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

See here for part 1, part 2 and part 3.

SMSG = singmin-sa’gwan 식민사관 ‘colonial view of history’
NEAHF = Northeast Asian History Foundation 동북아역사재단

Part 3 Ancient Korean history has always been modern history
1. People’s movement (국민운동본부) [for] the dissolution of the Northeast Asian History Foundation and the colonial view of history

Ancient Korean history beginning with the Four Han Commanderies

“Let us consider the periodization in [the volume] Joseon-bando-sa {朝鮮半島史 ‘History of the Joseon Peninsula’} which was compiled by the Joseon History Compilation Committee of the Joseon Government-General before it compiled the enormous 37 volume (including contents and index) Joseon-sa {朝鮮史 ‘History of Korea’}. The first volume is ‘Ancient Samhan’ (上古三韓), divided into two parts; part one is the ‘primeval period’ (원시 시대) and part two is ‘[Chinese] Han (漢) territory period’ (한漢 영토 시대). Dan’gun Joseon is treated as a legend rather than historical fact [and so] is placed in the ‘primeval period’ so the start of Korean history is established as the ‘[Chinese] Han 漢 territory period,’ that is the Four Han Commanderies 漢四郡. The intention was to make the start of Korean history [with Korea] as a colony; this is in exact agreement with the NEAHF[‘s Early Korea Project] deleting Old Joseon and beginning with the Four Han Commanderies.” p214

“[The Early Korea Project books imply that] the northern part of the Korean peninsula was a Chinese colony called the Four Han Commanderies (한사군) and the southern part of the Korean peninsula was a Japanese colony called the Mimana Japan Office (Kaya {임나일본부}). This is in exact agreement with China’s Northeast Project (동북공정). The main theories of the Northeast Project can be broadly consider as three points.

1) The Daedong-gang river basin was the region of Old Joseon and the Lelang-jun commandery = Old Joseon was a small state north of the Han-gang river and the Four Han Commanderies were established in its place.
2) Goguryeo was a regional feudality of China.
3) North of the Han-gang river and [modern] North Korea were the historical territory of China.

“If one goes to the homepage of the NEAHF, the section which explains about these [Early Korea Project] books is ‘history reconciliation’ (역사 화해). ‘History reconciliation’ could be interpreted as a good meaning, but at a place like the NEAHF, it is correct to read ‘history reconciliation’ as ‘achieving reconciliation by giving Korean history to Japan and China.” p217

“In the ‘Early Korea Project’ there is no Old Joseon [but] there are the Four Han Commanderies (한사군). In this project which covers from the start of Korean history until the Goryeo period, Goguryeo and Baekje have been entirely deleted. According to this project, Korean history goes from the Four Han Commanderies via Gaya to mid Silla and then to Goryeo. In this project the Gaya [it] wants to refer to is, of course, the Mimana Japan office (임나일본부). And, according to the ‘Theory that the early records of the Samguk-sagi are not trustworthy’ which was created by Tsuda Sōkichi and passed on to Imanishi Ryū and Yi Byeongdo etc, early Silla history has also been deleted so it goes [straight] into The Samhan period in Korean History and State and Society in Middle and Late Silla.” p219

Yi Byeongdo who participated in Japanese Tenri [sect of Shintō] (天理) religious ceremony

Quoted extract from the memoires of Kim Yong-seop, an anti SMSG professor of Seoul National University.

“There are two times I [Kim Yong-seop] spoke with Professor Han (U-geun); owing to his age, his manner of speaking was very different. One time Professor Du-gye (斗溪 [aka] Yi Byeongdo) had gone to Japan at the invitation of Tenri University (天理大学) and from there he invited Professor Han and myself telling us to consult between ourselves and come. [Professor Han said to me,] “Professor Kim, let’s go together. If Professor Kim [you] goes, I will also go; if you do not go, I do not want to go either.”

He added, “By the way, Professor Du-gye has gone to Tenri University and so he is dressed in a Tenri-kyō (天理教) ceremonial robe and they have him participating in religious ceremonies.

It is still the [same] period as the Government-General there [in Japan], I thought. I declined, “Professor, I get very car sick so I cannot travel. Please go by yourself.”

The other time was when several people were gathered together, [Professor Han U-geun] said “… Professor Kim, let’s now stop [practicing] minjok historiography.”

This was at the centre of various talking; although his words were soft, his tone was strong. It was an order.” Citing Kim Yongseop 김용섭 Yeoksa-ui o’solgil-eul ga’myeonseo 『 역사의 오솔길을 가면선』 지식산업사, 2011, 771쪽. p224

“After the 1930s, Tenri-kyō (天理教) played a leading role in Japanese militarism (군국주의) and it must be viewed as an even more serious [form] of Japanese Shintōism than nationalist Shintō. This is because it holds the doctrine that every single human being was born from the stomach of Oyasama {おやさま}.” p226

“Although the Joseon Government-General dismantled the Shintō shrines across Korea [in the wake of the 1945 withdrawal] there is no doubt that they believed the spirit they had planted [in Korea] through the shrines would continue. And that belief became reality through the leader of Korean history [as an academic discipline], Yi Byeongdo, wearing the black ceremonial costume of the Tenri-kyō (天理教) [shintō sect] and participating in [Tenri-kyō] worship ceremonies, kneeling, bowing and clapping four times. Further, it has become reality through the [former] Government-General’s view of history [being] the established theory (정설) of South Korea’s (colonial) historiography (사학계), firmly occupying the place of commonly accepted theory (통설).” p229

2. The colonial view of history cartel which continued even after liberation

The Northeast Asian History Foundation refusing the proposal for a public debate

“… This is because the ‘Theory of the Four Han Commanderies [being located on] the Korean peninsula’ (한사군 한반도설) has no primary source [based] evidence, it is history fabricated by the Joseon Government-General. Until now, [Korean] citizens have not known this fact and wrongly assumed that the opinions of those [SMSG academics] in university lecture halls did have evidence. However, now the situation is different. Because the situation is no longer that SMSG historians can monopolize all forms of media like they used to. Consequently it has become a situation in which ‘we know and they know’ the fact that the ‘Theory of the Four Han Commanderies [being located on] the Korean peninsula’ is a fabricated theory with no primary source [based] evidence. Because it has no scholarly evidence, they can only avoid debate. Because they have to block the debate itself, they all unanimously bluff (호도), “It is a question which has already been dealt with by academia.” That is why the Gungmin-undong-bonbu (국민운동본부) sent [the NEAHF] a second official letter [requesting to hold a conference on the question of the location of the Han Commanderies].” p244

“The battle line between the view of history of the Joseon Government-General and that of the independence activists was always Korea’s ancient history. From a hundred years back when the country was stolen [by the Japanese] until today, in this situation (이 자리에서) [interest in] ancient Korean history has always been [about] modern history. The reason that the character gwan (觀) ‘to view’ is in the word sa’gwan (史觀 ‘view of history’) is because when looking/considering history, the viewpoint (관점) is most important. The viewpoint for considering history must be the same for both ancient and modern history. If someone who views ancient history from the perspective (관점) of the ruling class were to view modern history from the perspective of the common people (민중 minjung), the term sa’gwan (‘view of history’) must not be used for them. Such a person cannot be considered as a scholar either. However in South Korean history academia such behaviour has become popular currency (통용). Consequently, those scholars who major either in the history of the independence movement or modern history avoid the question saying, “I do not know about ancient history because it is not my major.” They pretend on purpose not to know the fact that ancient Korean history which was created by the Joseon Government-General is, in this situation, modern history. Saying, “Ancient history should be left to those majoring in it” is no different to saying the Joseon Government-General’s view of history must permanently be maintained. The Joseon Government-General made walls within the education system and walls between academic majors, stopping scholars from being able to see the entirety. Further, they [employed] divide and rule through the units of the education system and academic majors. Even after liberation this framework of colonial rule was maintained and so South Korea became a country in which communication [with{in?}] the education system does not exist. And further, amongst [their] overview writings/discourse (총론), the SMSG scholars (식민사학에서) pretend to criticise the SMSG, that is the historical view of the [former] Government-General, but in their individual papers/discourses (각론) they have inherited the historical view of the Joseon Government-General, as is, [hidden] under the name of [their specialized] major. In this way, controlling 100% of academia (학계) through professorial positions and money, they have made the greater proportion of scholars into slaves. Both a member of the [Korean] Academy of Science (학술원) and an archaeologist, Yun Byeongmu, wrote the [following] recollection about Yi Byeongdo who after liberation was at the summit of this system.

