Tuesday, December 29, 2009

[DeCal] Final Grades

I believe the grades have been posted to BearFacts. If you feel there is an error in the grades, please e-mail koreandecal09@gmail.com.

Thanks.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

[DeCal] *DRAFT* Review - ASAMST 98/198 Section 2, Fall 2009 Semester

Breaking Down Borders: Korea, ASAMST 98/198 Section 2, Fall 2009 Semester

It seems like it's been forever since I posted something. but I guess I've been working on other things lately that put this site lower on my list of priorities.

And, similarly, what you as an individual took away from this class is, I guess, equal to how much time and effort you put into it. And, as is customary, the conculsions given below all come from the very same sources that are either listed on the syllabus or on this website, where we can come to an informed opinion together. The list below is not meant to either comprehensive or representative of all the topics covered; it's just what I'm typing as I look at our syllabus and the group presentations. However, all numbers and claims can be cited with the exception of Korea's population right before the Civil War.

Breaking Down Borders: Korea, ASAMST 98/198 Section 2, Fall 2009 Semester Review


Why Should I care? (Why a class on Korea?)
It's the very same question that former U.S. president George W. Bush asked Prince Bandar. And, since (I claim) that former U.S. president George W. Bush was elected because he was viewed by Americans as having an image close to the ordinary American, I suppose it's a question that most Americans may also have.

While the current U.S. committment in its deployment of U.S. troops along the DMZ might be a vestige of the Cold War, the fact that a North Korean invasion off South Korea would still immediately kill about 20,000 Americans and put the U.S. really at war, automatically makes North Korea relevant. Talks of it attacking South Korean naval ships or to disrupt passenger airlines or sell nuclear technology all seem to be attempts by North Korea to grab attention (and aid) from her neighbors and the United States. In other words, North Korea mentions what can happen if they really started a war and the rest of the world fears this potential outcome so much that it is willing to aid in the existence of a state like North Korea. This is one aspect that might draw some people to this topic.

In addition, the strange peculariaties in the Korean people are interesting in their own right; for example, the demonstration at Seoul City Hall by people all dressed up as cows. We talked about how a peninsula that has had the same borders with the same people for so long can and have created these pecularities.

Why History Matters?
We came to see that there is a historical reason for why Korea has had probably the same homogenous group of people for such a long time and we discussed its relevance in this presentation as well (and again, when we looked at modern Korean institutions).

Korea has a long history as one nation that dates back to at least 664 C.E. This could be interpreted to mean that the current division of the peninsula or the existence of two rival, Korean states is an aberration as both North and South Korea have a the same, linked, and unique history. I compared the year Silla unified the peninsula (664 C.E.) with those years when European nations were unified, such as Germany and Italy were first unified (1870), Spain (1492), and France (not sure, but I think except for Brittany, perhaps 1503?). We discussed how this long period could have led to a single, common Korean culture, language, and people.

We also discussed how Korea existed in a tributary system of relations up until 1876 (while not directly mentioning that it was a tributary system) as whenever Korea was invaded (by the Manchurians, Mongols, etc), the invaders did not come to settle Korea or to extract a large tax from Korean farmers; they came for the most part just to hear the acknowledgement that their king was the king of kings (emperor) (there are minor counter examples as the northeastern Hamgyeong provinces were ceded to the Mongols in the 13th century). But, by and large, there was no migration of new people to the peninsula.  This would suggest that the people living on the peninsula today are probably the very same people that lived there a millenia ago.

End of History
We discussed how this all changed when Japan came to colonize Korea and its ramifications on the psyche and collective consciousness of Koreans. This is illustrated by the peak number of Japanese people living in Korea (246,000) to Korea's population at that time: 20,000,000, which makes for roughly a 1:100 ratio. So, most Koreans probably saw not a Japanese face, but a Korean one whenever they were forced to, say, pray at a Shinto shrine to the Japanese emperor. We spoke of how devastating and how traumatic this was to the Korean people as Japanese institutions were not created where none existed before, but simply replaced the Korean institutions that were already there. In the process, discarded Korean institutions were seen to be culturally backwards and inferior, which went against everything the Koreans had believed for a millenia. A homogenous society being dominated by another culture with the new culture trying to supplant the older one created many fissures.

This was followed not by a period of national reconciliation as had occurred in other nations in the old China-based World Order, but rather a civil war that was never really concluded as the war ended with about a loss of 2,000,000 Korean lives (about 1 in 10) and both competing Korean states intact. The armistic was never signed by South Korea as Rhee Syng Man was vehemently against the division of the Korean peninsula (he also absurdly asked for Tsushima(대마도) when speaking of normalizing ties with Japan). This later had ramifications on peace treaty talks since South Korea never signed the armistice.

Post Korean War

We spoke about how each half of the peninsula competed for legitimacy and we even examined the new constitution of the DPRK. We examined the new constitution solely to get a feeling of how asinine their constitution truly was and to contrast this feeling with the beginnings of the two Koreas when North Korea was basically led by a (minor) war hero and as South Korea's leader was basically installed by the United States -- early on there were even large numbers of Koreans that actually, voluntarily moved to the DPRK. So, it was not always the case that North Korean attempts or threats to unify Korea either by force or ideology was viewed as laughable. We talked at great length about why South Korea grew rich, but North Korea did not and how much of this could be explained by historical, characteristics of the Koreas - by historical I am referring to the long history of a homogenous people and very strong Confucian influence. We also discussed how peculiar it was that democratic institutions came to exist on the southern half of the peninsula.

Post Kim Il Sung Era/Famine
We discussed that by this point the economic differences were vastly different; we went over how North Korea's famine was caused not just by natural disasters, but as a direct result of North Korea mechanizing their agricultural economy so much that when Soviet aid in the form of oil came to a halt, so did the capacity of the DPRK to feed her people. We also touched upon the fantasy that North Korea undertook reforms willingly -- this was a fantasy by South Korean and Western media alike when the Sunshine Policy still seemed relevant. But, we discussed how these reforms were actually signs of the DPRK's food rationing system breaking down. We can see this today as North Korea recently closed their largest wholesale market, which I believe was claimed by some to be much larger than either the Dongdaemun or Namdaemun markets in Seoul, and efforts to marginalize the growing merchant class (such as the new currency) as continual attempts by the North Korean government to try and re-assert state control. It is this context that is usually absent when examining North Korea in mass media; however, while putting a historical bent on why North Korea does the things they do, there is a difference between understanding their behavior and condoning it. Even as North Korea's approach towards the United States is so belligerent, the DPRK is really, primarily concerned with its survival. Talks of it attacking South Korean naval ships or to disrupt passenger airlines or sell nuclear technology all seem to be attempts by North Korea to grab attention (and aid) from her neighbors and the United States.

