Ki Kyoung-ryang “Pseudo historiography and history fascism” 2016 – translation

The following is a translation of a recent article by Ki Kyoung-ryang (기경량 Gi Gyeong-ryang), published in the journal Yeoksa-bipyeong (역사비평 ‘history criticism/review’, vol.114 spring 2016).

I’ve translated it in full because it provides useful context both to the ongoing history textbook dispute, as well as the wider phenomenon of populist pseudo history in South Korea. Concerning the former, the issue has arisen with a concerted attempt by the now beleaguered Park Geun-hye administration to enforce usage of a single, government authored textbook in place of the current system in which schools can choose from a range of textbooks that need only be approved by the Ministry of Education. In Korean, the term for this is guk-jeong-hwa (국정화) which literally means ‘national government-ization’, and which, for want of a better term, I hereafter translate as ‘nationalization/nationalized’ or ‘government authored’.

For ease of reading, I also regularly translate the term ‘academic field of history’ (역사학계) referring to the academic establishment, as ‘academic historians’.

Throughout the text I include the original endnote numbers where references are given, however, as these sources are all in Korean, the references themselves are not translated and those interested should consult the original article. Only the sections of footnotes containing additional prose information are translated.

Pseudo historiography and history fascism (사이비 역사학과 역사 파시즘)

  1. Nationalization (국정화) of Korean history textbooks and history fascism

On 12 October 2015, the Park Geun-hye government publicly announced a change in course [regarding] the nationalization of Korean history textbooks. Many people thought this was a sudden measure and were shocked, but this was a plan that had been in progress since the beginning of the [Park] administration in 2013. 2013 was the year in which the release of a textbook containing the New Right’s (뉴라이트) view of history had been a major social issue. The Korean history textbook published by Gyohak-sa which at the time had received full government support, recorded a 0% selection rate and was entirely ignored by schools (일선 교육 현장). The reason was the unreliability (부실함) of the content and excessive right-wing view point. The government realized that, within the competitive set-up (경쟁구도) under the system of government approval [of textbooks] (검인정) it was beyond expectations to enlarge the influence of [this] textbook which projected their own view point, and so they changed direction and came to  play the card of nationalization.

On the 10th [December 2013] the minister for the Ministry of Education, Seo Namsu, revealed that in the process of reviewing (고시) the revised bill for the 2015 education curriculum the question of Korean history textbook nationalization could be raised for public discussion (공론화). [In this way] he sparked the public discussion pertaining to the ‘return to national history textbooks’ (역사국정교과서 회귀) which has continuously been raised by the prime minister, Jeong Hong-won, and other ministers of the ruling party. (…) Seo said, “Related projects are already underway, aiming for a general review of the revised bill for the education curriculum in 2015.” (Gyeonghyang-sinmun 2013.12.10. p1, underlining by the quoter {i.e. by Gi Gyeong-ryang})

The justification for pursuing nationalization has been that the content of current history textbooks is excessively left-wing and cannot be accepted, and that academic historians (역사학계) who (currently) control (제시하다 ‘to show’) the narrative criteria and direction of the textbooks are overwhelmingly left-wing and so cannot be expected to self-purify (자정작용) themselves. Looking at this opinion from the opposite side, it would mean that the great majority of academic historians disagree with the pronouncement (규정 lit. ‘stipulation’) that the Korean history textbooks [already approved] under the government approval system are left leaning, and that those arguing about the left-wing [influence] are, even within the academic field of history, an extreme minority. In spite of this, the government has mobilized state authority and solely supported the minority opinion; it has further expressed the will to make it the standard/orthodoxy (정설화).

The government, politicians of the ruling party and a portion of scholars attached to them [all] support (웅호하다) the transition [to] a nationalized Korean history textbook; if we look at the language they use (구사하다) it is extremely violent. With exaggerated self-conviction and political bias, they make the majority of academic historians out to be ‘absolute evil’ and ‘the enemy’ and block the possibility of any alternative opinions; on these points they exhibit strong aggressiveness and an exclusionary nature. In order for a minority group to monopolize the rights to historical interpretation, they mobilize state power, denounce the entirety of academia with the image of being ‘abnormal’ and ‘leftist’, and incite the masses; on these points it is possible to call this ‘history fascism’. However, this is not the only form of ‘history fascism’ that is threatening our nation’s historiography. There exists an attack on academic history from another direction, the roots of which are very deep.

The other ‘history fascism’ – addressed in this article – takes ancient Korean history as its main research object; it refers to a series of irrational behaviour strangely preoccupied (이상 집착하는) with the past power and territory of the nation. This will be referred to as ‘pseudo history’ (saibi 사이비 역사학). It is true that it can feel aggressive (넌폭하게 느껴지는 측면) applying the label of ‘pseudo’ to historical research where the possibility exists for a variety of interpretations. In spite of this, the reason to use this kind of terminology is because it is judged that these [pseudo historians] have already exceeded the boundaries (범주) of academic scholarship.

Even until the mid 1970s, it was possible to forgive (이해해주다 ‘be understanding of’) [this pseudo historiography] as the ‘excessive ethnic nationalism’ of amateurs unfamiliar with [historical] methodology. However, from the mid 1970s onwards they began [more] concerted popular activism, indiscriminately pouring out baseless conspiracies and accusations against academics; later they eventually even created and disseminated the false history book, Hwandan-gogi. They tried to fabricate a historical source which had absolutely no acceptance in academic territory, and they focused their energies on using this for popular incitement (대중선동); on these points we cannot but judge that they had lost even the minimum [standard] of scholarship (학문성).

The problematic points of the Hwandan-gogi, a clearly apocryphal book (위서 ‘fake book’), have been examined multiple times by academic scholars (학계) [such that] the process of fabrication and its true nature (실체) have been nakedly exposed.[2] In the past, the pseudo historiography based on the Hwandan-gogi was referred to as ‘jaeya history’, however, recently the term ‘yusa historiography’ (유사 역사학) has been proposed.[3 – see notes] This is a translation of ‘pseudo history’ with the meaning of fake history. In understanding the concept of ‘pseudo history’, there is the term ‘pseudo science’ providing [a point of] reference. This is a term referring to a series of saibi pseudo sciences (似而非科學) such as the ‘theory of perpetual motion’ which ignores the conservation law of energy, and ‘creation science’ which negates the theory of evolution; it is also translated as yusa science (類似科學) and ui’sa science (擬似科學).

However, there is an aspect in which the translated term ‘yusa historiography’ fails to intuitively transmit [the notion of] ‘something (존재) which impersonates in a similar manner to, but is in fact not, historiography’ [which is] the original meaning of [English] ‘pseudo history’. [That is], for laymen (대중들) first encountering the term, it could be easily misunderstood as meaning ‘historiography of a similar form’. Consequently, here we will use the term saibi historiography which is the same notion as yusa historiography but [in Korean] more intuitively indicates the objects true nature.[4 – see notes]

  1. The emergence and activities of pseudo historiography

In order to examine the initial emergence of pseudo historiography it is necessary to go back to the early 1970s. On 11 May 1972, following the president’s directive (제창) ‘let’s find the nationality of education’, the Park Chung Hee government established the ‘Committee for Strengthening National History Education’ (국사교육강화위원회) under the Ministry of Education (문교부).[5] They declared they would implement history education centered on the minjok (ethnie). According to this, a concrete policy was announced both that there would be questions on national history as an independent subject in the university entrance examination, and that national history education would also be made compulsory at universities.

In October of the same year, Park Chung Hee constructed the system of a single dictatorship by establishing the Yusin Constitution. On 23 June 1973 another policy was announced, declaring that the national history textbook which, since the establishment of the Republic of Korea, had been under a system of inspection and approval, was to be nationalized (국정화).[6] The official justification was a scheme to enable students to ‘develop juche (주체 ‘having the self as subject’ {this is the same term as used in NK’s Juche ideology}) consciousness and a correct view of history’, and to fix the disorder of the entrance examination arising from there being a large number of textbooks. However the main objective was the promotion and legitimization of the newly launched Yusin system [of dictatorship].

The reaction of academic historians and educators to the national history textbook nationalization measures was extremely negative. The reason was the standardization of history education.[7] However, ignoring the academic establishment’s public opposition (반대여론), the government distributed the government authored national history textbooks (국정 국사 교과서) to educational establishments (교육 현장). This caused waves (파문) from an entirely unexpected direction.

On 25 July 1974, the Hanguk-sa godae-hakhoe (‘academic association for ancient Korean history’ – chairman An Hosang) which was a jaeya history group, released a written statement. They said that the government authored national history textbook restricted Dangun to mythology, thus reducing the extent (범위) of Korean history, and was forcing a history education that continued the imperial Japanese colonial [era] view of history. On 26th, the following day, a ‘national history textbook evaluatory meeting’ (국사 교과서 평가대회) was held at the central headquarters of the National Reconstruction Movement (재건국민운동 중앙본부), designed to publicly criticize [the textbook].[8]

An Hosang was the first minister of the Ministry of Education, and the person who under the Rhee Syngman administration created (제시하다) the governing ideology of ilmin-juui (‘one-minjok-ism’ 一民主義). He was also the originator of the ‘nation protecting student groups’ (학도호국단) which were criticized for being modelled after the Hitlerjugend (나치의 유겐트). He had majored in philosophy in Germany and received a doctorate, but he had not majored in history. However, he had a deep interest in Dangun and Old Joseon, and on account of this had joined the Daejonggyo [church] at an early age and held a belief in Dangun throughout his life. Later on, towards the end of his life, in 1992 he was to rise to the highest position of Daejonggyo, that of chongjeon’gyo (총전교).

At that time, the Old Joseon section of the government national history textbook said, “Dangun means ‘head of sacrificial rites’ (제사장) whilst wanggeom refers to a political leader (군장), so Dangun Wanggeom was a tribal chief (족장) from the an [early] theocratic period (제정일치시대)”.[9] An Hosang and others expressed strong dissatisfaction with this kind of history textbook content. To them, Dangun was the progenitor of the Korean people and the origin of a great ideology (사상 lit.’thought’), who should be revered (경배하다). Consequently they could not accept the description of Dangun as one primitive society tribal chief.