“Not only was Master Du-gye (Yi Byeongdo) the kind teacher (은사) who I served academically, he was also nothing less than the benefactor who determined the path of my entire life. I was able to spend a half of my life first at the museum of Seoul National University and later at the National Museum [of Korea]; it was Master Du-gye who opened the path enabling me to take these two jobs. He possessed a nature to warmly guide and help anyone who came before his presence {lit. ‘came before his eyes} for ever after.” Quoting Jindan-hakhoe 진단학회 Yeoksaga-ui yuhyang 『 역사가의 유향』 일조각, 1991, 129쪽.

Conversely what he said means that “Those who once left [Yi Byeongdo’s] presence, he would always” make it impossible for them to find an academic position. Consequently, if one presented a theory that was different to the Joseon Government-General’s view of history, not only would you never be able to lecture, or find an academic position, you would be banished from academia with the words ‘jae-ya’ ([在野] lit. ‘in the wild’) carved in red. Through this method the Joseon Government-General’s view of history has been maintained until today as the single established theory/orthodoxy (정설) or commonly accepted theory (통설).

However now the situation has changed. Scholars like myself have emerged who major in history and themselves refuse ‘the [exclusive] league only for them.’ At the Han’garam-yeoksa-munhwa-yeon’gu-so (한가람역사문화연구소 Han’garam History and Culture Research Centre) where I am, there are now several people with doctoral degrees, and many who even if they do not have a PhD are able to recite primary sources line by line [better] than SMSG historians. In this way, more than seventy years since liberation, for the first time a single place (축) has formed to confront the colonial historiography. Now, when these scholars demanded to hold an academic debate about the ‘location of the Four Han Commanderies’ based on ancient primary sources and according to the historical method, SMSG historians had no other means than to all stay silent together. Like parrots they continue repeating, “It has been dealt with by academia as the ‘Theory that the Four Han Commanderies [were located on] the Korean peninsula.'” I have already said, when they say ‘academia’ (학계) it is correct to read it as ‘colonial academic historians’ (식민사학계).” p249-51

The letter sent from Byington to the Northeast Asia History Foundation

“During the previous administration, at a public academic meeting, a [certain] important person [titling himself] the ‘representative compiler of Korean history textbooks’ (국사 교과서의 대표집필자) – [those textbooks with which] there are so many problems, who was there as the group leader of the Korean Studies Promotion Service (한국학진흥사업단) said the following about Sin Chaeho.

In four [Korean] words, Sin Chaeho was a ‘mental patient’ (정신병자), in three he was a ‘crazy’ (또라이)

I have confirmed this story from multiple sources. If I had been there at the time, I would not have just looked on without doing anything. However, a large number of historians did nothing even though they heard this [dangerously] absurd remark (망언). In South Korea it is already a long time ago that the academic field of history deteriorated into weak academia (鼠生의 학문 lit. ‘academia of mice’). If it were France, this kind of extreme right fascist national-traitor (매국노 lit. ‘slave who sells the country’) would immediately be imprisoned, but in South Korea he has control over an enormous annual budget of 25 billion won related to Korean history through the Korean Studies Promotion Service. The reality is that most of the historians were [too] busy with their sycophancy (아부) towards this national traitor.” p261

“In one sense Byington, too, is both a perpetrator and victim of the SMSG. Who would have told him about the [independence activist] historians who in one hand held a gun and the other a [writing] brush? What do the rogues (말종들) privately scoff about amongst themselves when [even] in a public academic setting they are saying, “In four [Korean] words, Sin Chaeho was a ‘mental patient’, in three he was a ‘crazy'”?! [Byington] would only have heard [from] the traitorous historians seeped in sadae-juui Sinocentricism (사대주의), criticizing those who were both independence activists and historians. Byington surely did not know the fact itself that there had been a fierce clash between the Joseon Government-General and the independence activists over the interpretation of history. If Byington had known the fact that there had been a fierce clash over views of history and used the method of comparing the two opinions according to the basic methodology of history, conclusions such [as those found in] The Han Commanderies in Early Korean History would absolutely not have been produced. If he had compared according to the historical method the opinion of the [former] Joseon Government-General that asserts the ‘Theory that the Four Han Commanderies [were located on] the Korean peninsula’ with the opinion of the independence activists who asserted the ‘Hebei province zone theory,’ the conclusion would have been different. [Sources including] the Shiji, Hanshu, Samguozhi, Houhanshu and Jinshu (晉書) which were written contemporaneously to the period that the Four Han Commanderies were established [or lasted for], [all] consistently write that the position of the Four Han Commanderies was [in] Liaodong. However, in a situation (상태) where Byington lacks the ability to examine those opinions based on primary sources, he would have [only] heard as being correct the view of history of the Joseon Government-General transmitted [to him] by the SMSG historians.” p263

“The viewpoint of a scholar must be consistent at least on the topic they are dealing with themselves; but Byington demonstrates layered self-contradiction [when] at the start [of his letter sent to the NEAHF] he criticizes the opinion of the Joseon Government-General as “the research results of Imperial Japan’s forced occupation” but [at the same time also] criticizes the scholars who [themselves] were criticizing ‘the research results of Imperial Japan’s forced occupation,’ as making ‘ethno-nationalism (민족주의) and wishful thinking’ (희망사항 lit. ‘items of hope’) their research motivation.” p264

“If the ministers of the National Assembly had raised issue with a book privately authored by Byington, he would be able to respond in the manner which he did. However, Byington did not research The Han Commanderies in Early Korean History with his own private funding. It was researched with a billion (10억) won of the nation’s money equivalent to South Korean citizens’ [own] blood. If [someone] took the tax money of US citizens and published the results of research that said the Pacific War had broken out due to the fault of the US, and that Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour was right, would the US senators simply allow it!?” p267

Song Hojeong who has devoted his academic career to disparaging Old Joseon

“In order to negate Old Joseon, Song Hojeong enjoys incorporating nomadic peoples such as the San’yung (山戎 Ch. Shanrong) and Dongho (東胡 Ch. Donghu). When Dan’gun first established [Old] Joseon, it was not [at that time] given the name ‘Joseon.’ The history of Old Joseon written by Old Joseon people does not remain. Consequently we are forced to grasp [Old Joseon history] from the Samguk-yusa and Samguk-sagi which are later sources, as well as books written by ancient Chinese. Chinese people used various terms for Old Joseon. Dongho 東胡 is simply a different name for Old Joseon.” p275

“The effort which Song Hojeong puts in to negate (부인) Old Joseon is enough to [make one] feel apologetic [for his efforts]. Just as Tsuda Sōkichi incorporated the ‘Han’ 韓 section of the “Weishu” [book] from the Sanguozhi, in order to negate the early records of the Samguk-sagi, Song Hojeong incorporates the ‘San’yung (山戎 Ch. Shanrong) and Dongho (東胡 Ch. Donghu)’ in order to negate Old Joseon.” p276

“[Both] the Chinese Northeast Project and Korean SMSG historiography cooperate in making the argumentation (논리 lit. ‘logic’) of the ‘Shanrong’ and ‘Donghu’ etc in order to separate the region from which pipa-shaped bronze daggers (Old Joseon type bronze daggers) have been widely unearthed in current Chinese Liaoxi – that is the region of western Liaoning province and Inner Mongolia – from Old Joseon and so restrict Old Joseon to within the Korean peninsula; [they do this] in order to shrink the territory of Old Joseon to within the Korean peninsula.” p276

“If it can be said that Seo Yeongsu and No Taedon slightly departed from the argumentation of the [former] Joseon Government-General that ‘Old Joseon = a small country in the region of South Pyeong’an-do province’ [by] asserting that the centre of Old Joseon which had been in Liaodong [subsequently] moved to Pyeongyang, [then] Song Hojeong is basically reproducing the Joseon Government-General’s argumentation, as is, that Old Joseon was established in the northwest of the Korean peninsula and [continued until it] collapsed there [in the same location].” p277

Opinions of the other contributors

“The point in common between these opinions [of SMSG scholars on Lelang-jun commandery] is that the perspective through which they view Korean history is hostile to Korea. Praising the Joseon Government-General administration (시정) is no different to praising Lelang-jun commandery. It is the same thought, praising colonial rule.” p284

Part 4 The colonial view of history’s secret method for survival
1. Insisting that [the topic] has already been dealt (정리가 끝났다) with in academia

The ‘Theory that the Four Han Commanderies [were located on] the Korean peninsula’ that, academically, has already been discarded

(On locating Xiandou-xian county (險讀縣 K. Heomdok-hyeon) which was known as the capital location for Wi Man Joseon’s Wangheom-seong and therefore the subsequent location of the Han Commanderies.)