We also briefly talked about how recent promises of Chinese aid in effect negated the sanctions put forth a few months back. In other words, North Korea mentions what can happen if they really started a war and the rest of the world fears this potential outcome so much that it is willing to aid in the existence of a state like North Korea. They can get away with this because of the 20,000 Americans stationed near the DMZ and the twenty million South Koreans living in Seoul and neighboring Gyeonggi Province. We also talked about why North Korea would want nuclear weapons and how North Korea could have a separate, parallel nuclear program (based on highly enriched uraninum).

The national consciousness of Koreans never fully recovered from the thirty six years of colonization and a devastating civil war as Korea remains divided today. Much of this, as discussed in class, stems from fractures incurred by Korean society under colonial rule. Koreans were pitted against each other and Japanese institutions replaced already existing Korean ones during the colonial period.

While not all of you may have come to these conclusions, I hope that at the very least the DeCal lent a better understanding or perhaps a solid introduction to Korea. This post is just what I'm thinking should have been the main points of the discussions we have had. It is regrettable that most of the lectures towards the end of the semester were so focused on North Korea as topics on South Korea, such as Anti-Americanism, the election of Roh Moo Hyun and what it promised for many South Koreans, and, of course, how his suicide was taken by his supporters could also have been very interesting topics to explore.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Final Response Paper

Due: November 30th, 2009

Topic:
Professor Ken Wells lectured that the rise of democratic institutions in South Korea has had a destabilizing effect in the region. Please explain what this destabilizing effect is and how it can be observed (hint: South Korea - U.S. alliance, "balancing role")

Thursday, November 19, 2009

[DeCal] "Too Fast, Too Slow"

This coming Monday (November 23rd, 2009), Visiting Professor Kenneth Wells will give a presentation, titled: "Too Fast, Too Slow: The ripple-effect on a north Korean family of the events of 1945."

Recommended Reading for the Presentation:
Korea Old and New: A History by Carter Eckert, et. al - Chapter 18
Korea's Place in the Sun by Bruce Cumings Chapter 4

Attendance Policy/Response Paper Policy for November 23rd, 2009
As announced on class this past Monday, credit for attendance will only be given if you are in class within the first ten minutes and if you stay for the whole duration of the class. Response papers, unless due to extenuating circumstances, will also only be accepted at the beginning of the class. Professor Wells teaches a class at a time leading almost right up to the point when the DeCal begins, yet he has generously volunteered to guest lecture for our benefit. Please come to class on time.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

[DeCal] My Response Paper (Updated)

While not precisely looking for this, this is what I had hoped would be gained from the past few weeks. This is my response to the question I posed on the topic : What explains the dramatic divergence between North and South Korea?

Short, Response Paper: Why the divergence?


By Joseph

Though the Republic of Korea (South Korea) begins without the popular support that the Democractic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) does, she is able to produce sustained economic growth that over half a century can primarily be explained by the power of institutional advantages aggregated over a long period of time and the uniquely favorable geopolitical situation that South Korea finds herself in at the height of the Cold War. Though South Korea is governed by dictators for close to four decades, the dictatorial regimes are only “moderately corrupt” in that the dictators implement forward looking policies that produce sustained economic growth. Institutional advantages, such as a Confucian society that places a high value on education and a long history of a single, homogenous identity, bequeath the Republic of Korea (South Korea) with a cheap, educated workforce that believes that they too have a stake in the government. This allows the government to coerce a high savings rate from its people and channel investment to key strategic industries, such as automobiles and shipbuilding. In turn, this gives way towards outward looking policies as the government looks to further develop the nation’s strategic industries by buying capital goods, such as machine tools, from abroad with export earnings, translating into sustained economic growth. Moreover, as South Korea’s governments are led by dictatorial regimes, the government is able to implement more draconian measures in order to support these strategic industries, such as systematically devaluing its way out of recessions, uncompetitiveness, and balance of payments crises (and in the process steal money from the nation’s savings) or simply quadrupling the price of gasoline by fiat in the wake of the oil crisis in 1973. And, the importance of having the United States as an ally during the Cold War should not be overlooked; for example, when South Korea faces a balance of payments crisis in 1980, South Korea received a quiet bailout from Japan at the insistence of the United States, whereas after the Cold War, the country receives a bailout from the International Monetary Fund only with a heavy set of conditions. I would say this is basically the story of South Korea’s economy up until 1997.

Of course, North Korea, too, has the same set of institutional advantages as outlined in the CBO report. However, North Korea must cope with the accrual of huge organizational inefficiencies inherent in a planned economy. Moreover, as North Korea is not allied with the richest country in the world, the country simply does not have the option of developing its economy by buying capital goods from abroad in exchange for selling light manufactured, consumer goods, such as shoes. Additionally, North Korea without the protection of Soviet or Chinese troops in her territory must spend a disproportionately large share of income on defense spending, which has no tangible benefits and, which in North Korea’s case, has most likely retarded economic growth. Finally, even after it became clear that the Stalinist model or a planned economy would simply not be able to catch up with an economy that allocates the production of goods and services through largely price signals, the country simply did not have the option of fully embracing market reforms like that of the Soviet Union or China as it would declare that a society like South Korea’s is preferable. And, even when the government does attempt small scale free trade zones, such as the Rajin-Sonbong Special Economic Zone on its border with China and Russia, the country does so only half-heartedly and it is never clear that the country would give foreign investors legal protection or that there even exists a market for goods produced from this zone. This is North Korea’s story up until the collapse of the Soviet Union, at which point North Korea’s decision to be heavily dependent on the Soviet Oil for her heavily mechanized agricultural sector leads to a famine. It is at this point that signs of economic reforms do show up as markets spring up in the countryside; however, this reflects the loss of state control more so than it does of deliberate attempts of economic reform. The latest constitution seems to make it official that the government has largely given up on producing sustained economic growth as its military first policy (Songun) smacks of extortion from her people directed at the state level.

With respect to how democratic institutions evolved in South Korea, this is much tougher to explain (and it's something that there is not a lot of material available on). But, what is clear is that this is something that should largely be credited to the South Korean people as, by and large, the United States simply watched as South Korea's military dictatorships systematically and, at times, violently put down demonstrations. It becomes even more difficult to explain if one were to consider the argument where increasing prosperity leads to a more representative government (a more prosperous Japan should have developed democratic institutions first) or that Confucian societies naturally lends itself to autocratic and dictatorial governments (South Korea, a more Confucian society should be the more autocratic country here). I suspect that unequal development combined with the former argument could be one possible explanation; South Korea’s dictators overtly left southwestern, Jeolla provinces underdeveloped for decades.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

[DeCal] Response Paper


Due November 9th, 2009

Overview:
We have seen over the course of the past few weeks, how Koreans have had a common, shared heritage and lived in states with the same borders for more than a millenia. When foreigners came and invaded Korea, up until 1910, we have seen that they came primarily to exact a tribute. But, this tribute was really nothing more than asking the Korean kingdoms to acknowledge the supremacy of their ruler as the king of kings. Outside the devastation caused during the wars, particularly the Imjin Wars, they did not come to settle the land or to extract a tribute in the form of extracting a large share of, say, rice produced by farmers on the peninsula.

