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

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

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

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

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

Esteemed North [Korean] scholars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Source – Yun 2003:25-7)

Joint Statement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 3rd 2002, Pyeongyang

(Source – Yun 2003:21-2)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Four North Koreas

When discussing North Korea in any context, it is essential to bear in mind that there are four distinct realities being experienced by those born inside the country.

The first is Pyongyang, the bastion of the regime.  The country is currently being governed – more accurately misgoverned – by military junta with Kim Jong Un as nominative leader and figurehead.  Pyongyang is the show piece of North Korea from which its bombastic brand image of statuary, military parades and mass games events is projected to the outside world; allowing foreign tourists and journalists on controlled visits has proved effective in diverting attention from the infinitely more malign nature of the regime.

As the home of the elite, the right to live in Pyongyang is a privilege which can be revoked.  Pyongyangites enjoy access to better hospitals and schools and are shielded from the worst of the country’s food shortages but with unreliable water and electricity supplies, and without winter heating, comfort remains a relative concept.  Behind the monuments and murals, much of the city is in a state of dilapidation with more extreme reports even of pigs being raised inside some domestic apartments.  There are reportedly, however, newer signs of increasing affluence amongst the upper strata of the elite including more cars, luxury shops and restaurants.  In short, a wealth gap has emerged, even within Pyongyang and grossly so compared to the provinces.

As is well known, during the 1990s the North Korean economy collapsed but the dynastic regime survived and in recent years has supported itself through exports of weapons and human labour.  The country possesses a workforce cheaper than any of its neighbours together with significant mineral deposits, including currently trumpeted rare earth metals, which both South Korea and China (for starters) are eager to exploit.  Thus presiding over a potential resource boom, in the next decade the city-state of Pyongyang which includes a handful of model farms and revolutionary sites outside of its limits, is set to get richer and as a consequence, stronger.

The second North Korea constitutes the greater part of the country outside of Pyongyang and has a population of around 20 million.  It is largely inaccessible to aid agencies and even Pyongyang residents who are kept unaware of the severity of its deprivation and suffering.  The citizens of this North Korea were most directly exposed to the famine of the 1990s and are still afflicted by chronic malnutrition today.  They are unable to rise up against the oppressive state apparatus because, aside from the debilitating influence of ideological indoctrination and informational isolation, they physically lack both the calories and freedom from hunger to consider anything other than daily survival.  Where unrelenting propaganda and study sessions fail to inspire absolute loyalty, they are subject to the spectacle of public executions and at the mercy of marauding army units the wretched lower ranks of which are plagued by similar degrees of hunger.

Food shortages, especially outside of Pyongyang, have been an acute problem for some twenty years now.  Even at the best of times North Korean agriculture is unable to sustain the population and harvests are regularly decimated by drought and floods, exasperated through extensive deforestation and soil erosion.  Weather, though, is not to blame for ongoing starvation.   If the regime desisted from its confiscation of farmers’ harvests allowing them to sell their produce at market prices, there would be greater motivation to work the fields instead of secret mountainside plots, and much of the population would gain access to food; in the meantime the regime has only to allow international NGOs unfettered access and fairly distribute food aid received from China and South Korea to end hunger in a matter of weeks.  But feeding the disgruntled and potentially rebellious citizenry of the provinces has been far from a priority of the Kim kleptocracy.  The astronomical cost of the regime’s ongoing weapons programs, including a failed long-range rocket launch this past April, the expensive embalming and maintenance of Kim Jong Il’s corpse together with lavish spending on building projects in Pyongyang are all clear testament to this.

