Following up on Owen’s very useful posts, I’ll write a few words on finding Korean journals online. I have used the RISS site a lot and they do have an option for foreigner users now, but there is a snag if you want to download articles for which you have to pay. This used to be possible by using a credit card and the prices were reasonable, between 2ooo to 4000 won per article, depending on length, journal and newness. About a year ago, however, when the site became more friendly towards those unfortunate souls without a Korean ID number, it also became impossible to pay with foreign credit cards. I don’t think the site itself has any control over this, because they use a widely used plug-in from a large electronic banking company. Anyway, it has become impossible to charge non-Korean credit cards. The last time I tried was about four months ago. As for obtaining articles for which you should pay, the best way is still to ask someone on a Korean campus. As most Korean universities are subscribers of journal article databases, anybody with a campus ID address can download any article they require. This is probably also the best way to get hold of unpublished MA and Ph.D. theses, although for those you need to have an ID address of the university where the particular thesis you want was submitted. Complicated, but often worth it.
Before diving into some descriptions of the Korean mind and personality in the readings considered in this series of postings (Part I begins here), let me make a few observations.
In the postings I have written so far, the various generalizations made about Koreans tend to fall under two categories: 1) unqualified claims about the inherent features of Korean people and culture 2) Generalizations about Koreans which are more explicitly placed in the context of a narrative of contingent backwardness, oppression, and a “not yet caught up” state of barbarity.
A surprisingly large number of descriptions that I have discussed so far involve claims about the inherent character of the Korean people, with few or no qualifications. Koreans are said to have some feature by virtue of their distinctive culture, or, for lack of any explanation, as some kind of other racial or ethnically inherent characteristic.
To be fair, the most derogatory and frustrating claims about Koreans are often made in passing and, except when directly justifying Japanese intervention in Korea, do not form a central argument in that segment of the narrative. Thus it may be too much to expect the writer to carefully make qualifications for every claim in such writings, especially when they have emphasized the “future potential” for the development of Koreans elsewhere.
This does not mean, however, that the second category, which emphasizes that the various vices and deficiencies of the Koreans are contingent features of a barbaric and as-yet unenlightened people are any less objectionable. As more than one generation of philosophers and historians have pointed out, there are many problems with a universal progressivism which happily divides the world between barbarity and civilization. It forms the very foundations of imperialism, the justification for countless forms of state aggression, and many claim that civilization has made a mockery of itself in the great and tragic wars of our century.
Let us not get distracted by such issues here, however, despite their central importance in any discussion of imperialism in Korea. For now, it will suffice to note the tension, in many of these writers, between expressions of sympathy or pity for an as-yet uncivilized or oppressed people who have not reached their “potential,” and the more dismissive and bitter claims about an essentially irredeemable Korean race.