Sources: “The Colonial View of History Inside of Us” Lee Deok-il translated extracts part 2/4

See here for the contents and part 1 of translated extracts.

“Because ordinary [South Korean] citizens’ antipathy towards Imperial Japanese colonial rule had been so strong, [SMSG historians] could not directly teach about the Mimana Japan Office [post 1945]. Consequently they chose a crafty method to teach, in reality [still], (사실상), [about] the Mimana Japan Office. This was [both] the so-called ‘Theory that the early records of the Samguk-sagi are not trustworthy,’ and the Samhan (三韓 ‘Three Han [polities]’). They taught that the early history of the Three Kingdoms [should be] deleted and the Samhan put in its place. In this way they taught that the early history of Silla, Goguryeo and Baekje had disappeared and that in the south of the Korean peninsula were a total of 78 small statelets [consisting of] the 54 statelets of Mahan and twelve each for Jinhan and Byeonhan. They narrated in textbooks that Goguryeo was ‘in reality’ established in the 2nd century at the time of King Taejo, Baekje was ‘in reality’ established late 3rd century at the time of King Go’i and Silla was ‘in reality’ established late 4th century at the time of King Naemul.

All of a sudden the Silla progenitor Bak Hyeokgeose, Goguryeo progenitor Jumong and Baekje progenitor Onjo were reduced (전락) to being invented characters or [merely] the chieftains of village settlements (작읍 부락 집단). They taught according to the ‘Theory that the early records of the Samguk-sagi are not trustworthy’ that ‘in reality’ the founders of the states were King Naemul for Silla, King Taejo for Goguryeo and King Go’i for Baekje. This is the history we have been taught since [the 1945] liberation until today, and is the history we are still being taught in the present. It is because the SMSG historians who adhere to the [former] Joseon Government-General’s view of history, even now in South Korean society monopolize the right to interpret history. At the same time, they claim it is ‘historical positivism’ (실증사학) based on facts.

However there is a mystery. Throughout there has been consistent criticism [of the SMSG historians] that that which is claimed by colonial historiography is not ‘fact’. And there has also been a consistent call to have a [scholarly] debate over whether they are [indeed] fact or not. However, the colonial scholars who profess

‘historical positivism’ have not once responded to this request. They have only responded by heaping all manner of insults on those scholars who have proposed a scholarly debate instead of [just] attacking (논박) one another’s opinions. They have scorned them employing all manner of terms such as calling them ‘jaeya {在野 lit. ‘in the wild’} historians’, or ‘nationalists’, or saying [their views] are similar to North Korea. Why did they do this? [In this book] it will be explained in detail, but [in short] it was because colonial historiography was [nothing more than] political propaganda far from [actual] ‘facts’.” p36

Yi Injik {李人稙} the national traitor (매국노) who shapedshifted into a foreteller (선각자 lit. ‘one [with] foresight’)

“Whilst many citizens were furious at the Resident-General administration of Itō [Hirobumi], Yi Injik {李人稙 secretary to Yi Wan-yong} was serializing his political novel containing the story that ‘a Japanese soldier saves a Korean girl.’ This was in order to convey messages such as, “Japan, save us quick!” or “the Japanese occupation is a blessing for us.” In short, Hyeol-ui Ru (『혈의루』 {血の淚} ‘Tears of Blood’ [cited in school textbooks as Korea’s first ‘modern’ novel]) was a political novel filled with the traitorous (賣國 lit. ‘selling the country’) political views of Yi Injik.” p38

Shiratori Kurakichi {白鳥庫吉} of Tokyo Imperial University and Naitō Konan {内藤湖南} of Kyoto Imperial University

