우물 안 개구리

5/9/2006

The Marijuana Crisis of ’75

Filed under: — Owen @ 1:37 pm Print

I’ve been dipping into an excellent book on the history of Korean popular music now and then (이혜숙 & 손우석 – 한국대중음악사) and came across a fascinating passage on Park Chung-hee’s use of drugs scares to suppress the emerging youth culture that he found threatening. Here’s an excerpt (my rough translation):

After the defeat in Vietnam Park Chung-hee set about strengthening his dictatorship by stressing an external policy of self-reliant defence and an internal policy of ‘defending the system’. To that end, the possession of nuclear weapons, national harmony and traditional culture were all emphasised. However, the imitation of the Western youth culture of jeans, long hair, [folk] guitar and pop songs was widespread. At a time when it was necessary to defend the system and achieve national unity and a self-reliant defence it was impossible to remain indifferent to this degenerate Western youth culture. It was necessary to tighten social discipline. In the view of Park Chung-hee the base and degenerate culture of the West appeared in two forms: one was the folk guitar singers and the other was the entertainers who had originated in the [clubs frequented by] US Eighth Army soldiers. A crackdown on these people was urgent. He began by banninglarge numbers of pop songs and kayo and then moved on to a crackdown on marijuana. On December 2nd, 1975 a huge number of entertainers were banned completely from working in the so-called ‘marijuana crisis’ (대마초 파동). [한국대중음악사, p86]

The book goes on to quote Park Chung-hee himself on the marijuana problem:

“At this grave juncture that will settle the matter of life and death in our one-on-one [struggle] with the Communist Party, the smoking of marijuana by the youth is something that will bring ruin to our country… You must pull up by the roots the problem of marijuana smoking and similar activities by applying the maximum penalties currently available under the law.” [Chosun Ilbo, 3 February 1976, quoted in above book, p88]

There was a little bit more to this story, because the president’s own son, Park Ji-man, had smoked marijuana and been influenced by hippy culture. As the authors of the book point out, this was possibly further motivation for Park’s crackdown.

Of course there exist semi-conspiracy theories as to why marijuana is prohibited throughout the world and how it came to be prohibited in the first place. We can also ask the broader questions about why states would want to outlaw commodities for which there is a clear market and which could be so lucrative to both capitalist entrepreneurs and government tax revenues (David Harvey has some good passages on the limits of commoditisation in his recent book on neoliberalism).

This is probably not the place to get into all the historical reasons why this particular commodity happens to be prohibited. But the history of controlled drugs all over the world shows that social control is often one aspect in the calculations of governments enforcing prohibition laws. Korea was and continues to be a good example of this. The fact that illegal drug use is very low in Korea by world standards did not and does not stop the authorities from stamping down on the merest hint of usage, particularly when it comes to people in the public eye. As I’ve mentioned in a post before at my blog, there continue to be periodic scandals with prominent Korean entertainers being busted and sometimes having their careers ruined. And this is not confined to the world of pop singers or TV hosts – one of Korea’s most talented traditional musicians, percussionist and dancer Yi Kwangsu, has been in and out of jail a number of times as a result of his fondness for the odd reefer.

Of course, as a fibre crop hemp was crucial to the economies of both Korea and Japan for hundreds of years. But that’s another story…

3/13/2006

Monumental Repatriation

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 6:01 pm Print

A Korean stone memorial commemorating victories over Hideyoshi’s armies has been returned [via]

After decades of negotiations, the Bukgwan Victory Monument was driven through the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas on its circuitous journey back home. Because communist North Korea does not have formal relations with Japan, South Korean diplomats secured its return and then turned it over to their estranged neighbor.

It marks the first time that Seoul has formally intervened on Pyongyang’s behalf to recover a cultural relic, and could set a precedent for the future.

It’s good to see a cultural icon returned, but it raises all kinds of interesting and troubling issues. First, of course, is the location of the piece

Although the stone tablet was less valuable than some other artworks, its presence at a shrine that honors the souls of 2.5 million military dead including those convicted of war crimes was particularly rankling to Korean activists. South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun took up the cause during a meeting last year with Japanese President Junichiro Koizumi.

“There were a lot of psychological factors with this monument. It was about an embarrassing and humiliating defeat for the Japanese, and I think they wanted it hidden away,” said Kang Kyung-hwan, director of the Cultural Heritage Administration’s international division.

