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.


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

  1. Pingback: Sources: “Our Ancient History” Yun Naehyeon | Koreanology

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