우물 안 개구리


Once more, dear friends, into the breach….

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 12:26 am Print

Korea Center PavilionIn my first post here I said that I was going to be teaching a Korean history course for the first time: I lied. Or rather, I was scheduled to teach it, but the course didn’t make its minimum enrollment. However, the time has come to try again.

The last time I did this, I was going to focus it on upper-level undergrads and make it as much about primary sources as possible. The only four books I’d ordered were Korea Old and New: A History (Eckert, Lee, Lew, Robinson, Wagner), The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Korean Poetry, and the two volumes of the new Sources of Korean Tradition from Columbia.1 Ambitious and, apparently, off-putting in the extreme.

I’m torn, really, on the question of whether to teach a “Rice Paddies” style course — all of Korean history in a single semester — or break it up (as I have my China and Japan courses) into pre/post 1700 (and start with the later one, which should draw more students at first). If I teach the whole history, I might well keep the poetry — I do poetry in my China and Japan courses, and the Korean stuff is lively and diverse — but I can’t see using the Sources sets as-is. This time I want to pitch the course much more broadly, and draw in some of the business and language students — Koreans actually make up one of our largest groups of foreign students, and our business department has a long-standing interest in Korea — so that the course really does reach critical mass. So I’m thinking that the heavy dose of Columbia primary materials is probably not a great idea. That said, I prefer to have students read primary materials as much as possible, or ethnographic-style observations, or historical scholarship which evokes a clear and detailed recreation of a moment or era.

I’d love to hear thoughts from our readers about what works and what doesn’t, what’s come out recently that’s good for students, and especially if there are better textbooks at this point.

Update: I just ran across Kenneth Robinson’s Korean History Bibliography, which looks like a great starting place.

  1. Vol. 1: From Early Times Through the Sixteenth Century ; Vol. 2: From the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Centuries []


Electricity, Infrastucture: “Reconstruction”

Filed under: — John P. DiMoia @ 9:02 pm Print

Pacific Bechtel constructs thermal plant in Masan, mid-1950s, USIS image.
This image comes from a USIS publcity shot taken at Masan in the mid-  1950′s, detailing the work of electrical restoration undertaken prior to,  during, and in the aftermath of the Korean War.   A couple of quick  observations:

(1) The man responsible for putting together a pre-war group (with ECA  funding) looking into the problem, Walker L. Cisler, had also helped  restore the electrical grids of various European nations in conjunction  with the Marshall Plan.  With his connections to Eisenhower, Cisler would pop up again in the mid-1950′s (Summer 1956), this time trying to market the Fermi breeder reactor to South Korea.

(2) The electrical capacity of the South after the “cut-off” of May 1948 by the North was extremely low, as the mid-1950′s restoration work undertaken by Pacific Bechtel allegedly doubled the ROK’s capacity.

(3) The persistence of older models would continue in state  planning well into the late 1950′s, with both hydroelectric (along the Han) and tidal plants investigated as possible options, before settling on primarily thermal plants in the mid and late 1950′s.

All of this goes towards a simple point, that the disentanglement of infrastructure between North and South, a complicated issue in the 1945-1948 period, would continue into the post-war era.  The South would not resolve its electricity shortages until the 1970′s with the availability of commerical electricity from the first nuclear plant.

I would love to know more about the South in terms of the necessary engineering expertise to run this kind of plant (above), and as for the northern case, Aaron S. Moore (ASU) is currently working on Japanese engineers in Manchuria and the North, looking at how they re-invent themselves as development specialists after 1945.

I recongize that none of this pertains directly to the previous two posts, but I think the passing of Kim DaeJung and the North’s presence at his funeral fits with this brief look at the electrical issue, thereby anticipating the nuclear issue.


Japanese Publications on Colonial Bureaucracy

Filed under: — Sayaka Chatani @ 11:13 pm Print

I would like to introduce two recent publications on colonial bureaucrats here. One is Okamoto Makiko, Shokuminchi kanryô no seijishi (岡本真希子『植民地官僚の政治史:朝鮮・台湾総督府と帝国日本』, Politics of Colonial Bureaucrats)Sangensha, 2008, and the other is Ôtomo Masako, Teikoku Nihon no shokuminchi shakai jigyô seisaku kenkyû (大友昌子『帝国日本の植民地社会事業政策研究』, A Study of Colonial Social Work Policies of Imperial Japan)Minerva, 2007. Their works are both impressive in the scope of research and their ability to compare the nitty-gritty of colonial rule in Taiwan and Korea. From research of Sheldon Garon and many others, Japan’s historians all learned that government officials, especially those in the famous Home Ministry played a huge role in promoting social reforms and modernization and that their power permeated many aspects of people’s everyday life. There is no reason to believe that it was very different in the colonies. Despite the reasonable guess about the role of colonial bureaucrats, we did not have a good grasp of basic facts about them until these publications came out.

