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.

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

See here for parts 1 and 2.

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

The Northeast Asian History Foundation [claiming] that Gando {Ch. Jiandao 間島} was originally Chinese territory

“Dolmen (고인돌) are the signature relic (표지 유물) of Old Joseon. Thus it means that the region in which dolmen are found is [former] Old Joseon territory. If it is correct that the NEAHF is an institution (기관) of South Korea then they should have written [in their analysis of the Gyeonggi-do education office’s book], ‘That dolmen have also been found in the northeast region of China is evidence that Old Joseon’s territory extended to the northeast region of China, and that [this] overturns the assertions of Imperial Japanese colonial historiography and the Chinese Northeast Project that [Old Joseon] was a small country [located only in] the northwest of the Korean peninsula.’ Further, it is the NEAHF that is not reflecting the research results on dolmen that ‘a significant number have also been discovered in the east coast region of China.’ Dolmen are both the signature relic of Old Joseon and distinct grave [sites] (묘제) of the Dong’i people (동이족). That being the case, it means the region in which dolmen are found were either once Old Joseon territory or regions in which Dong’i people resided.” p150

“With dolmen being representative Bronze Age grave sites, even the SMSG scholars acknowledge that Old Joseon was established during the Bronze Age and so there is no problem (이상없다) with explaining them as being the distinct grave sites of Old Joseon. However, viewing Korean history [both] through the perspective of the Japanese extreme right and Chinese Northeast Project, the NEAHF wants to distinguish dolmen and Old Joseon. The viewpoint of Old Joseon from the NEAHF is exactly the same as that of the [former] Joseon Government-General.” p150-1

Still concerning the NEAHF’s criticism of the Gyeonggi-do Education Office’s book on Gando/Jiandao
“If South Korea were a normal country then the director (사무총장) of the NEAHF and the person responsible for making this [critical] analysis document would become subject to investigation for contravening the National Security Law. Invasion of history without a doubt leads to invasion of territory. Selling off the territory of history is [the same] act as selling off jurisdiction over [one’s] history (역사 주권). [And] the act of selling off jurisdiction over history is no different to the act of selling off jurisdiction over territory.” p153-4

“Investigating the matter, it was: the [NEAHF] director Seok Dong-yeon who becoming furious at the Gyeonggi-do Education Office’s resource book instructed for a document refuting it (반박 문건) to be written; and it was ‘B’ researcher (or ‘research institute’ 연구원) who had graduated (출신) from the history department of Seoul National University that received the instruction and composed the document. It cannot be known if the Joongang Ilbo journalist reported the matter in the [pro-NEAHF biased manner that he did] even whilst being aware of the document’s traitorous (반국가적 lit. ‘anti-state’) content, but if the civil servant at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs [who was the contact between the NEAHF and the Joongang Ilbo journalist] had told [the journalist to write an article] criticizing the Gyeonggi-do Education Office based on this document, then he should immediately be investigated for spying [under] the National Security Law.” p158

“On maps accurately (실측) made by Western geographers through the financial support of the Qing country (청나라) Kangxi emperor, the national boundary is shown as [being] north of the Yalu and Tumen rivers; what is it [about this] that hurts [the NEAHF] to the bone, such that they become furious and write, “There are also many Western [made] maps that show the Yalu and Tumen rivers as the national boundary line”?” p159

If [the NEAHF] did not consider themselves as Japanese swines (왜놈) [still] under colonial [rule] this matter would not be possible. And if the current government of South Korea did not think of itself as a continuation of the Joseon Government-General it is not something they would be able to do.” p159

“Gando (間島 Ch. Jiandao) [can be] distinguished as West Gando and East Gando; East Gando north of the Tumen river is also called North Gando. West Gando refers to north of the Yalu river (K. Amnok-gang); East Gando basically refers to the current Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture [including] the regions of Hunchun (琿春), Wangqing (汪淸), Yanji (延吉) and Helong (和龍). In the West Gando region the Seoro-gunjeongchi (西路軍政署 ‘West road military administration’) was primarily composed of [groups led by] Seokju Lee Sang-ryong and Seongjae Lee Siyeong; in the East Gando (North Gando) region, Seo Il and Kim Jwajin made the Bungno-gunjeongseo (北路軍政署 ‘North road military administration’). The terms ‘seoro’ and ‘buk-ro’ themselves are derived from West and North Gando. Seeing as [the NEAHF] have the [same] view of history as the Japanese extreme right, they will not even want to know these facts, but as [we] are in the unfortunate circumstance (처지) where [they] are receiving South Korean citizens’ tax money, should they not at least pretend to understand, the true feelings (심정) of those taxpayers paying taxes through money earned sweating [from hard work]? The region currently under dispute is East (North) Gandao. By only using the term ‘jurisdiction [over] Gando’ (간도 영유권) [i.e. not distinguishing East and West], the NEAHF revealed its hostility. It bluffs (호도하다) and criticizes as though the side asserting [its] ‘claim on the history (역사주권) of Gando’ [i.e. the Gyeonggi-do Education Office’s book] were referring to the entire restricted region (봉금지대) east of Shanhaiguan (山海關). The viewpoint of the NEAHF is exactly consistent with [those who] sell out the country and its history (매국·매사).” p161

“The NEAHF said, “The period in which the Baekdu-san Jeon’gye-bi stele (白頭山定界碑) was erected was before the introduction (등장) of international law, so it is not appropriate to directly attribute it (적용 lit. ‘apply to it’) the standard of international law.” This is a damaging thing to say (망언), worse [even] than the assertions of the [former] Joseon Government-General. What difference is there between ‘before’ and ‘after the introduction of international law’? And who is to decide from what year international law can be applied?” p162-3

2. What [I] asked the Northeast Asian History Foundation in [my] 2009 [book] Hanguk-sa, geu’deul’i sumgin jinsil (한국사, 그들이 숨긴 진실 ‘Korean history, the truth they have hidden’)

South Korea’s structural colonial view of history
Quotes from his own earlier book also attacking NEAHF.

“When citizens’ national fury (국민적 분노) heightened against China’s Northeast Project, the organization (기구) the government made [in response] was the ‘Goguryeo Research Foundation’ (고구려연구재단) which subsequently became the ‘Northeast Asia History Foundation’ (동북아역사재단 {NEAHF}). The ‘correct history’ section of the NEAHF’s homepage (누리집) says about Old Joseon, “3rd~2nd century BCE Old Joseon of King Jun and Wi Man Joseon [both] had Pyeongyang as its capital.” The position of Old Joseon and Wi Man Joseon’s capital is exceedingly important. This is because it is where Lelang-jin commandery was [subsequently] established. The NEAHF’s description that the capital of Old Joseon and Wi Man Joseon was Pyeongyang is the same as claiming that Lelang-jun was located at Pyeongyang. According to this theory (이론), Pyeongyang and the north of the peninsula become territory of Chinese history. If this is true then the premise (이론) of China’s Northeast Project is correct. In that case we would have to go on the defence and [argue] that ‘in the past, north of the Han-gang river was territory of Chinese history but now it is not.’

The problems with the ‘theory that Suseong-hyeon county {遂城縣 Ch. Suicheng-xian} of Lelang-jun = Suan[-gun] {遂安郡} of Hwanghae-do’ created by Inaba Iwakichi {稲葉岩吉} have already been pointed out several times. However even after [the 1945] liberation, mainstream Korean historians have ignored (외면 lit. ‘turn away from’) these problems and accepted it as established theory; the result is reflected in the homepage of the NEAHF. This shows that the roots, too, of mainstream Korean historians are not free of the Imperial Japanese SMSG. Chinese scholars profess the [theories] of the Northeast Project for the benefit of China’s national interest. [But] for the benefit of which country do South Korean scholars [also] align [themselves] with the assertions of the Northeast Project?! These [Korean scholars] claim these facts are the truth obtained through [primary source-based] evidence (실증) but it is the opposing side {i.e. his} which has the more [primary source-based] evidence.

That being the case, which opinion should the NEAHF be following? Scholars who consider to be correct the ‘Lelang-jun = Pyeongyang region theory’ and the ‘Four Han Commanderies = Korean peninsula theory’ must not work at an institution (기구) like the NEAHF. This is because the foundation is an organization to confront China’s Northeast Project, not an organization operating with citizens’ tax money to be aligned to the Northeast Project. This is not a question of scholars freely belonging to their individual scholarship (학문). If they are believers in the ‘Lelang-jun = Pyeongyang region theory’ then can establish their own research institutes and deepen their research. However [current] reality is that whilst those scholars who believe in the ‘Lelang-jun = Pyeongyang region theory’ are conducting research in alignment with the Northeast Project at a national institute like the ‘NEAHF’ with [South Korea] citizens’ tax money, scholars who hold the opposite opinion are [having to] conduct research funded at their own expense.” from Lee’s 『한국사, 그들이 숨긴 진실』 (2009:5-6쪽) – p171-2

“Currently, if you go to any Chinese provincial museum there is a large map stuck [on the wall]. On those maps, without exception, the eastern end of the Great Wall (만리장성) continues all the way to Hwanghae-do province deep inside the Korean peninsula. If the Great Wall continued until Hwanghae-do there would be no need for North Koreans to travel to China to see it. And South Koreans must propose [to the North] to organize Great Wall tour groups like the Geumgangsan tour groups. They say the Great Wall is in the region of North Korea, is there any need then to go all the way to China?! However, for the several thousand years since the [beginning] of recorded history (有史), no one has ever [written of] going to see the Great Wall [in Korea]. Even the Joseon [dynasty] literati who left so many writings, did not leave any poems or travel accounts that said they saw the Great Wall in Joseon. However, the Historical Atlas of China (중국역사지도집 8 volumes {中国歷史地图集 Zhongguo-lishi-ditu-ji }) has the Great Wall drawn up to within the Korean peninsula.

