[KS] Some comments on Yusin
tgpark at snu.ac.kr
tgpark at snu.ac.kr
Mon Jan 23 02:36:19 EST 2006
I think that Jiyul's comment is very helpful to understand Yusin in 1972.
However, I would like to add something.
> 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.
I believe that most of scholars consider those crises are the most crucial
reason and background of Yushin in 1972. I agree with that argument. However,
crisis in South Korea already started before 1968 security crisis, after sending
combat troop to Vietnam in 1966. Acoording to UN Command's documents in 1966 and
1967, conflicts between South and North along the DMZ increased dramatically
compared to those before 1965. Even when President Johnson visited Korea in
October 1966, North Koreans killed several U.S. soldiers near DMZ line.
The reason NK increased the raids is to hinder South Korean troop dispatch to
friend country, to response against modernization of South Korean army by the
U.S. at the expense of sending troop, and to know that U.S. could not involve
deeply in the Korean Peninsula due to the Vietnam War.
Before the NK Blue House raid, Park already declared to change people's
spirit as if Lee Kwang Soo had said during the colonial period, and Democratic
Republican Party proposed new conscription law. Even in late 1967, UN Command
and Korean politicians including PCH anticipated increase of NK activities in
I think that the road to Yusin was already started before 1968. Yusin is not
passive, but very active one by PCH.
> RE: Prof Baker's comment on Yusin and Meiji ishin, it is precisely
> because of the above situation that his speculation that he suspects
> [PCH] used that term to show that he wanted to do with Korea what
> 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
> 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.
I think that PCH seriously considered Meiji Ishin. He already wrote about
Meiji Ishin in his book during the hunta era. The reason he could not do
something like Meiji Ishin during 1960s is because he could not get currency
from people. I believe that after 1967 presidential election, he seemed to have
confidence to do something he thought.
Tae Gyun Park
Assistant Professor, Korean Studies
GSIS, Seoul National University
--- Original Message ---
"Jiyul Kim"<jiyulkim at fas.harvard.edu>
"Korean Studies Discussion List"<Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
2006/01/21 토요일 오후 5:21:22
[KS] Some comments on Yusin
To Dr. Levkowitz and to others who have commented:
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
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.
Sorry for the lengthy comment.
Ruediger Frank wrote:
> Dear Mr. Levkowitz and all,
> 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.
> Ruediger Frank
> William Brown wrote:
>> For some reason I seem to remember they translated yushin into
>> "revitalizing reforms" in English.
>> Bill Brown
>> From: "Alon Levkowitz" <levko at smile.net.il>
>> Reply-To: Korean Studies Discussion List <Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
>> To: <Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
>> Subject: [KS] question
>> Date: Wed, 18 Jan 2006 22:24:21 +0200
>> Dear group.
>> 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?
>> Dr. Alon Levkowitz
>> Email: levko at smile.net.il
>> Tel/Fax: 972-3-6133045
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