Toshiaki Nambu, the head of Yasukuni Shrine, told the media that his board never contested the return of the monument. “The monument is not ours. We are only keeping it temporarily and planning to return it,” Nambu was quoted as saying

Which has to qualify as one of the most bald-faced lies ever uttered, given that Koreans have been trying to arrange repatriation for 27 years. This is not the end, though,

This is only the starting point for a national movement to recover all that they stole from us,” said Choi Seo-myeon, the scholar, now 76, who found the pilfered monument at Yasukuni after a lengthy search.Choi and his fellow Korean scholars say the Japanese were as bad as the Nazis in Europe: Imperial forces plundered treasures during an occupation that ended only with Tokyo’s surrender to the Allies in 1945.

The items range from the exquisite — celadon vases, bronze Buddhas, gold jewelry — to the macabre. Among the latter are as many as 100,000 noses and ears that Japanese samurai sliced off Koreans as trophies during a brutal 7-year war in the late 16th century. The body parts were buried in a mound in Kyoto.

When Japan and South Korea normalized diplomatic relations in 1965, the Japanese returned more than 1,300 items. About 1,700 more have come home through private negotiations. Korean collectors have bought back some pieces on the open market, and some Japanese citizens have donated pieces. But Koreans say it is only a fraction of what remains missing.

One of the interesting questions at this point has to be whether there might be distinction, on repatriation, between items taken by governments (and their agents) by force or by seizure laws later deemed illegitimate versus those held in private hands and acquired through purchase, even under adverse economic conditions. If the latter distinction isn’t made — and the legal situation now is considerably less friendly to the export or purchase of culturally significant achaeological finds — then there will have to be a massive global repatriation out of Western museums. I’m thinking, for example, of the Museum of Fine Art, Boston, which has some astounding collections based in no small part on purchases made in the 19th century, when Japan was at an extreme economic disadvantage to the West.

[Crossposted to Frog In A Well: Japan]

1/21/2006

Thoughts on Yusin

Filed under: — jiyulkim @ 3:42 am Print

Readers here might be interested in giving thoughts about a query and my comment regarding Yusin on the Korean Studies Discussion List by Dr. Alon Levkowitz.

His query: I would like to consult the group about a word – Yushin (Yusin). Was the term Yushin for the yushin constitution under Park’s regime was chosen for a specific goal. Does the word, without the problematic applications of the constitution by Park, means positive or negative?

Other comments:

Don Baker: I’m surprized that no one else on this list pointed out this time around that Park Chung-hee may have borrowed the word “Yusin” from the Japanese. The same two Chinese characters were used to characterize the “restoration” of imperial rule in Japan in 1868. Gari Ledyard pointed out in a message to this list in 2000 that Park may not necessarily have been imitating the Japanese, since those two characters have long been used in China in the positive sense of revitalizing reforms. However, given Park’s experience in the Japanese military, I’d be surprized if he were ignorant of that relatively recent Japanese use of that term. I suspect he used that term to show that he wanted to do with Korea what the Meiji oligarchs did with Japan, that is, turn it into a rich and powerful nation.

Ruediger Frank: on a side note, I was always struck by the similarities between the Saemaeul Undong (New Village Movement), evolving around the same time as the Yushin Constitution, and Mao’s Cultural Revolution. If you read some of Park Chung-hee’s speeches from that time, he stops short of talking about “the most beautiful characters” that could only be written “on a blank sheet of paper”, to paraphrase the Great Helmsman who wanted to erase all traces of old thought to make room for new thinking in the minds of his Chinese subjects. Park, too, emphasizes the alleged “backwardness” of Koreans and their attitudes and calls for a thorough
ideological modernization. Institutionalists such as Clarence E. Ayres would say that he tried to fight ceremonialism and supported technlogical dynamism. On a smaller scale, this is a process that repeats itself quite frequently in Korean politics until present time. The renaming of political parties, for example, is one expression of this continuous desire to “renew” or “revitalize”. The official slogan “Dynamic Korea” fits perfectly into this way of looking at the issue.