The evidence with which China makes this assertion is the Four Han Commanderies 漢四郡. The centre of the Four Han Commanderies which were the organ (기구) of colonial control said to have been established after the ancient Chinese Han 漢 state (한나라) overthrew Old Joseon, was Lelang-jun commandery. The assertion of the Northeast Project (동북공정) that Lelang-jun was in Pyeongyang and the remaining commanderies broadly in the northern part of the Korean peninsula, is shown [in the atlas] through maps. In the “Tai Kang Geography Treaty” (太康地理志) of the Shiji (史記), there is the passage, “Galseok-san mountain {碣石山} is located in Suseong-hyeon county of Lelang-jun commandery, it is the terminus of the Great Wall.” [Claiming] that this Suseong-hyeon is Suan-gun (遂安[郡]) county of Hwanghae-do province, the Great Wall is stretched to Hwanghae-do. The first person to claim that Suseong-hyeon was Suan-gun of Hwanghae-do was the Imperial Japanese colonial historian Inaba Iwakichi (稲葉岩吉). This shows that the historical roots of China’s Northeast Project was the Imperial Japanese SMSG.” from Lee’s 『한국사, 그들이 숨긴 진실』 (2009:4-5쪽) – p173-4

“Why would [colonial historians] dismiss [the early records of the Samguk-sagi ]? It is due to the fact that in the [Japanese] Nihon-shoki and the Kojiki it is narrated as if [Japanese] Wae (倭) on the peninsula – that is the Mimana Japan Office (임나일본부) – ruled the southern part of the Korean peninsula, but the ‘Silla Annals’ (신라본기) of the Samguk-sagi do not [contain such a record]. In order to find out if the ancient version of the [modern] Joseon Government-General, the Mimana Japan Office – that is the Wae – continued [for long], Tsuda Sōkichi {津田左右吉} took interest in the Silla Annals of the Samguk-sagi. However, no such content appears in the Silla Annals of the Samguk-sagi. Consequently Tsuda Sōkichi [claimed] the Kojiki and Nihon-shoki [accounts] were true and he created the so-called ‘Theory that the early records of the Samguk-sagi are not trustworthy’ which denounced (몰다) the early records of the Samguk-sagi as fake.

The Joseon Government-General’s Joseon History Compilation Committee took the theories created by these two colonial scholars and made the large framework of the SMSG that ‘to the north of the Han-gang river was the Chinese colony of the Four Han Commanderies and in the south of the Korean peninsula was the Japanese colony of the Mimana Japan Office.’ The two papers which made this framework were Inaba Iwakichi’s “Study on the eastern end of the Jinjang-seong fortress and Wangheom-seong fortress” (진장성 동단 및 왕험성고 {秦長城東端及王險城考}) and Tsuda Sōkichi’s “Concerning the Samguk-sagi Silla Annals” (삼국사기 신라본기에 관하여 {三國史記新羅本紀について}). [Thus] I included [translations of] these two papers as appendices to [my book] Critique on the theory of the Joseon History Compilation Committee’s SMSG (조선사편수회 식민사관 이론 비판) alongside detailed bibliographical notes (해제); upon [my] demonstrating that these two theories [have become] the established theory of current Korean historians, the [external] reviewers (편가단) reduced the budget [of the government funded project] whilst pressuring [me] to change the title.” p177

“The so-called ‘Theory that the early records of the Samguk-sagi are not trustworthy’ (<삼국사기>초기 기록 불신론). That the early records of the Samguk-sagi until the 3rd~4th centuries were fabricated fakes by Kim Busik, is the established theory (定說) of current mainstream historians. The creator of this theory (이론) was none another than the Imperial Japanese colonial historian Tsuda Sōkichi (津田 左右吉). Tsuda Sōkichi’s view of ancient Korean history is simple. In the 1910s he was entrusted by the [Japanese] South Manchuria Railway Company to write [various volumes] including Joseon Historical Geography (조선역사지리 [朝鮮歷史地理]); [in these] he narrated that in the north of the ancient Korean peninsula had been the Four Han Commanderies, in particular Lelang, [whilst] south of the Han-gang river there teemed the 78 small states known [collectively] as the Samhan (三韓). This is because, only in this way could there then be continuity to the Mimana Japan Office (임나일본부), the ancient version of the [modern colonial] Joseon Government-General.

However, for this period in the south of the Korean peninsula, the Samguk-sagi narrates that there existed not the Samhan, but the powerful ancient kingdoms of Silla and Baekje and it makes no mention about Mimana. Consequently Tsuda created the so-called ‘Theory that the early records of the Samguk-sagi are not trustworthy’ that says the early records of the Samguk-sagi were fabricated. At the same time [Tsuda said/wrote], “It being difficult to accept the ancient period of the Samguk-sagi as historically factual material, [means] there is no theory (이론) amongst modern scholars on researching East Asian history.” [He said/wrote this], exaggerating as if he were supported by other scholars. In spite of the fact that the ‘Theory that the early records of the Samguk-sagi are not trustworthy’ and the Mimana Japan Office [theory] are like two sides of the same coin, following liberation mainstream Korean historians maintained the ‘Theory that the early records of the Samguk-sagi are not trustworthy’ as established theory whilst rejecting (부인하다) the Mimana Japan Office [theory]. As a result, the Mimana Japan Office [theory] has not disappeared.” from Lee’s <한국사, 그들이 숨긴 진실>(2009:7쪽) – p178-9

“[Pro-SMSG scholars] believe that the northern Korean peninsula was a colony of ancient China, the southern Korean peninsula was a colony of ancient Japan. Consequently what meaning is there in not revealing their true names? Thus in [my book] Critique on the theory of the Joseon History Compilation Committee’s SMSG (『조선사편수회 식민사관 이론 비판』) I criticized Tsuda Sōkichi, Inaba Iwakichi and several Korean scholars with their real names. The part which [made] the [external] reviewers the most furious was precisely the criticism of Tsuda Sōkichi and the part that gave the real names of the Korean scholars. Yi Byeongdo said, “In the 3rd year of university I received the love of lecturer (and later professor) Tsuda Sōkichi and his friend Ikeuchi Hiroshi (池内宏 professor of Joseon history at Tokyo University); even after graduation these two would send their own papers and books becoming a great help to my research.” {citing 진단학회, <역사가의 유형>, 일조각, 1991, 253쪽} [Because my book] criticized Tsuda Sōkichi from whom Yi Byeongdo, the luminary (태두) of Korean historians had “received love” and who had made the theoretical framework for colonial historiography, and [because] it criticized [their] relevant papers in detail (조목조목 lit.’item by item’), [they felt] uncomfortable. However, [my] Critique on the theory of the Joseon History Compilation Committee’s SMSG was completed (수행) with South Korean citizens’ tax money. Consequently, as appropriate to the intent (취지) of supporting history research with tax money coming from money earned [through] the sweat, not of Japanese or Chinese [citizens] but South Korean citizens, I criticized the living SMSG [of current South Korean scholars – as opposed to already dead Japanese scholars] all the more intensely.” p180

3. Criticism of historical positivism (실증사학) seen in the West

“Was Yi Byeongdo whom the SMSG historians judged to be “of a character (인격자) extremely worthy of respect” able to produce [objective] ‘high quality text-based (고등문헌) criticism’ about their academia? If, far from ‘high quality text-based criticism’ he [in fact] only had the ability for ‘low quality text-based criticism’ {as Lee charges}, he must have wondered why the Japanese treated him as being of such [good] character and included him in the Joseon History Compilation Committee. He must have wondered too, whilst he was receiving the love of Japanese and researching Korean history to his heart’s content, why did the Joseon Government-General rattle its teeth so much [in anger] at Bak Eunsik’s historical research, and why did Sin Chaeho have to die inside the freezing cold Lüshun prison. However, to Yi Byeongdo who even after liberation boasted of the fact of having received Tsuda Sōkichi’s love, he lacked even such an awareness. Receiving the love of Japanese was simply an honour for his family (가문). The problem is, that family honour is continuing into the 21st century. Whilst Yi Byeongdo’s grandchildren work [in such appointments as] dean of Seoul National University and head of the Cultural Heritage Administration, and continue their family honour, by contrast the descendents of the independence activists cannot even receive a proper education and are afflicted (시달리다) by the curse of a family preoccupied with hand-to-mouth survival.” p195

“In the study of history, the question of viewpoint and the question of sources which support that viewpoint can be considered most important. The problem [for] the South Korean [source-based] positivist siljeung-ju’ui (실증주의) view of history which was inherited intact from the Joseon Government-General’s view of history after [the 1945] liberation is that they have been unable to openly (노골적) reveal it. In terms of content they have followed the Imperial Japanese SMSG, that is the [former] Joseon Government-General’s view of history, but on the outside they have been unable to say that they are following the Government-General’s view of history. Thus criticizing the SMSG in [their] overview writings (총론으로) but following the SMSG in their individual papers (각론으로), they inevitably exhibit (띠다) a dual form. The positivist siljeung historians [have had] the sad fate of not being able to call their own father ‘father’ [whilst] possessing a filial heart [still towards him] but having to pretend they are not his children. Consequently, because they feared being criticized as Korean on the outside but Japanese on the inside, they made it their habit (애용) [to wear] hanbok [Korean dress]. If they were to express their inner [self] as it [really is], [dressing in Japanese] yukata would have been [more] correct but they disguised their true hearts (본심) with hanbok.” p197

“It would not be an exaggeration to say that Korean siljeung historiography has been at a beginner’s level, unable to progress to [writing] historical narratives. The limitation is clear. Just as they acknowledge themselves, one cannot term a simple collection or enumeration of individual facts as true history. Further, the inability to make concrete a more general meaning [based] on the individual facts reduces history from an academic discipline (학문) to a [mere] hobby (취미).” from Bak Yangsik’s article “Seoyang sahak iron-e bichu’eo bon siljeung-sahak” (「서양 사학 이론에 비추어 본 실증사학」 ‘[Historical] Positivisim compared in the light of Western theory on history,’ in 『숭실사학 제31집』 2013. 12, 341쪽. p201

“South Korean positivist [source-based] siljeung historians (실증사학자들) were enthusiastic for the examination of objective facts [obtained] through scientific historical research as demonstrated (제기 lit. ‘raised, suggested, brought out’) by the historiography (사학) of [Leopold von] Ranke. However their efforts failed to get them to the point of properly narrating a history about a single country’s history (한 국사에 대한 역사). When reflected against the development of Western scholars’ discourse [on historiography], this result is terribly shabby. In spite of this, they formed the mainstream of Korean history and, exercising enormous influence, they disallow any other opinions (타의 추종 lit. ‘following others’). With the one methodology of siljeung [‘critical source study’] they established their expertise (전문성) dominating university lecture podiums and ruling over academic conferences. They also have had a monopoly even over the exclusive right to author history textbooks. A bigger problem is that the siljeung historians have failed to cast away the framework of the colonialist view of history and so continue as ever before to spread (발휘) its influence. How could this be? It is the result of the siljeung historiographic logic which has become dogmatized, functioning so powerfully.” from Bak ibid. 345-346쪽. p202

