Friday, September 29, 2006

The Great Behindert

But where's Dokdo?

Can you imagine Tony Williams of The Platters crooning this one? If you attempt it on your own, be sure to rhyme "Behinder(t)" with "Pretender."
The Great Behindert

Oh yes, I'm the Great Behindert
Behindered from doing well
My need is such, but they hinder too much
I'm broken, 38th Parallel

Oh yes, I'm the Great Behindert
Adrift in a world not my own
I'd balance the game, but to my Great Han shame
They just will not leave me alone

Too real is this feeling of make believe
Too real when I feel what my heart can't conceal

Oh yes, I'm the Great Behindert
Just laughing and gay like a clown
I seem to be what I'm not, you see
I'm wearing my heart like a crown
Pretending that you're not around

Too real is this feeling of make believe
Too real when I feel what my heart can't conceal

Oh yes, I'm the Great Behindert
Just laughing and gay like a clown
I seem to be what I'm not, you see
I'm wearing my heart like a crown
Pretending that you're not around
Inspired by Sperwer, dedicated to Kang Man-kil, but with profound apologies to Buck Ram for his Great Pretender...

And no, I'm not making light of Korea's unfortunate division, but merely of Dr. Kang's odd expression on how this division came about.

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13 Comments:

At 8:28 PM, Blogger Sperwer said...

Thanks for the nod, and nice job with the doggerel. I also enjoyed being reminded of Ram's Great Pretender. When I coined the Great Pretender label for Roh, though, it was a take-off on Lincoln as the Great Liberator and, in particular, Roh's pathetic self-identification with Lincoln, about whom he wrote a book.

 
At 8:41 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I nearly posted the Wikipedia image of President Roh but figured that I was pushing the envelope enough since I post under my own name and have a very tenuous career here in Korea anyway.

If only tenuous were a little bit closer to tenure...

You know, back when Roh was campaigning for President, we were actually for him, but I've been so disappointed. I expected some 'resistance' to America, which is inevitable as the country democratizes, but I figured that the Sunshine Policy would be pursued as a "tough love" policy, given Roh's human rights background.'

Alas, that wasn't to be...

One of my colleagues -- a full professor whose father was a Korean diplomat in England, among other posts -- cannot stand Roh. She hates his policies and thinks that he looks like a Smurf.

I pointed out that he's not exactly blue, but she said, "He will be when he loses the next election."

We'll see...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:48 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

P.S. I kept this:

"I'm wearing my heart like a crown"

But I considered:

"I'm wearing my han like a crown"

It's a bit obscure, but it captures a certain mindset perfectly.

What do you think?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:43 AM, Blogger Sperwer said...

I think it should be "I wear my han like a clown."

I had been very wary of Roh from the beginning of his candidacy because of his anti-Americanism and hyper ethno-nationalism. He and the Roh-Nothings are making all the same sorts of mistakes in int'l relations that got Korea into trouble in the late 19th century - which is especially ironic, since this time out there's almost zero possibility that the US would just leave them to their fate a la a Taft-Katsura Memorandum for reasons of its own. Now, however, that is precisely the result that they are driving. Otherwise, I've thought some of their initiatives have been good, notably the effort to downgrade the Duchy of Seoul and do something to jump-start balanced development by moving the capital out. It's too bad that didn't work out as planned -- which highlights a couple another characteristic of The Great Pretender: his willingess to take enormously risky and bold political gambles (another e.g., is his impeachment which I believe he delberately goaded the conservatives in legislating) and his ineptitude in putting together the all pieces that would make such moves successful.

 
At 9:12 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Maybe we should have a contest for best parody of "The Great Pretender" aimed at Roh.

As regards the Taft-Katsura Memorandum, I've heard a number of educated Koreans dredge that up as support for their view that the U.S. is untrustworthy. I would have thought that the more than 50-year alliance since the Korean War would have settled the issue, but even if it hasn't, then those Koreans who hold such negative opinions about the U.S. ought to ask themselves just which neighboring countries they consider to be their friends.

They're likely to suggest the elder brother, China, which gets a Confucian bow, but if so, they must be having occasional second thoughts when they see it claiming Goguryeo (and implicitly, the northern half of the peninsula).

The 'progressives' in Korea want the U.S. out, but whom do they want in?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:39 PM, Blogger Sperwer said...

Taft-Katsura is at least a plausible talking point. What I find galling is the Korean palaver about the "General Sherman" incident. This was a ship admittedly of US registry but owned and operated by Europeans with a mongrel crew, but its foray is treated even by some "serious" Korean scholars as evidence of official US aggression against Korea.

BTW, in acknowledging that T-K is a talking point, I don't mean to concede anything. The US had no legal treaty obligations to Korea at the time, nor, I would argue, any moral imperative to assist Korea in fending off the Japanese - particularly given Korea's decades-long and rather feckless game of trying to play hard to get in order to stimulate a competition among would-be "imperialists" to act as its protector. Moreover, the US simply wasn't in a position and had precious little reason to actually do anything for a country with whom it had little contact and little in common, that was 12,000 miles away across a big ocean and whose near neighbor and would-be patron, Japan, was already a world-class military power - particularly when it's own pathetic military forces already were over-strained by the unfortunate responsibilities it had acquired in the Philippines as a by-product of getting Spain out of the Caribbean.