The third North Korea is that of its extensive prison camp system.  The most notorious of these are heavy labour penal colonies, euphemistically referred to as gwalliso or “management places.”  There are six known gwalliso, estimated to hold some 200,000 inmates; this number is not an accumulated total but only the figure thought to be alive at any given instance.  The gwalliso are a key component in the wider system of institutionalized terror that has underpinned the regime’s grip on power since the 1950s: anyone who expresses dissent or is deemed disloyal will disappear in the night together with their families from whom they are subsequently separated inside the camps.  Gwalliso inmates are thus political prisoners though often they are unaware of their crime.  Used as slave labour, kept barely alive on starvation rations and exposed to subzero temperatures throughout winter, death rates are high.  Rape by prison guards, torture and executions are documented as common occurrences.  The gwalliso and other prison camps are known about through a large corpus of consistent eye witness testimonies collected from both former guards and inmates whilst satellite photography has further confirmed their existence.  Those held captive in this third North Korea are currently regarded as a people beyond help.  Seoul and other foreign governments have consistently failed to confront Pyongyang on the issue.  The only hope is the continued exposure of an atrocity now constituting one of the longest running crimes against humanity in modern history.

A fourth North Korea that also should not be forgotten now consists of the population of refugees hiding in China.  The majority are women, many have previous experience of prison camps and all face torture and further punishment ranging up to execution if returned.  Younger women who escape into China quickly become victim to traffickers; some are sold as brides to rural farmers, others into the sex industry.  They are especially vulnerable to this because Chinese authorities not only refuse to recognize their refugee status, denying them legal protection, but continue to actively cooperate with North Korean security agents in tracking them down.  The subsequent act of forced repatriation violates international law and the tragedy is that Beijing need only not cooperate with Pyongyang in order to save many lives.  The number of North Koreans in China is thought to be in the tens of thousands; during the latter half of the previous decade, more than 2,000 were reaching South Korea each year but in 2012 the flow has dramatic decreased.  Owing to enhanced border security since the death of Kim Jong Il, it is currently harder than ever before for North Koreans to escape and cross through China to reach the safety of a third country.

My name is Kim Jong Un and I’ve recently become leader of North Korea – what should I do next?

Having secured your position as paramount leader, at least nominally (but supported by your powerful aunt and uncle), you could and should…

First, in the realms of realistic possibility:

  • Allow people to openly trade and for local markets to operate without major restrictions (this will end much of the widespread hunger and buy you a lot of time from your own people – not that they ever mattered to your father).
  • Implement economic reforms entrusting economic policy to technocrats in the Cabinet who have visited China and know what could be done.
  • Implement agricultural reforms allowing farmers greater freedom to tend their own plots and for cooperatives to sell more of their produce in local markets keeping profits so that they can invest in farm inputs and feel motivated.
  • Ask for immediate food aid and farm inputs (seed and fertilizer) from SK and distribute it fairly.
  • Stop further military provocations and tone down propaganda rhetoric against SK (your only sympathetic friend to balance against China).
  • Not carry out another nuclear test as this is the one thing that can alienate Beijing on whom you most rely.
  • Start to make Military First politics a more abstract notion which is spoken of but practiced less.

In the realms of (our) ideal hope:

  • Stop hunting down and punishing border crossers and release all short-term prisoners.
  • Stop exporting slave labour to Russia’s Far East and China or at least improve their conditions.
  • Allow NGOs already operating in NK greater access to the provinces.
  • Normalize the gulag prison camps to administrative districts; allow in, or supply, aid and alleviate forced labour practices, executions and torture.
  • Implement more dramatic economic reforms following the Chinese and Vietnamese models which technocrats in your regime have already been studying.
  • Renounce pursuit of nuclear weapons (admittedly difficult in the light of Libya) to improve relations with SK and the international community.

In the realms of fancy:

  • Implement political reform along the lines of Burma.
  • Skip breakfast.

Admittedly, if you attempt economic reforms too fast, too early, you would run a high risk of coup d’état. However, this risk is to a large degree mitigated because you’ve already been officially raised to such a position that any attempt, even if successful, would throw the wider regime into chaos, something no one with any current vested interests (i.e. anyone potentially powerful enough to carry out a coup) would want.

Either way, you can strengthen your position by seeking Beijing’s help to initiate economic reforms.  Beijing would be overjoyed to see such developments in NK.  Unlike the West or Seoul, it would not attempt to instigate regime change because this would involve overthrowing its closest ally and lead to the instability it so massively fears.  Beijing wants to see more pragmatic, economically liberal leadership in Pyongyang: you just have to demonstrate the required pragmatism.