“The siljeung historians (실증사학자들) restrict Sin Chaeho’s historical view (역사관) as ethno-nationalist (민족주의 minjok-ju’ui ) historiography and do not acknowledge it as proper historical research. Lee Ki-baik (이기백 Lee Gibaek) not only acknowledged the fact that Sin Chaeho was extremely critical about past methods of narrating Korean history, he also acknowledged the fact that he put more energy into the criticism of sources than any normal critical historian (고증학자). In spite of that, [Lee Ki-baik] downgraded Sin Chaeho asserting that he [over]emphasized the unique philosophy (고유 사상) of the Korean minjok and tried to separate (or ‘isolate’ 고립시키다 lit. ‘make stand alone’) the Korean minjok from [the rest of] the world, and that ethno-nationalist history which puts the minjok at the forefront in this way, is not true history. That here, he attached the label (이름) ‘view of history’ (sa’gwan 사관) and [then] criticized it [shows his] hidden implication that it was not [in Lee Ki-baik’s view] scientific or objective historical research. Is such criticism appropriate? Not at all. First of all, I think that the terms ‘ethno-nationalist historiography (사학) or view of history (사관)’ themselves have not been established. In the West, rather, they had no hesitation in promoting the minjok when writing the histories of their homelands (조국 lit. ‘ancestral countries’). Ranke was such. Considering examples such as Jules Michelet of France or Frederick Jackson Turner of the US, it is a strange thing for ethno-nationalist historiography to become a subject of criticism by the South Korean siljeung historians.

Possessing a broad interest in philosophy, meticulous care about primary sources which had [previously] been ignored, a rich poetic style and fervent patriotism, Michelet wrote historical work that elevated and exalted each period of French history, [and so] was acknowledge as a first class historian of the French citizenry. Turner [stressed] that American history must be researched not in connection to the Old World (Europe) but as a result of the unique experience of America, suggesting a ‘frontier’ view of history; in spite of the shortcomings that this doctrine (학설) had, [Turner] is [still] valued as the historian who opened a new period of American historiography. However, South Korean siljeung historians raise [only] endless criticism about the historical research of historians who have striven to resurrect the history of a minjok that was papered over (호도) and exterminated by the Japanese Empire. Their arrows of criticism should have been turned towards the Japanese colonial historiography. Hitler of Germany and Japanese imperialism used history as a method of controlling colonial subjects (식민) and it is that kind of view of history that must become the object of denouncement (배격). However, it is difficult to agree with the ethnic-nationalism of Sin Chaeho’s view of history – which is entirely different to that kind [of Nazi Germany and Japan’s] – being lumped together and rejected (부정) as, in extreme cases, being an ultranationalist (국수주의) view of history. Attacking [Sin Chaeho in this way], it becomes a question as to history for the benefit of whom, in their own minds, the [South Korean] siljeung historians are thinking. The South Korean siljeung historians profess overcoming of the colonialist view of history, but if one examines under the surface there are many aspects in which they have been unable to free themselves from the framework of the colonialism project. Considered from this aspect, it is not difficult either to understand the relentless raising (제기) of historical questions without any concern for the feelings of the Korean people by Japan which was [at the time] trying to operate an empire. South Korean siljeung scholars are [still] comfortably living inside the framework of the colonialism project, why should they worry about anything [else]?! (꺼릴 것이 무엇이겠는가?)” from Bak ibid. 346-347쪽. p203-4.

“When distinguishing South Korean historians, one of the criteria is their evaluation of Danjae Sin Chaeho. The SMSG historians’ (식만사학자들) disapproval (거부감 lit. ‘feeling of refusal’) of Danjae Sin Chaeho is beyond [all] imagination. Of course on the outside they pretend to acknowledge him [positively] but if you go one step closer they criticize him as ‘premodern’ and ‘ethno-nationalistic (민족주의). On the outside they wave the yardstick (잣대) of positivist siljeung [source-based study] by which they measure [scholars] and yet there has been no scholar so versed in ancient Chinese and Korean primary sources as Sin Chaeho. In spite of that they criticize Sin Chaeho as an ethno-nationalistic historian who was lacking in siljeung. Their measuring stick is that of the [former] Joseon Government-General’s academic bureau (학무국). Looking at Sin Chaeho’s view of history (역사관) from the viewpoint of the Joseon Government-General hurts them to the bone. Further, it is because they well known that if Sin Chaeho’s view of history is revived they will have no place left to stand themselves. The SMSG historians view Korean history from the viewpoint of the ethno-nationalist Japanese extreme right, that is ‘invasionist’ (침략주의) and colonialist.” p205

“… what difference is there between Hitler of Germany and the Japanese king (일왕) Hirohito? Aside from the point that Hitler was German and Hirohito was Japanese, there is absolutely nothing else different. In 1940 Japan was one of the countries forming the fascist [Axis] Alliance of three countries together with Germany and Italy. That which viewed Korean history with these fascist eyes was the SMSG, that is the Joseon Government-General’s view of history.” p206

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 4 of the translated extracts.

Sources: “The Colonial View of History Inside of Us” Lee Deok-il – contents and translated extracts 1/4

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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. 407 pages.

Preface – For a new start, again 

Part 1 Two views of history at war [with one another]
1.Two views of history told by a single map
– Independence activists view of history and the Joseon Government-General view of history
– Yi Injik {李人稙} the national traitor (매국노) who shapedshifted into a foreteller (선각자 lit. ‘one [with] foresight’)
Hunminjeong’eum-haerye-bon and hangul (언문) orthography

2.Genealogy of the colonialist view of history
– The reason Imperial Japan promoted [historical] positivism (실증주의)
– Shiratori Kurakichi {白鳥庫吉} of Tokyo Imperial University and Naitō Konan {内藤湖南} of Kyoto Imperial University
– Imperialist archaeology
– The road to the Joseon History Compilation Committee {朝鮮史編修會}

3. Genealogy of minjok-ju’ui {ethno-nationalist} view of history
– Daejong-gyo [religion] and the minjok view of history
– Revolution [in] the view of history
– The incident [in which certain people] tried to substitute [one of the] Six Martyred Ministers (사육신) 

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
– The Northeast Asian History Foundation mistakenly imagining itself to be under the umbrella of the [former Joseon] Government-General
– Colonial historiography uncomfortable with criticism of the [former] Joseon Histoy Compilation Committee’s colonial view of history
– The Northeast Asian History Foundation [claiming] that Gando {Ch. Jiandao 間島} was originally Chinese territory

2. What [I] asked the Northeast Asian History Foundation in [my] 2009 [book] Hanguk-sa, geu’deul’i sumgin jinsil (한국사, 그들이 숨긴 진실 ‘Korean history, the truth they have hidden)
– South Korea’s structural colonial view of history

3.Criticism of [historical] positivism seen in the West

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

2. The colonial view of history cartel which continued even after liberation
– The [former] Joseon History Compilation Committee Japanese who kept on visiting South Korea [국내] even after liberation
– The Northeast Asian History Foundation refusing the proposal for a public debate

3. Criticism of the content of The Han Commanderies in Early Korean History
– ‘Serving the great mentality’ sadae-ju’ui (사대주의) still alive even [now]

– The letter sent from Byington to the Northeast Asia History Foundation
– Byington rebuking members of the South Korea National Assembly
– Song Hojeong who has devoted his academic career to disparaging Old Joseon
– Opinions of the other contributors 

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

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

2.Dismissing the value of historical sources

– Citing the wrong historical sources
– The overseas Koreans [I] met on Jieshi-shan mountain {碣石山 K. Galseok-san} and No Taedon of Seoul National University
– The Taikang-dilizhi {太康地理志 ‘Tai Kang Geography Treaty’} compiled in commemoration of the unification of the [Western] Jin {晉} [dynasty]

3.Creating theories (이론) of change
– The theory of change named the ‘Theory that the centre of Old Joseon moved’

4.Theory kills other scholars
– The reason for creating the ‘Theory that the early records of the Samguk-sagi are not trustworthy’
– Choe Jaesik who fought with the ‘Theory that the early records of the Samguk-sagi are not trustworthy’
– Kim Hyeon-gu claiming that the Theory of the Mimana Japan Office (임나일본부) is true
– Choe Jaesik disdained by Kim Hyeon-gu

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

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

2. [We] need a law punishing praise of the Imperial Japanese forced occupation
– Is Bak Yuha’s Jegug-wi Wi’anbu {제국의 위안부 ‘Comfort Women of the Empire’} an academic book?
– National-Martyrs’ Day (순국선열의 날) and the ‘Society for Surviving Family of National-Martyrs’ (순국선열유족회)

Translated extracts

Abbreviations used in the following translated extracts:
SMSG = singmin-sa’gwan 식민사관 ‘colonial view of history’
NEAHF = Northeast Asian History Foundation 동북아역사재단

Parenthesis usage
() Sino-Korean hanja characters are original to the text; hangul is included where the Korean word is particular, or the translated English less direct.
[] Added words not in the original text, to help with context or make better English.
{} Sino-Korean hanja not in the original text.