On 8 October 1975, An Hosang and others formed the Guksa-chatgi-hyeop’uihoe 국사찾기협의회 ‘Association searching for national history’) and launched an attack on the current academic history establishment from all directions. In their journal, Jayu (자유 ‘freedom’), they continuously published articles criticizing the history establishment, amongst which personal attacks close to swearing (욕설) were frequent. In particular, on 29 November 1978, they filed an administrative lawsuit (행정소송) against the state requesting revisions to the national history textbook which gave a large shock to the academic establishment.[10]

The academic historians did not remain silent either. On 23 November 1978, representatives from ten academic history associations gathered and released a warning statement urging the suspension of all activities that misled citizens through the un-scientific opinions of the Guksa-chatgi-hyeop’uihoe.[11]

These jaeya persons who are members of the Guksa-chatgi-hyeop’uihoe have gone around promoting the [following] fanciful opinions which are beneath common sense: 1) Chinese characters were made by Koreans, 2) Confucius and Mencius were descendants of the Baedal race (배달겨레 {an invented term from Hwandan-godi referring to ancient Koreans}), 3) Baekje controlled the central and southern parts of China for 400 years, and 4) Fabricated artefacts were buried in the tomb of King Muryeong [discovered in 1971 in] Gongju in order to distort Baekje history. [We] deplore that this phenomenon is an embarrassment exposing the backwardness of Korean culture.

Professor Kim Won-yong, who excavated the tomb of King Muryeong, candidly expressed the following, “The constant arguments [made by] jaeya persons are so absurdly fanciful that up until now academics have not involved themselves with them, however their journal Jayu, published through an education and arts promotion fund (문예진흥기금) is distributed throughout the country and is greatly misleading citizens such that academics can no longer watch on, and so have taken a stand.” (Gyeonghyang-sinmun 1978.11.24 p5)

During this period An Hosang and others expressed a number of unconventional opinions based on chauvinism. A particularly notable one was their theory of the tomb of King Muryeong having been fabricated (조작설). The tomb of King Muryeong is a Baekje tumulus discovered in 1971. Untouched by robbers, it was excavated [revealing it] as it had been from Baekje times, and so a large number of artefacts such as golden crown(s) and earrings were recovered. In particular, a gravestone inscribed with the name of the entombed was unearthed which attracted extraordinary interest from scholars. However, to those who had hypothesized Baekje as a ‘great empire’ with a territory expanding to China and Japan, the scale of the tomb and quality of unearthed artefacts was unsatisfactory. Thus, even concerning the greatest archaeological excavation for South Korean academia since [the 1945] liberation, they demonstrated an unconventional (비상식적) attitude, [expressing] embarrassment (치부하다) and disregard [on the accusation] of it being fabricated.[12 – see notes]

Whilst refuting such absurd (터무니없다) opinions of the pseudo historians, the academic historians made efforts to introduce their position and research results to the common public, including through a regular series in the pages of the Gyeonghyang-sinmun newspaper entitled “This is ancient Korean history” (이것이 한국고대사다). However, it was not a situation that could be resolved through this [limited] level of response.

On 26-27 November 1981, at the beginning of Chun Doo-hwan’s 5th Republic, a public hearing on the Korean history textbook was held at the National Assembly Mungong committee (문공위원회 ‘culture and public [information] committee’). This was following a citizens’ appeal (청원) from An Hosang and others. The National Assembly Mungong committee [hearing] hosted a debate between An Hosang (Guksa-chatgi-hyeop’uihoe chairman), Bak Si-in (Seoul National University English literature department) and Im Seungguk (chairman of the Hanguk-jeongsa-hakhoe {‘society for correct Korean history’ 한국정사학회}) [on one side], and representing academic historians [on the other side], Kim Won-yong (Seoul National University department of archaeology and art history), Kim Cheol-jun (Seoul National University department of Korean history) and Lee Ki-baik (Sogang University history department).[13]

The arguments put forward by An Hosang’s side were as follows: in the Korean history textbook, the history of Old Joseon does not acknowledge or seek to restore the more than a millennium [of history] that was removed by Japanese [colonial scholars]; Dangun and Gija were historical personages, and the territory [of Old Joseon] extended to [modern] Beijing; Wanggeom-seong was located in Liaoning province of China, whilst the Lelang Commandery was in the vicinity of Beijing; from 3rd~7th centuries, Baekje governed the East China Sea coast from Beijing to Shanghai; at one period the border of Unified Silla was Beijing; Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla created Japanese culture; the Jurchen {founders of the Jin dynasty 1115-1234 and ancestral to the Manchu} were also ethnically Korean (우리의 종족 ‘our race’).

The academic historians responded to this with the refutation that the ‘colonial view of history’ (식민사관) had already been largely overcome, and that the content of the textbook was loyal to facts. They further noted that the [historical] sources presented as evidence by the side of the appeal, were either lacking in reliability or contained errors in the analysis of the Chinese language {in which the premodern sources are all written}. More than anything else, they pointed out that the appeal side possessed a dangerous view of history, and they argued (강변하다) that the ’empire view of history’ (황국사관 {regarding one’s country as an ancient and divine empire, rather than the act of colonial imperialism}) that had falsely created Japan’s sense of superiority was ultimately the cause of its defeat, and should be taken as a lesson [not to do the same].

Which side could be said to have won at this two day public hearing? The journalists that attended generally judged that the opinions of the academic historians were more persuasive.

On this day of the public hearing, concerning the arguments put forward by each side, those of the defendants (피청원 ‘the objects of the appeal’ {i.e. the academic historians}) stood out as more organised and logical than those of the appeal side. This seemed to be because the appeal side was not comprised of specialist historians. Those who followed the first day of the public hearing tended towards the opinion that the arguments of the appeal side were weak. (Gyeonghyang-sinmun 1981.11.27. p3)

However, the response from the National Assembly members who were hosting the public hearing was quite different. They showed much greater agreement (호응) and support for the arguments of the ‘jaeya scholars’, whilst taking a continuously antagonistic (적대적) attitude towards the academic historians.

Then it was the turn for Professor Lee Ki-baik’s response. He began by stating (전제하다) that he was unfamiliar with the method of giving responses in the National Assembly, and would not use the name of the senator/assemblyman (의원) who had asked the question, Gang Gi-pil, and apologised for knowing his name. In response to this, senator Gang, explicitly {verbally} attacked him, saying “Here is the National Assembly chair of [this] meeting (회의장). My name is written on this name plate. I do not know if your eyesight is poor, but if you simply look in this direction when a national assemblyman is speaking you should be able to guess [his name] through various means of scholarship (학문에서 여러 가지로). In consideration of Professor Lee’s honour/reputation (명예) I will not say anything more, but hope you will consider various matters…” Building on this [antagonistic] atmosphere, [when] senator Im Jaebong took his turn to speak, he turned to professors Kim Won-ryong and Lee Ki-baik, and proceed on a long speech in an admonishing tone, saying that their attitude (태도) towards the National Assembly was inappropriate and that if they conducted historical research with such an attitude there would be no need to even look at their results (안 보아도 뻔하다), and that he hoped they would correct this attitude (자세 lit. ‘posture’). (Guksa-gyogwaseo padong [‘Korean history textbook waves’], {publisher} Hye’an, 1999, p91)

On account of the high-handed attitude of the assemblymen, the academic historians were forced to undergo humiliation (수모) for the first time in their lives.

On 25~26 February 1987, towards the end of the Chun Doo-hwan administration, a large academic conference was held in the main lecture hall of the {government funded} Jeongsin Munhwa Research Institute ({韓國}精神文化硏究院 ‘research institute for Korean spirit and culture’ {since renamed as 한국학중앙연구원 Academy of Korean Studies}).[14] Since the jaeya scholars’ attacks against the academic establishment were continuously strengthening, the Jeongsin Munhwa Research Institute organised the conference with the aim of bringing scholars from both sides together and to try to come to some scholarly agreement (lit. ‘arrange/tidy’ 학문적으로 정리를 해보다). Even there, at the main debate on the second day the [following] occurred.

On this day {yesterday} there were 15 scholars on the podium of the main debate, with more than 800 in the audience… Then a group from the audience approached the podium and let loose a torrent of abuse, saying such things as, “Professor Lee’s arguments are plagiarized from imperial Japanese colonial scholars such as Suematsu Yasukazu (末松保和) and Imanishi Ryū (今西龍)”… Having quietened the emotional members of the audience, the debate got underway, however, around half the professors including Professor Lee had already left, and in a bewildering atmosphere for the chair, a group of the audience grabbed the microphone and continued to harangue (성토하다 ‘to arraign’) the academic historians. (Dong’a Ilbo [newspaper] 1987.2.27. p6)

A dangerous (험악하다) atmosphere rarely seen at normal academic conferences developed (연출되다). According to another witness (증언), [amongst] the listeners, “A fight broke out for the microphone, and those unable to take the mic stood up and shouted at the presenters on the podium; a group [then] pushed towards the podium causing pandemonium (난장판).”[15] Contrary to the original intention of harmonizing (조율하다) the positions of academic and jaeya historians, the academic conference ended in disastrous [scenes] of verbal abuse and physical violence (실력행사). This experience was an important cause for the further severance in dialogue between both sides.

  1. Why did pseudo historiography first emerge?

Given all this, how did the view of history and logic of the pseudo historians who profess (주장하다) the actuality of a grand ancient history – [that others] term ‘ethnonationalist’ (minjok-ju’ui 민족주의) or jaeya historiography – first emerge (등장)? If we search for the roots, we arrive at the colonial historiography of the ‘period of forced occupation under the Japan Empire’ (일제강점기 {pithier in Sino-Korean, this is the current SK term to describe the Japanese colonial era without using the word ‘colonial’ – even if the associated historiography is still qualified as such! Hereafter the phrase will be rendered as ‘Japanese colonial era’}) The Japanese era colonial historians undertook an operation to legitimize Japan’s control of Joseon. Within this process, various theories were developed (고안되다), the main ones being: shared Japan-Joseon origins (일선동조론), stagnancy [of Joseon’s socio-cultural development towards modernism] (정체성론), and heteronomy (타율성론 ‘rule by others’). Amongst these, the rise of pseudo historiography was closely related to a ‘theory of [Koreans’] peninsular nature’ (반도적 성격론) associated with the heteronomy discourse.

