Saturday, June 1, 2013

Korean Homework: Part Three

In "The Koreans" author Michael Breen contends that the historical record is both longer and better chronicled than the European sagas.  Koreans have a tradition, language, and identity of their own which has been preserved due to geographic isolation, through warfare, strategic subservience, and sullen resistance.  He breaks his historic narrative down into four broad periods: 1) prehistory until the arrival of the Confucian state in 1392, 2) the 500 year experience under China's "thumb", 3) the 20th century colonial rule under Japan, and 4) the present era of division.

"Ancient Tribes"
➡Neolithic families migrated into the Korean Peninsula between 5500 BC and 2000 BC
➡Circa 8th or 9th centuries BC, Bronze Age clans made their appearance living side-by-side with earlier inhabitants but being ethnically different.
▶No ethnic mixing since this time on any significant scale.
▶Original Koreans were ethnically and liguistically different from the Chinese tribes.
➡The standard account of Korean origns is contained in myth of the first great ruler, Tan-gun, which is a story used significantly by both current governments.  Tan-gun is the son of Hwanung, a celestial being, and a female human.  He made the walled city of Pyongyang the capital of Choson, original name for Korea, and ruled for 1500 years.
➡By 4th century BC the tribes had narrowed into three kingdoms: Koguryo, Paekche, and Shilla.  All three strengthened themselves through Confusion administrative structures as they evolved from loose tribal arrangements into centralized monarchies which each adopted Buddhism.
➡By the 600s AD, Korea was more advanced than any European country, save the Ottoman Empire.
➡During peacetime, Tang Dynasty China had tremendous cultural influence over Korea, especially since each Buddhism and Cnfucianism came from China.
➡The 13th and 14th centuries saw attempts at invasion from the Monguls, the Red Turbans (Chinese bandits), and Japanese pirates.
➡In 1388, General Yi disagreed with a royal decree to attack China.  The king and his family were sent into exile and General Yi assumed political and economic control.  By 1392, General Yi had declared himself king and brought an end to the 456 year reigning Koryo dynasty.

"China's Little Brother"
➡General Yi (to be renamed King Taejo) and his advisors reformed society and bureaucracy under the notion of the "Mandate of Heaven" similar to the "divine right of kings" in Europe.
➡The capital city was moved to Hanyang and renamed Seoul.
➡Intellectuals behind the new regime embraced a philosophical version of Neo-Confucianism, a doctrine which emphasized the relationship between ruler and subject.  Its intolerance of desent led the regime to attempt to destroy the Buddhist establishment, although Buddhism was still privately practiced by many.
➡New society had rigid caste system with five classes:
yangban: scholarly upper class of civilian and military leaders (about 10% of population)
chung-in: middle class with technical professions like doctors, translators, and clerks.
sang-in or yangmin: commoner class (aka "good people") with farmers, fishermen, merchants, and craftsmen (over half of population)
chonmin: low born or inferior people of hereditary professions like grave-diggers, tanners, and butchers, also included shamans, exorcists, entertainers, and female kisaeng (Korean geishas)
▶slaves (about 1/3 of population)
➡Education: young boys were educated int the five relationships of Confucius: a son's filial piety to his father, a subjects's loyalty to his rule, a woman's obedience to her husband, deference of the young to their elders, and honesty between friends.
➡New political order included offices to monitor and prevent the arbitrary decisions and abuse of power by the king or other officials.
➡Historic record kept by official historians who took notes of all official transactions and even royal conversations.
➡After 200 years of near peace, Ming Chinese assist in repealing a Japanese invasion of Korea.  The already establish Chinese influence on culture (especially through Confuscianism) become stronger.  In 1627, Jurchen tribes from Manchuria to conquer the Ming and then invade Choson (Korea); the surrender terms made Choson a tributary state or "little brother" to the new Ching dynasty.
➡New cultural exchanges due to Ching oversight brought Christianity (via Catholicism) into Choson.  Due to papal opposition to Korean Catholics continuing to use Confuscian ceremonies, especially for burial, vicious opposition to Christianity occurred in 1801.  Several beheadings of Korean priests.
➡In early 19th century, western nations sout contact with Korea.  While China and Japan had already opened their doors to the West, strong superiority ideas linked to Confuscianiam and the Chinese "control" of Korean foreign policy kept the West out (for now).
➡1873 King Kojong  begins a quest to build relationships with outsiders, including the West.
▶First modern era treaty is made with Japan; acknowledging its own sovereignty, Korea undermines Chinese claims
▶1882, a treaty is signed with the United States; 1883 with Britain...followed by Germany, Italy, Russia, France, and Austria-Hungary
▶First Protestant missionaries begin to arrive; all of this openness alarms Neo-Confuscian intellectuals...foreign troops from China and Japan help to squash revolt and each retained troops on Korean soil.
➡1894 China and Japan go to war with Japan as the victor.  As part of peace, China relinquishes all claim to Korea.  Japanese reforms included use of Korean script and teaching of Korean history as ways to truly mark the separation from China.