“Concerning the position of Wangheom-seong {王險城}, let us consider the Shiji-jixie (史記集解) by Pei Yin (裴駰) of the Southern Song from the period of the Northern and Southern dynasties of China. The Shiji-jixie is a collection of all the books with annotations/commentaries (주석) on the Shiji from between the time that the Shiji was written until the mid to late 5th century when [Pei Yin] was living. Concerning Wangheom-seong, Pei Yin explains in the Shiji-jixie, “Xu Guang (徐廣) said that Xiandou-xian county (險讀縣 K. Heomdok-hyeon) was/is in Changli-jun 昌黎郡.” This means Xu Guang said, “Xiandou-xian was in Changli-jung.” Xu Guang was a scholar of the Eastern Jin (東晋) period who lived from around the late 4th century until the early 5th century. There is a present day Changli-xian county (昌黎县) in Hebei province; of course this county is related to the Changli-xian of this period. The Xiandou-xian county that SMSG scholars claim is south of the Daedong-gang river is [actually] in Hebei province [China].

In his Shiji-suoyin (史記索隱), Sima Zhen (司馬貞) of the Tang [dynasty] wrote concerning Xiandou-xian as follows.

Shiji-suoyin: Wei Zhao (韋昭) said, “[Xiandou] is the name of an old district {邑}.” Xu Guang (徐廣) said, “Xiandou-xian is in Changli-xian.” Ying Shao’s (應劭) annotations say, “In the “Geography treaty” {地理志} it says that Xiandou-xian is/was in Liaodong-jun, as was the capital of Joseon king Wi Man.” Chen Zan (臣瓚) said, “Wangheom-seong is to the east of the Lelang-jun Paesu [river].” “p298

“However, Kim Gyeongseon (金景善 1788-1853) left behind the travel account Yeonwon-jingji (燕轅直指) [detailing his journey] as an emissary to Beijing during the reign of Sunjo. However, in this he left behind a passage as if he had known that in future generations SMSG scholars would make mischief over the location of the Paesu river.

Hora! Later generations being unable to know the border of lands in detail, foolishly understood all the land of the Four Han Commanderies 漢四郡 to have been restricted to within {i.e. south of} the Amnok-gang river and so matched the facts arbitrarily. And then searching for the Paesu river amongst those [mixed up facts] they said it was either the Amnok-gang, the Cheongcheon-gang or the even the Paesu; [in so doing] they shrunk the territory of Old Joseon without even fighting a war [over it].” p300

“Chen Zan (臣瓚) said, “Wangheom-seong is to the east of the Lelang-jun Paesu [river],” not to its south. Pyeongyang is to the north of the Daedong-gang river. The SMSG scholars [variously] assert [that the Paesu river was the] Yalu (압록강), the Cheongcheon-gang or the Daedong-gang river as though they do not even know east, west, south and north.” p301

“Chen Zan (臣瓚), a scholar of the Western Jin (西晉 265-316) said, “Wangheom-seong is to the east of the Lelang-jun Paesu [river].” Yan Shigu (顔師古 581-645), as scholar of the Tang period also supported Chen Zan. What do the facts mean that Wangheom-seong [the capital of Wi Man Joseon] was located to the east of the Paesu river which was in Lelang-jun, and that Xiandou-xian (險讀縣) – established in the place of Wangheom-seong – belonged to Liaodong-jun? It means that Lelang-jun was to the west of Liaodong-jun.” p302

“Concerning Lelang-jun, the centre of the Four Han Commanderies, Chinese primary sources consistently state that it was located in Liaodong. Aside from the Shiji and Hanshu [discussed] above, the “Basic Annal of Emperor Gwangwu” (光武帝[本紀]) in the Houhanshu also says, “Lelang-jun was ancient Chaoxian-guo {朝鮮國 K. Joseon-guk – aka Old Joseon}. It was located in Liaodong 在遼東.” And in the “Cui Yin biography” (崔駰[列傳]) of the Houhanshu it says, “Changcen-xian county 長岑縣 belongs to Lelang-jun, that land is in Liaodong 其地在遼東.” Ancient Chinese books repeatedly state that the position of Lelang-jun was not the Korean peninsula but Liaodong. There is not a single primary source saying Lelang-jun was located on the Korean peninsula.”p303-4

“Thereupon the SMSG scholars began whining that Goryeo period people also regarded Pyeongyang as [the location of] Lelang-jun. This is looking for a kind of refuge to hide in. It is true that from mid Goryeo, the Confucian scholars (유학자들) created the ‘Gi Ja coming east theory’ (箕子東來說) based on sadae-juui Sinocentricism (사대주의 사상) saying that Gi Ja (箕子) came to Pyeongyang, and they called Pyeongyang ‘Gi-seong’ (箕城) with the meaning ‘Gi Ja’s capital’. However, this is nothing more than the sadae-juui philosophy of Confucian scholars which emerged more than a thousand years after the establishment of Lelang-jun commandery. Gi Ja did not come to Pyeongyang. In his annotation of the “Songweizi-shijia” (宋微子世家) chapter of the Shiji, Du Yu (杜預 222-285) of Western Jin (西晉) wrote, “Gi Ja’s tomb (箕子塚) is in Meng-xian county (蒙縣) of Liang-guo state (梁國).” According to the 3rd volume of The Historical Atlas of China ([中国歷史地图集]) published by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences ([中国社会科学院]), Liangguo of the Western Jin period [was located in modern] Meng-xian county close to current day Shangqiu (商丘) city of Henan province. Shangqiu has the meaning of ‘Shang [dynasty] (상나라) hill’; as the tomb site of Gi Ja who was from Yin (은나라 aka Shang) it is much more persuasive than Pyeongyang.” p304

2. Dismissing the value of historical sources

The overseas Koreans [I] met on Jieshi-shan mountain {碣石山 K. Galseok-san} and No Taedon of Seoul National University

(According to Lee, in the “Taikang-dilizhi” 太康地理 geography treatise of the Shiji Jieshi-shan mountain 碣石山 is recorded as the eastern terminus of the Great Wall, located in Suicheng-xian 遂城縣 county of Lelang-jun. Yi Byeongdo hypothesized that Jieshi-shan was Yodong-san 遼東山 in Suan of Hwanghae-do province with only speculative evidence.

The “Taikang-dilizhi”「太康地理志」seems to actually be found in the Jinshu (晉書). When Lee first discusses it (p308), he refers to it as an annotation to the Xia Basic Annals of the Shiji (史記:夏本紀). He then switches to talking about the ‘Geography Treatise of the Jinshu‘ (晉書:地理志) but never explains if they are the same or not.)