However, this changed dramatically under Japanese occupation and, as we have seen, this caused widespread displacement and trauma for the national consciousness of the Korean people. Rather than recover from this period through a time of national reconciliation, this period gave way to a war fought between two competing states that despite the widespread destruction, death, and carnage caused by the war, the war culminated in a stalemate, leaving two Korean states on the peninsula. Although it was argued that the northern state was seen to be more legitimate, these two Korean states shared the same culture and heritage that dates back to at least 664 AD, when Silla unified the peninsula.

Initially both states implemented policies that looked for national self-sufficiency, particularly in heavy industries, such as steel.

Sixty years later, we now look at North Korea's constitution with much ridicule and we arguably look at North Korea as a dysfunctional state that resorts to extortion from its people, its neighbors, and the United States. South Korea has hosted the Olympics, the World Cup (with Japan), and in general has become a model nation in showing how economic development can go right. A South Korean national even currently serves as the UN Security General. But, more importantly, and, perhaps, most interestingly, South Korea has seen the development of nascent democratic institutions.

Question:
Sixty years ago, would you have expected this to have happened or thought that this would have even been remotely possible? So, what happened? You have the same people with the same shared heritage, who speak the same language. How could you explain the separate histories of the two states, perhaps a divergence like none other in the history of the world? How important do you feel the difference in institutions played between the two countries? Or, the different policies? How about the access or denail to outside capital, technology, and a huge market willing to buy all of a country's exports? How about an alliance with a superpower that allowed the country, at the superpower's insistence, to become rich and fast and democratic as soon as possible?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Schizophrenic Han Part III: A purer language, I think not.

After some revision, I wanted to state clearly that the point of this posting is to argue against the notion that North Korean is a more "Korean" or a "purer" form of the Korean Language. I would think the words, perverse distortion, would be more apt to describe the relation of the North Korean variant of the Korean language to that now spoken on the southern half of the peninsula.

The point of this posting is to continue to systematically attack the notion that it is natural for two Koreas to exist and to continually eat away at all the justifications that South Koreans make in order to some how to ease their collective guilt as they lead their moderately wealthty lives as the other half of the nation continues to suffer (For more on how North Koreans continue to suffer see last week's issue of the New Yorker or what Professor Brad DeLong at UC Berkeley has noted to be last weeks "must read.")

I do this under the series of postings called Schizophrenic Han. In the past, I've already been very critical of the North-South States Period Theory that was first mentioned in the book, Samguk Yusa (a millenia after Silla had already unified the Peninsula), and which I point out has only become relevant now, as South Korean "Academia" try to come up with any and all types of excuses to justify their inaction of a unified Korean peninsula.

Now, I'm going to attack another justification that South Koreans oft like to make - that the North Korean is somehow more legitimate today as "her people" speak a more Korean or purer form of the language. I believe I even saw this on Wikipedia at one point and if I see it again, I can promise you that that will be the day I create a Wikipedia account and challenge that claim. You see, to me, this claim of a more Korean language purposely distorts history, so that mostly South Koreans can ease their feeling of collective or national guilt as they live their moderately wealthy lives and shrug aside the ongoing suffering being endured by the other half of the country.

I've always found the claim that North Korean is a more Korean language to be preposterous and revisionist history at its worst, but a recent development in North Korea has made me want to write about it. North Korea last month amended their constitution to eliminate the words "communist" and codified that Kim Jong Il is indeed not just the Dear Leader, but the "Supreme Leader" of the country. Also, Songun(Seongun, 선군), or the Military First policy, has become a governing doctrine or ideology of the country).

This is a short excerpt from an article in the New York Times.



SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea has officially made Kim Jong-il its “supreme leader” and his “military first” policy its guiding ideology, according to the text of the country’s newly revised Constitution made available on Monday.

Text of the New Constitution (PDF, In Korean)The Constitution also declared for the first time that North Korea “respects and protects” the “human rights” of its citizens, and expunged the term “communism” from its text (New York Times).

I've also added a copy of the new constitution in PDF form (in Korean, unfortunately) in the Selected Articles portion of the blog. And, thanks to students in the DeCal, we now have a translation in English of the DPRK constitution as well.

But, I find this development to be interesting on a couple fronts. In one sense, North Korea has officially given up the fantasy that there could actually be a worker's paradise in a Communist Kingdom -- a bigger oxymoron I cannot fathom (a revolutionary government under dynastic rule?). So, in this sense, North Korea has given up on the claim that it can provide for a better life under her rule. Now, rather than North Korean legitmacy being based on being able to provide a better life for Koreans, legitmacy in part rests on the North Korean Consitution being able to provide for a more "Korean" nation. This can be seen by how often the Korean Central News Agency, North Korea's state run news, describes south Korea to be just a puppet state of foreign powers (though, perhaps, at one time it was). One of these claims is that on the basis of language, where North Koreans speak an untainted form of the Korean Language in that it doesn't use many of the loan words found in the Korean spoken in South Korea. This claim is, of course, absurd. Now, let's discuss this remaining claim that North Korea is somehow more legitimate because it's more Korean (Is it because they too have a three class caste system not unlike that of Silla's bone rank system. But, this can't be it either since North Korea seems to base their heritage from Goguryeo, a state that was Silla's rival). What about language?

A common claim is that the North Korean language is more "pure" or more "Korean" (perhaps synonyms for all Koreans) as North Korea has made a systematic effort to eliminate loan words from the North Korean variant of the langauge and, the complete elimination of the teaching of Sino-Korean characters in North Korean schools -- for the most part (there was a law in North Korea that stated to re-introduce a few hundred Hanja characters in the North Korean curriculum, but hey, how seriously can this be taken considering there's a reference towards human rights in the North Korean constitution now. But, also on a tangent, with these same endowments how exactly was it possible that South Korea came to develop democratic institutions?)

People that support this seem to forget that the written Korean Language, Hanguel, only came to widespread usage after Korea lost its independence (so about a hundred years ago). Koreans traditionally like to claim that the nation began in 2333 BCE, so for about 4,200 years Koreans didn't really use Hangeul. Now, considering that all scholarly work up until half a century ago was written using purely Sino-Korean characters either in modified form to fit the "Korean language" spoken at that time or simply, in literary, Classical Chinese up until very recently, eliminating loan words that constitute about 50%-70% of all the words in the Korean language doesn't make the language more Korean, but rather it butchers the language.