“It was the Joseon Government-General that made [the Korean history academic] ‘major’ (전공) inviolable sacred territory. This was because once [scholars] studied only their own major [and nothing further] it stopped the emergence of multi-discipline scholars who [could otherwise] raise issues about Imperial Japan’s colonial rule itself. Until the forced occupation by Imperial Japan, as can been seen in [examples such as] Seongho Yi Ik {星湖 李瀷 1681-1763} and Dasan Jeong Yak-yong {茶山 丁若鏞 1762-1836}, Joseon scholars were multi-discipline humanities scholars… The current SMSG historians who continue to survive by – instead of engaging in debate – driving out the scholars proposing debate when they hold differing opinions to themselves; these historians are nothing more than F grade scholars who lack the confidence even to debate on the same level as Shiratori Kurakichi {白鳥庫吉} or Naitō Konan {内藤湖南}.” p66

Imperialist archaeology

“In 1914, Sekino Tadashi {関野貞} compiled these archaeological excavation results and published [under] the Joseon Government-General’s publishing [department] the Chōsen-koseki-chōsa-ryakuhōkoku (朝鮮古蹟調査略報告 ‘Summary report on investigation of ancient Joseon remains’); after that in 1915 the Government-General published the Chōsen-koseki-tokoku (朝鮮古蹟調圖報 ‘Illustrated Report on ancient Joseon remains’) and in 1917 the Chōsen-koseki-hōkokusho (朝鮮古蹟報告書 ‘[Longer] report on ancient Joseon remains’). These reports on excavations became powerful proof through archaeology to support the [otherwise] wanton positioning [of the Han Commanderies] of the colonial historians [underpinning] the ‘Theory that the Four Han Commanderies were located on the Korean peninsula’ for which there was not a shred of primary source evidence. Since this time until the present in which colonial historiography has [still yet] to be overcome, these sites and relics which do not speak [themselves, have been interpreted by] Korean SMSG scholars who claim them as evidence of the Four Han Commanders.” p73

The road to the Joseon History Compilation Committee {朝鮮史編修會}

“If the {scholarly} history societies in Japan made by those at Tokyo Imperial, Keio and Rikugun [Army] Universities were the ‘head temples’ (총본산), in the colony it was Keijō Imperial University (경성대 [aka Seoul University]) and the Joseon History Compilation Committee that continued the intent, forming the Cheonggu-hak’hoe society {靑丘學會 est.1930 – where Cheonggu is another name for Korea} and publishing the Cheonggu-hakchong journal {靑丘學叢}. This cartel that stretched between Japan and the Joseon colony has continued in part even after liberation and until today having changed [only] slightly in form; it has played an important role in making [the academic field of] Korean history follow colonial historiography. As can be seen in the purpose they expressed of “researching the culture of the Far East centered on Joseon and Manchuria, and spreading the results to ordinary [citizens],” the Cheonggu-hak’hoe society was an organisation created to spread the SMSG to ordinary people; whilst Japanese scholars formed the core, Korean scholars including Yi Byeongdo (李丙燾), Sin Seok-ho (申奭鎬), Choe Namseon (崔南善) and Yi Neunghwa (李能和) also participated.” p77

Part 2 The question raised by the Northeast Asian History Foundation (동북역사재단)
1. The summer 2012 incident [concerning] the resource book [prepared by] Gyeonggi-do Education Office

According to Lee, in 2012, Gyeonggi-do Education Department (경기도교육청) published a school resource book, Dongbuk’a Pyeonghwa-reul Ggum-gguda (『동북아 평화를 꿈꾸다』 ‘Dreaming of Northeast Asian Peace’) aimed against China’s Northeast Project. The NEAHF, then headed by Seok Dong-yeon, sent an official letter to the Ministry of Education telling them to revise the text because the content was sensitive to China-Japan relations. The Ministry refused to accept the letter. Thereupon, according to Lee, Seok Dong-yeon had the Joongang Ilbo newspaper publish this article, the publicity of which forced the Ministry of Education to send its own official letter to Gyeonggi-do Education Department.