“[SMSG archaeologist No Taedo was admitting that he was] unable to find the remains of the Great Wall in the northwest of the Korean peninsula, namely Suan {遂安郡} in Hwanghae-do province. Of course there is no Galseok-san mountain {碣石山 Ch. Jieshi-shan} in Suan, Hwanghae-do. Yodong-san (遼東山) in Suan, Hwanhae-do, is Yodong-san and has no relation to Galseok-san [as had been suggested by Yi Byeongdo]. Galseok-san is to the north of present day Changli-shi city {昌黎市} in Hebei province, China. There are even some scholars who think (비정) it may be further to the west but for now I will development [my argument] restricting [the discussion] to Suan of Hwanghae-do and Changli-xian of Hebei province.” p312

“How to deal with the “Taikang-dilizhi” (太康地理志 ‘Taikang Geography Treatise) which says Suseong-hyeon {遂城縣 Suicheng-xian} is/was in Lelang-jun, and Galseok-san mountain {碣石山 Ch. Jieshi-shan} is/was located there? Currently Galseok-san is in Changli-xian county (昌黎縣 former Suicheng-xian), Hebei province; to the north are the remains of the Great Wall; to the east is Shanhaiguan (山海關), the eastern end of the Ming [dynasty] Great Wall.” p313

4. Theory kills other scholars

Kim Hyeon-gu claiming that the Theory of the Mimana Japan Office (임나일본부) is true

“[Kim Hyeon-gu’s is] a frightening argument (논리 lit. ‘logic’) which both Suematsu Yatsukazu {末松 保和} and Tsuda Sōkichi {津田 左右吉} gave up before trying (울고 가다 lit. ‘cry and leave’). Similar to Suematsu and Tsuda, Kim Hyeon-gu sets out (전개) his argument relying on the Nihon-shōki. Whilst doing so, however, he developed a new argument (논리) that Yamato (야마토국) was the suzerain state (상국) of Baekje. That is why [according to Kim] Baekje regularly sent emissaries to Yamato. The argument is that Yamato ruled the southern part of the Korean peninsula not through Mimana (임나) but rather Baekje.” p343

5. Reversing [archaeological] excavation results the Joint Korea-Japan History Research Committee (한일역사공동연구위원회) and Pungnap-toseong earthen fortress {風納土城}

Change the excavation results

“In the end, the Joint Korea-Japan History Research Committee (한일역사공동연구위원회) operating with South Korean tax payers’ money in the 21st century, ignored the radionuclide {i.e. Carbon 14} dating results determined from as many as 13 samples [which had given dates between 199BCE and 231CE], and [instead] stubbornly insisted that “Mongchon-toseong {蒙村土城} and Pungnap-toseong {風納土城} earthen fortresses were constructed in the second half of the 3rd century”; [this was] in accordance with the ‘final instructions’ of [their] teacher Yi Byeongdo, leader of Korean history academia.” p363

“Thus the 2000 [excavation of Pungnap-toseong] ended the same as the [first] 1964 [excavation] with a ‘happening’ {the dating results being changed} and it became [orthodox theory] that Pungnap-toseong earthen fortress was constructed in the second half of the 3rd century or later. All that remains [in their eyes] is the [lesser] question of whether to accept the late 3rd century date supported by Yi Byeongdo’s ‘advanced textual criticism’ (고등문헌 비판), or to assert a late 4th century date in line with [their] teacher Tsuda Sōkichi, the founder of colonial historiography, or, whilst they’re at it to assert an early 5th century date.

Up until now, has this kind of thing only occurred with Pungnap-toseong? Could there have been [other] cases of hiding or secretly discarding excavated materials? However, now the situation is different. It is greatly different. Now, the members of the National Assembly know, officials at the Ministry of Education know, CEOs know, and most importantly a large number of ordinary citizens know about this situation. The world has changed but only the SMSG historians to not realize it has changed. Short of boarding a time machine, returning to the year 2000 and discarding [excavated material] samples it is impossible (어림없다) [to change it back]. [Recent] ancestors who strove for independence and became lonely souls are [now] rising from their graves {in the positive sense of returning to strength}.” p369

Part 5 The path [to] dismantling the colonial view of history
1.The colonial view of history is a structural problem

Are you telling [me] your family, too, [participated in the] independence movement?

“If one looks for the roots of South Korean (한국) society’s fundamental (고질적) problems, the majority of them reach [back] to problems of Imperial Japan’s colonial rule. However, in other areas the remaining presence of Imperial Japan has in large part diminished (희석 lit. ‘be diluted’) during the process of South Korea’s [recent] development, but in the field of history – as has been examined up until now [in this book] – it has conversely strengthened. The roots of this lie in the American military government and Syngman Rhee administration’s far from purging the chin’il-pa pro-Japanese factions (친일파) actually promoting them to positions of influence (중용).” p373

“The Gunsa-yeong’eo-hakgyo (군사영어학교 Military English School {originally named 군사용어학교 Military Language School}) only operated for five months before its functions (임무) were transferred to the Gyeongbi-sagwan-hakgyo (경비사관학교 Officers School {now the Korea Military Academy}) which opened in May 1946, however the influence it left on South Korea’s military history is so large it is hard to explain in words. In around five months 110 people were graduated (배출 lit. ‘to turn out’) [from it]. Amongst them, 68 were promoted to officers (장성) [including?] 8 daejang generals (대장), 20 jungjang lieutenant generals (중장) and 13 to chiefs of general staff (참모총장); most of them were chin’il-pa pro-Japanese who had previously been in the Japanese or Manchurian (만주군) armies.” p378

“After [the 1945] liberation those who came from the families of independence activists always experienced disadvantages (불이익당하다) [at the hands of, and compared to pro-Japanese chin’il-pa].” p379

When you go back to the earth {i.e. die} do you think you will face all your many seniors and comrades? {Said directed at Syngman Rhee}

“Planning to compile a history of [joyful] laughter [in] finding [one’s] country (나라를 찾은 웃음의 역사) after liberation, Kim Seunghak {金承學 1881-1965} collected all types of sources on the Independence Movement. In 1929 he participated as the representative of the Cham’uibu (참의부 {short for 大韓民國臨時政府陸軍駐滿參議府 ‘Manchurian military branch of the Provisional Government of Korea’}) together with Kim Dongsam, Yi Cheongcheon, Sin Minbu and Kim Jwajin at the Sambu-tonghap-heowi (삼부통합회의) held in Jilin province [China], but [whilst there] was arrested by the Imperial Japanese; he recollected, “After being arrested by the Jap police (倭警), the severe torture of having the bones of [my] hands and legs broken multiple times was primarily due to this historical source collecting.” The thing Imperial Japan feared the most was precisely proper history.” p381

“Although Imperial Japan was defeated, those who took control of political power [afterwards] were not the independence activists but the pro-Japanese chin’il-pa (친일파들) [collaborators].” p382

“This phenomenon was found not only amongst the independence activists but was similar in all areas; academia was no exception. Particularly in the field of history, pro-Japanese [collaborators] chin’il-pa such as Yi Byeongdo and Sin Seok-ho completely took control of academic power (학문권력) and even after [the 1945] liberation made the [former] Joseon Government-General’s view of history into the only orthodoxy (정설). In other fields the pro-Japanese bias (색채 lit. ‘coloration’) has gradually diminished (희석 ‘diluted’) with time and through South Korea’s [course of] development, however, as can been seen through the cases [exampled in this book including] the NEAHF, the Joint Korea-Japan History Research Committee (한일역사공동연구위원회), and the [2010] re-excavation of Pungnap-toseong fortress, in the field of history [the bias] has intensified. Today a developed South Korea is demanding the correction (정상화) of this situation in which values are the wrong way around (가치전도적). [The current] outpouring [of] criticism of the SMSG [coming from] all areas (각계) bespeaks of this situation.” p384

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.


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

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

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  3. Although I’m working through the book in its original language, I’ve recently discovered your blog and would like to thank you for translating key sections in it. I notice that you translate many sections from other Korean history books as well, but have refrained from giving any personal opinions on them. Do you have any particular opinions about Lee Deok-Il’s assertions?

  4. Thanks for the comment. I was waiting for someone to ask, but it’s also because I do not have a completely definite opinion on this topic, just it is interesting and quite important.

    As you may know Lee is controversial and regarded as a “pseudo” historian – even by some others labelled as ‘jaeya’. But, the main people who designate him as such are the very people who he’s making this argument against and criticizing as being SMSG scholars.

