Thursday, September 28, 2006

Korean Unification 'Hindered'

Korean Peninsula
Divided Along the Demarcation Line
About the 38th Parallel
(Image from Wikipedia)

For the past three or four months, I've been receiving free copies of the Korea Policy Review, perhaps because of an article touching on Korean unification that I co-authored with Kim Myongsob about a year ago for Issues & Studies, or possibly because I was a co-presenter earlier this year with him on a similar theme at the KAIS conference Global East Asia and the Future of the Two Koreas (recently published in the Korea Observer).

I haven't had much time to peruse my copies of Korea Policy Review, but from a glancing familiarity, I'd say that it looks to be a semi-official venue for presenting the Korean government's policies in a favorable light.

The first article in this month's issue thus caught my eye this morning as I was using a free moment to look the journal over: "The Meaning of National Liberation and Peace on Korean Peninsula" (pdf).

It initially caught my attention because its author, Kang Man-kil, is Chairman of the Presidential Committee for the Inspection of Collaborators for Japanese Imperialism. That makes him somewhat of an authoritative spokesperson for the current, Roh administration.

But what really caught my attention was this statement on page 8:
In the early stage of the Korean War, the Korean Peninsula was nearly unified by the North Korea-China-Russia alliance. But the U.N. forces, led by the United States, which knew that the security of Japan could not be secured within U.S. domain, took part in the war and hindered the unification.
The U.S. hindered the unification? That's certainly an interesting way of putting it. Now, granted, the article goes on to note that after the Incheon landing, unification was nearly achieved from the southern part of the peninsula, so this manner that Dr. Kang has of expressing himself might be an attempt at a neutral, 'scholarly' description...

However, in an article by the Chairman of the Presidential Committee for the Inspection of Collaborators for Japanese Imperialism, I have to read with a bit of skepticism any putative social-scientific neutrality in Dr. Kang's subordinate clause about the United States knowing "that the security of Japan could not be secured within U.S. domain" and therefore hindering Korean unification for that reason.

Or am I misreading things?

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At 11:58 AM, Blogger Conservative in Virginia said...

Could it be a translation problem? I find "the Korean Peninsula was nearly unified by the North Korea-China-Russia alliance" to be odd. Unified? Does he mean conquered?

At 12:12 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

The possibility of a translation problem always exists. Korean articles are often badly translated because Koreans have a tendency to do things at the last minute, which doesn't leave much time for such things as proper translation and careful proofreading.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:35 PM, Blogger Sperwer said...

I share your unease, but note that Kang goes on in the same passage to say that the subsequent Chinese intervention in the Korean War also hindered unification by the South Korea-U.S.-Japan alliance. So I think there's something to be said for your speculation that he's trying to present a balanced perspective. Moroever, I don't think this is from any scholarly or lawyerly modesty, but because his overarching point seems to concern the infeasibility of any imposed unification - at least any coerced unification that involves parties other than North or South Korea. This also resonates with the theme sounded in the address of the Great Pretender also reprinted in this issue of Korea Policy Review about the need for Korea to maintain vigilance today against the sort of hegemonism that resulted in the loss of its sovereignity in the late 19th/early 20th - the assumption on which that advice is based is a howler, but that's another topic.

At 4:16 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Ah, the Great Pretender, how that brings back memories...

Oh yes, I'm the great pretender
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...

Anyway, Sperwer, I think that you've put your finger on what's bothering me, namely, the assumption of (at best) equivalence between the two sides. Both were trying to 'unify' Korea, and both were 'hindered.'

(At worst, the writer is implying that the U.S. really treats only Japan's security as important.)

I can even understand Korea wanting to play the role of balancer between the two sides since it gives Koreans the sense of having a degree of independent control, albeit limited, over their own destiny.

But that position depends upon the U.S. maintaining a strong presence in this area and on China not growing too powerful or too nationalistic.

If I were responsible for Korea's foreign policy, I'd choose to align myself with a powerful, distant ally ... like the United States ... since such an ally is useful but uninterested in appropriating Korean territory.

I wouldn't want to end up like Goguryeo.

Jeffery Hodges

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