The heteronomy theory argues that Joseon {i.e. Korean} history lacked its own self-identity (juche-seong 주체성 ‘having the self as subject’) and [instead] was [characterized by a] heteronomous nature. In particular, it highlighted (착안하다) Joseon’s peninsular location, and based on [notions of] geographical determinism presented (제시하다) a theory of [Joseon’s] peninsular nature. According to this explanation, on account of Joseon’s history having unfolded on a peninsular enclosed (끼다) by the main continent and ocean, its history could not but be passive, stuck in a crevice of confrontation between continental and maritime powers {i.e. China and Japan respectively}. This was a projection onto premodern [Joseon history] of the experience and perspective of modern Japanese who had [recently] gained influence over Joseon through the [First] Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars.

The opinion that peninsular history is [inevitably] inferior and heteronomous [to other geographical regions] is easily disproven through the examples of Rome or Spain which both began on peninsulas but developed into states dominating (주도하다) European history. It is true that geographical factors have an important influence on historical development, but they are not everything. It can be said that the most basic and effective counter-argument to the ‘theory of peninsular nature’ is to expose the irrationalism in arbitrary utilization of geographical determinism.[16]

However there was an attempt to resolve the problem from another direction. This was to argue that Korean history was not a peninsular history but had unfolded on the continent. In order to negate the ‘inferiority’ of Korean history, the proponents [of this line] made ceaseless efforts to search for the space in which our ancient history unfolded, not on the ‘peninsular’ but on the ‘continent’. However, these [arguments] were fundamentally limited by the fact that they [still] accepted the false premise (명제) of the imperial Japanese view of history that ‘peninsular history is inferior’.

In the end, far from overcoming the theory of peninsular nature, these attempts were nothing more than its internalization, but despite that, the act of describing a ‘once great {in size} and mighty homeland’ (조국) which had existed in the ancient past remained sweet and alluring. Ultimately, even whilst on the surface [seeming to] aggressively criticize and reject colonial historiography, they ended up giving birth to a strange chauvinism that simply re-appropriated (자기화하다 ‘to make one’s own’) that [same] colonial historiography.

The characteristics of pseudo historiography [include] emphasizing the superiority of our minjok, a preoccupation with [the notion of having possessed] a vast ancient territory, and [various] conspiracy theories. Concerning the almost total lack of textual or archaeological evidence to support their [idea of] history (역사상), they argue that this was because [such evidence] was concealed or destroyed (제거되다) either by the Japanese or by ‘colonially minded [Korean] historians’ (식민사학자) who constitute the mainstream of current day [Korean] academia. And concerning the voluminous sources [that serve as] counterevidence to negate their opinions, they argue that these were fabricated, again, either by the Japanese or ‘colonially minded [Korean] historians’, and so reject even their being mentioned [as evidence in academic discussion] (거론). [Consequently], under this thought construct, any kind of discussion or scholarly examination [of their arguments] (검증) is impossible.

[The motivation] running through [all of] the pseudo historiography [includes both] the confirmation of one’s self-identity (주체성) through being a member (일원) of a great minjok, and the desire to be a constituent element (구성원 ‘member’) of a powerful country (강대국), even if only in the very distant past. In order to highlight the superiority of [their own] minjok, they both denigrate (비하하다) and actively utilize feelings of enmity against other minjok; they denounce the entirety of the professional academic field of history as ‘colonially minded historiography’; on these points, they demonstrate an archetypal fascist aspect. If this is the case, why was it An Hosang, who played a decisive role in the rise of pseudo historiography, began his activities specifically from 1974?

This is related to the nationalization of the Korean history textbook by the Park Chung Hee administration. Immediately following the distribution of the government authored history textbook, An Hosang opened a barrage of criticism, however his focus was not on ‘nationalization’ [itself]. Actually, it seems nationalization of the textbook was not a big problem for him. It was rather the ‘content’ that was the problem. Emphasizing ‘education with nationality’, the Park Chung Hee administration had, in their own way, made a textbook that stressed [the notions of] ‘minjok‘ and ‘nation’. However, to An Hosang, who was both a devout believer in Dangun and had a fascist side (면모) to himself, even this ridiculously failed to match his criteria.

Further, even whilst ensuring a monopoly on specific historical interpretations suggested by the state, the nationalization of the Korean history textbooks also gave [those government authored interpretations] a superior authority. The structure (구도) under the [previous] system of [privately authored textbook] inspection (검인정체제), in which various historical interpretations coexisted, was smashed, and [in its place] a single ‘national history’ acknowledged by the state was made official through the [conventional] standard of historical analysis. It appears that this unification (단일화) of the ‘national history’ presented a large stimulus to people such as An Hosang who had their own unique idea of history extremely different to others.

As soon as the nationalization of the history textbook was implemented, An Hosang and others began desiring the ‘nationalization’ of the [kind of] history [only] they believed in. In order to realize this desire, [An] mobilized all of his own social capital and strength from his former position as head of the Ministry of Education, and [with it] implemented the attacks and assertion of pressure on the existing academic field of history. The rise of pseudo historiography was essentially both a reaction and side effect to the new circumstances (또 다른 형태) brought about by the 1974 nationalization of history textbooks.

  1. The popularization and perverse (도착적) reception of pseudo historiography

By means of continuous publicity and agitation over several decades, pseudo historiography has succeeded at wide popularization. For example, the red devil emblem of the national football team’s official support group, ‘Celestial King Chiu’ (치우천왕), is influenced by the fake history book created by the pseudo-historians, Hwandan-gogi (환단고기). Pseudo historical content naturally appears in various [popular] media such as novels, comics and television dramas, however, a number of astronomers in broadcasts and books have also introduced astronomy records found in apocryphal texts as though they are ‘fact’; in this way the shadow of pseudo historiography is thickly cast across our society.[17] Recently, at a certain newly popular religious organization, whilst utilizing methods to expand their influence broadcasting on cable television, related [pseudo historical] contents is being regularly broadcast.[18 – see notes]

And recently, the seriousness of the problem has become clear with traces of pseudo historiography having appeared even in the president’s speeches. In her 2013 Liberation Day address, President Park Geun Hye was criticized (구설수에 오르다) for quoting from the Hwandan-gogi.[19] The passage quoted by the president is [supposedly] of a late Goryeo scholar, Yi Am, saying, “The country is like the body, history like the soul”, however, this section of the Hwandan-gogi (1979) is from a copied and altered section of Bak Eun-sik’s Hanguk-tongsa (1915 {韓國痛史}). President Park has repeated the same quotation at other events including on 13 October 2015 at a private meeting of top ministers (수석비서관회).[20]

Looking from the perspective of pseudo historiography being accepted by the general public, a particular point is confirmed. Despite [such historiography] being a doctrine and opinion based on fascism, it is not only the conservative right, but often also those terming themselves as progressives who readily accept it.[21 – see notes] This is caused by the fact that on the surface [this] pseudo historiography professes ‘ethnic nationalism’ (민족주의 {popular with the SK left-wing movement}) and ‘anti-colonialism’. Because they denigrate mainstream academic historians as pro-Japanese (친일파), and position themselves as the polar opposite (대척점), it is easy for them to attract the sympathies (공감대) of those who are conscious to the issue of purging (청산) pro-Japanese elements {i.e. the SK left}. On the other hand, it would also seem that, to the extent that even those who term themselves as progressives easily align themselves with such [pseudo historical] opinions, Koreans’ thinking (사고) is of a weak disposition (취약한 구조) to chauvinism.

The person who has most recently served as the vanguard in spreading pseudo history is the famous popular history writer, Lee Deok-il (이덕일). Continuously publishing such books as “Old Joseon were the rulers of the continent” (『고조선은 대륙의 지배자였다』, 위즈덤하우스 2006) “The colonial view of history inside of us” (『우리 안의 식민사관』 만권당 2014), and “Traitorous historiography, how far has it come?” (『매국의 역사학, 어디까지 왔나』 만권당 2015), and actively giving public lectures, he has been propagating the content of pseudo history. The content [of his works] largely follows the arguments of An Hosang etc from the 1970s onwards with nothing particularly new. However, his popular influence is significant and so the [accumulative] ripple effect [of his works] should not be ignored.

Lee Deok-il has recently challenged (문제제기 lit.’raised as a problem’) the Northeast Asian Historical Atlas (동북아역사지도) project undertaken by the government run institute, the Northeast Asia History Foundation (동북아역사재단). Although he has indicated various issues such as the labelling/marking (표기) of Dokdo, the core matter can be said to be his dissatisfaction with the position of the [Han Chinese] Lelang Commandery – established in the centre of Old Joseon following its overthrow [in 108 BCE] – being located at Pyeongyang.

On 17 April 2015, at a ‘special committee for counter policies [towards] distortions of Northeast Asian history’ the research director (책임자) for the Northeast Asian Historical Atlas, Im Gi-hwan (임기환, Seoul National University of Education, [department of] history education) and Lee Deok-il were invited for questions and answers (문답), however the atmosphere was close to a repeat of the 1981 public hearing that had been organized by the National Assembly Mungong committee. Regardless of political affiliation, the National Assembly senators maintained a supportive (호의적 ‘good willed’) attitude towards Lee Deok-il, who represented the pseudo historiography arguments; the newspapers and broadcasters then reported [only] the one-sided and sensationalist (자극적) opinions of Lee Deok-il’s side, that the Northeast Asian Historical Atlas project reflects distorted opinions of China and Japan.[22 – see notes]

The result [of this looks set to be], either the scrapping of (무산) the Northeast Asian Historical Atlas compilation project itself, in which over the past eight years several tens of historians have participated, and which has received funding of 4,700 million won of tax [payer’s money], or else the danger of having to accept (도출하다) a distorted product that in part would be reflecting the absurd opinions of the pseudo historians. If this ultimately comes to pass then Korea will become an international laughingstock, and the scholarly reputation of academic Korean historians would be greatly harmed.