Preface – For a new start, again

“When[ever] the Japanese extreme-right creates an incident (준동), in contrast to us [Koreans] being quiet China busily reacts (분주하다). It means that China is a nation which at least learnt lessons from its [recent] history of being invaded. If Abe says a word [of revisionist denial] China releases sources from secret archives. It cannot be known what further sources it is still to release. On the other hand, fearing a revival of the northern Dong’i {東夷 Ch. Dongyi} peoples, China has advanced the Northeast Project (동북공정) which fabricates [history] from the beginning of their own ethnic origins.” p7

“Viewing Korean history through the perspective of Japanese people (植民 colonialists) who moved to Korea [during the colonial era] is the ‘colonial view of history’ (식민사관 singmin-sa’gwan [hereafter SMSG]). The SMSG has perpetrators and victims. The perpetrators are [both] people who made and spread the Joseon Government-General’s view of history [as well as those] who follow and spread it even today. The victims are the majority of [South Korean] citizens who unintentionally (원치 않게 lit. ‘without wanting [it]’) have learned that the SMSG is true. There are also those who are both perpetrators and victims.” p10

“Amongst the [2009 meeting of the] Committee [for the Examination of the Truth into Pro-Japanese and Anti-{Korean} Minjok Behaviour {친일반민족행위진상규명위원회}], [I] heard there was considerable debate whether to include Yi Byeongdo and Sin Seok-ho [on the list they published in 2009 of 704 Japanese collaborators]. This makes [me] guess that an unspoken cartel formed of Yi Byeongdo and Sinseok-ho’s disciples, that is ‘spies’ (history mafia), were operating even in the project of [compiling] a list of pro-Japanese chin’il (친일) scholars.” p12

1.Two views of history told by a single map
– Independence activists view of history and the Joseon Government-General view of history

“The Joseon Government-General offered to the youth of the colony the dream of [becoming] high class slaves and the path of high class slaves, instead of the dream and path of suffering of [participating in] the minjok liberation movement. Being admitted into the ‘life of a high class slave’ was no easy matter. Like the unhappy students of today’s South Korea, you had to voluntarily (스스로) become an exam machine, and had to voluntary match your own mind (머리) to the criteria set by the Government-General. Through the exam the Government-General controlled students’ minds.” p30

“‘Rote learning {注入式 lit. ‘pouring in’} style education’ and ‘exam hell’ was an education system produced by the system of colonial rule that was anti-minjok and anti-human and so should have been abolished at the time of liberation but is being firmly maintained even today.” p31

“The central subject of the Government-General’s ‘rote learning style’ education was history. And that was focused on ancient history. Here is the reason why ancient Korean history has always been modern history, from the period of the Government-General up until today with the unyielding Northeast Project. Through the rote learning [method], the Government-General taught, “In the north of the Korean peninsula were the Han Commanderies, in the south of the Korean peninsula was the Mimana Japan Office (임나일본부)”. The ancient north of the Korean peninsula was a colony of China and the south was a colony of Japan. It told that becoming a [modern] colony was the natural course of Korean history. The conclusion was don’t carry out independence activities.” p31-2

“..What should have been done about the ‘theory that the early records of the Samguk-sagi are fabricated?’ (『삼구사기』초기 기록 불신론) that had been created by the colonial historians in order to continue the Mimana Japan Office? Of course one would think that the SMSG, that is the Government-General historiography, should have been removed and the [history] should have been taught according to the view of the independence activists. However, South Korea did not do that.” p32

See here for part 2part 3 and part 4 of the translated extracts.

Sources: “Our Ancient History” Yun Naehyeon

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

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

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

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

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

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

III. How is our historical consciousness?

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

IV. What does ancient history tell [us]?

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

V. Who are we?

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

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

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

Afterword – Standing alone, but not lonely

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources: Choe Namseon’s “Bulham-munhwa-ron” – last chapter

The following is a translation of the concluding chapter of Choe Namseon’s Bulham munhwa-ron (不咸文化論 불함문화론 ‘discourse on Bulham culture’) completed in December 1925 and first published in August 1927. The original was written in Japanese whilst this translation is based on a modern Korean translation. Trusting that the Korean translation is faithful to the Japanese, hopefully not too much will be different. For the most part, my translation aims to reflect the Korean syntax as closely as possible at the expense of more natural English; only when the syntax becomes impossibly garbled do I try to break down the sentences. In the original Korean, most paragraphs are made up of just one or two long sentences.

Sino-Korean hanja (漢字) characters in parenthesis are either present in the Korean translation or added by myself; obviously the original Japanese would always have used characters, though it would be interesting to know if any had furigana or special readings attached. Hangul (한글) words in parenthesis are left in by myself, either when the hangul form of the word is important or if the English does not so directly or exactly translate the original Korean word (or to prove what was originally written!) It seems the premodern Korean hangul vowel known as arae-a (아래아 ‘lower a‘) cannot be rendered in hangul unicode, the syllable block is broken up with the arae-a appearing as an interpunct.

Romanization of Korean words which do not match the Revised-Romanization system (e.g. Părk and Taigăr) are original to the Korean text.

For a good discussion of Choe Namseon’s historiography, namely his influential analysis of Dan’gun and the Bulham hypothesis, see:

Allen, Chizuko T. 1990. “Northeast Asia Centered Around Korea: Ch’oe Namsŏn’s View of History.” Journal of Asian Studies 49.4:787-806.

Bulham is a classic in the genre of hyperdiffusion theories popular at the time and periodically so since. The initial inspiration and term ‘bulham’ (不咸) Choe seems to have acquired from Shiratori Kurakichi (白鳥庫吉 1865-1942) who as early as 1900 had suggested it as a Chinese transcription of ‘Burkhan’ attested as an oronym (mountain name) in the Shanhaijing (山海經).

Anyway, here’s the translation.

Chapter 18: The Bulham Cultural Region and its Linchpin (楔子)

The above is an insufficient inquiry, but [from it we] could get a general view of [just] how deep roots the Părk centered culture existed with and over [just how] expansive a region it [was spread].

And consequently in the Shanhaijing (山海經) wherein one would think that [Părk/Bulham] had not been transmitted after the Qin [dynasty – due to its lack of explicit mention], the name Bulham (Părkăn) is [instead] recorded [as] ‘Dae’in’ (大人) and ‘Baek-min’ (白民), whilst in the Hanshu (漢書), that which in present day Joseon [aka Korea] is called baeksan (白山 ‘white mountain’) is mentioned as Bun-ryeo-san (分黎山; Păr); [these both] show that through textual sources also the longevity (오래됨) of ‘Părk (ᄇᆞᆰ)’ and ‘Părkăn (ᄇᆞᆰ은)’ can be observed.

In the Weishu (魏書), the record of the beliefs of the Wuhuan (烏丸) people states that when a human dies their soul (혼백) returns to a spirit-land (靈地) called Jeok-san (赤山 ‘red mountain’), and that they send off the deceased to Jeok-san furnishing them with dogs and cows. Through this abbreviated (간략형) [notion of] Jeok-san or Daegal (Taigăr), and its correspondence both in name and actuality with [mountains] such as Tae-san and Geumgang-san, the universalism of the ‘Daegal (Taigăr)’ belief [system] can be appreciated.

The foundation myth of the Mongols recounts that a blue wolf (蒼浪) who had received the celestial mandate (天命 lit. ‘command’) and his wife, a white deer (白牝鹿), resided in Burhan (不兒罕山) mountain and [there] gave birth to the country’s founder; the foundation tale of the Manchu, meanwhile, tells of the strange (기이한) exploits of the red fruit of Bulhūri lake (布勒瑚哩地) beneath the Bukūri mountains (布庫哩山) to the east of Jangbaek-san [長白山 Ch. Chángbáishān, aka K. Baekdu-san 白頭山] mountain, [and so we cannot but] be surprised at the universalism of these [myths] possessing the traditional philosophy (사상) of the lineage of Bulham culture.

In Mongolian, gods and Buddhas (神佛) alike are called burikan (부리칸) or burhan (부르한) (burkhan); in every house of the Oroqen people (鄂倫春人) they set up a sacred alter (神壇); in Sollon (率倫人 Ch. Lǜlún) people’s homes they worship ‘borohan’ (보로한); amongst the Gilyak there is the name bad (바드) for mountain gods (山神); [thus] together with Joseon’s veneration of Bugun (府君; Pukun or Taigam), Japan’s various schools of different types of Shintō, and Ryukyuan worship in front of the sun (in Ryukyuan language ‘sun’ is fi or pi ), it can be surmised that the various ethnic groups and states of the east have tacitly developed (자라다) within a shared culture up until the present. How can the explication (자아냄) of the scholarly interest in Părk (ᄇᆞᆰ) thought simply stop with history? As one who is [trying to] vaguely explicate on Asian-ism, or as that spiritual (정신적) support, there is the need to look into (돌아보다) this [further].

In short, an ethnic group (민족 minjok) who possess a Părk based belief [system] and social organization is distributed in a line [starting from the region between] the Caspian Sea and the Tian Shan mountains which [constitute] the northeast branch of the Pamir mountains; [this line then] follows the Altay mountains, the Sayan mountains and Yablonoi mountains, and then incorporates the Xing’an and Taihaeng mountains to the south, and I’yeok (夷域 ‘yi territory’), Joseon, Japan and Ryukyu to the east. Leaving aside [the question of] the racial (종족적) relationship [between them], culturally they form a [long] chain of connections.

[Along this chain] some division emerged between [those more] civilized and [those more] primitive (야만) [depending on] the period of migration out of the original homeland (본원지) and environmental conditions (제약) in the [various] places of settlement. However, taking the legends that had diverged from the original same root as the history of the founding of [their individual] countries and transmitting them in a fragmentary fashion, [they] preserved a single culture (문화적 현상 lit. ‘cultural phenomenon’) [unified] by a single belief [system] that was both universal and strong and constituted its [own] root of origin. Because it was originally based on an immovable conviction, a model for the best way of living, even whilst being constantly oppressed by stronger cultures [they] successfully maintained a living lineage (계통적 생명) across east and west and throughout past and present.

The lineage of Bulham (Părkăn) culture constitutes a northern lineage of eastern culture that contrasts with the two southern lineages of China and India. [Amongst both] the peoples (minjok) and countries that belong to this [northern] lineage, until a certain period [we can say] they had no special [individual] histories, [and] a feeling (감정) has flowed [across place and time] of such shared commonality and correspondence that it has constituted its own distinctly colored (특색) [cultural] area. Corresponding to [the original] Părk (ᄇᆞᆰ) and [since] protected within Taigăr (대갈), both [their] actual and ideal way of living (생활) is to obtain comfort and satisfaction. Consequently, that which constitutes [both the] clear[est] proof, and [represented] an extremely important opportunity (계) [for maintaining Părk] has been [the legends of] Dan’gun and Buru (夫婁), and the teaching of ‘the Way of Pung-nyu’ (風流道) [which all belong to] Joseon history.

Today in East Asia, the northern people’s source of branching and [their] constituent cultural content (문화 구성 내용) still belongs to virgin territory [in] scholarship and it is difficult to suddenly grasp the truth and details [of it all], however, it seems [now in this writing] through [our] investigation of this Părk (ᄇᆞᆰ) philosophy, we have glimpsed the broad outline of the original source. Having pursued (더듬다) this, recently I am thinking that perhaps based on this a true explanation of the ancient culture of East Asia has been achieved.