"The Broken People"
➡Expansion of Russian interest into each Manchuria and Korea (via secret negotions with the Korean queen) would spill over into the Russo-Japanese War.
▶Theodore Roosevelt's Nobel Peace Prize winning mediation gained a Russian acknowledgement of Japanese influence in Korea
▶1905 Japan declared Korea a protectorate; King Kojong pressured  abdicate in 1907 and by 1910 his son Sunjong formally approved the annexation
➡The Japanese masters approached the absorbing of Korea with fundamentalist zeal and intruded deeply into every aspect of Korean society, with the modern advantages of the police state.  The goal was to destroy Korean culture and identity, and absorb the people into a greater Japan but as second class citizens.
▶Seoul renamed Keijo; Japanese became official language and, eventually, Korean w forbidden; forced to abandon names and adopt Japanese identities; Korean buildings, including much of Kyongbok Palace, were destroyed and Japanese buildings, including Shinto shrines, were built in their place.
➡Educational endeavors sought to show Korean ways of thinking, identity, and history as both backward and inferior.  It is difficult to overemphasize the depth of this intellectual assault on the Korean mind.
➡While Japan limited the influence of Protestant missionaries in Japan they were highly welcome in Korea.  There was a high rate of conversion to Christianity due in part to 1) missionaries reaching out to the lower ends of society with love and compassion which had been common before, 2) faith healing beliefs, 3) modern medicine and education and, perhaps the most important, 4) since Confucianism had failed them, Koreans latched on to this western based religion as a subtle way of opposing the Shintoism of the Japanese.  On the eve of World War II, churches were the only institutions not subordinate to the Japanese; as such Korean Christians would emerge at the forefront of the nationalist movement.
➡Woodrow Wilson's post World War I idea of self-determination sparked an independence movement (planned within some of the churches) in 1919 that was brutally suppressed by the Japanese. The failure of this movement radicalized other nationalists whose attention began to be drawn in to the proletariat/Communist revolution in Russia.
➡The 1931 invasion of Manchuria (renamed Manchukuo) by the Japanese led to a more intense effort to assimilate the Koreans.  Mass mobilizations and forced movements of Koreans into Manchukuo.
➡A major blow to the Korean psyche was the World War II era use of "comfort women" in military brothels which institutionalized a Japanese military belief that a solider had the right to rape a woman because sexual release would enhance his performance in combat.

"Two Ways to be Korean"

➡The conclusion of World War II included an agreement between the Americans and the Soviets to divide post-war Korea in a similar way that post-war Germany had been.  As with Germany, the occupying foreign governments could not agree upon a reunification plan involving an "ideal" new government and, thus, a division was established.  This division is this back drop to the resulting 1950s war and the (apparently) permanent divide into North and South.

No comments:

Post a Comment