Sunday, May 14, 2006

KAIS Conference: What I really said was...

In my talk yesterday for the 50th Anniversary Conference of the Korean Association of International Studies, which was held in Seoul, I summarized passages from an article that Myongsob Kim and I are working on, "The Two Koreas and the Clash of Civilizations in East Asia."

In case anyone's interested -- and because I'm feeling lazy after all the conference activities -- I'm posting a fuller version of a passage that I merely summarized in my talk yesterday:
Although not inevitable, Chinese nationalism will probably grow and could come to play domestically the functional unifying role performed earlier by the now rapidly declining ideology of Communism. The larger concern is that Chinese nationalism could express itself as a type of expansionist imperialism, as suggested by some studies.[1] We do see the Chinese constructing revisionist histories of some of its outlying areas. Chinese historians participating in China's well-funded[2] Northeast Asian Project (Dong Bei Gong Cheng: 東北工程) have for the past several years argued that the Manchurian region of China — once part of the Goguryeo Kingdom and today home to many Koreans — was always part of the Chinese nation.[3] Indeed, the Guangming Ribao, a daily scholarly publication of the Chinese Communist Party, claimed in June 2003 that "Goguryeo is part of China."[4] Consequently, there were several Korean protests in front of the Chinese embassy in 2004,[5] and anger at China has sometimes even brought the two Koreas together in reunified opposition as "[m]any . . . called for . . . [South Korean] government support of the Northern efforts"[6] against China in the North's "bid to put its Goguryeo tomb murals on the U.N. World Heritage List."[7]

Perhaps by laying claim to Goguryeo, China merely intends to ensure that a reunified Korea does not demand a border change that would extend Korean territory to encompass the area where China's two million ethnic Koreans reside. But if China's burgeoning nationalism should turn out to be expansionist, then more would be at stake. In principle, laying claim to historical Goguryeo by the Chinese government poses some problems for the status of North Korea, especially if the North's government should become dysfunctional, for Goguryeo's borders stretched halfway down the Korean peninsula.[8] Thus, the current, divided status of the peninsula puts Chinese statements about Goguryeo into a very problematic context, especially since North Korea is within China's sphere of influence and is dependent upon China for economic support, investment, and trade. If North Korea were to begin tottering politically, a conceivable scenario would involve China sending military support to help shore up the North's government and maintain its 'territorial integrity.' Such a scenario is likely remote, but if Chinese nationalism were to take an expansionist form then China's historical 'legitimacy' to Goguryeo might prove tempting. One can hope that Chinese nationalism will not prove expansionist, but history is replete with shattered hopes.

[1] See Gary Schmitt, "The Real Empire," Weekly Standard, August 27, 2003, for his review of Ross Terrill, The New Chinese Empire: And What It Means for the United States (New York: Basic Books, 2003) as well as a number of
other works on China.
[2] According to an editorial, "Goguryeo Was Not Chinese -- Care to Bet W3 Trillion?" in The Chosun Ilbo, December 6, 2003, China has funded the project with "a five-year budget worth the equivalent of W3 trillion."
[3] See Mark Byington, "The Creation of an Ancient Minority Nationality: Koguryo in Chinese Historiography," Embracing the Other: The Interaction of Korean and Foreign Cultures: Proceedings of the 1st World Congress of Korean Studies, III (Songnam, Republic of Korea: The Academy of Korean Studies, 2002). Byington notes that "Beginning in 1993 . . . a sharply increasing number of articles [by Chinese historians of the People's Republic] clearly refer to Koguryo as a Chinese nationality," and he adds that "Chinese scholars . . . perceive Korean nationalism as a potential threat to . . . [China's] territorial sovereignty."
[4] See again: "Goguryeo Was Not Chinese."
[5] For some online photographs, see Today in Photos, Frontpage, The Chosun Ilbo, January 6, 2004, and "Champions of History," Mainpage, The JoongAng Daily, National, January 6, 2004. More recently, see Austin Ramzy, "Rewriting History: China and the Koreas Feud over the Ancient Kingdom of Koguryo," Time Asia, August 16, 2004.
[6] Kim Tong-hyung, "Culture minister warns against Goguryeo frenzy," The Korea Herald, January 8, 2004, 1b–c. The article cites South Korean Culture Minister Lee Chang-dong as urging Koreans to show restraint in their protests and not to make the issue a political one. The issue, of course, is already political.
[7] Kim Tong-hyung, "North Korea denounces China's claim on Goguryeo," The Korea Herald, December 15, 2003, 9e–f. Interestingly, the article notes that North Korea and China have had a "conflict over the legacy of ancient Manchuria" dating "back to the early 1960s, when the North Korean academia officially declared Gojoseon, Goguryeo and Balhae as part of their national history," spurring China to stop a "joint archaeological research project with North Korea on Manchuria" (9f).
[8] Cf., for example, "HK Textbook Depicts Northen Half of Korea as Chinese Territory," The Chosun Ilbo (August 17, 2004), which provides a troubling image of a page in a Hong Kong middle school textbook showing the northern half of the Korean peninsula as part of China's Wei Dynasty.
So, there it is ... though what I really said was far more succinct.


At 1:40 AM, Blogger seould'out said...

In '92 a number of Koreans began to visit NE China. Many were tourists visiting Baekdu-san, and this brought some economic benefit to the local Korean population. There were also a few missionaries and nationalist adventurers who sought to strengthen the Korean identity of the locals. The vernacular and English-language press carried a few stories on how these particular South Koreans hoped, by bringing economic well being to the local Koreans vis-a-vis the local Chinese, that Korea would be able to better exert some influence in the area, one that was once Korean. The Chinese gov't was quick to voice its displeasure to the Korean gov't (I reckon the Chinese weren't thrilled to see the gambit it uses in Tibet being used against itslef), and the Korean gov't did issue a warning to those involved.

At 3:57 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Seould'out, thanks for the details. I'd heard on the grapevine about these things but hadn't had your details. I only arrived in Korea in 1995 (leaving in 1996 and returning in late 1999), so I missed the uproar over that.

It tends to make the Chinese look reactive rather than nationalistic in their move to claim Goguryeo, and perhaps that was so at the beginning. Things, however, can change, so we have to be prepared for the rise of a powerful Chinese nationalism (which I think will come as China rises in power, especially military power).

You wouldn't happen to have the bibliographical details -- newspapers names, dates, article titles, and authors -- would you?

Thanks for the comment.

Jeffery Hodges

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