“..the term ‘indication (지적 lit. ‘pointing something out’) [by the] Northeast Asian History Foundation’ would be accurate to read as ‘indication [by the] Government-General’. Concerning the SMSG, in Korean society there are many people who are at once perpetrators and victims; I would imagine that this [Joongang Ilbo] journalist was one such person.” p118

“This [Joongang Ilbo] journalist was unaware of the fact that the opinion of the Northeast Asian History Foundation is exactly the same as the opinion of the [former] Government-General’s Joseon History Compilation Committee. Saying that, [however, they] cannot [simply] receive a pardon (면죄부). It is the same reasoning (논리) that one could not be given a pardon if during the Japanese Colonial era (강점기) they had mistaken a rustic farmer carrying a gun who was [actually] an independence fighter, for a robber and so alerted the military police [resulting] in [the independence fighter’s] execution.” p119

“This behaviour of the Northeast Asian History Foundation [criticizing Gyeonggi-do Education Department on the grounds their publication may have upset China or Japan who wouldn’t have known of it if not for the Foundation publicizing the matter] is exactly the same [sort of] case as [if, during the Colonial era] the military (헌병대) or Imperial Japanese police had been unaware of an independence army hiding in the mountain behind a village but a Japanese collaborator then voluntarily went and informed [them]. The behaviour of a national agency (기관) of South Korea – selling out its history (賣史) and selling the country (매국) has reached this point.” p120

The Northeast Asian History Foundation mistakenly imagining itself to be under the umbrella of the [former Joseon] Government-General

“To take a human body as a metaphor, the SMSG [was] like cancer cells spreading to various places inside the body; when removed from one area, it was spreading to another. Because [the Ministry of Education] was unable to accept the recommendations of the Northeast Asian History Foundation, the NEAHF mobilized the media and pushed it (물고 늘어진 것) to the end.” p123

From Jeong Seung-uk’s article in Segye Ilbo (2012.9.21.)

“[I] am truly curious to know what on earth the criteria [of judgement] of the NEAHF is. There is enough evidence to assert that Manchuria was the land (터전) of the Korean minjok. I wonder if everything we assert is [according to them] distorted and absurd. I want to ask them (the NEAHF). Which country’s foundation is the NEAHF?” Quoted by Lee p124

“Seok Dong-yeon, head [of the NEAHF] sent an official letter (공문) to the Ministry of Education, but when the South Korean Ministry of Education did not accept it, he mobilized his original friends (친정 lit. ‘maiden family’) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and spearheaded the Joongang Ilbo report.” p125

“It was a situation in which [Seok Dong-yeon] was, through South Korean citizens’ tax money, enjoying the treatment of a vice minister (? 차관급) [whilst] imagining himself [자처하다] an agent of [both] the Japanese extreme right and [on] the ‘leading group’ (영도소조 领导小组) of China’s Northeast Project.” p125

“All of the East Asian history disputes and territory disputes have been started by Japan or China. That is to say, we are the victims. However people like Seok Dong-yeon tell the victims what they should be saying to the perpetrators.” p127

“The titles [of their reports] or background explanation always seems reasonable (그럴듯하다). This is because they have to be wrapped on the outside as though they are in the national interest of South Korea because it is no longer the era of Imperial Japan and [they] are under the government of South Korea.” p127

“The line [from the NEAHFD’s critical analysis of the resource book {Lee is apparently quoting the ‘official letter’}], “In the description of Old Joseon in the resource book (자료집) there is a tendency for a [certain] consistent observation [i.e. pro Dan’gun etc],” is criticizing that the Gyeonggi-do resource book described Old Joseon from a viewpoint different to that of the SMSG of the NEAHF. It is exactly this part, the difference in viewpoints which is most important. Dreaming of Northeast Asian Peace maintains the viewpoint of South Korea, of the Korean minjok whilst the NEAHF have the viewpoint of Japan and China.” p128

Colonial historiography uncomfortable with criticism of the [former] Joseon Histoy Compilation Committee’s colonial view of history