[On the basis of] comparative research of religion and language, and [utilizing] anthropology and folkloristics, [Dan’gun is] thought to be the secret key to East Asian culture [and so] whenever I see Dan’gun slandered by those who cannot know, relying on ignorant (一知半解) uninformed (상식적) scholars [as they do], I feel nervously troubled (아슬아슬) and frustrated. And when East Asian culture is discussed, whenever I see [they] treat everything as pertaining either to Chinese or Indian [cultural] spheres and speak as though attributing value [only] to these, I cannot help but lament that the lack of progress in Oriental Studies owes to these preconceived notions (기존 인식) and preconceptions.

Recently a research tradition in the humanities (인문 과학) and folkloristics has gradually gained popularity (성행) and a new scholarly paradigm (신국면) is opening up. For the sake of the original (本地) truth of East [Asian] culture which [has been] being buried, I am truly delighted and cannot welcome [this development] enough. Consequently [it] must be said that expectations for the immediate future lie solely in this direction. We [Japanese and Koreans] are [merely] one inconspicuous part (일면) of East [Asian] culture, or [even of] all humanity; the focus of that comprehensive observation can be understood as Părk (ᄇᆞᆰ) ideology. If the secret of this ideology is [further] developed by many intelligent scholars, and its structure and nature becomes clearer, it will herald in an enormous new light which can illuminate [wider] human culture.

Source for the translation:
Choe Namseon 최남선, translated by Jeon Seonggon 전성공. 2013. 불함문화론ㆍ살만교차기 (최남선 한국학 총서8). Seoul: Kyung-in Publishing 景仁文化社.

 See all a translation of Chapter 10: The great lineage of Joseon sindo (神道).

Korean History Education – a casual essay

The following is an informal essay recently written by a first year undergraduate student at Korea University who, as she readily notes, has not herself majored in Korean history. Despite, or rather because of this it provides a refreshingly unconstrained discussion of the topic as seen from a regular, contemporary Korean perspective.  Translated with her permission, she would no doubt emphasize that it represents only one opinion. The essay is not the product of any deep research but merely reflects her personal experience and immediate knowledge, the insightful cohesiveness of which makes it highly readable.

Korean History Education

There are [currently] many problems [concerning] Korean history education [in Korea]. In terms of content there cannot but be problems, however the [whole] system of Korean history education has some really big problems. This is because Korea’ education policy itself is broken and gradually getting worse. The current education policy has already continued too far in the wrong direction [to be able to discuss all matters in this essay], so here I will try to give an overview of the current situation concerning Korean history [as a taught] subject.

The focus on university entrance exams is a fact [of Korean life] which remains unchanged, however, as competition has heightened and the system of entrance keeps changing, the age at which [students] begin preparing for the exams is gradually decreasing. In Korea, compulsory education lasts up until [the end of] middle school and from high school education is [nominally] elective, consequently at high school there is a greater freedom in the choice of subjects. [But] with high school being the stage just before taking the university entrance exams, it is inevitable that the choice of subjects is centered on preparing for the College Scholastic Ability Test (수능 suneung for short). Here, too, in the past students would begin preparations for the suneung exams in their final [3rd] year of high school, but now there is a demand [from parents?] to have suneung style classes not just throughout high school but even from middle school. In order to prepare for the suneung, music, sports, art and ethics classes which used to each be for an hour per week are all relegated to the first year [of high school] to complete the required hours, whilst the remaining [two year] period is devoted to Korean, maths and a foreign language (언수외, the ‘foreign language’ refers to English) study. However, the former topics used to provide time each week for students to take a break [from entrance exam study] and have some fun. With these classes now all moved to one year, the volume of study has become too great and the level of enjoyment halved; for the remaining period [students] have to continuously study [only] for the suneung and so the level of stress becomes many times higher. Particularly subjects such as ethics are important because if regularly taught, they provide students with the chance to think about life, but if the lectures are used merely to fill required hours (수업일수) they really are of no help.

The most basic method for entering university is sitting the suneung, but if all education is [exclusively] centered around it then such preoccupation becomes entirely unhelpful and meaningless study [only endured] out of the necessity [to enter university]. For example, the three subjects focused on most for the suneung are Korean, mathematics and a foreign language (English); of course these topics are important but I do not see for what reason these three are [considered so] especially important when compared to other topics. But with everyone concentrating [only] on Korean, maths and English (언수외), other subjects are neglected, whilst [at the same time] with everyone [forced to compete so hard] the average results continue to rise and so the difficulty of [exam] questions has become unnecessarily high.

Except for Korean, maths and English, the remaining topics are all grouped under the category ‘society’. [They include] politics, economics, society and culture, Korean geography, Korean history, modern history, ethics, a second foreign language (Chinese, Japanese, French, German, Arabic [or] Russian) and world history; when applying for the suneung, three or four [of these] are selected. It is a completely free choice up to the individual and so those subjects not chosen do not have to be studied at all. This is an issue for other topics as well, but it is quite absurd (어처구니 없다) that [both] Korean and modern history are treated as elective subjects. Of course history is obligatory during elementary and middle school but because Korean history is originally so long and complicated (양이 많다 lit. ‘there being a lot of it’), the truth is [students] quickly become confused and forget [what they have learnt]. It is also ridiculous (황당하다) that Korean and modern history are divided. Korean history covers prehistory, and from Old Joseon to the [end of the later] Joseon dynasty, whilst modern history [deals with] the subsequent period until the present. During elementary and middle school there is so much history to study, by the end of each academic year, the content is rushed through whilst the modern history segment is dropped entirely. Then, in my own case, at high school for the suneung I did not choose modern history and so I know almost nothing of modern Korean history. In my mind, I am really frustrated and want to learn [about it] but whenever I have free time there is always something else and so, currently, even I can feel myself just how ignorant I am about modern history.

When studying history it is very useful to know hanja (Chinese characters), but hanja classes are only continued until [the end of] middle school and then they are only once per week and we only learn the most basic and simple words and so younger Koreans today barely know any hanja characters. Trying to memorize Korean history without knowing hanja makes it all the more difficult. It is said that during our parents’ generation, if they met a Chinese or Japanese person abroad, even if they could not speak, it was possible to communicate at a basic level through writing hanja. But for the current generation it is best to not [even] entertain such expectations.

In the case of the suneung exam, there are well crafted questions, but for [earlier internal] school exams the questions are made by the teachers for the sake of ease and so they nearly always consist of questions which can be answered simply through rote learning. For example, [being asked] to arrange in order a series of events which occurred during a similar period, or, in [multiple choice] questions choosing the right date where only the last digit of the year given as options differ from one another. Unless [one goes on to] study history for the suneung, any interest in studying Korean history is soon lost.

Of course, there are many other important subjects taught at school but because there is almost no one who would refute the fact that Korean history is really important, there are visible efforts here and there to encourage the study of Korean history. In the case of Seoul National University, perhaps because of its self-pride (자부심) as the representative university of Korea, one can only apply for a place there if they have taken Korean history as a suneung examination subject. Recently, also, a new test offering a qualification has been established, the ‘Korean History Ability Evaluation Test’ (한국사능력검정시험 Hanguk-sa neungnyeok-geomjeong-siheom); this is very useful for students preparing their seupek (스펙 ‘spec’ from English ‘specification’, a term used to denote additional academic qualifications)for the suneung exam. Considering its only relatively recent introduction, the influence of the Korean History Ability Evaluation Test is surprisingly large and is an exam which is invariably taken by those who need seupek. In spite of there being such efforts, for students to whom university entrance exams are their entire world, it seems the importance of studying Korean history remains under-acknowledged.

Separate to the issue of education policy, the genre of Korean [television] dramas [known as] sageuk (사극 ‘historical dramas’) exert a negative influence on the study of Korean history. The majority of historical dramas are not only based on a past period [of history] but also deal with historical figures and events. However, viewers are surprisingly naive and will very often believe that whilst there is some fiction, most of the content is true. The problem is that the people who write the scenarios have not themselves majored in history. The scenario writers simply borrow the names of minor historical personages and facts and then create fiction with their own imaginations, but the viewers accept it [all] as fact and so accumulate nothing bu inaccurate knowledge. The settings of the dramas are never entirely invented but will indicate a particular period of Korean history within which the story unfolds, however, [the scenario writers typically] know nothing about the period and so the clothing, food and sets are all entirely made up and fake. When the historical dramas are broadcast the episodes almost never begin with any notice [to the effect] that, ‘This story deals with historical events but the content is ahistorical fiction’. Just occasionally will there be such a notice but, it seems only when the plots are particularly extreme.

At least [in terms of] the content of Korean history education, some positive change is visible. During the period of Japanese occupation, many cultural relics (문화재) were lost and simultaneously the content of history education also greatly changed; this was a necessary process for [the Japanese to] legitimize [their] rule. The content that changed during that period is [now] referred to as ‘the colonial view of history’ (식민사관 singmin-sa’gwan). When I was learning Korean history, we were already being taught both about the ‘colonial view’ and original history. Very often there were [multiple choice] test questions asking to identify the ‘colonial view’. Because I was taught in this manner from the beginning I accepted it as natural (당연하다), as a consequence I was really surprised to [only] recently learn the fact that even during my parents’ generation they were taught Korean history as it had been altered by Japan but without it being termed the ‘colonial view’. It was quite chilling (섬뜩하다) to realize that something I had vaguely assumed to have been the case in the distant past [had in fact continued] up to our parents’ generation. But on the other hand, I am [equally] reassured (뿌듯하다) to realise [therefore] that efforts to search out the ‘colonial view’ and preserve original history (원래 역사) have already [achieved] the stage of near complete success.

To give the most representative example of the ‘colonial view’, it would be the factional politics (붕당정치 bungdang-jeongchi) of the Joseon dynasty. Even during my parents’ generation, they were taught that the factional struggles over power were because the Joseon people’s sense of ethnic identity (민족성 minjokseong) was weak and so they easily formed rival groups and fought [amongst themselves, ultimately] causing the downfall of the dynasty. However, any average student of my generation will have heard the term ‘factional politics’. When I was taught [Korean history, we were] told that rather than power [continuously] residing in the same place it was divided between several parties/factions (당파) and so tension and a balance of power was maintained and this played a large role in Joseon’s longevity.

In this manner, by describing (표현) Korean’s sense of ethnic identity as historically (나쁘다 lit. ‘bad’) and painting Joseon as an inferior country, [they] emphasized the necessity of rule by a more advanced country (선진화된 나라) such as Japan.