There's a couple ways to look at this. For example, Koreans trace back a common heritage to the (Early) Three Kingdoms Period as each Kingdom is seen to be a "Korean" kingdom in that the merger of the three kingdoms respective traditions, languages(yes), and, of course, people gave way to a common Korean heritage. While somewhat similar to how Koreans have strenuously argued that considering Goguryeo to be a minority Chinese Kingdom would be tantamount to stealing Korean heritage and distorting the Korean identity, I think the systematic eradication or elimination or alteration of 50% to 70% of all words in the Korean language is much, much worse than "losing Goguryeo." It not only distorts the "true identity" of the language, but you are basically erasing (or rather choosing to forget) 50%-70% of your identity. Koreans have for a long period of time proudly stated how they have learned much from the Chinese, perhaps the lessons of the Cultural Revolution in China should not be forgotten.

So rather than North Korean being a more a Korean language, it's more along the lines of North Korea being a perverse distortion of the Korean language. Imagine waking up one day and choosing not to use 50% to 70% of the words in your vocabulary (or at least fooling yourself into thinking that you are not using it), then what do you have left? Assuming you somehow retained the ability to still be able to speak and converse with people, you'd be using the few remaining words in your now, much more limited vocabularly a lot, lot more. So even if people could understand what you were saying, they would probably think you are crazy. Perhaps, in a manner not that different than how the rest of the world perceives North Korea today. Why South Koreans in the south look at this favorably is so peculiar and shameful.

(But, oh, South Koreans are doing the same thing except, of course, on a much lesser scale. Why it's so important to have a Korean word for yellow radish is beyond me).

[DeCal] (UPDATED) Translation of North Korea's Constitution

Today we will have a presentation on how North Korean institutions have changed since the death of Kim Il Sung. One particular item, the presenting group this week has looked at is the new North Korean constitution, adopted in late September of this year stands out to highlight how much North Korea has fallen. Below is a rough draft of a translation of the North Korean constitution. There is a section missing on the draft copy of the translation, but I hope to have that updated shortly. But, what is fascinating about looking at the constitution is how far North Korea has come.

When North Korea was first formed, it could be argued that the founders of North Korea were Korean patriots in that they were not like the cronies brought in to head a government as in the South. There is a lot of material available on how hard it was for the United States to bring in a legitmate leader to South Korea that was not tainted by either Communism and/or Japanese Collaboration. For example, I would look at how General John R. Hodge, the military governor of South Korea from 1945-1948, felt about South Korea's first leader, Rhee Syng Man - he despised Rhee Syng Man. But, now, a quick reading of the North Korean constitution invites ridicule, note that the Constitution of the DPRK states that North Korean laborers have the right "to work for 8 hours a day." More commentary on this later.



Thank you Sun Min Woo, Soo Yeon Jun, Jungmin Yun and Hyun-Bin Shin for the tranlsation.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Group Presentation Guidelines

Begin forwarded message:

From: "Breaking Down Borders: Korea Fall 2009 Team" <koreandecal09@gmail.com>
Date: October 27, 2009 6:51:24 PM PDT
Subject: Group Presentation Guidelines

Hello Group 4!

The facilitators have discussed and agreed to have the groups follow this criterion when presenting.

-  Please do not simply copy and paste information onto slides.  Please take the time to take the information, analyze and organize it into a more presentable manner.
-  On a similar note, please do not merely read off a script.  Take the time to present to the class key points of observation and analysis drawn from the readings.  It will add more to our class discussion and understanding of your group's topic.  Engage the class with key facts, observations and analysis.
-  Please cite the texts that you used in your slides.
-  Take the time to meet with the facilitators during prep sessions.

We will be grading on a scale of one to five on the basis of this criterion. 
We believe by now, the class has seen what has and has not been effective when giving presentations, so please keep these considerations in mind. 

Otherwise, we really appreciate all the hard work everyone has put in so far!
-  The Facilitators

--
Breaking Down Borders: Korea
<http://northxkorea.blogspot.com/>
<http://feeds.feedburner.com/BordersKorea>

Sunday, October 25, 2009

[DeCal] Week 7: Update, Grading, Presentations, Guest Lecturer


Presentations
Regarding grading, we have changed the policy of giving a single grade for the entire group as we believe this encourages people to put in the least possible amount of work (and punishes those that would otherwise work more). There's many different words for this phenomenon, but no matter how it's phrased; we don't like it and the system itself hurts the class. By the way, these are the continual improvements we see in this course as each semester progresses. I have been also been going over the past presentations and seeing as much of the work has not been cited, has made it difficult for me to follow and verify the veracity of the claims made in some of the presentations. You risk not receiving full credit if your work is NOT cited. Also, the name of the authors of each slide should be clearly marked. We see the presentations as being no less important than a midterm, a final examination, and term paper combined into one.

A Break From Presentations?
So, I've been hearing that perhaps, we should have a week without presentations, and the facilitators are making a conscious effort to schedule a guest lecturer. However, as it stands now, especially with the extended dead week this semester, we are currently against the idea of showing a documentary or video that you can otherwise watch at home (or at a LiNK event).

For example, please do see:
Welcome to North Korea Documentary


Thank you Matt Infald for the suggestion.

[Draft] Schizophrenic Han Part III: Language

I can report that the GRE is finally over (and unless a professor advises me to re-take the test, I feel that I will not take it over again). I have updated this posting and it is here.
After writing this post earlier in the morning and then coming back and re-reading it, I've realized that there's such a huge number of grammatical mistakes that I will be revising this shortly. Nonetheless, the point of this posting is to argue against this notion that North Korean is a more "Korean" or more "pure" form of the Korean Language. I would think a "perverted" form of the Korean Language is a more accurate description of the North Korean variant of the language.


Anyways, I will return to this shortly. There's just so much I want to talk about (there's still the embassy series of postings, the America the Dangerous series of postings, the Forming Views series of postings, and, of course, the Schizophrenic Han series of postings)...


I've been a bit preoccupied, reasons that I will share shortly. But, for those students that are re-entry students, perhaps you can emphatize with me; it's been a decade since I've taken a standardized test.

It's about time that people give up the idea that it's natural for the Koreas to remain divided by coming up with all types of false ideas. In the past, I've been very critical of the North-South States Period Theory that was first mentioned in the book, Samguk Yusa (a millenia after Silla had already unified the Peninsula), and which I point out has only become relevant now, as South Koreans try to come up any and all types of excuses to justify their inaction in both allowing a trying to come up with a unified Korean peninsula.


Well, this post is to attack this idea that somehow the North Korean government today is a legitimate government today as their variant of the Korean language is somehow more Korean. I'm pretty sure I saw this on Wikipedia at some point and if I do find it, perhaps, it's time I create a Wikipedia account and challenge that claim. To me, this claim purposely distorts history, so that mostly South Koreans can ease their feeling of collective or national guilt as they live their moderately wealthy lives and shrug aside the ongoing suffering being endured by the other half of the country.