 
At 6:22 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

As an aside -- just in case this blog entry ever becomes an issue -- my parody wasn't centrally against Roh, or even against Dr. Kang Man-gil, whom I respect as a historian (while disagreeing in significant ways with his interpretations), but was directed against the attitude, which I sensed in Kang's manner of expression, that the U.S. "hindered" Korean unification.

In a strictly analytical sense, the U.S. did 'hinder' this, but by virtue of preserving a better future for South Korea.

Okay, that's now stated. On to other things...

In principle, I agree that Taft-Katsura is a legitimate talking point, but I've found among many Koreans an unwillingness to discuss such things flexibly. I haven't yet found the key to unlocking the Korean mindset. Even with my wife (the beautiful and brilliant Sun-Ae who also reads my blog), I sometimes find impenetrable walls to discussion.

I recall that once as my wife and I were visiting a Buddhist temple, we read that most Buddhist temples are in isolated areas in the mountains. My wife stated that this was because Buddhists consider mountains to be sacred and more conducive to meditation.

I thought about this and said, "But prior to the Chosun era, Buddhism was the principal religion of Korea, and Buddhist monks were advisors to the government. There must have been a lot of temples in the cities. Since the Chosun period was characterized by Confucianism, perhaps the Confucians had the temples destroyed, and only the mountain temples survived."

My wife grew annoyed at me for such a suggestion and didn't want to discuss the matter futher.

Later, some time later, we read that my speculation was exactly what had happened.

With Americans, there would have been an open discussion, but with Koreans, there rarely is.

I've said many times, but I'll say it again, this country lacks a culture of discussion.

And it sorely needs one...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:50 PM, Blogger Sperwer said...

Roger that last!

Much as she often cringes at them, my wife generally puts up with and acquiesces to my observations about Korea: (i) because, as she exclaims from time to time, I know so much more about it than she does, and (2) as an ancestor of Jeong Mong Ju, the last Goryoo king's last chief minister, who was murdered by Yi Seong-Gye's son Yi Bang-weon(later King Taejong, father of Sejong) in the rolling coup d'etat that brought ideological Neo-Confucianism to power, she's predisposed to entertain my strictures against the latter.

I also wouldn't concede that the US "hindered" unification since doing so concedes the legitimacy of a perspective that I don't accept and that even in a literal sense suggests that the US actively connived against it - in this case by assisting one group of Koreans to resist a forced unfication by another that first initiated (redundancy intended for empahsis) a violent effort to do so with the very active connivance of another outside power - all of which doesn't add up to purposely hindering unification and overlooks all the (admittedly sometimes misbegotten and otherwise unsuccessful efforts the US undertook to faciliate unifcation prior to outbreak of the Korean War. (If there is any basis for saying that the US hindered unification (although I don't think the argument holds up), it's in connection with its efforts to keep Syngman Rhee on a leash both before the Nork/Russian invasion and at the time of the Armistice.)

 
At 9:11 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Sperwer, I had to read this several times before I understood it:

"as an ancestor of Jeong Mong Ju, the last Goryoo king's last chief minister"

Did you mean "descendant"? Am I to understand that your wife is the descendant of Jeong Mong Ju?

It's fascinating to me just how much significance Koreans put in their line of descent. One of my colleagues has been translating poems by an illustrious ancestor of her husband, who was some sort of minister to the last Koryo king.

Apparently, the man is famous -- and with an even more famous father -- so the family funds an archive and pays scholars to do research on these old ministers of state in Koryo.

The illustrious names have slipped my memory, for now, but I'll be seeing more of them since I've been asked to correct the English translation, so I don't doubt that I'll learn them well.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:04 PM, Blogger Sperwer said...

yeah, I meant descendant; I started off with one thought, ended up somewhere else and forgot to go back and make adjustments in the directions.

My wife doesn't take it very seriously at all, but some of the family do.

FWIW, Leo XIII was a my great, great grandmother's uncle, but as a "lapsed" catholic who isn't even Christian anymore, I don't put a lot of stock in that either :))

 
At 4:05 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Sperwer, I bow to your sanctity.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:48 PM, Blogger Sperwer said...

Yeah, well you better hold your nose; when I start carrying on in that mode it gets pretty stinky. ;))

 
At 2:38 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

So long as you're not too sanctimonious, I'll survive.

Somehow ... this reminds me of that janitor who claimed that the cleaner that he used "not only cleans, it sanctifies!"

I ought to tell that story in this blog sometime -- and the story of the janitor whose father "died of pneumonia twice."

Ah, the Mr. Malaprops of the world, they make life more interesting...

Jeffery Hodges

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