    Concerning this, I think one of his most damning accusations in the book – if true – is that these establishment scholars won’t or haven’t engaged in debate because it leaves them perfectly vulnerable to his charges against them.

    Overall, I found myself persuaded by and sympathetic to the general argument in this book (that the SK academic establishment has been dominated by former Japanese collaborators who have ostracized those with differing opinions), but separately I think his own historiography, particularly concerning Dangun Joseon, is much more questionable (with some obvious pseudo aspects mixed in with perhaps some valid points or interpretation). These elements, however, are less present in this book because he doesn’t go into his own theories so deeply.

    Although it’s a central argument to the book, I also disagree with his assumption that the ancient Han Commanderies should be directly equated with modern colonialism; even if they were located on the peninsula, and even if that was the implication of Japanese historiography and the interpretation of the Northeast Project, in my mind it still doesn’t mean the Han Commanderies have to be understood that way. But at the same time, we shouldn’t ignore the realpolitik at work: as long as nation states exist and compete, nationalist historiography is a valid pursuit. From that perspective I also understand his complaint of spending SK tax money supporting scholars who do not write in the “national interest”.

    I think he misunderstands and mischaracterizes the motivations of Byington and the Early Korea Project, but seen in the context of his argument it is easy to understand why, and he may still have a point.

    In this book Lee generally ignores premodern historiographic tradition (or rather dismisses it àla Sin Chaeho as purely the product of Neo-Confucian Sinocentricism), thus he portrays the idea of locating the Han Commanderies on the peninsula as if it were pure Japanese invention which wasn’t the case.

    There is also the question of the quality of Japanese colonial historiography and archaeology. He claims it was all factually incorrect and fabricated, but I think it’s much more varied and not necessarily so black-and-white, even when political motivations were present. Although not touched on in this book, Lee’s interpretation of the Dongmyeong foundation story associated both with Buyeo and Goguryeo (found in Lee’s 2007 『고구려는 천자의 제국이었다』), for example, is very close to Shiratori Kurakichi’s 1938 paper on the same topic. Similarly, both Lee and Yun Naehyeon’s interpretation of the Dangun myth is directly based on Choe Namseon’s analysis, but they are unable to acknowledge this because Choe became a Japanese collaborator and member of the Joseon History Compilation Committee.

    It does seem to be true that the Japanese historiography and subsequent lineage through Yi Byeongdo has formed the basis for Western scholarship on Korean history and I think Sin Chaeho is unfairly dismissed and denigrated; Western scholars rarely discuss the excesses of Japanese nationalist scholarship in the way they debase and ignore Korean nationalist scholars. Here I think Lee’s description of the monopoly by former Japanese collaborator (for want of a better term) historians and the post 1945 political situation, is a valid explanation; even if it is part of the standard Korean left-wing complaint against the conservative establishment, it doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

    Anyway, for now, I want to encourage the debate and in my own current research am aiming for an objective appraisal of the nationalist scholars, whilst being particularly interested in finding points where the opposing views and interpretations agree. In academia it seems healthier to have room for alternative and competing hypotheses otherwise you end up with increasingly unchallengeable dogmas. Through his popular history writing, Lee Deok-il seems to have gained considerable influence and he sets out his arguments and evidence openly; there’s no reason not to engage him.

  5. Andrew, Lee Deok-Il has no academic post, but didn’t Yun Nae-hyon use to be a member of the establishment? I recall him making waves in South Korea with his new historiography a few decades ago, but his ideas fizzled and never ‘made it’ – not in Korea, not outside of Korea, though his 2005 book was translated into English. What’s to say Lee Deok-Il is going to fare any different were he ‘engaged,’ especially given that he’s providing little new material on the subject over what Yun, Kim, etc. have already done?

    To be sure, the heavily politicized nature of Lee’s rhetorical style is not going to fly with Western academics, who have developed a sharp aversion to any sort of history politicization. Given that Lee bashes Byington, who came to the rescue of Korean scholars over China’s Northeast Project, he’s already burning the few bridges he has outside of nationalist circles. Nobody’s engaged with jaeya historians outside of Korea for a reason – they are too colored by their political nationalism, and nationalists have a very bad rep in international academia.

  6. Thanks for the message.

    Unless he’s retired, Yun Nae-hyeon is at Dankook University, and that’s one reason why he rejects the ‘jaeya’ (在野) label.

    I agree, Lee Deok-il is basically an angry version of Yun and his historiography is near identical, but regardless, Lee’s accusation is that the so-called ‘SMSG’ establishment scholars have yet to actually respond to their source-based arguments. In the case of Yun, he was famously accused of plagiarizing the work of North Korean scholar Ri Jirin (which he accessed whilst at Harvard) by Lee Gidong and Yi Hyeonggu who – according to Lee – were immediate students of YBD. Even if it is partly true, the plagiarism charge (in this case) seems relatively weak and still doesn’t address the questions of the actual historiography (whether attributed to Yun or Ri).

    I’m happy to be enlightened, but as far as I know there are no concrete critiques of Yun and Lee’s source-based arguments (namely locating Lelang in Hebei through the identification of Jieshi mountain 碣石山 in the Houhanshu). Some of their arguments and interpretations trace back to Sin Chaeho and Choe Namseon, which have rarely (or even never) been critically analyzed either.

    In short, as I understand, Yun was never ‘engaged’ in scholarly debate but ostracized both for factionalist (YBD clique) and politicized (North-South) reasons; I’m happy to be wrong about this if there are examples. I know that Byington objected to Yun’s English language book, but I don’t know if he ever published a critique.

    My argument for engaging Lee Deok-il, is that he’s now dominating the popular discourse and therefore shouldn’t be underestimated or dismissed out of hand. And if it has yet to happen, the arguments Lee and Yun present should be subject to scholarly debate. Here I think the historical linguists set a good example: they tear one another apart but they do it as an open and relatively civilized discourse.

    I’ve read Byington’s early papers on the ‘Northeast Project’ (a term he coined) and Goguryeo history dispute; certainly he tries to reassure that the Chinese are not out to swallow up Korea (and that if anything it was a defensive reaction to perceived Korean irredentism), but this won’t satisfy Lee because he views Byington’s locating of the Commanderies on the peninsula as implicitly supporting Chinese assertions of ancient sovereignty, and on the question of the Commanderies, Byington relies in large part on colonial archaeology.

  7. I’ve not read the recent book on the Four Commanderies by Byington and his collaborators, but have read a review of it by Park Jun-hyeong of Yonsei University. Park makes the argument that revisiting the commanderies’ location is considered ‘passé and unexciting’ in South Korean academia, which plays into your idea that establishment historians don’t find ‘engaging’/’debating’ jaeya historians a priority. But that is understandable given that they have little to gain by it. Refuting jaeya historians is not going to make anyone’s career, so to speak, because they are not publishing academically in the first place.

    Park does, however, talk about a specific aspect of Lelang’s location as it is recorded in later sources that is, I think, an address of Lee’s argument. I quote:

    “Fourth, let us consider criticisms made by some who have claimed that the book reproduces Japanese colonial historiography by placing Lelang in the area of P’yŏngyang instead of in the Liaoxi region of China. The name Lelang continues to appear in historical sources even after Koguryŏ’s expulsion of Lelang from the Korean peninsula. There are references from the Northern and Southern Dynasties period to Lelang commanderies established as mobile commanderies (qiaojun) or mobile districts (qiaoxian) by the Murong Xianbei state of Former Yan. Yet, these were not originally part of the Lelang commandery, but were commanderies moved around China proper to deal with particular circumstances at the time, and have nothing to do with Korean history.