Another example of the ‘colonial view’ is the ‘hypothesis of Mimana (任那 Kor. Imna) having been a part of Japan’ (임나일본부설) and, to be sure, during the Japanese occupation it was taught not as a hypothesis but as fact. It was another excuse to legitimize [Japanese] rule through grafting (집어넣다) their own traces onto ancient history (아주 옛역사). However, presently (in Korea) the “Mimana hypothesis” is taught as a clear term together with logical evidence disproving it as fact. [Teachers] do not simply insist that it was false but always systematically (논리적으로) teach the reasons [why], which in my view, is very good.

Although, even during our parents’ generation history was taught [still] based on the ‘colonial view’, as young students they did not seem to have taken that ‘fact’ [as truth]. But for my grandparents’ generation, because they were the generation which actually experienced the Japanese occupation, their education was [no better than] brainwashing and even today they still believe that Japanese culture and civilization (문물) is extremely good. It seems that because much Japanese culture remains from their memories of when they were young, there is an aspect of sensing the fragrance of their youth in Japanese things. For example, [if they hear Japanese language] they feel nostalgic for their youth. Even in such horrid circumstances as when one country uses military force to rule and oppress another country, the fact that in spite of that, the [aggressor] country could leave a positive impression on the victim country, I felt as truly frightening. Even if it is only limited to cultural [impressions].

I am not sure if it is related to the Japanese colonial era, but [in China-Korea relations too] I heard they used to teach that Korea sent tribute to China because [Korea] was always weak. Of course, [I] realise the strength of China and Korea do not bear comparison and know that Korea sent tribute to China but in Korean history education today, this fact too is logically presented (표현) even [manages to be interpreted] quite positively. Firstly, there is the clear evidence that although China invaded Korea countless times, Korea was never annexed by China and has remained [independent] to the present. Historically there were instances when [Korea] practiced sadae-ju’ui (사대주의 lit. ‘serving the great -ism’ i.e. active Sinocentricism) and instances when it pursued a policy of strengthening its borders (강경책) according to the individual kings; always, in this manner, there were various opinions on what to do about relations with other counties which depended on individual people and circumstances. Crucially, if it [had only] been a case of normal products being paid as a tribute tax (상납), then certainly it could be seen as having been little more than a system of Chinese rule, but because it can be understood that, rather than [simply] offering up tribute (물건), they were [in fact] exchanged for even more treasures (물건) [from the Chinese side] and so profited Korea, the relationship can be interpreted as not having been so one-directional (수동적 lit. ‘passive’) [after all].

Of course, because I do not major in history, this is [only] my personal interpretation [combined with] the content of Korean history lectures I [only] vaguely [remember] but anyway, it is a clear fact that the Korean history syllabus is moving towards emphasizing Korean independence (자주성 as having been chief protagonist in its own affairs) and identity (정채성). Nothing is good if taken to an extreme but because, for a long time, Korea was described [as] not having [any strong] identity, I think this kind of process [of reemphasizing Koreanness] is very much necessary.

Aside from Japan [related matters], the manner of portraying (표현 방식) many other historical incidents is [also] changing, or has already. The [most] representative example is the case of the May 18 Gwangju Democracy Movement (5.18 광주민주화운동) [which] at the time was termed the [Gwangju] ‘riot’ (폭동). Actually, I’m not exactly sure when the name was changed to ‘democracy movement’, but to me it has always been [called so]. In actuality, at that time, the government tried to cover up many large incidents and so even if people did not believe the government, there was [still] no way to accurately find out the reality of [such] incidents. Consequently, if the government termed [it] a ‘riot’, then people too would [find themselves] referring to [it] as a riot and so the expression would stick. Actually, very recently there have been attempts to change the term back to ‘riot’, that is, since the start of Park Geun-hye’s administration.

The period (체제 lit. ‘system’) of [South Korean] dictatorships was no less awful than the Japanese occupation [and so] I was really surprised last year to see Park Geun-hye [daughter of Park Chung Hee] selected as a presidential candidate. This was because, although I knew that my grandparents’ generation had a positive appreciation (인식) for Park Chung Hee, I had not realized they liked him to this degree (i.e. enough to vote his daughter into power). I had thought that no matter how much common people’s eyes and ears had been covered by the government and [in spite of] the economic development achieved, inside their heads they would have [also] known just how many horrible incidents there had been. Concerning this point, I do not know if it is the influence of education or that, despite having been a dictatorship, [most] people had felt it to have been peaceful (평온하다).

Finally, I will finish with an explanation about Korean history textbooks. In our country, until the 7th [National] Curriculum (교육과정), there was only one Korean history textbook (modern history was a normal publisher {i.e. various textbooks were available}) [but] from the 8th Curriculum, it changed so that normal publishers could also publish [their own textbooks for premodern Korean history]. Although I do not know well myself, [as I understand], before the 8th Curriculum came into place for first year high school [students] in 2009, [each chapter of] the Korean history textbook was nearly always divided into [separate sections on] politics, economics, society and culture and so [each topic] was taught in that order. Thus having learnt all the politics of a [given] period and feeling like it was finished [and ready to move on], in the next lesson [they] would study the economics of the same period, and then the society, and then the culture; only having studied one period (나라) from each of these aspects four times over would it finally be finished. However, because Korean history is originally long with several dynasties which each repetitively came and went, it is very easy to become confused on the different periods. Consequently in the Korean history text and workbooks there were [and still are] often tables to show the similarities and differences between the different periods. This is because (i.e. helps to demonstrate that) although there were differing dynasties, their systems and culture remained similar.

However much the syllabus of Korean history is changed, it is difficult to have a perfect curriculum and so it is always a topic of debate amongst experts. Each time the curriculum is changed, there is much debate (말 lit. ‘words/talk’) and complaining (불만). The content is one thing, but the need to strengthen Korean history education is also something being very much emphasized. As stated at the beginning, this is because Korean history education is not being properly achieved. From the point of view of students, the amount (범위 lit. ‘range/scope’) of Korean history is so incredibly much greater than other subjects, studying it is always difficult and hated.

It would be difficult beyond description to completely change the Korean education system but it would be good to at least elevate Korean history from simply being one amongst various topics to that of a much more special topic. An important starting point for this would be getting students to recognize the importance of studying Korean history. It will be impossible to have Korean history education without any complaints, but I hope the several positive experiments will be incorporated (이어받다) and that it will continue in a direction of gradual development.

Sources: “Study of Balhae” 渤海考 (1784) – Author’s Preface 自序

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This is the famous preface to Yu Deukgong‘s Balhae-go ( 渤海考 Study of Balhae 1784).  See also, his friend, Bak Jega’s preface.

Author’s Preface

Goryeo did not compile (修) a history of Balhae and so [we] know that Goryeo was not fully vibrant (不振). In the past, the Go clan (高氏) resided in the north and [their land was] called Goguryeo; the Buyeo clan (夫餘氏) resided in the southwest and were called Baekje; and the Bak (朴), Seok (昔) and Kim (金) clans were in the southeast and called Silla. These were the Three Kingdoms. Appropriately there was a history of the Three Kingdoms which Goryeo had [duly] compiled. This was right.

Subsequently the Buyeo and Go clans came to an end; the Kim clan occupied the south whilst the Dae clan (大氏) occupied the north and [its country] was called Balhae. These were the Southern and Northern Kingdoms and there should have befittingly been a history of the Southern and Northern Kingdoms, but Goryeo did not compile one. This was wrong.

Who were the Dae clan? They were Goguryeo people. What land was it they occupied? It was Goguryeo land. They drove [others] out (斥) to the east, west and north and enlarged [the territory].

Subsequently [both] the Kim and Dae came to an end; the Wang clan (王氏) came to power (統) and, occupying [the former territories, their country] was called Goryeo. In the south they occupied all of the Kim clan’s [former] territory but in the north they could not occupy all of the Dae’s. Some of it went to the Jurchen (女眞) and some to the Khitan (契丹). At that time those who devised plans (計) for Goryeo should have quickly compiled a history of Balhae. They [should have] taken this to the Jurchen and remonstrated them saying, “Why don’t you return our Balhae territory? Balhae’s territory was Goguryeo territory!” Then [they should have] sent a military general to go and take [the territory] and that way they could have occupied to the north of the Tomun (土門 present day Tumen) [river]. Then [similarly they should have] taken [the history] to the Khitan and remonstrated them saying, “Why don’t you return our Balhae territory? Balhae’s territory was Goguryeo territory!” Then [they should have] sent a military general to go and take [the territory] and that way they could have occupied to the west of the Amnok (鴨綠 present day Yalu) [river]. [However], in the end no [such] history of Balhae was compiled and so no one knew which clan’s land they were, either to the north of the Tomun or to the west of the Amnok. [Even if] they wanted to remonstrate the Jurchen there was nothing they could say. [Even if] they wanted to remonstrate the Khitan, there was nothing they could say.

Goryeo in the end became a weak country because it was unable to reclaim (得) the Balhae territory. How lamentable! Perhaps [Goryeo people even] said, “Balhae was overthrown by the [Khitan] Liao how could its history be compiled?” This is not so. Balhae had a system of government (憲) resembling China’s and it would certainly have had a history bureau (史官). Its capital, Holhan-seong (忽汗城), was destroyed [but] those who fled to Goryeo with the crown prince [numbered] in the hundreds of thousands. [So even if] there were no official historians [amongst them] there would definitely have been books; [even] if there were no historians or books, [they could have] asked the crown prince and been able to learn the court [history] (世). They could have asked the Eun Gyejong (隱繼宗) and learnt [about Balhae’s] ritual behaviour (禮). If they asked the [remaining] hundreds of thousands, there is nothing that they could not have found out.

Zhang Jianzhang (張建章 806-866, see note below) was from Tang [China], yet he authored the Bohaiguo-ji (渤海國記 Record of Bohai/Balhae); [how is it, there were] Goryeo people but they were unable to compile a history of Balhae themselves?

Ah! It is [now] centuries after the literature [pertaining to Balhae] has been scattered and lost. Even if one attempts to compile [a history, the sources] cannot be obtained! Whilst [working] as an official at the Naegak (內閣, refers to Gyujanggak royal library) I extensively read royal/rare books (秘書 lit. ‘secret books’) and selectively compiled (撰次) the matters [concerning] Balhae as nine go short studies (考) on [the following]: rulers (君), subjects/officials (臣), geography, ranks and titles, ceremonial texts (儀章), produce (産物), language, literature and successor states. That they cannot be termed [under the orthodox categories of] important houses (世), biographies (傳) and treatises (志) but [only] go [means] this is not a complete history. [I] would not dare pretend this is an [official] history [史].