During the active promotion of [textbook] nationalization, the governing party claimed that 90% of academic historians are left-wing.[23] Members of the New Right (뉴라이트) affiliation (계열), with whom they closely associate, also criticize [the academic establishment] as being excessively biased towards ethnonationalism (민족주의) and [statist] nationalism (국수주의). Conversely, pseudo historians such as Lee Deok-il denigrate them all as ‘traitorous pro-Japanese historians’.[24] If we combine these views, then our country’s academic historians are [apparently] a bizarre group (기상천외하다), being at once ‘pro-Japanese, nationalist and left-wing’. It hardly needs to be said that these opinions are [nothing more than] absurd slander (중상). We should take note of the extremism and irrationality [inherent in this strategy] of driving out all academic historians by [mischaracterizing them] either as a left-wing organization or as colonially minded historians, [done] in order to impose (관철시키다) on ‘Korean history’ (국사) their own biased notion of history.

In one quarter {namely the Korean left}, there are voices of concern that the modern and recent history sections of the textbook being promoted by the government will contain excuses and praise for ‘pro-Japan[ism] and dictatorship’. There is a high possibility, [therefore], that if only to dilute this criticism, the government will [seek to] strengthen the nationalistic perspective in the descriptions of ancient history. A policy to increase the descriptions of ancient history and Goguryeo in the new government textbook has already been reported.[25 – see notes]

[Concerning the process of writing the textbook] there is already enough possibility being demonstrated amongst national assemblymen and high ranking civil servants sympathetic to the pseudo historiography, of an intention either to involve pseudo historians in the compilation process, or [in any event] to include their opinions without careful examination. If these attempts were to be fully realized, then the ancient and modern history sections of the textbook would take on a chimera like aspect in which two entirely different forms of history fascism would coexist.

Present day Korean historiography is in a state of crisis, being assailed from two directions, ‘unjust interference by state authorities’ and ‘attacks from pseudo historiography’. How to maintain balance between these [forces], escape the political waves (파고를 헤치다) and proceed is the heavy task placed before historians.

Ki Kyoung-ryang (기경량 Gi Gyeong-ryang)
Lecturer in the history education department of Gangwon University. Having majored in Goguryeo history, his current research interest is on the nature of Goguryeo’s royal capitals (王都). Published papers include {in Korean}, “Royal tombs and the system of tomb guarding during Goguryeo’s Gungnae-seong period”, “The nature of Goguryeo steles at Ji’an and the reorganization of the system of tomb guarding”, “The notion of minjok in Korean history and its application” (「고구려 국내성 시기의 왕릉과 수묘제」, 「집안고구려비의 성격과 고구려의 수묘제 개편」, 「한국사에서 민족의 개념과 그 적용」).

{NB Most of the notes are Korean language bibliographical references – only those portion of the notes containing additional prose information are translated below}

[3] Jaeya (在野) is a term meaning stuck in a grass plain, commonly used to refer to pseudo historians who lack academic qualifications relating to the study of history. However, those who practice pseudo historian are not necessarily limited to the jaeya [camp]. There are also those holding a qualification related to history such as Yun Naehyeon who majored in ancient history, and Sin Yongha who has majored in modern history and sociology, as well as those most recently active such as Bok Gidae (archaeology) and Lee Deok-il (modern Korean history). Consequently, the term jaeya does not wholly cover the [broader] categorization of pseudo history.

[4] The phrase sa-i-bi (似而非 Ch. shi er fei) comes from the “Jinxin” section of  Mencius (Mengzi 孟子:盡心篇). Whilst citing Confucius’ criticism of [ostensibly] moral men (명마가), referred to as ‘the good careful people of the villages’ (鄉原), [Mencius] explains that Confucius referred to them as ‘a semblance which is not the reality’ (비슷하지만 아닌 것), thus warning of saibi.

{Translated terms are taken from Legge, available on the Chinese Text Project dateabase,}

[12] Contributing various articles to the Gyeonghyang-sinmun newspaper, Mun Jeong-chang (문정창) was the head of leading pseudo history group, Hanguk-godaesa-hakhoe (한국고대사학회 ‘association for ancient history’). He argued (지적하다 ‘pointed out’) that because Baekje was a large empire, the royal tombs had to be [much] larger [than] the tomb of King Muryeong and should contain 3~4 chambers whereas it only contained one; he also argued that the mortuary stele unearthed from the tomb of King Muryeong had simply been placed in the tomb of a prince by Tang generals as a joke (장난을 쳐놓다) whilst robbing the tombs following Baekje’s overthrow. Naturally [Mun] provided no rational evidence to support this.

[18] As shown in the broadcast listings of ‘Sangsaeng broadcasting’ STB, the religious cable television channel operated by {the new religion} Jeung San Do (甑山道), such programs as ‘Hwandan-gogi book concert‘ (환단고기 북콘서트) and ‘Hwandan-gogi recital from memory contest‘ (환단고기 암송대회) are used as their main content. Repeatedly broadcast, the lecturer who appears in ‘Hwandan-gogi book concert’ is An Gyeongjeon (안경전), the highest leader of Jeung San Do, who in 2012 published an annotated edition of Hwandan-gogi (published by Sangsaeng-chulpan 상생출판). It can be said that in this religion Hwandan-gogi has become scripture.

[21] Such media outlets as The Hankyoreh newspaper (한겨레신문), Sisain (시사인) and Pressian (프레시안) who profess a progressive [outlook] have all published articles which, without exception, uncritically accept the arguments of pseudo historians… In addition to the media, there are individual ‘progressives’ spread over a wide number of fields, such as teachers, labour activists, writers, politicians and scholars, too many to enumerate, who accept pseudo history. Korean pseudo historiography has [this] peculiarity of being widely spread, neither distinguishing between left-wing or right-wing, nor between progressive and conservative.

[22] …There were a large number of media reports. Of note is that these kinds of media reports were concentrated immediately following the publishing of Lee Deok-il’s book, “Traitorous historiography, how far has it come?” (『매국의 역사학, 어디까지 왔나』 2015.8.15). Essentially the national assembly members and media marched to the tune of Lee Deok-il’s marketing strategy, whereby he sought to increase the sale of his new book through stimulating the public with his irresponsible arguments.

[25] In “Traitorous historiography, how far has it come?” (『매국의 역사학, 어디까지 왔나』), Lee Deok-il criticizes the South Korean academic field of history as “traitorous historiography surpassing the colonial view of history” (page 6). This occurs not once, but throughout the 400 page book, he refers to the academic field either as ‘colonial historiography’ or ‘traitorous historiography’.


Sources: the Shiji 史記 “Account of Chaoxian” 朝鮮列傳

The following is a draft translation of the “Account of Chaoxian” (K. Joseon) found in the Shiji (史記 c.87 BCE), the earliest of the 25 Dynastic Histories of China. This is the earliest detailed attestation of the ancient and enigmatic state known as Chaoxian/Joseon, which Koreans have long regarded as the “earliest Korean state” (also referred to in Korean sources as Old Joseon – a term helping distinguish it from the later Joseon dynasty 1392-1910, but actually already attested in the earlier Samguk-yusa 三國遺事 c.1280s).

The Shiji account principally deals only with the final Chinese Han invasion of Chaoxian which resulted in its overthrow and the establishment of the Four Han Commanderies; in premodern, orthodox Korean historiography this period was termed Wiman Joseon (衛滿朝鮮). Wiman Joseon is the last of three Joseon periods, the first being the mythical Dan’gun era (not attested in any Chinese sources), and the second being the semi-legendary Gija Joseon. The 195 BCE usurption of Gija Joseon by Wi Man, is attested in the later Sanguozhi (三國志 C3rd CE) specifically quoting passages from the now lost Weilüe (魏略). Much controversy surrounds Wiman Joseon and the subsequent Han Commanderies, mainly owing to modern post-colonial sensitivities.

In the Shiji account below, Wi Man (衛滿 Ch. Wei Man) is identified only as Man (滿), whilst the Four Commanderies are not named; the latter were added in the subsequent Hanshu (漢書 96 CE) “Chaoxian Account” whilst Man’s surname, Wi/Wei, is first attested in surviving Weilüe passages cited in the Sanguozhi.

Excluded here, the Shiji account much later had many annotations added which date to the early C5th CE and the C8th; these are potentially valuable but should be treated with caution because they represent later tradition (I may add them in the future, or as a separate post).

Japanese colonial era (1910-45) archaeology identified the Lelang Commandery as located in the vicinity of modern Pyongyang, however, no definite archaeology specific to the preceding Wiman Joseon state capital of Wangheom-seong (王險城 Ch. Wangxian-cheng – referred to in earliest Korean sources as Wanggeom-seong 王儉城) has been found.

It should be emphasized this translation is imperfect and some passages are potentially ambiguous or, in any event, difficult to decipher.

Shiji Book 115 

“Account of Chaoxian” No.55 [of the liezuan ‘biographic’ accounts]


The Chaoxian king, Man (滿), was originally a person of Yan (燕). From the time of its consolidation/flourishing, Yan attacked and subjugated Zhenfan and Chaoxian {真番·朝鮮 or ‘Zhenfan Chaoxian’} placing officials [there] and constructing fortifications. Qin overthrew Yan and subjugated [this] Liaodong outer frontier (外徼) {or ‘and made it subordinate to the Liaodong outer frontier}. [When] Han arose, [they found] it distant and difficult to defend so they reestablished the old Liaodong defences, making the Pei-shui (浿水) river the border and subordinating Yan. The Yan king, Luwan (盧綰) rebelled and went to the Xiongnu. Man [also] fled; assembling a group of one thousand, [he/they] bound their hair (魋), put on barbarian clothes and went east beyond the defences. Crossing the Pei-shui they resided in the upper and lower defences (鄣) of the old Qin ’empty land’ [zone]. Gradually [Man] conscripted and subjugated the barbarians of Zhenfan and Chaoxian, and refugees from former Yan and Qi (齊), who made him king and established the capital at/of Wangxian (王險).