There is so much information in Okamoto’s thick volume and I would highly recommend that anyone who studies anything about colonial Korea/Taiwan use this as a reference book. Okamoto did an excellent job in departing from the concentration, in previous scholarship, on personal networks (“who knew whom” etc.) and focused instead on the system, laws, and principles that regulated the flows of people. I learned so much about the differences of status between the Government-General in Korea and the Government-General in Taiwan — e.g. By 1919 when the Cultural Policy was implemented, there was a wide consensus among Japanese politicians on the fact that the GGK had already established a semi-independent status unlike the GGT and the other colonies. The GGK and the GGT also diverged in the recruitment of local populations into the colonial bureaucracy. While the number of Korean officials increased, that of Taiwanese officials remained extremely low. Okamoto also elaborates upon how the GGK operated (or at least tried to operate) independently from the Japanese home government in many different ways. Her elaboration on how the quickly changing political climates in Japan influenced the top personnel in the GGK and GGT, changing the relationships between the Japanese government and colonial bureaucracy, is also impressive.  We still have a long way to go in dissecting the work of colonial bureaucracies. But with her work, we can finally refer to the Government-General with more pluristic terms — as a group of people, rather than one monster-like control machine.

Ôtomo’s work on colonial social work probably enjoys a little more limited audience. Her empiricism is striking and it is quite refreshing to read details of social welfare laws and programs without once mentioning Foucauldian governmentality. Her main argument is to show how the colonial officials tried to regulate modernization in the colonies (「抑制された近代化」). That itself is not eye-opening but what interested me was how similar the social work techniques were between the colonies and Japan — the use of “方面委員 (district commissioner)” programs, the emphasis on moral suasion (教化)and local improvement, for example. Ôtomo tries to define “modernization” in a scientifically measurable way (the “levels” of labor policy, poverty, economic security etc), but her work more interestingly demonstrates how colonial officials defined “the direction” of modernization.


Reflecting on “Giants”

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 7:31 am Print

Todd Crowell reports that Kim Dae Jung is seriously ill and reflects on his life and career as a “Giant of [Asian] Democracy”

For Kim achieving the presidency was the culmination of a lifelong struggle. After two unsuccessful attempts, he won his first seat in parliament in 1961, only to find the National Assembly building surrounded by tanks in the military coup that brought Park Chung Hee to power three days later. In 1971 he made the first of four bids for president — running against Park himself.

He engendered Park’s undying enmity by winning as much as 46 per cent of the vote. In that first presidential campaign he was hit by a car, perhaps deliberately, and suffered an injury that made him walk with a shuffle for the rest of his life.

In 1973 he was abducted by agents of the Korea Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) in Japan and brought back to South Korea forcefully. His political rights were restored shortly only after Park’s assassination in 1979. A year later Kim was accused of treason after students and residents of the southwestern city of Kwangju rose in a bloody insurrection.

In all, Kim spent five years in prison, seven under house arrests and two years in exile in the United States. Returning to Korea in 1985, he and his supporters had Aquino’s assassination two years previously strongly in mind. A couple of U.S. congressmen accompanied him to discourage any “copy cat” killings.

In the 1997 election Kim Dae Jung proved he was not only courageous but could also be shrewd, practical, even ruthless when he had to be. His comeback, which marked the first peaceful transfer of power from a ruling to an opposition party in South Korea’s history, was a masterpiece of political manipulation.

He made an alliance of convenience with the conservative Kim Jong Pil, the very man who had masterminded the coup that prevented him from taking his assembly seat more than 30 years before and the founder of the KCIA, the agency that had tried to kidnap him.

He leaked allegations that the sons of his main opponent, Lee Hoi Chang, had avoided military service. These revelations, damaging enough to Lee, encouraged the ambitious mayor of Inchon, Rhee In Je, to enter the race, thus splitting the conservative vote and allowing Kim to squeak into power with about 40 percent of the vote.

As president, Kim Dae Jung showed toughness in getting his way with the legislature and Korea’s large business conglomerates, but he also steadfastly held to his vision of reconciliation with North Korea, known as his “sunshine policy.” He was rewarded with the Nobel Prize for Peace for his summit meeting with Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang in 2000.

Some of the luster went off of that achievement when it was later revealed that he had arranged with several large business conglomerates to bribe the North with about $500 million in cash to hold the meeting in Pyongyang. There was personal sadness two when his two sons were accused of corruption.

These days the sun does not shine so brightly on the sunshine policy. A cold wind continues to blow from Pyongyang. The election of conservative Lee Myung Bak as president (another peaceful change of power) reflected growing disillusion in South Korea. Still elements, such as the Kaesong industrial zone across the Demilitarized Zone, remain in place.

I would emphasize something of that last paragraph: the second peaceful transition of power marks a significant step in the creation of a procedurally sound democracy and should be considered a triumph rather than merely a defeat. And the short-term failure of the “Sunshine policy” — and the need to bribe the North Koreans — I’ve always felt that more bribery, rather than less (see also) would produce better results, and I think Kim Dae Jung’s reputation will continue to rise rather than fall as things progress.

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