    In the case of Lelang, it was first moved to the Daling River basin by the Former Yan, and then moved in the early fifth century by the Northern Wei to the Lulong region in the Luan River basin. After being briefly restored in the Daling River basin in the early sixth century, the commandery made its final move toward Baoding near Tianjin. In 583,the Lelang commandery was eliminated as part of a general restructuring of prefectures and commanderies by the Northern Qi.5 The Lelang commanderies and other commanderies and districts that survived until the end of the sixth century have nothing to do with Korean history.Those independent historians who argue that Lelang and other commanderies were established in Liaoxi and Hebei after the defeat ofOld Chosŏn, and that therefore Old Chosŏn was located in those regions of China also, are not taking into account the historical context discussed above.” – Park Jun-hyeong, review of “The Han Commanderies in Early Korean History”

    He is surely referring to Lee Deok-Il and the jaeya historians in this passage, and the reference to the Northern and Southern dynasties period in China directly deals with the 5th century source Houhanshu. To this end, his tone suggests that the establishment historians have, at times, engaged the nationalist historians, but only briefly because they regard the latter as amateurs prone to cherry picking and taking passages out of contexts. Frankly, my own experiences with Chinese sources is that the Chinese have a habit of using the same place names for different locations which, combined with the general loss of knowledge brought about by the chaos following the Han Dynasty, makes textual sources from the period especially problematic.

    To this end, archaeology is and must be the final arbiter of historical geography. Unfortunately, with respect to peninsular territory, North Korea controls every inch of the archaeological record, and the DPRK is known for its opacity and politically motivated history – seen, for example, in their “discovery of Dangun’s tomb”. Byington, according to Park, mobilizes new analysis to support the geographic location of the Four Commanderies in the peninsula, but I don’t think he has any greater access to North Korean sites than others around the world. Japanese colonial archaeology is depended on out of necessity rather than choice.

    Given the intransigence of North Korea, the elephant in the room, in my opinion, is the owner of the other side of the Yalu: China. I’ve read a few Chinese articles on the Four Commanderies, and Park also cites recent Chinese scholarship on Xuantu, but as with Europeans, Americans, and Japanese scholars, the fact of the commanderies’ location is considered indisputable, and counter-arguments to Korean nationalist historians hasn’t been a priority. Yet, I do believe there is value to seeking out Chinese opinions on the matter, because at the end of the day, the jaeya historians’ revisionism is ultimately targeted at China and Japan and the ‘establishment traitors’ who dare ‘collaborate’ with them.

  8. Thanks very much for the further thoughts and relevant quote.

    I agree with all you say. Certainly the scholars like Yun and Lee seem to benefit from North Korea being closed to archaeology.

    The question of places names is a real headache as they can be argued almost any way one chooses; once we accept some of these toponyms were “re-used” for different locations it becomes much more of an open field for ad hoc explanations.

    I would say, though, unless they carry a particularly generic or administrative meaning, place names do possess some kind of historical lineage, so if there’s more than one of the same there could well be a connection between them (‘ethnic’ migratory or ‘prestige’ associative).

    If we accept there were multiple places called ‘Lelang’ then it makes it harder to be sure that the Korea-located Lelang was definitely the ‘Lelang Commandery’ and not an autonomous polity which happened to have the same name (as argued ad hoc by Sin Chaeho, Yun etc). And equally, even if the Liaoxi-located Lelang is not mentioned until later in sources, it could well still have a local history, unless there was definite migration involved. It’s pretty odd otherwise for the Murong Xianbei to be reusing a place name if it were previously associated only with the Korean peninsula.

    I certainly need to read more myself, but at face value the idea of “mobile commanderies” which used a proper-noun name like ‘Lelang’ sounds very strange; you’d expect a more descriptive administrative term (unless ‘Lelang’ meant something in the Xianbei language in which case it wouldn’t have previously been used for Old Joseon).

    Of the Four Han Commanders at least Zhenfan/Jinbeon 眞番 and Lintun/Imdun 臨屯 were (according to Shiji) named after the local regions they occupied; Lelang and Xuantu are less clear. But either of the two following possibilities would be strange: if Lelang were an indigenous toponym it is strange for it to later be used in China; and if it were already a Chinese place name, why would it be used for the name of the commandery replacing Old Joseon? (Along these lines of thought, Sin Chaeho’s ad hoc explanation, that the commanderies were named after their failed campaign objectives, actually works well – regardless of whether it’s true or not.)

    But anyhow, as I understand, in historical geography the location of Lelang is always predicated on the location of Chaoxian/Joseon 朝鮮 (and/or Chaoxian county 朝鮮縣) which Yun and Lee deduce from Jieshi-shan 碣石山 mountain in Hebei. Whilst administrative commanderies may have been relocated, there’s little reason to relocate/rename a mountain. The only explanation for multiple mountains is if ‘Jieshi’ happened to be a particularly generic oronym, although either way, there apparently is no 碣石山 in northern Korea. According to Lee, YBD supposedly suggested Yodong-san 遼東山 as Jieshi-shan because its location fitted his theory (he makes it sound very ad hoc), but for that to work there would have to be an explanation for why a mountain already possessing a Chinese name, would need to have been renamed to another Chinese name.

    I guess what I’m trying to say – and as you note too – people like Park in her review, make it sound very ‘case closed already,’ which is also Lee’s complaint. They may be right still, but it’s not necessarily as simple or certain as they make it sound.

  9. “Whilst administrative commanderies may have been relocated, there’s little reason to relocate/rename a mountain. The only explanation for multiple mountains is if ‘Jieshi’ happened to be a particularly generic oronym, although either way, there apparently is no 碣石山 in northern Korea.”

    碣石山 is, unfortunately, one of those names that are, in fact, used multiply in China. There is, for example, a 碣石山 not only in Hebei, but also in Shandong. Further, it is my understanding that “东方之极,自碣石山,过朝鲜” in <> is read as indicating that Chaoxian/Joseon was to the east of 碣石山, on the way to the ‘far end of the east’ ie 东方之极. <>, which is cited by Lee, is talking about Lelang. Yet, why does Lee think that Lelang is incapable of including both 碣石山 and the northwestern Korean peninsula? The source specifically says: “乐浪遂城县有碣石山,长城所起…”, which indicates that Suining, within Lelang, contains the mountain. It does not say that the entirety of Lelang was in Suining/碣石山.

    To this end, the obsession over the position of 碣石山 is, to me, a red herring. Both sources above indicate that 碣石山 existed in Hebei, but neither of them indicate that Chaoxian/Joseon was under 碣石山 and that Lelang was localized to 碣石山. In fact, there is a bigger problem – which is that there is no cause to believe that Lelang’s administrative territory was restricted to whatever it was named after in the first place. To this end, the Hanshu <> states: 樂浪郡,戶六萬二千八百一十二,口四十萬六千七百四十八。縣二十五:朝鮮,俨邯,浿水,含資,黏蟬,遂成,增地,帶方,駟望,海冥,列口,長岑,屯有,昭明,鏤方,提奚,渾彌,吞列,東傥,不而,蠶台,華麗,邪頭昧,前莫,夫租。

    The above indicates Lelang included a total of twenty-five counties, of which Chaoxian/Joseon was only one. Further, Lintun and Zhenfan were both merged into Lelang, indicating that the commandery was definitely not what it was initially. Given the longevity of Lelang and the fact of its large expanse, it is understandable that later states were rather loose on naming their own administrative units after it. This is compounded by the fact that the bulk of the counties of Lelang, cited above, don’t appear again in post-Han texts, which I reckon is because nobody still remembers where they were after Lelang was cut off from affairs in China.

    As for Sin’s arguments, they run into the immediate problem of where the evidence is that the Han actually failed in their campaign objectives. The expansion of a frontier Chinese commandery to *include* the former territory of Joseon – against Sin’s logic – actually makes a lot of sense, because reorganization is easier than creation, but the problem with Lelang is actually that Lelang is not found in Chinese texts before the Han according to a search of, for example, ctext. This makes theorizing about its naming very difficult, but it is also supportive of Lelang not being within the former territory of the Qin and Han empires.