Another: I understand the meaning of “Yushin” under the umbrella of the revitalising reforms undertaken during the 70′s decade, meaning an increase of the heavy industry. The word itself does not entail negative, evenmore, it has a positive meaning: renewing, revitalising

Another: General Park Chung-hee introduced Yushin or the “Revitalizing Reform” system, which legitimized the authoritarian-led development. People were fed up with the Yushin system and student demonstrators in 1979 intensified in the latter half of the year with labour and student demonstrations in the Pusan and Masan areas which was later called the “Pu-Ma Uprising.” The Yushin system led to economic instability and unrest, which cumulated in Park’s assassination in October 1979. Park’s assassination led to calls by students and laborers for
the abolition of the Yushin system and direct elections. Such hopes were dashed when at the end of 1979 when General Chun Do-hwan and Roh Tae-Woo seized power from the interim government through a coup d’etat.

My comments:

I base comments on my current dissertation work that posits that South Korea’s response to a profound period of crisis between 1968 and 1972 led to a concerted program of national spiritual and material mobilization that created the modern South Korean and South Korea. One source I have consulted extensively is the diplomatic archives that only recently became available. I also conducted a close study of how this process operated in one local region, Kangwon province.

The term Yusin (I prefer the M-R spelling), as it relates to the Yusin Constitution (YC) (and this is the common understanding among scholars and the average South Korean), must be seen as a specific historical issue rather than in some generic way as suggested by Drs. Baker and Ruediger. It was a specific response to a specific circumstances of national crisis. Other studies have suggested a similar process at work in other nations – a deliberate effort to mobilize the nation’s physical and spiritual resources and restore/revitalize/renovate the nation in the face of profound internal and external crisis. Two quick examples spanning time and space: Lynn Hunt’s work on the French Revolution and Frederick Dickinson’s study of Japan’s response during WW I. The U.S. has gone through this process a number of times in its history, most recently and currently as result of 9/11 (President Bush’s emphasis on the moral dimension of America’s tasks and challenges is very much in synch with history’s examples).

When YC was instituted in 1972 it was done so as a response by Park (PCH) to a profound period of national crises, real and perceived, that began in early 1968. Internally and externally the world order and the desired course of internal development upon which PCH based his long range plans for nation building all seemed to crumble. The symbolic and psychological impact to SK of three incidents in Jan 1968 can be compared to the impact of 9/11 for the U.S.: NK Blue House raid (1/21), seizure of USS Pueblo (1/23), and the Tet Offensive in Vietnam (1/31). Jan 68 was SK’s 9/11.

Internally, ordinary South Koreans seemed to be getting restless, socially and politically, on the laurels of the success of the first Five Year Development Plan (1962-66). In 1967 NK stepped up its campaign to destabilize SK (decision made by Kim Il-sung in late 1966). Nixon’s detente policy and specifically his decision to visit and establish relations with China, coming as it did when SK social-economic-political situation was becoming increasingly troubled, seems to have been the final straw. By the end of 1972 PCH perceived SK’s circumstances as dire: there were domestic troubles a plenty, but the external situation was even more compelling: NK provocations, betrayal of Taiwan by US and Japan, betrayal of Vietnam, rise of NK’s legitimacy (because of China’s stature), and potential betrayal of SK by US (Guam doctrine and troop withdrawal, reduction of aid, etc.).

In the “crumbling” regional situation of 1971/72, the image of a weak Korea dominated by the Great Powers at the end of the 19th century with disastrous results was often evoked. Internal documents show that this was not simply rhetoric, but believed at the highest levels. The establishment of national mobilization movements during this period was thus directly the result of the perceived crises: most importantly the Homeland defense reserve force & system in 1968, and the Saemaul Movement in 1971. Both concepts had been in working for some time but it was Both of these movements must also be seen more importantly as spiritual mobilizations, one that was joined by other moral suasion campaigns.