I've always found the claim that the North Korean is a more Korean language to be preposterous and revisionist history at its worst, but a recent development (well, it's been a few weeks, but hey, I've been a little bit preoccupied) in North Korea has made me want to write about it. North Korea last month amended their constitution to eliminate the words "communist" and codified that Kim Jong Il is indeed not just the Dear Leader, but the "Supreme Leader" of the country. Also, Songun(Seongun, 선군), or the Military First policy, has become a governing doctrine or ideology of the country).


This is a short excerpt from (New North Korean Constitution Bolsters Kim's Powers)
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea has officially made Kim Jong-il its “supreme leader” and his “military first” policy its guiding ideology, according to the text of the country’s newly revised Constitution made available on Monday.


Text of the New Constitution (PDF, In Korean)The Constitution also declared for the first time that North Korea “respects and protects” the “human rights” of its citizens, and expunged the term “communism” from its text (New York Times).
I've also added a copy of the new constitution in PDF form (in Korean, unfortunately) in the Selected Articles portion of the blog.


But, I find this development to be interesting on a couple fronts. In one sense, North Korea has officially given up the fantasy that there could actually be a worker's paradise in a Communist Kingdom -- a bigger oxymoron would be hard to find. So, in this sense, any shred of North Korea providing a better life than that in South Korea is something, which its people no longer believe. Now, let's discuss the remaining claim that North Korea is somehow more legitimate because it's more Korean (is it more Korean because North Koreans call themselves Joseon people rather than Hanguk people? Or, is it because they too have a three class caste system not unlike that of Silla's bone rank system. But, this can't be it either since North Korea seems to base their heritage from Goguryeo, a state that was Silla's rival). What about language?


A common claim is that the North Korean language is more "pure" or more "Korean" (perhaps synonyms for all Koreans) as North Korea made a systematic effort to eliminate loan words from the North Korean variant of the langauge and, the complete elimination of the teaching of Sino-Korean characters in North Korean schools -- for the most part (there was a law in North Korea that stated to re-introduce a few hundred Hanja characters in the North Korean curriculum, but hey, how seriously can this be taken considering there's a reference towards human rights in the North Korean constitution now. But, also on a tangent, with these same endowments how exactly was it possible that South Korea came to develop democratic institutions?)


People that support this seem to forget that the written Korean Language, Hanguel, only came to widespread usage after Korea lost its independence (so about a hundred years ago). Koreans traditionally like to claim that the nation began in 2333 BCE, so for about 4,200 years Koreans didn't really use Hangeul. Now, considering that all scholarly work was written using Sino-Korean characters either in modified form to fit the "Korean language" spoken at that time or simply, in literary, Classical Chinese up until very recently, eliminating loan words that constitute about 50%-70% of all the words in the Korean language doesn't make the language more Korean, but rather it butchers the language.


There's a couple ways to look at this. For example, Koreans trace back a common heritage to the (Early) Three Kingdoms Period as each Kingdom is seen to be a "Korean" kingdom in that the merger of the three kingdoms respective traditions, languages(yes), and, of course, people gave way to a common Korean heritage. While somewhat similar to how Koreans have strenuously argued that considering Goguryeo to be a minority Chinese Kingdom would be tantamount to stealing Korean heritage and distorting the Korean identity, I think the systematic eradication or elimination or alteration of 50% to 70% of all words in the Korean language is much, much worse than "losing Goguryeo." It not only distorts the "true identity" of the language, but you are basically erasing (or rather choosing to forget) 50%-70% of your identity. Koreans have for a long period of time proudly stated how they have learned much from the Chinese, perhaps the lessons of the Cultural Revolution in China should not be forgotten.


So rather than North Korean being a more a Korean language, it's more along the lines of North Korea being a perverse distortion of the Korean language. Imagine waking up one day and choosing not to use 50% to 70% of the words in your vocabulary (or at least fooling yourself into thinking that you are not using it), then what do you have left? Assuming you somehow retained the ability to still be able to speak and converse with other people, you'd be using the few remaining words in your now, much more limited vocabularly a lot, lot more. If people could understand what you were saying, they might even think you are crazy for doing so. Why Koreans in the south look at this favorably is so pecular and what makes Korea so interesting.


(But, oh, South Koreans are doing the same thing except, of course, on a much lesser scale. Why it's so important to have a Korean word for yellow radish is beyond me).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) Event today



Sent from my iPhone

Begin forwarded message:

From: Min-Jae Chang <minxjae@gmail.com>
Date: October 20, 2009 3:05:39 PM PDT
To: "Breaking Down Borders: Korea Fall 2009 Team" <koreandecal09@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: Group 6: New Members

Hi, i'm on the students, Min-Jae Chang

and I wanted to update you guys on a screening that is put on by LiNK, my friend sent this to me and I wanted to forward it to you so yes. Here it is, and if you want to send it to the class, that would be cool too. Thank you.
.....

On Wednesday, 10/21 (tomorrow night!) LiNK Outreach:Bay Area will be
screening the documentary called "Seoul Train." This film follows a couple
of North Koreans as they try to escape the economic and political
hardships of their homeland into countries like China and Mongolia.

It's a really interesting, heart-breaking film. I highly recommend you
come out and watch it! Expand your horizons! Learn something new! Fight
for a good cause.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you Wednesday night!

7 PM
2040 VLSB

Monday, October 12, 2009

[DeCal] Divergence in Institutions (South Korea)


Divergence in Institutions (South Korea)
Next week's readings are posted here:

In particular, we will be examining why and how the southern half of the Korean peninsula came to be a fairly wealthy, middle income country with democratic institutions." While we had initially planned for me to give this presentation solo (I saved this topic so that I could do the research), additional students that were either absent or unable to join the groups early on will be added to this group as well.

Straight from the syllabus:
Why is it that the southern half of the Korean peninsula came to be a fairly wealthy, middle income country with democratic institutions? How did this process happen? After all, Korea was for thousands of years a centralized bureaucratic monarchy (and then ruled by centralized bureaucratic colonial government) with no history of democracy? The presentation will heavily emphasize the development of economic institutions first that began in the early seventies. Policies conducive to sustained economic growth over the long run that took advantage of favorable endowments unique to South Korea (access to the U.S. market, U.S. oil regime) led to prosperity in the South. Democratic institutions also took hold, but took much longer with South Korea holding her first free and fair elections in 1987) (Syllabus).
An updated syllabus that shows the agenda in particular for the next three weeks is also available here.

Required Reading:

Supplemental Reading:

Dani Rodrik, Gene Grossman and Victor Norman
Economic Policy, Vol. 10, No. 20 (Apr., 1995), pp. 55-107


Chapter 4 (only the part under Political Dynamics)


Attendance Policy:
After consultation among the facilitators, we feel it would be prudent to excuse the first two weeks of absences, considering the large number of students that did enroll after class first began two weeks before the add/drop deadline passed.