In May 2013, Lee’s Han’garam-yeoksa-munhwa-yeon’guso (한가람역사문화연구소 ‘Hangaram History and Culture Research Centre’) undertook a government funded project titled “Research in the historical view and state foundation discourse of the minjok leaders during the period of Imperial Japan’s forced occupation” (‘일제 강점기 민족 지도자들의 역사관 및 국가 건설론 연구’) planning to publish 15 volumes over three years. In February 2014 they published the first three volumes including Lee’s Joseonsa-pyeonsu-hoe Singmin-sagwan I’ron Bipan (『조선사편수회 식민사관 이론 비판』 ‘Critique on the theory of the Joseon History Compilation Committee’s SMSG’). An external review board particularly criticized this work and as a result their budget has been slightly reduced. This section is devoted to Lee’s refutation.

“However, the external reviewers (편가단) instructed me to change the title [of my book] on the reasoning that while my book criticized the ‘Joseon History Compilation Committee’s SMSG theory,’ it also criticized the wider SMSG (식민사관 일반). In short, the [original] title Critique on the theory of the Joseon History Compilation Committee’s SMSG was uncomfortable [for them]; I could understand if the background setting [for this] was moved to before [the 1945] liberation. The structure of the reasoning is no different to the academic bureau (학무국) of the Joseon Government-General [expressing] furiously ‘You dare to criticize the Joseon History Compilation Committee..?!’ It is the same as [the fact that still today] it is not allowed to published a book on South Korean soil with South Korean citizens’ tax money titled Critique on the theory of the Joseon History Compilation Committee’s SMSG [as I did].” p132

“However this is a repetition of what has been experienced by [other] scholars who have confronted the SMSG. It was also the [same] scorn jointly experienced by Professor Yun Naehyeon of Dankook University (단국대) who criticized the ‘theory that the Han Commanderies were located on the Korean peninsula’ and Professor Choe Jaeseok of Korea University who criticized the ‘Theory that the early records of the Samguk-sagi are not trustworthy’. Just as the last Governor-General [of Korea], Abe Nobuyuki (阿部信行) said, from the outside South Korea has become liberated, but its psychology (정신세계 lit. ‘spiritual world’), that is its view of history (역사관) seems still in the grasp of the Governor-General’s Joseon History Compilation Committee. When people such as myself say in a private capacity (사석에서), “[we must] study with the attitude (자세) of fighting for independence (돌깁 운동하다), we know between ourselves it is no exaggeration. [South Korea] is a country in which people who are troubled by the title [of my publication] Critique on the theory of the Joseon History Compilation Committee’s SMSG still grip swords by the name of ‘reviewer’ (심사). The instructions (지적) of the external reviewers (편가단) would not have been possible did they not possess the [same] historical perspective of the [former] Joseon Government-General.” p133

“Archaeology is the last stronghold that SMSG academics (식민사학계) are leaning against, for whom textual evidence has failed [them].” p134

“However, when the fact was revealed that there is no primary source [based] evidence for the opinion (주장) of colonial historiography, and that in the Chinese textual sources which were compiled at the same time the Han Commanderies existed, they all say that [the Commanderies] were located in Liaodong, [the SMSG scholars now] insist that these sources cannot be trusted.

What kind of textual sources can be trusted? It hardly needs to be said, sources that were compiled at the time that the Han Commanderies existed, namely the Shiji, Hanshu Houhanshu, Sanguozhi and Jinshu {晉書}; my book Critique on the theory of the Joseon History Compilation Committee’s SMSG laid out its reasoning based on these textual sources. All this time, colonial historiography has, without any primary source evidence, been unconditionally following the order of the [former] Joseon Government-General that Lelang and the other Commanderies were [to be] located on the Korean peninsula. Once it was exposed that there was absolutely no primary source [based] evidence, they have been trying to avoid crisis by [relying on] archaeology. However, since then, the archaeology [they] used as the basis for claiming the Han Commanderies to have been on the Korean peninsula was merely either fabricated or [subject to] willful interpretation. For example, the fact is already known (밝혀졌다) that none of the tombs in which there is an inscription (銘文) identifying the occupant, has any relation to the Han Commanderies.” p142

