Worry not, dear Mark. This horse is very much alive.|
Not only is the thread fascinating in itself, but for me at least
it also has great contemporary resonance and relevance.
Building on a point Don made, and returning to themes which
got me into hot water here before:
One of my worries about South Korea's present trajectory is that
such vital matters as how a smallish country - not so small, in truth -
may relate to larger ones seems nowadays to be perceived through a
glass darkly, in ways which oversimplify and distort the choices
available. Nuance, subtlety and irony appear forgotten - along with
history. Which is foolish, for these are eternal questions.
As Don rightly said, Park Chung-hee was no Yankee puppet
- any more, one might add, than Kim Il-sung was under Moscow or Beijing.
Koreans don't do puppet, do they? But they used to know how to fake it,
and why that was sometimes a smart move. What one might call the
Aretha question - who's zooming who? - is key here. A dissembling
appearance of subordination may be good cover for very real autonomy.
Back in 1985, at what may have been the first conference on dependency
(then deemed a radical notion) in Seoul, organized by Kim Kyong-dong,
I praised both Korean states for standing up to their respective hegemons
so effectively. Such avowed bipartisanship, in those days, caused a bit of a
it was inconceivable not to be either on one side or the other. (Later
K-D Kim ed, Dependency Issues in Korean Development. SNU Press, 1987)
Twenty years on, my fear is that the new South Korean "progressive"
with its jaundiced reading of much of Korea's modern history, shares the
of past and present puppetry. Now, as eveywhere, blunt self-assertion is all
So when President Roh Moo-hyun says he seeks a more "independent" diplomacy
and security stance, I can't help wondering:
(a) what precisely this would mean, in an era of globalization; and
(b) whether proclaiming it is the best way of actually achieving it.
Granted, the Bush administration would tax anyone's patience. Yet perhaps the
long history of how Choson handled its relations with China might provide
practical lessons, precedents and exemplars for contemporary Korean
than all the theoretical persiflage of dependency, postcolonialism, subaltern
studies etc etc.
Of course, there is a Korean regime which continues to pursue absolute
against all comers and at any cost. It is North Korea.
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Maybe this is beating a dead horse for most of you on the list, but for
a few of us, this is fascinating.
best regards to all,
In some ways, Korea's behavior during the Choson dynasty reminds me of
> Korea's behavior in the 1960s and the 1970s. American congressmen I
> talked to in the 1970s thought that the South Korean government was
> under the control of the US. They bragged of US advisors in every
> government ministry, as though their very presence gave them actual
> power. Of course, as we all know, Park let the Americans think that
> they were in charge, when that served what he thought was Korea's best
> interest, but he controlled what went on in Korea, not the Americans.
> Perhaps the Choson dynasty experience of often exercising actual
> autonomy but pretending to always follow the dictates of a stronger
> power helped Korea in the 2nd half of the 20th century deal
> effectively with American hegemony.
In a message dated 22/03/2006 10:55:33 GMT Standard Time,
> To go back to the original theme of this thread, that security
> > crisis grew out of what the king and all factions in the court
> > believed to be a Ming betrayal, engineered by an anti-war faction
> > in the Ming government. This caused King SOnjo to literally go on
> > strike, refusing to give any orders or directives related to the
> > war and especially to supply of the front lines. This was
> > complemented by a barrage of memorials to Peking, shaming the
> > Chinese in Confucian terms for not recognizing Korea's loyalty to
> > the alliance. It is that episode that is analyzed in that article.
> > The truth is, Chinese "control" was hardly absolute. While the
> > Koreans had to play the hand they were dealt, they repeatedly
> > prevailed in diplomacy and argument. This was not just in Imjin
> > times. I could cite other examples of how Korea often prevailed and
> > convinced China to retreat from an aggressive position. In other
> > words, the tributary system did provide for effective
> > communication, and Chinese and Korean officialdom spoke from a
> > common Confucian vocabulary. In THAT front, the relationship was
> > equal, if not at times actually in Korea's favor.