    Of course, you are correct about the central issue, which is that Lelang’s location is co-determined by Gojoseon’s location, because the Four Commanderies, according to all sources, were established over the old territory of Gojoseon. That is itself not an easy issue to address, because as you observed in your own articles, while the tradition of Gojoseon being centered on Korea is long, there is, in fact, no evidence. Yet, what I want to remark is that Korean nationalist scholars cannot have their cake and eat it too – that is to say, they cannot argue that Gojoseon included the Korean peninsula and vast swaths of Manchuria and then deny that Lelang included those territories. There are no records stating that Gojoseon continued to exist as a state after its defeat by Han, to which end accepting that Gojoseon had any political presence in the Korean peninsula requires accepting the possibility of Lelang presence, regardless of whether the center of Gojoseon/Lelang was.

    But of course, as observed above and in the wooden tablets recently discovered in North Korea, the actual county called ‘Joseon’ in the context of Han Dynasty records was in fact rather tiny. Whether it had any relevance to the territory of Lelang beyond being the former center of a state that had controlled what Lelang came to control is still an open problem. What we do know, however, is that the geographical locations of practically all early ‘Korean’ political entities were relative to the location of Gojoseon, Lelang, and Liaodong. Denying Lelang/Gojoseon is tantamount to relocating ‘Korea’ itself.

  10. Thanks again for the comment.

    As far as I can tell, Jieshi-shan is the only piece of concrete evidence solely derived from textual sources the nationalist historians have. By contrast, the establishment historians have none at all (solely derived), but instead they utilize archaeology (combined with the textual sources, relative positioning etc).

    For the nationalist historians, the location of the commanderies is premised on the location of Old Joseon (identified by Jieshi-shan). For the establishment historians, it’s the opposite, the location of Old Joseon is premised on the location of Lelang Commandery (determined through archaeology).

    Concerning the territorial range of Lelang, I think the assumption is simply that it wasn’t so expansive as to encompasses both eastern Hebei and northwestern Korea; that would seem extremely large for one commandery, regardless of the special nature of Lelang. The other point being that the former Wiman Joseon capital of Wangheom-seong would be assumed to have been the administrative and likely geographical centre; if this were modern Pyeongyang it would be still less likely the territory stretched all the way to Hebei (and vise-versa if it were centered in Liaoxi as the nationalist historians would prefer then it wouldn’t reach Pyeongyang).

    There are two ways the nationalist historians ‘solve’ the problems you mention in your last two paragraphs, they all derive from Sin Chaeho. Concerning the having their cake and eating it part: Sin (and everyone since) posits that the centre of their imagined ancient Joseon ’empire’ was originally continental Manchuria (Sin makes it close to Harbin) – basically where Buyeo emerges from – but that the full territory encompassed Hebei and Shandong to the west, and the Korean peninsula to the south: essentially the territory populated by all non-Sinic ‘Donghu’ and ‘Dongyi’ 東胡·東夷 people ever mentioned. Then, to eat the cake: Gi Ja, Wi Man and the Han Commanderies historical events all played out only in the western continental territory; meanwhile the Korean peninsula was originally not the most important part of Old Joseon, but it remained untouched and ‘un-defiled’ by historical Chinese influence. They accept that the 108 BCE Han invasion caused the ultimate collapse of continental Old Joseon but the Han never got as far as the peninsula; it did however, cause a gradual wave of refugee migration from the core continental region such that the Korean peninsula came to preserve the most pure lineage of Old Joseon ethnicity and culture compared to other Dongyi peoples. Old Joseon most immediately continued in the form of Buyeo and Mahan (originally located in the north of the peninsula). The names of Buyeo, Mahan and all subsequent Korean polities were former administrative/subordinate regions of Old Joseon. Is this sense there was a ‘relocation’ of Korea but through migration it maintained ethnic continuity.

    As far as I know so far, the only thing people like Yun and Lee have added is the Jieshi-shan ‘evidence’.

    Ironically the part about preserving the last vestige of Old Joseon is the same mentality premodern Confucian sadaebu had about the Joseon dynasty being the ‘last bastion’ of ancient Chinese civilization (traced back via Gi Ja) – especially following the establishment of the barbarian Qing.

    Back to reality, aside from a near total lack of positive evidence, one of the fundamental problems as you point out is: the more continental and expansive they argue Old Joseon to have been, the less it has to do with Korea in any concrete sense. This becomes most evident when considered linguistically (luckily Lee doesn’t attempt historical linguistics but others do). At the time of Sin’s writing the non-Sinic Dongyi peoples were all premised as being Altaic so it worked okay, but this is no longer the case. If Old Joseon existed in the way they describe, the chances of it having been Koreanic speaking seem pretty low. Sin solved this with a migration theory, but mass migration theories generally are out of fashion now as they rarely show up in archaeology (cultural diffusion being favored instead).

    There’s also a fundamental problem with the conceptualization of what Old Joseon was relative to the evidence and how they describe it; obviously they’d like it to be a consolidated state and/or centralized empire but archaeologically there’s zero evidence for this. If it were an empire, it was rather ethereal – more like a nomadic empire, except a) there’s no steppe, and b) it can’t then be argued to have been a ‘civilization’ rivaling China. They often cite the Hongshan archaeological culture from inner Mongolia as evidence of Old Joseon, but of course, that’s not enough, it’s in the wrong place, and there’s no proof it had anything to do with Old Joseon or Koreans.

    Thus we’re left with notions of all non-Sinic Dongyi people and their overlapping ‘cultural zones’ (문화권) premised on the distribution of dolmen graves, bronze daggers and sometimes the Altaic language hypothesis. This is fine, except it’s not a centralized state, wasn’t called Joseon and probably didn’t have any Dan’gun related religion.

  11. Andrew, I fail to see how they are able to maintain that there was a peninsular Joseon that survived the Han Dynasty conquests when 1) there is no description of such a rival polity after the Han conquests, which is incredibly difficult to believe had it existed 2) there is continuous evidence within Chinese records of “Joseon” as an administrative county of Lelang 3) Buyeo and Mahan both directly traded and interacted with the Han Dynasty commanderies, which must necessarily have, at the minimum, controlled Liaodong unless they think Buyeo and Mahan were located in Liaoning, too.

    Even ignoring all the archaeological evidence, the sheer fact that the Han Dynasty began recording border interactions with Samhan, Okjeo, Buyeo, Goguryeo, and Dongye shows that the Han border had reached the peninsula. Lelang even includes a county called Okjeo. Unless the nationalist historians believe that the above entities were all located in Liaoning, how do they get around all these states being in contact with Han – both in trade and in hostility – after the establishment of the commanderies?

  12. 1) They are interested in ethnic continuity rather than the name of the state. They consider ancient Joseon to have begun to break up into smaller states even before the Han invasion of ‘Wiman Joseon’. So rather than seeing a state named Joseon as continuing on the peninsula after 108 BCE, it is the opposite: they argue states including Buyeo, Goguryeo, Okjeo and the Samhan etc had already come into being prior to 108 BCE (to the east of Gija-Wiman Joseon region) but the Han invasion never reached them.

    That’s the basic Sin Chaeho view. Yun Naehyeon postulates that during this Korean ‘Multiple States’ period (列國時代 Sin’s term) a much smaller Joseon statelet was established south of Goguryeo, giving rise to the association of the Dan’gun myth with Myohyang-san mountain (妙香山).

    2) Sin’s explanation is that the Han commanderies used names of their failed campaign objectives as a ‘cover up’.

    I would also say (outside of the nationalist historian’s model), it doesn’t make sense for the commanderies to have been larger than Old Joseon itself. The Joseon county is meant to represent the former Wangheom-seong capital region, not the whole of Old Joseon. Even if we reject the nationalists’ notion of an expansive ‘Joseon empire’, the Joseon described in Chinese sources perhaps wasn’t so tiny either (given it vied with Yan and put up a considerable defense against the Han invasion).

    3) Following Sin’s model, Buyeo is reasonably in the location archaeologists and establishment historians agree on today, Mahan however is located on the northwest of the peninsula centered on Pyeongyang. Lelang was established centered on Anshi (安市城) in Liaoning.

    This northern Mahan hypothesis is supported by some textual references, most famously the statement in Choe Chiwon’s biography that Mahan became Goguryeo. There is also the Houhanshu ‘Guryeo’ (句麗) chapter reference in which Guryeo King Gung 宮 (aka Taejo) leads Mahan and Yemaek soldiers in a campaign against Xuantu (Yi Byeongdo suggest this was simply a ‘mistake’ in the text).