15th day, 3rd [lunar] leap month of Gabjin (甲辰 1784)

Zhang Jianzhang (張建章 806-866) served as a Tang emissary to Barhae, his tomb was discovered in Beijing in 1956. In 832 a Balhae emissary visited Youzhou (幽州, modern Beijing) and the following year Zhang was sent to Balhae. He arrived in the capital of Balhae in the 9th lunar month of 834 and returned Youzhou in the 8th month of 835. Based on this visit he authored the three volume Bohai-ji (渤海記 Record of Bohai); it has not survived but is thought to have been a primary reference for the ‘Bohai-zhuan’ (渤海傳) section of the Xin-Tangshu (新唐書 New Book of Tang).  (See Song 2012:41)

Song Gi-ho 송기호 (translator). 2012: 발해고 (Study of Balhae). Seoul: (주)홍익출판사

Sources: “History of the Balhae Empire” – Forward, Contents and Afterword

Balhae Empire c720

Seo Byeong-guk 서병국. 2010: 발해제국사: 발해가 고구려의 계승국인 34가지 증거 (History of the Balhae Empire: 34 pieces of evidence that Balhae was the successor state to Goguryeo). Gyeonggi-do Paju: 한국학술정보(주)

General warning: this is a good example of Korean subjectivity in the history dispute with China.  I do not particularly agree with the arguments presented.

Translation notes: the verb ggeul’eodeul’ida 끌어들이다 has been directly translated throughout as “to pull in” to maintain its clear nuance, although in the context it would sound more natural as “to incorporate”.  The loaded terms minjok 민족 and jongjok 종족 are both translated here as “people” or “ethnic group”.


Following the collapse of the great empire of Goguryeo in northeast Asia, what could be called ‘the great exodus of a people (민족)’ continued for more than thirty years where the remnants (유민) of the Goguryeo people and the Malgal, who had been under Goguryeo’s rule, left their beloved homeland and [moved] to an unfamiliar foreign country, or else had to move their livelihoods to alien land (i.e. exactly the same thing.) Through this exodus of a people, the territory of our [Korean] people (우리 민족) received a mortal wound. Silla unified the peninsula but because they were unable to occupy the former Goguryeo territory north of Pyeongyang, an expansive area was expelled from our (i.e. Koreans’) historical interest.

Time passed, and the country of Balhae established itself (들어서다) in the land of the Songmal-malgal (粟末靺鞨 Ch. Sumo-mohe) which had been formerly governed by Goguryeo and so the ethnic chaos which had been stirred up by the great exodus of a people entered into a stage of calm. However, the lack of interest in the territory north of Pyeongyang remained the same.

So, how did Balhae come to be established? Tang caused the downfall of Goguryeo, but had been unable to advance into its former land north of the Yalu River (압록강) and so [the territory there] was in a state of empty vacuum. This vacuum was a prime requirement for founding a country and it was Balhae that was established here. Because Balhae was established outside of the region of Tang control, the only ethnic group (종족) who could have established it were either the remnants of Goguryeo or the Malgal.

Both during the Goguryeo period and after its collapse, the Goguryeo and Malgal people successfully maintained a relationship of mutual reliance. The founding of Balhae was achieved through this cooperative relationship. Goguryeo had originally been a multiethnic state and Balhae too, established on former Goguryeo land, was a country with a similar personality. Demonstrating in particularly that Balhae was a multiethnic state [is the fact that] Balhae was established immediately following the Khitan led rebellion against the Tang in Yingzhou (營州, modern Chaoyang 朝陽 west of the Liao River), in which the Goguryeo remnant people and Malgal had participated as a joint force.

But even in multiethnic states, it is inevitable that there will be [one] ethnic group (종족) which controls the whole territory. Just as in the multiethnic state of Tang, the principle power was the [Chinese] Han (漢), so in Balhae must there have been a dominant power (주체 세력). If so, was it of Goguryeo or Malgal lineage? The ethnic lineage (종족 계열) of the dominant power can be distinguished both by looking collectively at the relationship between the two during the Goguryeo period and [also] which ethnic group ruled the Balhae after its establishment.

However, this issue has not yet been properly resolved. Although the history of Balhae has largely been elucidated through written records (문헌), there is a need for further research. Even whilst research on this problem is so urgent, there are people who [would] deny this. They are the Chinese. This is because they blindly follow only the record in the ‘Bohai-zhuan’ (渤海傳 ‘Account of Balhae’) chapter in the Xin-Tangshu (新唐書 New Book of Tang) which says, “The Songmal-malgal (粟末靺鞨 속갈말갈 Ch. Sumo-mohe) established Balhae.”

However, to the same extent that the ‘Bohai-Mohe-zhuan’ (渤海靺鞨傳 ‘Account of the Balhae Malgal’) section of the Jiu-Tangshu (舊唐書 Old Book of Tang) provides an antithesis [to this], detailed historical examination is required into the issue of the dominant ethnic group. Unless this problem is solved, even if Balhae history is pulled onto the stage of our [Korean] history, it will not be acknowledge [as Korean] by the rest of the world. The Chinese have managed to separate the history of Balhae from us and pulled it into their own history. This is all because the problem of who the dominant ethnic group of Balhae was has not been researched.

Until now both Korea and China have relied only on fragmentary records. China has consciously avoided approaching the problem whilst Koreans have failed to deeply investigate from more than one angle. China avoids the issue because of a selfish judgement that [to do so] is beneficial to their national interests.

In the spring of 1990, this author participated in ‘The First International Conference on Balhae History’ sponsored by Yanbian University, established in China’s Korean Autonomous Prefecture; he was able to directly observe live what kinds of opinions Chinese scholars of Balhae history had regarding the history of Balhae [nice tautology!] The concluding report (합의문) presented during the closing ceremony suggested leaving the problem of [what] the dominant ethnic group of Balhae [was] for future research. Since then twenty years have passed but absolutely nothing has changed concerning this issue.

As noted above, the Chinese have completely ignored researching (or ‘research on’) this matter. Consequently it cannot but be our responsibility (몫). Concerning the problem of ethnicity, neither us [Korea] nor China will retreat an inch, but if we research this problem with a sense of historical mission (사명감), the assertions of the Chinese can be changed. This author heard a potentially shocking hint from ethnic Korean [Chinese] scholars who participated in the international conference on Balhae history. They themselves acknowledged that Balhae had been established with the remnants of Goguryeo as the central [people], but they were under pressure by Chinese authorities not to express this in words or writing.

Everyone has the hope that at sometime, even in China, academic freedom will be realized such that the history of Balhae, too, could be researched in a rational manner, but this may be an unrealizable fantasy. Since time immemorial the Chinese have regarded, as if [a matter] of ethnic pride, the complacent comfort [안주하는] [found in their] Hua-Yi historical perspective (華夷史觀 lit. ‘Chinese civilization [vs] barbarians’) which always views the history of the surrounding ethnic groups through a Sinocentric [outlook] (lit. ‘with their own country as the centre) and as a consequence even if in the future academic freedom is achieved, it is difficult to expect that the previous distortions of Balhae’s history will be correctly addressed (정립하다 lit. ‘to establish a [correct] thesis’).

That the sources on the Chinese side concerning the dominant (주체) [ethnic group of] Balhae are false has its very origin in the Hua-Yi historical perspective. Tang was absorbed in this historical outlook and so treated Balhae as a yidi barbarian (夷狄 Korean: ijeok) [entity]; whereupon Balhae became transformed into a country established by the Malgal (靺鞨 Chinese: Mohe) who for a long time had been the representative yidi people of Northeast Asian.

Tang [Chinese] viewed Balhae as a yidi [entity] and so would have been satisfied with [their] particular spiritual self-importance (자존), but what do Chinese people feel today? Different to their ancestors they point out the territorial satisfaction they feel. The Tang regarded the northeastern region of Goguryeo as useless land and so relinquished [thoughts of conquering] it but, through a sense of moral duty that the region is exclusive territory which must on no account be conceded to non-Han (漢) peoples, Chinese today are wiping away any remaining trace of the Goguryeo lineage. This is the byproduct of a modern version of the Hua-Yi historiographic perspective.

That Chinese scholars today pull Balhae into the history of their own country is a concrete expression of behaviour of this. On the question of which ethnic group the dominant power of Balhae emerged from, to say whether it was Goguryeo or Malgal based on a conclusion arrived at through pure research would be the academic approach. However, ignoring research and speaking from the dimension of national interest is not an academic approach. Here Chinese scholars’ research on Balhae history cannot be said to be free.

However it may be, recently there are people amongst ourselves, too, who are under the illusion (착각) that understanding Chinese people’s historical view of Balhae is [simply] a new research trend in [the study of] Balhae history. This is irresponsible behaviour, abandoning oneself in the distorted Hua-Yi historiographic perspective. If the results of research carried out with a serious attitude said that it were so, an understanding [for the Chinese perspective] could be found, but if they are words issued in a shallow manner without [having done that research] they then will be rejected.

When participating in the conference on Balhae history and directly coming into contact with the actual Chinese [scholars’] exclusionary historical view of Balhae, this author could not contain his indignation. But at the same time it gave him a new sense of mission. The result is this book.

Japanese sources on Balhae, too, unanimously say that the dominant power of Balhae was Goguryeo. But that Chinese people, in spite of this, inevitably insist it was Malgal is because the Hua-Yi historiographic perspective which refuses change continues to exist. Only when the Hua-Yi perspective changes will their view of Balhae history [start to] change. Unfortunately it is difficult to expect of Chinese people that [their] Hua-Yi perspective, viewing all nearby peoples as yidi barbarians, will change. But if we [Koreans] correctly establish a historical view of Balhae history, then the day will come when the twisted Hua-Yi perspective of the Chinese will change too.

This author’s comprehensive (종합적) research into the dominant power of Balhae is with the sole aim of trying to rectify the distorted view of Balhae history which is [itself] the dark side (이면) of the biased Hua-Yi perspective. As much as it is now the 21st century in which a new millenium has begun, we must no longer accept twisted views of history. Only rational views of history acknowledged by all, will guarantee peace and equality between countries.