One dimension of this history that may be of specific interest to Dr. Levkowitz is the role that Israel played, materially but more importantly as a symbol. Much of this thought is based on the recently declassified documents on SK-Israel contacts as well as public rhetoric. Israel resonated deeply for PCH and seemingly for ordinary South Koreans. Both modern states were founded in 1948, both were small and surrounded by powerful threats, and both were poor in natural resources and thus human resources were emphasized. On a different dimension, and one that continues to operate today, is a religious one. The spread of Christianity made the land of Bible significantly meaningful. Some Koreans even imagined a shared heritage liking the Koreans to the Jews of the Exodus. Other nations occupied a similar symbolic position such as Switzerland, but Israel was the most powerful, not only because of this “shared” history and circumstances, but Israel’s stunning victory in the Six-Day War (June 67) made a deep impression on the success of the Israel nation building project. It must be said that Israel also seemed to have looked at SK in a special way. It was one of the first nation to send assistance when the Korean War broke out (a modest amount of medical supplies, but diplomatic documents show that it was never forgotten and had a deep symbolic significance). We must remember that Israel was mounting an international effort to establish ties with nations in competition with the Arab nations. There were embarrassingly few who chose Israel over the oils and markets provided by the infinitely larger Arab community. Despite the resonant symbolism of Israel SK practiced pragmatic diplomacy simply because Israel’s one UN vote was less important than the dozen or more Arab UN votes in the days when the Korea Question came up for annual referendum at the UN, but that’s another story. On a material level I just want point out that the Israeli reserve and the kibbutz system were used as models for SK’s Homeland reserve system and the establishment of “strategic villages” near the DMZ (the strategic village system in Manchuria during the colonial period also probably served as a model although I have not found any direct evidence of that linkage – it is plausible given PCH’s service in Manchuria).

So, to answer Dr. Levkowitz’s first question, yes “Yusin” was chosen for the specific goal of national restoration/renovation/revitalization that was seen, by 1972, as vital for national survival and continued construction. The need to fight and build simultaneously was neatly summarized in a popular slogan of the time that exists in many variations “fight while you build and build while you fight.”

With regard to Dr.Levkowitz’s second question, on the valuation of the term, my opinion is that it is quite ambiguous and divided especially among South Koreans. On the one hand, the searing memory of the mobilization campaigns (spiritual, physical, material) and the oppression and suppression of dissent and democracy created an instant connection between “Yusin” and dictatorship and oppression of the people (minjung). On the other hand, in as much as most South Koreans still say that PCH was the one person most responsible for South Korea’s development and that the Saemaul movement was the most important national project that contributed to development, Yusin may not have such polemical and essentialized negative connotation. There is a certain sense of “well, it was necessary then.”

This brings me to my final point and one of my biggest challenges in the dissertation. The perception of national crisis and that the measures (mobilization, Yusin) taken were appropriate seem to have been shared by the people. For now I can only suggest circumstantial and indirect evidence for this for now: the “success” of South Korea’s development that can only happen with national effort, the retrospective and relatively positive evaluation of PCH in current polls (it is no accident in these terms that PCH became a powerful symbol of what South Korea had to do in response to the 97 financial crisis), the relative absence of resistance in “ordinary” places like Kangwon province (indeed there seemed to have been wide support, but Kangwon can also be seen as a smaller version of the national crisis because it was the target of most of the NK incursions, it was one of the least developed areas,and it lacked a powerful political patron in Seoul). One emerging discourse in SK is the notion of mass/popular dictatorship, one that has been directly influenced by recent studies on European fascism. The thesis of course,and simplified, is that the authoritarian rulers were able to stay in power because the people allowed it. I think there is a significant measure of truth in this.

An aside on NK: It should also be pointed out that at about the same period, late 60s and early 70s, NK also went through a similar period of perceived national crisis (Mitchell Lerner’s book on the Pueblo Crisis has a succinct treatment of this in a chapter) and responded essentially in identical manner – the need to simultaneously fight and build.

RE: Prof Baker’s comment on Yusin and Meiji ishin, it is precisely because of the above situation that his speculation that he suspects “he [PCH] used that term to show that he wanted to do with Korea what the Meiji oligarchs did with Japan, that is, turn it into a rich and powerful nation.” is I think off the mark. If Prof. Baker’s thought is correct why didn’t PCH evoke the term much earlier in his regime? As far as I know there is not yet any historical evidence of a conscious connection with Meiji ishin. I suspect Prof. Ledyard’s analysis is closer to the mark, the use of a long existing and accepted traditional term and concept.

Jiyul Kim

12/8/2005

Lee hang-bok’s Travel – 무술조천록(戊戌朝天錄)

Filed under: — yuna @ 10:05 am Print

이항복(李恒福 1556~1618)은 조선 중기의 인물로, 군사상, 정치상으로 상당히 활약을 했지만, 오히려 어린 시절의 그를 소재로 한 민담이 더 유명한 인물입니다. 이 자리를 빌어 학술적이라고 하긴 어렵지만 재미있는 이야기를 하나 소개해볼까 합니다.