Grading Policy:
Presentations will be given a score on a sliding scale from one to four. All students will receive the same group for each presentation. The reason we decided to go with this system is that there are a lot of other DeCals, especially for 2-units, where the facilitators just lecture for an hour or so and expect the students in class to come up with a 7 or 8 page term paper or a midterm or a final. Well, the purpose of a paper is no different than that of a presentation except that the findings on the part of those presenting can be shared with the entire class, whereas a paper is not as easily shareable. Similarly, a mid-term or final examination is more of a test to see if students have learned anything. It is along these lines in how we view group presentations - an opportunity for each and every student in the class to be able to research and contribute to the discussion of the entire class.

While, groups one and two only have had an opportunity to prepare one week in advance, the same is not true of that of other groups. So, from this point on, we will be expecting all material to be cited from all students giving presentations (Primary citations found on Wikipedia are ok, but presentations that sound like they are reading from the Wikipedia are not). Once again, the goal of presentations is to further a point and not to recite history for history's sake (or to take somebody else's interpretation for granted). Furthermore, presentations are expected to last from fourty-five minutes to one-hour.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

[DeCal] Week 4: Presentation, Discussion, Podcasts

We were very happy with the way that the presentations went though we would like to ask that data be sourced from now on on the bottom of the PowerPoint file. By the way, the PowerPoint file made by Group 1 is probably the best looking file I've seen in the five semesters that I've been involved with this decal. And, for the first time, the class can be followed as if you were actually here, I have put up podcasts of the presentation on the left hand side of this site (Yes, I can see the theme of the mp3 player does not fit in with the rest of the site. It's just temporary, but I did want to give an idea of how presentations should be done. The goal of each presentation is to further a point and not to read history). You will find two files, the file labelled by A is an audio recording of the presentation given by Group 1 up until the break.

The second file, labelled B, is a recording of the discussion after the first hour and after having discussed various aspects of the presentation in small groups. Each of the eight groups, led by a member of the presenting group, discussed the material that the respective member of the presenting group presented on.

The picture on the left is after break, where we have the eight groups discussing the subject material.
Regarding Group 2's presentation, the facilitators have committed to making themselves available this coing Sunday at 7pm again at the Free Speech Movement Cafe to both assist in the presentations and to answer any general questions. Or... to just continue the discussion of the class.

Note: As to what school former South Korean Leader Rhee Syng Man attended, it seems he went to both Harvard and Princeton. According to Wikipedia, "He obtained several degrees (including an B.A. from George Washington University, Harvard University, and a Ph.D. from Princeton University)."

Monday, October 5, 2009

Forming Views on Korea, Part V: My family during Japanese rule.

So, finally, I've finally been able to take a world history course (The World Economy in the Twentieth Century or UC Berkeley's Econ 115). And, I blame this on myself, of course. I highly recommend that when you consider a double major, especially as a transfer student, to really consider if it's what you want to do. I've been unable to take many of the courses I might want to take, such as a history course, because of the requirements to complete both majors.

Anyways, I had a really interesting assignment for this class recently, where I was asked to write a short essay about where my family was from 1914-1945. And, I discovered a few things that I'd like to share and fits in perfectly with the discussion on how Koreans fared during the Japanese period.

You see, it seems to be the case that since all we ever hear about the colonial period is of how the Japanese drafted comfort women, moved around Korean laborers, and the like that we don't hear some of the benefits that were given to Koreans during this period (yes, I risk being shot here with these statements) to not people that were actually Japanese collaborators, but more so people who loved Korea, but where they found themselves to be born into a society where if they wanted to live a normal life like raising a family and such that they had to actually speak Japanese and learn Japanese (I can recall a conversation my mom had with her friends, where one of her friends said, "you remember when we were all young and our parents would start speaking in Japanese, and we'd have no idea what they were talking about..." This was a conversation in Korea by the way a few years back).

My claim is that Koreans are still unable to acknowledge that it was natural for some people to have benefitted under Japanese rule and that these people still loved Korea and the like (I'm thinking more along the lines of a Park Chung Hee than the founders of either Dong-a-Ilbo or Samsung), but the opportunities they had in life only existed if they accepted that Korea was for the time being a Japanese colony and that they realistically couldn't do a single thing about it. And, more so, and this is a claim purely along the lines of the early revisionists, such as Bruce Cumings, but it's really a matter of fact that when Korea became a Japanese colony, it opened up opportunities for Koreans that never existed before. It's this fact that these opportunities existed amidst the reality of a Japan trying to destroy Korean identity and alongsidethe widespread suffering of Koreans that makes this so difficult for Koreans to acknowledge. But, you have to understand that many during that period in time, including Koreans, believed Koreans were just incapable of self-rule (just think of how the Sino-Japanese War came about).

Anyways, I just found out that my grandfather served as one of the first senators before the National Assembly was built in Yeoido (when it was at the Blue House) when Rhee Syng Man came to power. And, I think his story or part of my story (as being the first son on my father's side) highlights #1) not all Koreans were hurt during the colonial period... #2)how this is still unable to be fully debated when Korea has not yet been unified.

(And, there's actually a typo here... It should say that Rhee Syng Man's administration faced constant questions of legitmacy not opportunities).

(I'm trying this embedded pdf thing for the first time, so if it doesn't work):


Click here:



[DeCal] Korea as a Japanese Colony, Reading

Our conversation this week will be moving into how Korea (Joseon) was under a Japanese colony.

Group 1 will be presenting. And, I'm very excited about how their presentation is looking.

Objective: To try and take a fair and balanced look at how Korean (Joseon) society developed under Japanese colonial rule and its implications.

Required Readings for this Week:
From the Library of Congress:


A Country Study: South Korea

This is an online book and I believe the link might not be permanent, so if that happens to be the case just google it and read the following:

■Chapter 2 - The Society and Its Environment by Donald M. Seekins.
Specifically, "Cultural Identity," "Korea and Japan," and "the Korean Language" (Though all of Ch. 2 is required reading).

Recommended Readings for this Week:

Korea's Place in the Sun, Chapter 3 ("Eclipse" 1905-1945)
The Origins of the Korean War, Chapter 1 (Class and State in Colonial Korea)

Readings for Next Week:
Korea's Place in the Sun, Chapter 4 ("The Passions", 1945-1948), Chapter 5(Just the last paragraph in this chapter"Collision," 1948-1953). Note: We will be skipping most aspects of the Korean War except to mention that it was largely a civil war, highlight the extent of its destructiveness, and what was gained, if anything, from the war from the perspectives of the countries involved.

The Origins of the Korean War, Chapter 5("Forging a New Order: The Entry of American Forces and Policies Toward the Bureaucracy, the Police, and the Military), Chapter 6(only the part, "Policies Toward Land and Rice," 201-9).

Thursday, October 1, 2009

[DeCal] Presentations, Units

Presentations
Next week will mark the first week of presentations. We understand that asking for an hour long presentation is something that takes quite a bit of effort as is reflected in the course grade(30% of your grade). And, I'm putting this up as a reminder to not get started too late. Each and every student in the group will be expected to talk.