In order to demonstrate the historical fact that the dominant power of Balhae was of Goguryeo lineage, this author will devote his whole energies (심혈 lit. ‘heart and blood’) to finding relations between the two. In concrete terms he will try to form connections between whether facts and events appearing in each topic [related to] Balhae also appear in Goguryeo. That is to say, he will focus on proving that the roots of historical facts which can be seen in Balhae, [can be traced to] Goguryeo. Because resolving this problem is the emphasis of this book, criticism and refutations of the twisted assertions and opinions of Chinese [scholars] cannot be neglected.

The uniqueness of this book is in its new method of research which has not until now been attempted. That is to divide the connections between Balhae and Goguryeo into thirty-four categories such as politics, diplomacy and culture and to take pains that the reader has no difficult in understanding [the discourse]. [The author] believes that anyone who knows [no more than] the name Balhae, should have no problems in understanding [this book].

August 2010
Seo Byeong-guk


1 Dae Joyeong (大祚榮), establishing Balhae
2 The name of the country established by Dae Joyeong was Balhae
3 Balhae was an empire
4 Balhae and Jin-guk (振國/震國) were different
5 The majority of Balhae’s inhabitants were of Goguryeo lineage
6 Criticizing sources which write Balhae as Malgal
7 Examining the meaning of the expansion of anti-Balhae power in Tang
8 Silla acknowledged Balhae as the successor to Goguryeo
9 Goryeo acknowledged Balhae as the successor to Goguryeo
10 Japan viewed Balhae as the same as Goguryeo
11 Examining Gung’ye’s (弓裔) view of Balhae
12 Finding out the world view of Balhae’s people
13 Goguryeo and Malgal lineages coexisted in Balhae
14 Balhae was the successor to Goguryeo
15 Balhae inherited Goguryeo’s policy [towards the] Tujue (突厥 돌궐) people
16 Balhae utilized Goguryeo’s knowledge of foreign countries
17 Balhae customs were Goguryeo type
18 The culture level of Balhae was the same as Goguryeo’s
19 The artist technology of Balhae was the same as Goguryeo’s
20 Balhae developed Goguryeo music
21 Balhae developed Goguryeo literature
22 On the front of [archaeological] remains and relics, Balhae was the successor to Goguryeo
23 The roots of Balhae polo (擊毬 격구) was Goguryeo
24 The roots of Balhae’s agriculture was Goguryeo
25 The roots of Balhae falconry was Goguryeo
26 The remnants of Balhae were acknowledged as the same ethnicity as Goryeo
27 The remnants of Balhae participated in the governments of the Khitan and Jurchen
28 The Liaoyang (遼陽) remnants of Goguryeo were the ancestors of Balhae people
29 The Khitans Balhae imperial guard (儀仗) were of Goguryeo lineage
30 Liaoyang is the homeland of both Goguryeo and Balhae people
31 Balhae and the Jurchen were not the same people
32 The Balhae of the Five Dynasties means Goguryeo lineage
33 Hwang Uidon (黃義敦 1890-1964) regarded Balhae as the same ethnic identity as Silla
34 Correct understanding of the Southern and Northern states (南北國 aka Silla and Balhae) period



Even though we [Koreans] are the protagonists of Balhae’s history, the Chinese do not acknowledge this. Much of the cause is due to us. It is because we have not made it clear through scholarly research that we are the masters (주인) of Balhae history. Until now we have only said in words that Balhae history belongs to us without any academic evidence (뒷받침). As a result who [do we expect] Chinese would consider Balhae history to belong to? Currently they insist that Balhae history belongs to them, but previously they asserted that it belonged to the Malgal people. That the [perceived] ownership of Balhae history has changed from the Malgal to the Chinese [themselves] is set against the context of an exclusionary Chinese view of history that pulls in the histories of all the ethnic groups that were [previously] inside the territory of present day China.

The Chinese are going to great lengths to make Balhae history Chinese history based on the fact that the former rulers of Manchuria – the Goguryeo, Balhae and Manchs (descendants of the Malgal) – have since been assimilated as Chinese. There are twenty-five official Chinese histories (正史); they include the histories of northern ethnic groups, namely the Liao, Jin, Yuan and Qing. These states voluntarily entered into the Chinese mainland and governed the Chinese people for extended periods of time and so it is natural that their histories should be included (편입) as Chinese history.

However, should that make it okay to, in this way, [also] artificially pull the histories of Goguryeo and Balhae into Chinese history when they had [previously] existed with solemn dignity (엄연히) outside of Chinese history?! Chinese would say that it is okay but they would not find it easy to gain acceptance [for this idea] from people of other countries. But in spite of that we cannot afford to stand idly by. The Chinese claims shake up rational recognition (인식) of Balhae history face on and so we, as Koreans, must establish a counter logic (대응논리).

This author believes that he established a counter logic with his Goguryeo-jeguksa (고구려제국사 History of the Goguryeo Empire), published in 1997. And in his Balhae Balhae’in (발해 발해인 Balhae, Balhae People), published in 1990, he brought into clear relief [the idea] that Balhae history is the history of the remnants of Goguryeo through [examining] the way of life of the remnants of the Balhae people.

The accounts (열전) of the remnant people of Balhae recorded in the Liaoshi (遼史) and Jinshi (金史) are valuable written sources clearly showing the real identity (정체) of Balhae. In spite of that, Chinese do not take notice of these sections and pretend not to know about them. This is because they well know that there are no other written sources showing the identity of Balhae as accurately as these.

When discussing the identity of Balhae, the history of the remnants of Balhae recorded in the Liaoshi and Jinshi must not be ignored. As has been pointed out, it is regrettable that Chinese [scholars] ignore these sections and only make obstinate claims running counter to reason. They only talk about the identity of Balhae in a manner convenient [to themselves].

Although the [former] territory of Balhae is now inside the present day territory of China, it [can only be considered] appropriate and reasonable to say that the dominant (주체적) ethnic group (종족) of Balhae was of Goguryeo lineage. Anyone with even a modicum of basic common sense about history would be able to think like this, so why do only the Chinese think differently? The cause [of this] is filled up with the Chinese people’s traditional Hua-Yi historical perspective and so it is here that the answer must be found.

What forms the basis of this Hua-Yi historical perspective is the Chinese people’s traditional sense of history. Their sense and view of history is self-righteous, exclusionary and uncompromising. But it was the northern peoples who opposed this Hua-Yi historical perspective. In order to render it impotent they established a Yi-Hua historical perspective (夷華史觀) [in its place]. It was not an absolutely stubborn (무조건) opposing [view], but a rational one. The central content of the Yi-Hua historical perspective is to say that the Chinese mainland cannot only be governed always by Chinese Han, but that it can be governed also by non-Han (northern) peoples. That is to say, non-Han ethnic groups can also be the owners of the Chinese mainland.

The fate of this Yi-Hua historical perspective followed that of the northern peoples’ states. Whereupon the Hua-Yi historical perspective which had been suppressed by the Yi-Hua perspective, was revived and [since then we have been in a situation where the Chinese] have been asserting with free abandon that Goguryeo and Balhae history are all [a part of] Chinese history. In the past, the Chinese did not say that Goguryeo and Balhae history are Chinese. That presently the Chinese government is even saying that Balhae history is Chinese shows that the Hua-Yi view of history has become still more exclusionary [than before].

In this maelstrom of [confused] historic awareness, the [only] thing we can do is to discover multi-angled approaches which can prove the fact that Balhae history is the history of the remnant people of Goguryeo, and to secure rational evidence. Owing to our overly devoted confrontation [inherited from Silla against Goguryeo/Balhae; or simply against modern Chinese historiography], we have forgotten the true value of Goguryeo and Balhae history, but the Chinese who, with their uncompromising Hua-Yi perspective, are familiar with debasing the history of neighbouring countries, have been silently progressing in their government supported project to pull Goguryeo and Balhae history into Chinese history.

If the history of Goguryeo and Balhae becomes that of China, we will receive an indescribable wound. That is to say, we will become a people without history and so lose [our] ethnic dignity and experience the fate of the disappearance of the Korean people’s existence. Therefore we must absolutely defend Goguryeo and Balhae history with our own strength. With what method shall we protect it?

The defence of Goguryeo and Balhae history is a matter of the survival of a people which cannot be relaxed. Consequently we must search for the method through history. The most certain method is to disarm (무력화시키다) the forced logic of the Chinese. In Goguryeo history [we must] demonstrate that Goguryeo was not a minority regional government (정권) of China but that it was an empire; in Balhae history, [we must] prove from many angles that Balhae was the successor empire to Goguryeo.

The case of the latter was the objective in writing this book. The accounts in Chinese written sources concerning Balhae which mention Balhae being the successor to Goguryeo are fragmentary, but they are not few. Based on these sources, this author has minutely examined the nature of inheritance (계승성) as thirty-four [separate] items. The conclusion reached from this is the fact that Balhae was jointly established by [people of] Goguryeo and Malgal lineage but those who led its development were clearly of Goguryeo lineage.

There has been a limit to the methods previously employed [to develop] the [most] certain counter logic which can turn around the forced logic of the Chinese and so [this author] introduced a new research method which has never been tested until now. This is a method to demonstrate the correlations focusing on the records related to Goguryeo from amongst the fragmentary records concerning Balhae in Chinese and our own Korean historical literature.

Up until now, concerning the question of [which] ethnic group was dominant in the foundation and development of Balhae, opinions and assertions have in actuality been at loggerheads according to the national interests of the involved parties [Korea and China], saying it was either of Goguryeo or Malgal lineage. As long as this kind of research continues, the explication of this problem cannot but remain unresolved. But China suddenly came out from its previous approach (태도) and forcibly pulled Balhae history into Chinese history. A part of Balhae’s [former] territory is inside present day Russian Primorsky Krai but Russia does not claim Balhae as Russian history. They simply say it was the history of the Malgal.

When looked at from this position, it cannot be that the Chinese claims [of Malgal over Goguryeo lineage] are not convincing. As a result we must not let go [of the matter]. [This author] has tried to make clear the connections between Goguryeo and Balhae [working] from the conviction that we must deeply investigate through scholarly [research] the unreasonable Chinese claims and create a perfect counter logic [to them]. In the final evaluation, [he] confidently believes that he has obtained the effect of [showing] the dominant ethnic group [involved] in Balhae’s foundation and development was of Goguryeo lineage. He hopes for nothing more than if a better research method than this emerges hereafter.