Only at the time of [Emperor] Xiaohui (孝惠 r.195-188) and Empress [dowager] Gao (高后 {his mother}) did all-under-heaven {i.e. China} first become stable; the Liaodong governor made an agreement with Man, making him an ‘outer vassal’ to defend {against?} the outer barbarians and thwart border raids. All of the barbarian chiefs wanted to enter [China] and pay court to the Celestial Son; it was not prohibited. Hearing [of this] the Emperor granted permission. Consequently, Man obtained military might and resources, overthrew those small border states; Zhenfan and Lintun all came and submitted. The territory [acquired] extended a thousand li.


[Power] passed to Man’s son and then his grandson, Youqu (右渠 K. Ugeo). [The number of] fugitives enticed from Han greatly multiplied. [Youqu] never paid court [to the Emperor]; further, various states bordering Zhenfan sought to send a letter to the Celestial Son, but it was blocked [by Youqu]. In the second Yuanfeng (元封) year (109 BCE), Han [sent] She He (涉何) to remonstrate Youqu, but Youqu refused to acknowledge the imperial command. [She] He departed and reached the border; just before the Pei-shui, he sent his servants to stab and kill the one seeing him off, secondary Chaoxian king, Zhang (長 K. Jang). Crossing the river, he galloped to the defences. Finally he returned [to the capital] and reported to the Celestial Son, “I have killed the Chaoxian leader”. The emperor praised his name and did not reprimand him; he appointed He as Eastern Liaodong duwei (都尉 ‘commandant’). Regarding He an enemy, Chaoxian dispatched soldiers who killed He in a surprise attack.


The Celestial Son recruited criminals to attack Chaoxian. That autumn he dispatched Tower Ship General, Yang Pu (楊僕), who from Qi (齊) crossed the Bohai sea, and General of the Left, Xun Zhi (荀彘), who [with] fifty thousand men set out from Liaodong to attack Youqu. Youqu sent out soldiers to resist at a narrow location. Left general zuzheng (卒正 ‘sub general’) Duo (多) led troops from Liaodong and prematurely set them loose [to attack], but these were defeated and scattered; Duo fled back [where], convicted by law, he was beheaded.


Leading seven thousand, the Tower Ship General arrived first to Wangxian. Guarding the fortress, Youqu observed that the Tower Ship army was small; he went out and attacked the tower ships. The Tower Ship army was defeated and scattered. Losing many, general Yang Pu hid in the mountains for more than ten days; gradually he searched out the scattered soldiers and regrouped. The Left General {Xun Zhi} attacked Chaoxian’s Peishu west army, but was unable to break them and move forwards.


Considering the two generals to have failed in achieving [any] gain, the Celestial Son thereupon had emissary Wei Shan (衞山) go with military strength to parley (諭) with Youqu. In an audience with the emissary, Youqu shook his head apologizing, “I wanted to submit, but worried the two generals would deceive and kill [your] vassal. Now, seeing [your imperial] insignia, I request to submit.”


[Youqu] sent the crown prince to go and apologize, and offered five thousand horses and military rations. More than ten thousand armed soldiers [accompanied the crown prince]; when they were just about to cross the Pei-shui, the emissary and Left general became suspicious that they could revolt, and so told the crown prince because he had already submitted, he should order the men not to carry weapons. The crown prince was also suspicious that the emissary and Left General would cheat and kill him, so in the end he did not cross the Pei-shui and returned home. Shan returned and reported to the Celestial Son. The Celestial Son had Shan put to death.


The Left General broke the [Chaoxian] Pei-shui army and went forwards reaching to below the fortress {presumably Wangxian-cheng}, where he surrounded the northwest. [Meanwhile] the Tower Ship [General] also went to meet up, and camped {lit. ‘resided’} south of the fortress. Youqu firmly defended the fortress and after several months it had not surrendered.


The Left General, originally [as] shizhong (侍中), was favoured by the emperor; he led soldiers of Yan and Dai (代), and being fierce they sensed victory and the army became arrogant. The Tower Ship [General] led soldiers of Qi (齊); travelling by sea, they had already suffered many defeats and losses. When they first battled Youqu they had been humiliated and lost soldiers, so the [remaining] soldiers were all afraid; the general was ashamed. They surrounded Youqu but always maintained peace.


The Left General suddenly attacked. Thereupon the Chaoxian high minister (大臣) secretly sent emissaries to privately negotiate a surrender to the Tower Ship [General]; they returned with a message but it was not yet decided. The Left General and Tower Ship [General] set a time for battle [against Chaoxian], but the Tower Ship [General] wanted to quickly conclude [the secret] agreement [with Chaoxian] and did not rendezvous. The Left General also sent emissaries seeking the possibility (? 閒卻) of Chaoxian’s surrender, but Chaoxian did not accept; [their] hearts were [already] on the side of the Tower Ship [General]. Consequently the two generals did not cooperate {lit. ‘get along/be in harmony’} with one another. The Left General thought to himself, “The Tower Ship [General] has the crime of previously losing [many] soldiers, and now he is being privately amicable with Chaoxian; further, Chaoxian does not surrender.” He was suspicious of a plot but did not dare to declare it.


The Celestial Son said, “The generals are unable to lead. Previously, emissary Wei Shan negotiated Youqu’s surrender and Youqu sent the crown prince, but Shan was unable to exclusively decide things (?剸決) and plans were misunderstood between [him] and the Left General, and so the [negotiated] agreement [with Chaoxian] was suddenly terminated. Now the two generals have surrounded the fortress, but they are again discordant and a resolution will not be found any time soon.”


[Thereupon] he dispatched Jinan governor, Gongsun Sui (濟南太守公孫遂) to rectify the situation and manage matters appropriately (有便宜得以從事). [When] Sui arrived, the Left General told him, “Chaoxian has been on the verge of capitulation for a long time. That they have not surrendered is due to [our own] circumstances.” And he told of the Tower Ship General’s multiple failures to rendezvous. He spoke his thoughts to Sui, “Now matters are such, if we do not capture [the Tower Ship General], I fear there will be great harm caused; not alone, but combined with Chaoxian, the Tower Ship [General could] destroy our army.”


Sui agreed with this, and with [the authority of] his imperial insignia, he summoned the Tower Ship General to the Left General’s camp where they plotted; thereupon the Left General ordered his men to arrest the Tower Ship General, and they merged the two armies. Upon reporting this to the Celestial Son, the Celestial Son had Sui put to death.


The Left General had already merged the two armies and quickly attacked Chaoxian. Chaoxian minister Luren (路人), minister Han Yin (韓陰), Nixi minister San (參), and general Wang Jia (王唊) plotted between themselves, saying, “At first we wanted to surrender to the Tower Ship [General], but he is now captured; the Left General has alone merged [the armies] and escalated the war. We are unable to assist, but the king will not accept surrender.”

Yin, Jia and Luren all fled and submitted to Han. Luren died on the road.


In summer of the 3rd Yuanfeng year (108 BCE), Nixi minister San had men kill Chaoxian king Youqu, and [then] came and surrendered, but Wangxian fortress [still] did not capitulate. The high minister of the late Youqu, Chengsi (成巳) again rebelled and attacked [Han] officials (?吏 {perhaps better read as ‘troops’}). The Left General had Youqu’s son, Changjiang (長降) and minister Luren’s son, Zui (最) inform the people [of Chaoxian’s surrender] and execute Chengsi. Thus, finally Chaoxian was pacified and became the Four Commanderies (四郡).


[The following] enfeoffments [were bestowed]: [former Nixi minister] San became lord of Huaqing (澅清侯), [former minister] Yin became lord of Diju (荻苴侯), [former general] Jia became lord of Pingzhou (平州侯), and Chang[jiang] became lord of Ji (幾侯). Taking into account his father’s death, Zui had considerable merit and so became lord of Wenyang (溫陽侯).


The Left General [was] summoned and arrived; for quarreling over merit, acting jealously and acting contrary to the plan, he [was] executed and his body displayed in the market. The Tower Ship General, too, should have been executed for sustaining great losses when, [with his] troops having reached the mouth of the Lie (洌) [river], he should have awaited the Left General but instead took it upon himself to let loose [his army, however, he was partially] redeemed/ransomed and [instead] was made a commoner.


The Grand Historian {i.e. Shiji compiler Sima Qian} says, “Youqu relied on the strategic [defensive] geography [of Chaoxian] and so discontinued the country’s sacrifices [to heaven] {or ‘paying court to China’}. She He made false merit and so was the primary cause for the outbreak of military hostilities. The Tower Ship [General] was narrow [minded] and in the face of difficulty, he acquired fault (離咎); regretting his loses in foreign lands (番禺), he was consequently viewed with suspicion. [Left General] Xun Zhi fought over meritorious accomplishment, and together with [Gongsun] Sui, [was] executed. The two generals both incurred dishonour; none of the [Han] commanders (將率) were [made] lords.

Sources: Sin Chaeho – ‘History of Ancient Joseon Culture’ (on the Sam’rang 三郞 > Jo’ui 皂衣 / hwarang lineage)

Sin Chaeho (1880-1936) is popularly regarded as the father of modern nationalist historiography and is remembered as one of the few early modern intellectuals who refused to submit to, or accept, the Japanese colonization of Korea, devoting his life to the Korean resistance movement in China, ultimately to die in a Japanese prison in Dalian.

Below is a translation of the second installment/chapter of Sin Chaeho’s Joseon-sanggo-munhwa-sa (朝鮮上古文化史 ‘History of Ancient Joseon Culture’) which was originally serialized in the Joseon-ilbo newspaper in 40 installments between 15 October ~ 3 December 1931, and then 27-31 May 1932). This work was the immediate follow up to his better known magnum opus, Joseon-sanggo-sa (朝鮮上古史 ‘History of Ancient Joseon’) in which he argued the legendary state of Old Joseon to have been an ancient continental empire responsible for most of Chinese civilization.

Forgetting that, this self-contained chapter is both interesting in itself and highly representative of Sin’s creative, nationalist historiography; today his emotive writing is largely dismissed for its obvious methodological weaknesses but it remains influential on the public imagination and popular history books of a certain persuasion. There was also no small creative genius at work.

