[KS] Re: Collaboration
Koen De Ceuster
deceuster at letmail.let.LeidenUniv.nl
Tue Feb 9 13:07:39 EST 1999
I would like to add a few comments to Chu Chinoh's posting. He raised quite a number of questions and I follow him a long
way. As my previous posting indicated, we have to be very careful when we touch on such a sensitive issue as collaboration,
and it has been mentioned before that this sensitivity is not peculiar to the Korean case. As a Belgian I am all too familiar with
the sensitivity of the collaboration issue in contemporary Belgian politics! (and indeed, as has been mentioned, France is still
coming to terms with the Vichy past!)
But here we are discussing the issue of collaboration in Korea. Chinoh Chu mentioned a number of organisations and the work
they have done over the past several years. Although these publications had their role to play in the public debate in Korea
itself, I was personally quite disappointed by their scholarly quality! I have read most of these publications and I cannot but
concur with Frank's assesment. Following in the tradition set by Im Chong-guk, these publications list names and activities, but
fail to give an insight in the historical context. By doing so, they are blatantly anachronistic in their approach.
In an article which is to be published soon, I go as far as to claim that there is a hidden agenda behind these studies, namely
an effort to discredit the South Korean government and its claim to ancestry in the independence movement. From that
perspective, I do understand and accept the importance of these publications in the public debate of the 1980-90s.
On a political level, I am in total agreement with Chinoh Chu that collaborators have to be exposed, if only because of the
multitude of people who suffered because of their actions. This is all the more necessary as quite a number of collaborators
refused to repent, and a number of families are indeed quite active in obscuring the unsavoury past of their relatives. Although
as an outsider I do not think I have a voice in this political debate, I do think it is a citizen's duty to disclose such a past.
Turning to Chinoh Chu's suggestions, I would more than welcome a "collaboration" panel at an AAS conference. As Don Clark
indicated, I am organising a panel at this year's AAS conference which indirectly deals with the issue. Deliberately moving away
from political history, this panel looks at the social policies of a number of religious organisations (Christian, Ch'ondogyo and
Won Buddhist) and tries to situate these within the colonial context. Other approaches are possible and I look forward to the
debates in Boston. I'm sure they will be lively and fruitful!
I appreciated Chinoh Chu's suggestion that more comparative studies should be made. In his posting Chinoh Chu indicated that
two approaches are possible. Either you look at Asia, where you can look into the cooperation of local elites with colonial
authorities and how present-day societies look back upon this cooperation; or you look at Europe where the question of
collaboration with an occupation force is the issue. Korea was both at the same time: until 1932, it was a colony, but from
1932/38 onwards, it was ruled as occupied territory. There certainly was a difference between colonial and occupation
policies. This difference had its consequences for those Koreans who were publically active in the peninsula during this entire
period. Their activities took on another meaning. This brings me back to some earlier remarks. You cannot grasp the problem of
collaboration (and the question of defining the term remains!) unless you have a clear grasp of the colonial/occupation policies.
Chinoh Chu is correct in stating that a new generation of historians in Korea took up the gauntlet. It is my impression that now
(1998-99) that public attention in Korea has shifted to post-liberation history (the recent spate of publications on contemporary
history is a clear indication of this), a more sober assesment of the colonial period is possible. The youngest generation of
historians is moving in that direction. Different aspects of 1930s-40s history are currently dealt with and the results are very
Modern Korean history has become all the more exciting!
Koen De Ceuster
Centre for Korean Studies
P.O. Box 9515
2300 RA Leiden
Tel: -- 31 71 527 2603
Fax: -- 31 71 527 2215
DeCeuster at rullet.LeidenUniv.nl
More information about the Koreanstudies