‘ethnic nationalism’ (민족주의 lit. ‘minjok-ism’)? 3. The structural scheme (체계) of our ancient history is wrong 4. In our history, which period is the ‘ancient [period]’ (고대)? 5. We must focus on the periods of unification.

Afterword – Standing alone, but not lonely

Excerpts from “5. We are the same minjok [and] one bloodline” (우리는 같은 민족 한 핏줄이다)

page 29 Dan’gun (Dan’gun Wanggeom) is the founding progenitor of the country (건국 시조) of our minjok; Old Joseon is the first state (국가) in our history, [a history] which formed our minjok. Consequently Dan’gun and Old Joseon exist [with] the meaning of representing our minjok and [its] beginning (출발 lit. departure [point])…


pages 31~33 Dan’gun Joseon established by Dan’gun Wanggeom carries an extremely important meaning in the history of our minjok. That is because, through the establishment of Dan’gun Joseon, i.e. Old Joseon, the populous (주민들) residing in the Korean peninsula and Manchuria all became the people (백성) of the same country and formed a [single] minjok [ethnic nation]. Truly it was the starting point of our minjok‘s history.

We often say [we are] the same minjok and a single bloodline (한 핏줄). We also say that Dan’gun (Dan’gun Wanggeom) was the progenitor of our gyeore (겨레 ‘race’). Speaking scientifically, it is not possible for our gyeore to been a single bloodline. Further, Dan’gun Wanggeom could not have been the genetic (혈연적) progenitor of our gyeore.

Many people were living here and there [throughout] the Korean peninsula and Manchuria since the Paleolithic [from] at least several hundred thousand years ago. However, there is no evidence that they were [all] the descendents of a single person [i.e. of Dan’gun Wanggeom]. What’s more, people 50,000 years back were not even fully evolved yet. There were people in the process of evolution. The appearance of people on the same level [of development] as recent modern humans (現生人類) was between 50 and 35 thousand years ago. Consequently it is difficult to view them as having been a single bloodline to say nothing of [the idea] that we are their descendants.

Archaeologically, the period in which Dan’gun Wanggeom established Old Joseon was the Bronze Age [which] came after the long periods termed Paleolithic and Neolithic. At that time there were many people living here and there [throughout] the Korean peninsula and Manchuria. One amongst them was Dan’gun Wanggeom. Consequently it is not possible for our gyeore who were formed as the descendants of [those] many peoples residing throughout the Korean peninsula and Manchuria, to all have been the genetic (혈연적) descendants of Dan’gun Wanggeom.

In that case, is it wrong when we talk [about] being the same minjok and a single bloodline? It is not. Through Dan’gun Wanggeom founding Old Joseon we first formed one minjok and gyeore. Thus he was both the founder of our state (건국 시조) and simultaneously the progenitor of minjok and gyeore. [This] is because he was not only the person to first establish a country, but was the person who caused [our] minjok and gyeore to form (출현 lit.’appear’).

The dan’gun of the Old Joseon period were not only political rulers but also the highest religious leaders. Like the Chinese [notion of emperors being the] celestial son (天子), they were recognised as the son – actually meaning descendants – of Haneu-nim god (하느님).

Revering Haneu-nim (Hwan’in) as the supreme god, our ancient ancestors believed (생각하다) themselves to be the descendants of Dan’gun Wanggeom who was the founder of their nation (국가), the progenitor of [their] minjok and gyeore, and the son of Haneu-nim; thus they sought to obtain [for themselves] the holiness of a ‘heavenly descended people’ (天孫族). It is this kind of idea/belief (생각) which is being represented (정리되다 lit. ‘organised/ordered’) when we talk of being the same minjok and one bloodline. Consequently it is our consciousness (의식), intention/volition (의지) and emotion/sentiment/feeling (정서). It is ahead of science.

The terms ‘Dan’gun Joseon’ and ‘Dan’gun minjok‘ contain the notion (의미 lit. ‘meaning’) of [being] the same minjok and single bloodline with the [the same] consciousness, volition and emotion [that] our minjok [has possessed] for thousands of years. There is no need to scientifically deconstruct these terms which tightly bind our minjok, our gyeore.

In addition to the translated chapters linked above, see also some further miscellaneous extracts.