Furthermore, facilitators will make themselves available to meet at 7pm on Sundays at the FSM Cafe to help out on the presentations. Joseph and Amanda have committed to being there each week and John will also be there to help beginning the following Sunday, where we hope to meet with any of the groups that would like to prepare for their presentation. We also highly recommend that when preparing for the presentation that all recommended reading actually be read; an hour is a long time.

Reminder:
This is a 2-unit course.

If you enrolled for one unit:

This is the policy as is written on http://decal.org/1173

You can take it for one unit, if you'd like, but this would still mean that you'd be responsible for all the material as if you were taking it for two units. In other words, you wouldn't be able to just come to the first hour and then say, "Oh. It's 7pm. Time for me to head out. I'm only taking it for a unit." This is basically for those that are concerned about a unit cap, but still need 13 units to be considered a full-time student.

If you enrolled for three units,
You need to do a "reatroactive petition to change the variable units from 3 to 2." The paperwork can be found from L&S; otherwise, you "risk receiving a No Pass grade."

Monday, September 28, 2009

[Decal] Week 3 Updates and the Agenda


First, I'd like to welcome our new facilitator, John Yeun to our team and class.

The reading material has been posted. Tomorrow, presentation groups and topics will be assigned and we will continue and expand upon our discussion of how Korea's history as a single, united nation with no minorities gives meaning (by putting context) to the pecularities of Korea (North and South). Specifically, we will focus on the period, 1874-19051876-1905, the final days of a unified Joseon and leading upto the time when Korea became first a protectorate and then a colony of the Japanese Empire (1874-19051876-1905).

[Decal] The End of History

(Yes, I'm borrowing Francis Fukuyama's title here.)

Reading for this week:

I've also highlighted what I believe will be the most relevant parts of our discussion, just in case not everybody does the recomended reading.

From the Library of Congress:
This is an online book and I believe the link might not be permanent, so if that happens to be the case just google it and read the following:

■Chapter 2 - The Society and Its Environment by Donald M. Seekins.
Specifically, "Cultural Identity," "Korea and Japan," and "the Korean Language" (Though all of Ch. 2 is required reading). I believe these parts continue our discussion of Korean's perception of what it means to be Korean and the sense of other that was introduced last week: National or ethnic groups often need an "other," a group of outsiders against whom they can define themselves.
While Western countries with their individualistic and, from a Confucian perspective, self-centered ways of life provide important images of "otherness" for South Koreans, the principal source of such images for many years has been Japan. Attitudes toward Japan as an "other" are complex. On the most basic level, there is hostility fed by memories of invasion and colonial oppression, present-day economic frictions, and the Japanese government's inability or unwillingness to do anything about discriminatory treatment of the large Korean minority in Japan. The two countries have a long history of hostility. Admiral Yi Sun-sin, whose armor-plated boats eventually defeated the Japanese navy's damaging attacks in the 1590s, was South Korea's most revered national hero ("Korea and Japan").

Recommended Reading:
(Required reading for next week is below).

Korea's Place in the Sun, Chapter 2("The Interests," 1860-1904)
For the purposes of our discussion, we want to briefly look at how relations between nations at that time differed in the way that we would think today. For example, the concept of a tributary state is something that is very different to the current (or Western ) system that followed directly  from the Thirty Years War in Europe or the Peace of Westphalia. Bruce Cumings writes:

"After another try, in 1845, the Chinese imperial commissioner in Hong Kong exlpained to the British that Korea "could not be opened to trade by China, for it was not a part of China" : nor could Korea open itself to trade, since "it was not independent."
In other words, basically, it's more of acknowledgement that our king acknowledges the supremacy of your king," but without any material, tangible benefits that say a colony might bring to a colonizing nation in the twentieth century. Cumings writes:
"Korea's seclusion policy was partly a reaction to foreign predations, but also expressed its national self-sufficiency, its acheivement of virtual economic autarky, and its valued place within the Chinese world order."

Excluding the last condition, these words would be a fitting description of what both Koreas after the end of the Korean War.

Issues of self-sufficiency helps to give us an understanding of why North Korea will not trade (that is answer why doesn't the country just give up self-sufficiency in food so that it can make money by specializing in manufacturing consumer goods when the country is clearly not suited to be an agricultural country). Of course, here, we should also note that North Korea has been at war against the largest consumer, the United States, and a superpower that also happened to control the petroleum regime for the past six decades.

Nonetheless, the same motivations can be seen in South Korea's adoption of import-substitution policies under military strongman, Park Chung Hee (he was a rather patriotic dictator, who not only loved Korea, but was also an officer in the Imperial Japanese Army and was also fluent in Japanese. This, of course, brings up the apparent paradox of being patriotic, yet still deciding to live in a Japanese-dominated Korean society). At any rate, while import substitution and export orientated development policies are standard East Asian fare today, at that time, the purchase (and that's what it really was, a purchase) of a large steel plant and plopping it into an agricultural country that was South Korea was desirable to South Korea in that it allowed the country to no longer be dependent on imports of foreign (I'm thinking primarily Japanese) steel and use that steel in industry.

Of course, to non-Koreans this smacked of lunacy, especially in the context of the Washington Consensus. Who in an agriculatural country would buy all that steel (of course, in hindsight, we can now say, well, of course, for Korean carmakers, shipmakers, and construction companies). But anyways, this same desire on the part of Koreans in the south to be feel self-sufficient gave way to what we now think of when we think of South Korea. Also, we should not discount that that a huge reason South Korea and not North Korea enjoyed so much success was that the South had access to a huge market and was secure in the knowledge that it could spend all its resources on making as much money as fast as possible among others...(the U.S. Army and its thousands of nuclear weapons should be cited here)...

And, of course, this should have been cited last week, but it's from Korea's Place in the Sun where I read the quote of a William Elliot Griffis who wrote in 1888:
While the entire body of Coreans, dignitaries, servants, merchants, and cartmen enter Peking, and all circulate freely in the streets among the people, the Chinese envoy to Seoul, must leave his suite at the frontier, and proceed to the capital with but a few servants, and there dwell in seclusion.
Again, history comes to give us another example of something we might find to be strange today (North Korea's minders whose specific job is to make sure foreigners, who come to Pyongyang are kept to specific parts) and this of course comes back to the Korean idea of Us versus Them or Good versus Bad or Civilized vs Barbaric or, perhaps, Safety vs Trouble, which itself comes from the millenia long history of a homogenous society.

Reading for Next Week:

Korea's Place in the Sun, Chapter 3 ("Eclipse" 1905-1945)

The Origins of the Korean War, Chapter 1 (Class and State in Colonial Korea)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Schizophrenic Han - Part II (Revised & Amended)

There is something seriously wrong with the psyche of Korean people.
I wrote Part I, some time ago, here: "A Schizophrenic Han". But, a couple articles caught my eye and, so, here I am writing Part II.