    Sin proposed a northern continental Samhan (of which the Pyeongyang based Mahan was the southernmost) which was later reestablished on the peninsula becoming the conventional ‘southern’ Samhan. In this scheme a northern Jinhan is what became Buyeo explaining why Balhae later referred to itself as Jin-guk (辰國); the northern Byeonhan is the Liaodong region taken over by Gi Ja, Wi Man and then Lelang. Sin accepts the Sanguozhi descriptions as authentic (though suggests they were based on histories obtained from ancient Korea).

    Lee Deok-il’s treatment of the Samhan is actually more confusing because he denies they ever existed on the peninsula and therefore seems to reject the Sanguozhi description altogether (elsewhere he slightly hints they may have existed on the continent but regards them as entirely unrelated to Korean history).

    If Sin’s idea of a ‘northern Samhan’ sounds unlikely and unsubstantiated by archaeology, it’s worth noting that (as far as I know) there is no archaeological evidence clearly identifying the Samhan in the south of the peninsula; simply, there are archaeological finds which are labelled as Samhan because they date to the period but there’s no way to distinguish these from what may instead be early or ‘proto’ Three Kingdoms activity.

    Relating to the points in your second paragraph. Even if Lelang were centered on Pyeongyang, it would be a stretch for it to have incorporated the region of Okjeo) in the northeast on the far side of the mountains. Okjeo seems to be problematic for both establishment and nationalist historians. According to conventional/establishment historiography, Okjeo is originally under the first position of the Xuantu commandery; in his Han Commanderies volume (p323), Byington suggests that Xuantu was originally on the far east coast (i.e. Okjeo region) but this was then relinquished. Houhanshu records that Okjeo and YeMaek were made subordinate to Lelang (Byington p306) and then divided into 7 districts, but the ‘seven districts east of the mountains’ given in the Hanshu (Byington p308) does not explicitly include an ‘Okjeo county’. Byington suggests the Okjeo territory was abandoned c.82BCE; even the Houhanshu admits the territory ‘east of the mountains’ was finally abandoned in 30 CE (but this could be an already more western located Xuantu).

    (I realise this doesn’t completely answer your last question.)

  13. [correction]
    In his Joseon Sanggo Munhwa-sa (1931-32) Sin Chaeho also discusses Jieshi-san, so it can be said that Yun Naehyeon and Lee Deok-il have added nothing further to Sin’s hypotheses apart from emphatic contextual arguments. (It would be interesting to check Ri Jirin’s works to see if he is any different).

    Also, according to Sin, the「太康地理志」is from the Jinshu (晉書). Lee Deok-il, however, when first discussing it in his book (p308), refers to it as an annotation to the Xia Basic Annals of the Shiji (史記:夏本紀). Then he switches to talking about the Geography Treatise of the Jinshu (晉書:地理志) but never explains if they are the same or not.

  14. Picking on Lee Deok-il is a variation of strawman because he is discredited by most in the field. Thomas on the other hand is a much more interesting phenomenon. I don’t know whether he is Korean but if he is, I should say he embodies everything that is wrong in Korean culture.

    He is like 초록불 이문영 with better English writing skills. In fact it took me a while to figure out the ESL nature of his writings. The likes of 이문영 are generally known as 환까 as opposed to 환빠. 환빠s are fans of a certain set of nationalistic (probably bogus) books on ancient history of Korea. Lee Deok-Il probably had been one of them in his younger days before he got his PhD.

    환까s are a “very Korean” reaction to 환빠. They imbue themselves with an enormous amount of self-importance and a sense of destiny. They see themselves as being on a sacred mission to undo all the wrongs brought by 환빠. Why? because they think their clan, their teachers, their circles were immensely wronged by these wild eyed, left-leaning, secretly Kim-JeongUn loving. commie lefty ultra nationatists(in other countries these terms don’t go together but in Korea they do or it is so claimed by these boys). If anyone is familiar with Joseon dynasty’s partisan conflicts, this should ring a bell.

    For these guys, especially 환까, all other considerations are subservient to their central mission. Everyone, especially a Korean, they hate is a 환빠. They spend most of their internet time to search for someone looking even remotely like a nationalist. When they find one they are on all cylinders to maximally enjoy the glorious moment in which they can – huff and puff – chastise the target for presenting “a bad image” of Koreans to foreigners and in the process they think they restored the true honor of the nation by making it known that there are reasonable Koreans like them;they are the true patriots. It is so corny but they are actually very serious.

    Another possiblity is that he is a national of hostile countries such as Japan and China. They tend to see Koreans as their former slaves and Korean nationalists as uppity usurpers who don’t repect enough the former and the rightful masters. (The Chinese case is especially hilarious since if Koreans can be likened to serfs bound by contract at least with nominal freedom(소작농) then Han Chinese were like hereditary slaves to Manchu(씨종). If this is the case he is less interesting but just as annoying for sure.

  15. Thanks for the message.

    I’m interested to know, which aspects of Lee Deok-il’s writings do you consider discredited?

    Where do you position yourself in this debate? What is your opinion of Sin Chaeho and Yun Naehyeon’s theories?

    Are there any published historians you would recommend?

  16. Andrew, 1) runs into the immediate problem, of course, of how they show the existence of “Joseon” on the peninsula in the first place. Is it by referring to the same archaeological evidence used by establishment historians eg bipa daggers and dolmens? In that case, they are surely shooting themselves in the foot.

    Regarding 2) Joseon likely *did* refer to a city-state that maintained a degree of control over surrounding tribes and villages, rather than an administratively sophisticated kingdom with formal counties and provinces. At least, we don’t hear of such from the records. The Han conquest of Joseon basically comprises of the siege of Wanggeom-seong, and its fall marked the end of Joseon. Contrast the description of Joseon in contemporary records with that of the latter day Goguryeo, Baekje, etc., which had provinces, counties, and border fortresses.

    I agree, as such, that the county of Joseon included within Lelang is liable to have been simply the capital, Wanggeom-seong. The commandery itself, however, stretched over a larger territory, and included tribes and villages formerly subject to Joseon, but which were not located where the city-state was. It remains an issue as to how the region of modern Pyongyang was involved, but that won’t be understood concisely till North Korea opens up.

    For 3) Sin’s view is at least consistent in the sense that by placing all of the Samhan, except for Mahan, to the north of Korea and in the region of Buyeo, he’s able to reorient ancient Korean geography out of the peninsula altogether. The trouble, of course, is that the idea these kingdoms were then all reestablished in southern Korea just in time to fit the “conventional” narrative of the Three Kingdoms is not very credible. The Sanguozhi, provided he accepts it, explicitly says that the Samhan are south of Daifang, which is the southern half of Lelang, and bordered on both east and west by the ocean. That does not fit a continental region. Sanguozhi is, ironically, also an earlier text than Houhanshu, despite their subject matter, and was written during a time when the Chinese still controlled the north – ie before the fall of Western Jin. By contrast, Houhanshu was written by an author born in the distant south of China, centuries after the Chinese had lost the north and certainly of all northern commanderies. By all logic, Sanguozhi ought to be the preferred text when talking about Han Dynasty events and geography.

    The whole argument smacks of cherry picking sources, of which Lee Deok-Il is the most guilty in preferring the Samguk Sagi over the Sanguozhi, when the former is a thousand years later than the latter and chock full of retrospective editing & revisionism. That Yun and Lee would take Sin’s argument and spin it even further in this direction is unfortunate, but the ultimate source, as you’ve observed, is Sin. In which case, I will agree that a proper treatment of Sin is long overdue, but disagree that the community needs to engage Lee, who, after all, is the loonier of the two.

    @baiyaan How nice of you to butt in. Do you have an actual opinion on the subject, or just on the general categories of people who do not agree with your sentiments? Time and time again you resort to attacking the characters of persons than the substances of arguments. Are we to read that as condescension or impotence?

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