임진왜란이 거의 끝나갈 즈음인 무술년(1598)에 정응태(丁應泰)의 무고 사건이 있었다. 일전 명나라의 찬획 정응태가 양호(楊鎬)를 탄핵했을 때, 조선은 그를 변호하는 글을 올려 양호를 유임시켰는데, 이 일로 유감을 품은 정응태는 조선을 무함하는 상주를 올렸던 것이다. 조선왕조실록(朝鮮王朝實錄)에 정응태가 올렸다는 상주문의 일부가 남아있다.

“조선에서는 대대로 일본인이 사는 집을 지어놓고, 여러 섬의 왜노(倭奴)를 불러다가 전쟁을 일으켜서 중국을 침범하여, 요하(遼河)의 동쪽을 빼앗아 옛땅을 찾으려고 한다.”

여기에서 말하는 일본인이 사는 집이란 일본 사신이나 상인들이 머무르는 왜관을 뜻하며, 옛땅이란 말은 원문에는 고토(古土)라 되어있다. 또 하나 문제가 된 것은 세종(世宗) 때의 신숙주(申叔舟)가 저술한 《해동제국기(海東諸國記)》였다. 일본이나 기타 나라들의 사정과 풍습을 기록한 일종의 지리지였는데, 일본 사신을 접대한 내용 역시 문제가 되었다. 이같은 정응태의 상주문은 당시 중국 내의 정치적 상황 때문이었지만, 아무튼 조선으로서는 곤란한 지경에 놓였고, 이에 사정을 해명하고 입장을 표명하기 위해 사신을 파견했다. 이 때 사신으로는 처음 유성룡이 내정되었다가 파직되었고, 이항복이 대신 사신으로 파견되었다. 이정구(李廷龜)와 황여일(黃汝一)이 동행했고, 정사(正使)는 이항복이었고, 부사(副使)는 이정구였다.

(more…)

11/23/2005

Cinema, nationalism, and nostalgia

Filed under: — Remco Breuker @ 4:33 am Print

I have just finished reading a new book on Korean cinema (New Korean Cinema, New York: NYU Press, 2005, edited by Chi-Yun Shin and Julian Springer). It was a satisfactory read, most of the essays in it are good, some excellent. It has left me with some questions, though, and I am curious how other academics working on Korea think about these questions. Reading this book (and others as well), I have come across repeated statements on nationalism with which I find it hard to agree. The first one is the generally shared assumption that South Korea is an intensely nationalist country and that art (cinema) has to overcome nationalism (and nationalism alone) to become ‘real’ art. While superficially this may seem to be the case (especially from the outside), I have often found that, with the exception of the radical nationalists, nationalism is often a matter of rhetorics, not entirely perhaps, but to a significant extent at the least. Cultural studies in particular seem to take the all-pervasive influence of nationalism as a given, without problematizing what kind of nationalism is being discussed, in what context and from whom it emerges and for whom it is intended. The rhetorics of nationalism, as those of any influential ideology, must perhaps not be taken at face value, but be seen as a distinctive and for its users familiar way of communication.

Related to this is the also popular notion (present in several essays in this book) that due to the disappearance of the oppressively propagated nationalism of the 70′s and ’80s South Korea now is more fragmented, more anxiety-ridden and more diverse than it was during the 70′s and 80′s. (more…)

11/7/2005

Early Western Perceptions of Koreans: Part II – Education and the Yangban Class

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 4:14 pm Print

Underwoodp p193 "Writing with a native teacher"
Western visitors to Korea are struck by the idleness and corruption of the Yangban class. While many of them live in considerable poverty at this point, and their ranks have expanded well beyond the restrictive membership of earlier periods, they are generally described in the most critical manner.

The unenlightened state and aversion to any form of physical labor among the Yangban is seen by most as one of the central obstacles to civilization in Korea. Whereas the theme of laziness and indifference to productive labor is a common one in travel literature and it frequently refers to Korean coolies and the Korean people (See Part III in this series of postings), the Yangban class, and especially the education system are seen in the most unforgiving light.
(more…)

« Previous Page

Powered by WordPress