In this chapter he seeks to establish the ‘lost history’ of the Goguryeo hwarang order – attested only as a Silla institution – projecting shared origins back to folkloric legends of the ancient Sam’rang (三郞) associated with the Dan’gun myth, and tracing their subsequent decline and remnants through to the modern era.

As well reflected in this chapter, Sin’s core historiographical strategy was to blame Korea’s contemporary predicament under Japanese colonization on the preceding centuries under Sinocentric Neo-Confucian dogma which had consequently weakened Korea’s independent spirit; a key element of this explanation was a conspiracy style theory that the compiler of the Samguk-sagi (1145), Kim Busik,  had actively created an anti-nativist pro-Chinese history, and sought to destroy all alternative histories after its completion. It should be stated that this theory involved a large degree of oversimplification and active mischaracterization of Kim Busik and the Samguk-sagi but, again, has remained highly influential in the popular imagination.

The translation below is based on a modern Korean edition (referenced below), which translates Sin’s ye olde early C20th mixed-script Korean into easier-to-read contemporary Korean.

Sin Chaeho, Danjae 단재 신채호; Bak Gibong 박기봉 (translator). 2007. 『조선상고 문화사』 [Joseon sanggo munhwasa]. Seoul: 비봉출판사 [bibong-chulpansa].

This chapter may also be interesting to compare with that of Choe Namseon who also sought to place the Hwarang in a broader diachronic perspective.

History of Ancient Joseon/Korean Culture – Chapter 2: The Sam’rang (三郞) tour (巡遊) and transmission of Seon-gyo (仙敎)

According to legend, Sam’rang-seong (三郞城 ‘three lad fortress’) on Mani-san (摩尼山) mountain, Ganghwa-do island, was constructed by three sons of Dan’gun; the Jecheon-dan (祭天壇 ‘celetial rites altar’) is where Dan’gun performed sacrificial rites to heaven. It is truly wondrous (기이하다) that the small fortress and [its tradition] have been transmitted over four millennia.

The poem Sam’rang-seong by Yi Sukcheom (李叔詹) of the Goryeo dynasty [contains the line] “Fishermen and firewood collecting children still call it the Old Celestial Capital” (漁樵猶說舊天京); that they referred to this lonely and remote place as a ‘celestial capital’, holding it in such regard is still more wondrous.

All that remains of the Sam’rang’s history is the construction of this fortress, however, during Silla and Goryeo, they erected Sam’rang-sa (三郞寺) temples and worshipped them; this too is still more wondrous.

However, it is not simply because of the fortress that the name of the Sam’rang was transmitted. If it had been only because of the fortress, how would they have come to be worshipped and held aloft in this way? Although it is not recorded in previous histories, it must be because the Hwarang (花郞) of Silla and Seon’in (仙人) of Goguryeo all traced their origins to the Sam’rang.

There is also no one of recent times who knows the origins of the Jo’ui (皂衣); only the circumstances (사실) of the Hwarang are recorded in the Samguk-sagi as follows.

“In Silla they were concerned that it was not possible to identify men of talent, so they organized them into groups for recreation. After observing their behaviour and righteousness, they would select them for employment. Choosing boys of beautiful appearance, they adorned them and called them Hwa’rang (花郞 ‘flower lad’)… By these means they could distinguish between good and bad persons.” {Samguk-sagi “Kim Heum’un-jeon” 金歆運傳 account}

On account of this passage, people are led to believe that the Hwarang were [the product] of a Silla [Confucian style] civil service examination (科擧法), but this is because we have been deceived by Kim Busik {金富軾 1075-1151 – Samguk-sagi compiler} and so do not know the true identity (참모습 lit. ‘true shape’) of the Hwarang.

The Hwarang [tradition] had [in fact] been both the soul of religion and the heart of national purity (國粹) passed down from the time of Dan’gun, but despite this, around the end of Silla and beginning of Goryeo they were obliterated by Confucians and even their history was lost.

According to the Yeoji-seungnam (輿地勝覽 {late C15th geography – still extant}), “The stele of the Sa-rang (四郞 ‘four lads’) was smashed to pieces by Ho Jongdan (胡宗旦) and only the turtle support stone (龜趺) remains.” Through this the obliteration of the Hwarang by Confucians can be openly (正面) observed. According to the Goryeo-sa (高麗史), “Because Seongjong (成宗 r.981-997) liked Chinese customs (華風) and hated worship, Yi Jibaek (李知白) sought to revive Hwarang groups/gatherings (花郞會).” {source??} Through this the obliteration of the Hwarang by Confucians can be indirectly (反面) observed.

In the case of Samguk-sagi (三國史記 ‘history of the Three Kingdoms’) compiler, Kim Busik, we can know that his extreme [anti-Hwarang] bias was even stronger than that of Seongjong or Ho Jongdan.

At the time of compiling the so-called ‘History of the Three Kingdoms’, he [actively] omitted facts concerning the Hwarang and their origins. In the Goryeo-sa ({高麗史 ‘history of Goryeo’ 1451} written a hundred years after Kim Busik’s Samguk-sagi ), Yeong-rang, An-rang, Nam-rang and Sul-rang (永郞·安郞·南郞·述郞) [who comprised] the Sa-rang (四郞), were elevated as the ‘Four Sages’ (四聖), however, Kim did not even transmit this fact [of their existence]. The fact that whenever the ‘way of the Hwarang’ (花郞의 道) was lectured upon, there would be several thousand listeners is recorded in the Joseon dynasty Jeompilje-jip (佔畢齊集 {collected works of Kim Jongjik 金宗直 1431-92}) which was compiled three hundred years after Kim, however, Kim wrote nothing about the influence exerted by the Hwarang. Throwing away the Seon-sa (仙史 ‘history of the seon ‘ {attested in Samguk-sagi entry for King Jinheung 眞興王 year 37}) in which the origin of the Hwarang was recorded, he barely quoted a few opening lines from Choe Go’un’s (崔孤雲 {Choe Chiwon 崔致遠}) Nallang-bi (鸞郞碑序) stele text; omitting the holy accomplishments (聖蹟) of two hundred Hwarang, he described only the military achievements of four or five such as Sadaham (斯多含 {general who effected the military subjugation of Dae Gaya – modern Goryeong – in 562}). This is sufficient to see his inner hatred of the Hwarang.

Why is it, then, that Kim recorded even a few lines in the Samguk-sagi ?

It is for no other reason than that at the time, foreigners (Chinese) [already] knew many stories of the Hwarang and Tang Chinese recorded them in such works as Dazhong-yishi (大中遺事) and Xinluo-guoji (新羅國記) {both by Ling Hucheng 令狐澄}; inside of Korea the Hwarang stelai could be smashed and works such as Hwarang-segi and Seon-sa could be destroyed, but that which was transmitted in foreign lands was beyond Kim’s control {능력 lit. ‘ability’}. Also the Hwarang history which had been recorded by foreigners was rough and the words close to ridicule, so even if they were transmitted they would not be a match for Confucians’ [historiography] so Kim considered there to have been no necessity [to include] these matters and omitted all facts concerning the Hwarang. For this reason, the Korean records {역사 ‘history’} of the Hwarang were not included and only those in foreign counties were included in an abridged fashion, and this is what we read today.

Ah, how sad! The stories of the Hwarang appearing in the Samguk-sagi which are read by us Hwarang descendents today, is that which was contemptuously recorded by the brushes of Chinese. How can we know the true identity of the Hwarang from this?

Concerning the Jo’ui (皂衣) of Goguryeo, Kim Busik quoted the Suishu (隨書) and simply observed that there were Jo’ui seon’in (皂衣仙人 – also called Yeseok seon’in 翳屬仙人) in Goguryeo; the [Samguk-sagi] “Myeong’rimdapbu-jeon” (明臨答夫傳 account speaks of Yeonna-jo’ui Myeong’rim-dapbu (椽那皂衣明臨答夫), but it does not say what the Jo’ui were.

{NB Myeong’rim-dapbu is attested with the title of Jo’ui, not in his biographical account, but in the Goguryeo Annal entry for King Chadae 次大王 year twenty [165], where he is recorded as assassinating the tyrant king on behalf of the people.

{Yeseok seon’in 翳屬仙人 is attested in the Samguk-sagi treatise for Goguryeo titles, where, in the next sentence, citing the Xin-Tangshu, Jo’ui are described as seon’in 仙人. The actual Xin-Tangshu entry is “帛衣頭大兄,所謂帛衣者,先人也”.}

However, the Gaoli-tujing (高麗圖經 {still extant first hand account of Goryeo by Xu Jing 徐兢 1091-1153 who visited in 1123}) records, “The Jaega-hwasang (在家和尙 {lit. ‘at home monks’ i.e. who have not left their families for a temple}) neither wear gasa (袈裟) Buddhist robes, nor maintain precepts (佛戒); wearing white ramie clothes, they bind their wastes with black silk.[..] Residing in common houses {민가, original just has ‘home/room’ 室} they have families. They always put their energies into public projects, such as cleaning the roads, or repairing drainage systems. If war occurs they take their own rations and form units; in war they are all brave and always lead the van. In actuality they are former convicts and so have shaven heads; because this is similar to Buddhists they are called Hwasang (和尙).”

{Original passage from Gaoli-tujing 


Jaega-hwasang do not wear gasa and do not maintain precepts. Wearing white ramie clothes, they bind their waists with black silk. They walk barefooted, though some wear shoes. Constructing their own homes, they take a wife and raise children. They devote themselves to [such public tasks as] carrying items for the authorities, sweeping the roads, repairing the drains, and fixing and building the city walls and homes. If there is a nearby alert, they form groups and set out; although they are not familiar with galloping [a horse] they are quite strong and brave. When they go on military expeditions, they prepare their own rations so they are able to go to war without being a cost to the state. [I] have heard that the Khitan’s defeat by Goryeo people was precisely thanks {lit. ‘reliant’} to this group. They are actually convicted criminals. The Koreans {lit. 夷人 ‘Yi barbarian people’} shave their beards and heads and call them Hwasang.}

These are the remaining tradition (遺風) of the Goguryeo Jo’ui (皂衣 ‘black clothing’). They were called Jo’ui because they wore [the same] black silk around their waists; in Chinese histories they are also referred to as Baek’i (帛衣 Ch. Boyi ‘silk clothing’). And because seon’in believe in a different doctrine (敎) to Buddhism, they were referred to as Jaega-hwasang.