“In short, the appraisal of the [external] review group (평가단) did nothing more than, from a viewpoint of supporting colonial historiography, show (표시) [their] intention that colonial historiography must be eternally maintained. The problem is the point that this is happening not [under] the [former] Government-General system but within the [current] system of the South Korean government.” p144

“[I] will add one thing further about the Lelang [census] tablets (목간). In the past, concerning all archaeology conducted in North Korea since liberation, SMSG historians (식민사학 lit. ‘colonial historiography’) have scorned it saying it cannot be trusted. But then concerning the Lelang tablets, is it so that they have all at the same time changed their attitude, completely reversing themselves from adamant anti-Communists to pro-North [sympathizers] (친북)? I am curious as to why at this point in time the Lelang tablets were made public in North Korea, coming to the rescue of the SMSG historians…

In academia there are several areas in which North Korea is entirely superior to South Korea. One is Korean linguistics, the other is ancient history. When I read Research on idu [writing] of the Three Kingdoms Period (세 나라 시기의 이두 연구), by North Korean [scholar] Ryu Ryeol, I was very surprised. ‘North Korean research on idu is at this level!’ I spontaneously thought. North Korea views the western border of Old Joseon from the time after a region of 2,000 li was taken by Qin Kai (진개) of Yan in the C3rd BCE, as the Daling-he river (대릉하). By the first half of the 1960s they had already dealt with (정리하다 lit. ‘tidied up/ordered/arranged’) the Imperial Japanese colonial historiography. Only, [during] the 1990s as Juche Thought was [being] emphasized, the centre of Old Joseon was revised to being Pyeongyang, however, this was nothing more than political reasoning (논리 ‘logic’), the reasoning of the 1960-70s is the real reasoning of North Korean scholars (학계).

By contrast, South Korea inherited the Imperial Japanese colonial historiographic tradition as it was and adhered to the ‘Han Commanderies peninsula [location] theory’ until they were put on the defensive [by Lee’s charge that there is no primary source evidence] and are [still now] continuing to survive through the transformation argumentation (변형 논리) of the ‘Old Joseon centre movement theory’. Seeing North Korea make public the Lelang [census] tablets, I wondered, “Maybe in North Korea [they] wish that South Korea’s colonial historiography will be maintained.” If the historiography of people like myself becomes the mainstream historiography of South Korea, then North Korea will lose one of the [few] fields in which they are absolutely superior to South Korea.” p147

“In the end, rather than being objective appraisal about my book, the appraisal of the ‘external review group’ (외부 평가단) can only be viewed as biased criticism stemming from negative presuppositions about the criticism of colonial historiography [in the book], demonstrating (대변하다) sympathy (이해) for the established SMSG scholars (식민사학계).” p148

Lee Deok-il 이덕일. 2014. 우리 안의 식민사관: 해방되지 못한 역사, 그들은 어떻게 우리를 지배했는가 (The Colonial View of History Inside of Us: history which was not liberated, how did they rule over us?). Seoul: 만권당.

See here for part 3 of the translated extracts.


3 thoughts on “Sources: “The Colonial View of History Inside of Us” Lee Deok-il translated extracts part 2/4

  1. Pingback: Sources: “The Colonial View of History Inside of Us” Lee Deok-il | Koreanology

  2. Pingback: Sources: “The Colonial View of History Inside of Us” Lee Deok-il translated extracts part 3/4 | Koreanology

  3. Pingback: Sources: “The Colonial View of History Inside of Us” Lee Deok-il translated extracts part 4/4 | Koreanology

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