Thus the Jo’ui of Goguryeo were the martial soul (武魂), no less so than the Hwarang of Silla. With a firm belief in the state (국가) they regarded life and death lightly; they sacrificed their bodies for the common good (公益) without concern for worldly matters or renown. During peace time they trained their bodies through labour; because their bodies were in oil (?? 몸을 기름에 있어서는) they prioritized (위주) health and bravery and so were brave when at war. Because Myeong’rim-dapbu led such a group, he was easily successful in [his] regional revolution.

After visiting Goryeo and observing and hearing of these such matters, [Gaoli-tujing author] Xu Jing recorded them; how is it possible that during the same time Kim Busik could not have read or heard of the Hwarang’s history?! In order to [force] citizens to wear the tinted glasses of Confucians, he omitted all of Silla’s Hwarang history except a few lines recorded by a foreigner; concerning the Jo’ui he merely cited the Suishu and recorded just the name.

If we first look at {unreferenced} research concerning this, in Goguryeo history, seon’in (先人 ‘forebears’) were referred to as seon’in (仙人 ‘Daoist immortal/faerie’); both terms are phonetic [Sinic] renderings for the pure Korean (우리말) term seonbi (선비 {conventionally a word for ‘scholar’}). In the [Samguk-sagi] Silla music treatise (樂志), Hwarang are termed as Do’ryeong (徒領), which is a phonetic rendering of the Korean term do’ryeong (도령 ‘young man’). In later times the social status of Seon’in (先人) sunk and so the term for them was changed to Jaega-hwasang, whilst the name seonbi was taken by Confucians [to refer to themselves with the common meaning of ‘scholar’].

Also, in later times, the Hwarang became officials (벼슬아치) responsible for all genres of music and thus were [merely] in charge of one giye ‘artistic skill’ (技藝 ) of gamu ‘song and dance’ (歌舞 – {original annotation} giye was a subdiscipline 科 of gamu or hak’ye 學藝). The term do’ryeong-nim (도령님) was stolen by the [Confucian] yangban literati [as the respectful term for address of an unmarried yangban]. The social status of Jo’ui sank earlier than Hwarang and so at the time of Xu Jing, it was already a figurative term for formerly convicted criminals.

Concerning both the Hwarang (i.e. gwangdae {廣大 a non-reverential term for ‘public entertainer’}) who remain in the Eight Provinces [of Korea] today, and the Jaega-hwasang who remain in North Hamgyeong-do province {far northeastern Korea}, not only are their roots not known to others, but even they have forgotten the fact that they were once the heart (중심) of the state; for these circumstances the crime of the ruling classes including the monarchy, and of historians is great.

How could we in times subsequent to Kim Busik discover the facts about the Hwarang and Jo’ui that he failed to record? [How can we] find their origins? If we gather the remaining fragmentary accounts from the ‘old records’ (古記 {an uninformative term often used in the Samguk-sagi}) and search between the lines (反面) of the Samguk-sagi, then we can [at least] obtain something similar.

The line recorded in the Goguryeo history {SS Goguryeo annal} “Pyeongyang was the home of Seon’in Wanggeom” (平壤者仙人王儉之宅) would have been the first line of the Silla’s Seon-sa (仙史). Idu (吏讀文) script which uses Chinese characters for their phonetic value, was first created during the time of Buyeo and Goguryeo; at that time, a character would be used either for its beginning or end sound value, and two or three characters would be combined to create a single [syllable] sound. Both seon’in (先人) and seon’in (仙人) use two characters to form the seon [syllable] in seonbi.

During Silla, [phonetic] idu developed to a relative degree, however, it was only fully used for [verbal] endings, e.g. wi-ni 爲尼 → hani 하니, wi-ya 爲也 → haya/hayeo 하야·하여, but nouns most often used Chinese characters for their semantic value. As a result Saro (斯盧) was changed to Silla (新羅 {‘new net’?}), whilst monarchal titles geoseogan (居西干) or nisageum (尼師今) were changed to dae-wang (大王 ‘great king’). The Hwarang also developed at this time, and Seon-sa was written.

In later times, the [rendering of the] noun seon’in (先人 ‘forebear’) was dropped and only seon’in (仙人 ‘faerie/immortal’) was used; thus Seon’in Wanggeom (仙人王儉 ‘faerie Wanggeom’) is the same as [*]Seon’in Wanggeom (先人王儉 ‘forebear Wanggeom’) who was Dan’gun (檀君), none other than the founding ancestor (始祖) of the Jo’ui seon’in (皂衣先人).

The name Hwarang, too, was originally not hwarang; [rather], because it was seon’in (先人 ‘forebear’) the history of their origin was named Seon-sa (仙史 ‘faerie history’). As a result, even the “Hwarang-gi” (花郞記) record in the Samguk-yusa says Great King Jinheung (眞興王 {r.540-576}) worshipped sinseon (神仙 ‘holy faeries’) and created the Hwarang, but this misunderstood that the creation of the Hwarang was [itself an act of] venerating the sinseon.

However, subsequently due to concern for terms [phonetically rendered] such as seon’in and sinseon being confused with Chinese Xianjiao (仙敎: 道敎 Dao-jian {i.e. Daoism}), specific nouns such as gukseon (國仙 ‘nation faerie’) and hwarang (花郞 ‘flower lad’) were created, where the seon of gukseon is the phonetic rendering of the seon (先) of seon’in (先人 ‘forebear’), whilst the rang of Hwarang is a semantic rendering of seon’in.

However, those reading history in later generations have always confused this distinction. Thus in entries in Yeoji-seungnam for Gangneung (江陵) and Yang’yang (襄陽) which include poems and such by literati composed after observing the remains associated with the Four Hwarang Sages (四聖), they conflate them with Daoist notions of alchemy (金丹) or ‘the soul’s liberation from a corpse [to become a Daoist immortal]’ (尸解), and gukseon are understood as a school of Daoism.

Even if one explains that the seon (仙) of Seon’in Wanggeom is the seon of gukseon, of seonbi and our seon-gyo (仙敎 ‘seon religion’), and not the xian of Chinese Xianjiao (仙敎), who today would believe this?! Ah, that the downfall of the nation (國粹) has come to this!

Sam’rang (三郞), too, previous to Goguryeo would definitely have been called the Sam-seon (三仙) or Sam-seon’in (三仙人), and not Sam’rang, but in Silla with seon’in being called rang (郞) they were changed to Sam’rang, and the Sam’rang-sa temple was constructed in which they were worshipped.

Consequently, Dan’gun was the first seonbi appearing in the Seon-sa (仙史), whilst the Sam’rang are the first do’ryeong. Sam’rang-seong was a fortification constructed by the Goguryeo Jo’ui who, during a ceremonial tour/pilgrimage (巡禮) of the country (국토) found the site suitably strategic for the nation’s defence.

Sources: the Samguk-yusa “Hwan’ung-Dan’gun” 桓雄·壇君 account

The following is a direct translation of the Hwan’ung-Dan’gun (桓雄·壇君) myth as found in the Samguk-yusa (『三國遺事』’Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms’ c.1283) where it is included at the start of the first “Gi’i” (紀異 ‘Records of wondrous/supernatural [events]’) chapter; the section is titled ‘Old Joseon’ and subtitled ‘Wanggeom Joseon’ (古朝鮮:王儉朝鮮).

This is the longer of the two earliest surviving Hwan’ung-Dan’gun variant texts. The other is found as an annotation in Jewang-un’gi (『帝王韻紀』’Rhyming record of emperors and kings’ completed 1287) by Yi Seunghyu (李承休).

English translations of the SY variant are available in various books; I’m uploading this version for convenience and in anticipation of following posts.

In the original Chinese, the Old Joseon section contains no subdivisions; here I have divided it into five. The middle sections are based on the three part structural analysis by Choe Namseon (崔南善 1890-1957) – this is now convention and seems quite obvious, but he was the first person to do this.

Curved parenthesis () are original to the text; in the original Chinese there is no such punctuation but instead the parenthetical text is smaller sized than the main text.

Old Joseon (Wanggeom Joseon)

According to the Weishu 魏書, 2,000 years ago there was Dan’gun Wanggeom 壇君王儉, [he] established the capital of Asadal 阿斯達 (the classic {i.e. Shanhaijing 山海經} says this was either Muyeop-san 無葉山 or Baeg’ak 白岳 in Baek-ju 白州; it also says it was to the east of Gaeseong 開城, now Baeg’ak-gung palace白岳宮). Founding {lit. opening} the kingdom [it] was called Joseon 朝鮮; [this was] the same time as {legendary} [Emperor] Yao 高 {堯}.


{Hwan’ung descension myth}
According to old records 古記, a long time ago there was Hwan’in 桓因 (called Śakra 帝釋 {Kor. Jeseok}). [One of his] sons [was] Hwan’ung 桓雄 [who] had much intention [for] earth [and] coveted the human world. The father knew [his] son’s intentions; looking over the Samwi-Taebaek 三危太伯 [peaks], it was possible for humans to be widely prosperous 弘益人間. Thereupon bestowing the three celestial seals, he sent [his son] to rule it. [Hwan’]ung led 3,000 [followers], [and] descended to the summit of Taebaek-san mountain (Taebaek is present day Myohyang-san 妙香山{modern North Pyeong’an-do province in North Korea}) below the sindan-su 神壇樹 {lit. ‘divine altar’} tree; calling [the place] Sinsi 神市 {lit. ‘divine market’}, they called Hwan’ung ‘celestial king’. Commanding the wind earl and masters of rain and cloud, [they] managed cereals, life, disease, punishment, good and evil, and the more than 360 matters of humans; [these things] in the world they ruled and cultivated/enlightened.


{Bear and tiger story}
At [this] time, there was a bear [and] a tiger [who both] lived in the same hole. Always they prayed to the divine [Hwan’]ung, wishing to become human. Then, the god sent them one sprig of mugwort 艾 and twenty stems of garlic 蒜, saying, “You, eat these, do not see the sun for 100 days, then you will be able to achieve human form.”

The bear and tiger took and ate them, [observing the] prohibition/taboo [of sunlight] for twenty-one days. The bear gained a woman’s body; the tiger was unable to [observe the] prohibition and so did not gain a human body. The bear woman had no one with [whom] to marry. Therefore she always went to beneath the dan-su tree, [and] prayed to become pregnant. [Hwan’]ung temporarily changed [to human form] and married her; becoming pregnant she gave birth to a son [who was] named Dan’gun-Wanggeom.


{Dan’gun’s reign}
In the Gyeong’in 庚寅 year [of the sexagonary calendar], 50 years after [emperor] Tang Yao 唐高 had ascended the throne (the first year of Tang Yao’s reign was Mujin 戊辰, so the 50th year would be Jeongsa 丁巳, not Gyeong’in. Probably it is wrong) [Dan’gun Wanggeom] established the capital Pyeongyang-seong 平壤城 (current day Seogyeong 西京 {‘western capital’ aka modern Pyeongyang}) and for the first time called [the country] Joseon. Again the capital was moved to Baek’ak-san mountain Asadal. Again, [it was] named Gung- 弓(or Bang)-hol-san 忽山, or/again Geummidal 今彌達; [he] governed the country for 1,500 years. In the year that King Wu of Zhou 周虎王{aka 周武} ascended the throne, [sexagonary] Gimyo 己卯 [year], Gi Ja 箕子 was enfeoffed to Joseon; Dan’gun thereupon moved to Jangdang-gyeong 藏唐京 [and] later returned to Asadal-san becoming a sansin 山神 mountain god. [He] was aged 1,908.


{Gi Ja and Han Commanderies}
According to Tang [dynasty era] Peiju-zhuan 裵矩傳, Goryeo 高麗 was originally Gojuk-guk 孤竹國 (current day Haeju 海州). By enfeoffing Gi Ja 箕子 [they] made Joseon. Han [China] divided [Joseon] establishing three commanderies 郡, called Xuantu [K. Hyeondo] 玄菟, Lelang [K. Nangnang] 樂浪 and Daifang [K. Daebang] 帶方(North Daifang). The Tongdian 通典 {by Du You 杜佑 (735-812)}, also has a similar account to this. (The Hanshu 漢書 has four commanderies Zhen[pan-jun] 眞{番}, Lin[tun-jun] 臨{屯}, Le[lang-jun] and Xuan[tu-jun];  now [here] it says three commanderies, the names also are not the same, why would this be?)

唐裵矩傳云高麗本孤竹國(今海州)周以封箕子爲朝鮮漢分置三郡謂玄菟 樂浪帶方(北帶方)通典亦同此說(漢書則眞臨樂玄四郡今云三郡名又不同何耶)

Dan’ga – “Sacheol-ga” (四節歌 사철가 Song of Four Seasons)

[Performed in the recording above by master singer Kim Su-yeon 김수연]

Dan’ga (短歌 단가 ‘short song’) are performed by pansori artists primarily as ‘warm up’ songs before their main performance. Probably the best known is Sacheol-ga “The Song of Four Seasons.”

In hangul the title is written both as Sacheol-ga 사철가 and Sajeol-ga 사절가 (四節歌).

이산 저산 꽃이 피니 분명코 봄이로구나
i-san jeo-san kkochi-i pi-ni bun-myeong-ko bom-i-ro-gu-na
This mountain, that mountain, flowers bloom: clearly it is spring!

봄은 찾어 왔건마는 세상사 쓸쓸허드라
bom-eun chaj-eo wa-ggeon-ma-neun se-sang-sa sseul-sseul-heo-deu-ra
Spring has come yet the events of this world are lonesome and sad

나도 어제 청춘일러니 오날 백발 한심허구나
na-do eo-je cheong-chun-il-leo-ni o-nal baek-bal han-sim-heo-gu-na
Yesterday, I too was in my spring youth, but today I am white haired and pathetic!

내 청춘도 날 버리고 속절없이 가버렸으니 왔다 갈 줄 아는 봄을 반겨 헌들 쓸데있나
nae cheong-chun-do nal beo-ri-go sok-jeol-eops-i ga-beoryeoss-eu-ni wa-dda gal-jul a-neun bom-eul ban-gyeo heon-deul sseul-de-i-nna?
My spring youth has discarded me and left me without a chance,
so what use is there in welcoming the spring, knowing it will come and go?

봄아 왔다가 갈려거든 가거라. 니가 가도 여름이 되면 녹음방초승화시(綠陰芳草勝花時)라
bom-a wa-dda-ga gal-lyeo-geo-deun ga-geo-ra. ni-ga ga-do yeo-reum-i doe-myeon nok-eum bang-cho seung hwa-si-ra
Spring, if you’re going to come and go, then go! Even if you leave it will be summer when green shade and fragrant grasses win against flowers.

옛부터 일러있고 여름이 가고 가을이 돌아오면
yet-pu-teo il-leo-i-ggo yeo-reum-i ga-go ga-eul-i dor-a-o-myeon
From olden times it has been thus: if summer leaves and autumn returns,

한로삭풍(寒露朔風) 요란해도 제 절개를 굽히지 않는 황국단풍(黃菊丹楓)도 어떠헌고
hal-lo-sak-pung yo-ran-dae-do je jeol-gae-reul gup-hi-ji an-neun hwang-guk dan-pung-do eo-tteo-heon-go
even if cold frosts and northern winds make a racket, what then even of the yellow chrysanthemums and red maples, their honour unyielding?

가을이 가고 겨울이 돌아오면 낙목한천(落木寒天) 찬 바람에 백설만 펄펄 휘날리어
ga-eul-i ga-go gyeo-ur-i dor-a-o-myeon nang-mok-heon-cheon chan-ba-ram-e baek-seol-man peol-peol hwi-nal-li-eo
When autumn goes and winter returns, trees are bare, the sky is cold and in the chill wind only white snow flies around

은세계가 되고보면 월백설백천지백(月白雪白天地白)허니 모두가 백발의 벗이로구나
eun-se-gye-ga doe-go-bo-myeon wol-baek seol-baek cheon-ji-baek heo-ni mo-du-ga baek-bal-ui beos-i-ro-gu-na
The whole world turns silver: the moon white, snow white, and heaven and earth white, all become friends to one with white hair!

무정 세월은 덧없이 흘러가고 이내 청춘도 아차 한 번 늙어지면 다시 청춘은 어려워라
mu-jeong se-wol-eun deot-eops-i heul-leo-ga-go i-nae cheong-chun-do a-cha han beon neulg-eo-ji-myeon da-si cheong-chun-eun eo-ryeo-wo-ra
Heartless time flows quickly on, presently if youth too becomes old once, it is difficult for it to be youthful again!

어화 세상 벗님네들 이네 한 말 들어보소
eo-hwa se-sang beot-nim-ne-deul i-ne han mal deur-eo-bo-so
Oh! Friends of the world, listen to these words!

인생이 모두가 백년을 산다고 해도 병든 날과 잠든 날 걱정근심 다 제허면 단 사십도 못 살 인생,
in-saeng-i mo-du-ga baek nyeon-eul san-da-go hae-do byeong-deun nal-gwa jam-deun nal geok-jeong-geun-sim da je-heo-myeon dan sa-sip-do mot sal in-saeng
Even though they say lifetimes all last a hundred years, if you deduct days of illness, sleep and other worries then it is but forty we can live.

아차 한 번 죽어지면 북망산천(北邙山川)의 흙이로구나
a-cha han beon jug-eo-ji-myeon bung-mang-san-cheon-ui hulk-i-ro-gu-na
Ah, if we die but once we turn to earthen graves as by the streams of Mount Beimang!

사후에 만반진수(滿盤珍羞)는 불여생전(不如生前)의 일배주(一杯酒) 만도 못허느니라
sa-hu-e man-ban-jin-su-neun bur-yeo saeng-jeon-ui il-bae-ju man-do mot-heo-neu-ni-ra
After death even a full plate of the rarest delicacies cannot compare with a single cup of wine whilst still alive!

세월아 세월아 세월아 가지 말어라 아까운 청춘들이 다 늙는다
se-wol-a se-wol-a se-wol-a ga-ji mar-eo-ra a-gga-un cheong-chun-deul-i da neung-neunda
Time! Time! Time! Don’t go! Precious youths are all old.

세월아 가지마라. 가는 세월 어쩔거나.
se-wol-a ga-ji-ma-ra. ga-neun se-wol eo-jjeol-geo-na.
Time! Don’t go! What can be done about the time that goes?

늘어진 계수나무 그 끝 허리에다 대랑 매달아 놓고
neul-eo-jin gye-su-na-mu geu-kkeut heo-ri-e-da dae-rang mae-dar-a no-ko
Hang them  from the end of that dropping cinnamon tree:

국곡투식(國穀偸食) 허는 놈과 부모불효 허는 놈과 형제화목 못허는 놈
guk-gok-tu-sik heo-neun nom-gwa bu-mo-bul-hyo heo-neun nom-gwa hyeong-je-hwa-mok mot-heo-neun nom,
rascals who steel and eat grain from the state, rascals who are not pious to their parents and rascals who cannot live in harmony with their brothers,

차례로 잡어다가 저 세상 먼저 보내버리고 나머지 벗님네들 서로 모아 앉아서
cha-rye-ro jab-eo-da-ga jeo se-sang meon-jeo bo-nae-beo-ri-go na-meo-ji beot-nim-ne-deul seo-ro mo-a anj-a-seo
Catch them in turn and  send them first to the other world, and my friends that remain, let us gather and sit

한 잔 더 먹소 덜 먹게 허면서 거드렁거리고 놀아보세
han jan deo meok-so deol meok-ge heo-myeon-seo geo-deu-reong-geo-ri-go nol-a-bo-se
And drink another glass! While making us drink less, let us go wild in the moment!

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.