"Next year will be the year when we will put in order what had happened in the past 100 years. We need to work on building a new 100 years of Japan-South Korea relations," Okada said.

The Japanese government has yet to respond to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's invitation to Japanese Emperor Akihito, the foreign minister said.

"We have not any decision as of yet," he said. "It should be carefully considered, as the emperor's visit to South Korea should be politically neutral"("No bilateral talks with N. Korea without nuclear solution: Japanese FM" : Yonhap News).
I think it's far too early to have the Japanese Emperor visit Korea. Yes, next year will mark a century since the date when Korea became a Japanese colony, but it will also mark a century since Korea had been last  unified. Anyways, the real problem is this. South Korea really wants to believe everything is okay and that there is nothing wrong with the way things currently are. For example, South Korean teams in international sporting now compete as part of the Korea, Republic (or Korea, Rep. of)rather than Republic of Korea or South Korea to the image (to both herself and the rest of the world in my opinon) that the team really does represent all of Korea.

It's not hard to sense the irony in this statement then:
"The new Japanese government has the courage to face up to history.'' These words ― uttered by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama during a summit with President Lee Myung-bak Wednesday ― were what all Asian neighbors have long wanted to hear from Japan (New Dawn in Asia : Korea Times).
(Japan recently witnessed a new government and saw a new political party sweep into power not unlike what happened in Mexico in 2000). And, the writer of that editorial in the Korea Times thinks it's very important that Japan, apologize, for crimes committed in her history, a tired theme that just won't go away in relations between South Korea and Japan. I think it's about time that the Korean government finds the courage to face up to history. I think it's also about time that people in South Korea (the South Korean people as a word just doesn't seem like the right word here) accept the perverse reality that is North Korea today and to accept that the ultimate responsibility of unifying Korea lies in the hands of not Americans or Japanese or other foreign powers, but with Koreans.

And, most importantly, and not just with respect to unification, but I strongly feel that it is about time that Koreans should have the confidence to accept that it is ultimately the responsibility of Koreans to see what is happening to other Koreans in North Korea and to do something about it(rather than debating what the definition of Koreans means today or depending largely on Japanese media for news on North Korea).

While the words of Korean President Lee Myung Bak have taken a rather bellicose theme lately, don't let those words fool you. The administration's policy still reflects a country in denial still operating under the banner of a Don't Let North Korea Fail At All Costs Policy. The Yonhap article writes
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak earlier this week proposed a package deal in which the five other parties would provide the North with security guarantees, massive economic aid and other incentives in return for complete denuclearization, necessitating no further negotiations.
Nothing really has changed and nothing really will change unless all of South Korea actually comes to accept that the country is first and foremost still divided and that rather than expending resources on such trivial things as the hosting of the G-20 summit, realize that South Korea definitely has the ability and means to unify the country if she wants to. For example, how old does the cold war seem today when you actually sit down and consider that a South Korean national serves as the current Secretary-General of the United Nations.

You could also look at what South Korean historians are doing. Historians in South Korea put weight, as I've pointed out earlier (in Part I), on theories now that would otherwise be of little relevance were it to not the case that Korea still remains divided today. Specifically, the North-South States Period (남북국시대) serves mainly to justify the division of the peninsula in the mind of Koreans and to make it seem as if the division is entirely natural (since it happened before and the country eventually unified) and that it's perfectly alright to think of other things for the moment (such as leading your life and forgetting that your second cousin or a cousin twice removed is doing time as a slave laborer).

I wonder if the Japanese public ever thinks, "you know what, I bet you anything that life was better for most Koreans in North Korea when they were ruled by us." This was, of course, one of the justifications by the Japanese for colonizing Korea a century ago. Past and present South Korean governments with an apathetic South Korean constituency and along with all the other apathetic Koreans of other flavors, such as Korean-Chinese, Korean-Americans, and the like, are just as much accomplices by choosing ignorance in this debate(tragedy). Choosing ignorance like that which is forced upon North Koreans, who are also citizens of the Republic of Korea or, who are, also, by definition and Constitution, part of the Nation of the Great Han People (literal translation of the official name of South Korea, 한민국, 韓民國) does not seem Great at all.

I fail to see how a Great People can let half her People live under constant torture and come up with all sorts of excuses and, yet, still claim to be Great. And, no, I don't believe I know what the South Korean government should do (nor do I believe that there is an easy way towards Unification), but what I do believe would be a tangible, first step is to accept that what is currently the state of things in Korea is unnatural, not normal, and that pleading either ignorance or apathy is immoral. Accepting that Koreans are ultimately responsible for themselves should be a given for a Great People.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

[DeCal] Attendance and Enrollment Update

I don't know what happened. Perhaps, the budget crisis cut so many planned classes that students have to resort to taking DeCals (although, of course, no class similar to this DeCal is being offered by or was planned to be offered by the Ethnic Studies or Asian American Studies Departments here, though I'd say History 113b does come close) to be considered full-time students. Or, maybe, I was wrong and there's a great deal of excitement and interest in Korea, particularly North Korea, that has been generated in the wake of former President Bill Clinton's visit to the communist country this past summer. Or, perhaps, this DeCal has been making a difference and we are witnessing a general rise in interest in both the DeCal (or perhaps not) and, Korea.

But, what is sure is that, I have never seen these many students enrolled and the class has actually been over enrolled to make sure that there will be enough room or as much space as available (That is the class is listed as being able to fit 64, but we can enroll up to 10% over this limit). And, I'm very excited and a bit nervous moving into this semester. So, from this point on, if you are on the waitlist and would like to see if you will get in, then check again Friday around 3pm. A final, manual adjustment will be made by the department then, where all those on the waiting list will be moved in -- provided that space exists. After Friday (the drop deadline), the waiting list will be moved back to an automatic adjustment process.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Asian-Americans: Not homogenous, Income of Korean-Americans


I wrote earlier that:

Though here, and it may come off as a surprise, but according to I believe the 2000 U.S. Census Data, Korean-Americans are actually the poorest income "group" among Asian-Americans.

And, I've found the data. It's actually a report from the U.S. Census Bureau entitled, "We the People: Asians in the United States" (the full file can be found here and the link is also in the Selected Articles part as you scroll down on your left hand side). I've taken a photo of the graph and circled the relevant portion in red. While definitely, not the poorest, it does show that Korean-Americans are the poorest among Northeast Asians and actually have a lower median income than that of all American households, which stands in stark contrast with the fact that the median of Asian-Americans stands much higher than that of all American housholds. Of course, I'm not getting into why this is the case as this doesn't separate the different groupings according to the date of arrival and the like. Specifically, the report says:
This report provides a portrait of the Asian population in the United States and discusses the eleven largest detailed Asian groups at the national level, for example: Asian Indian, Cambodian, and Japanese.1 It is part of the Census 2000 Special Reports series that presents several demographic, social, and economic characteristics collected from Census 2000. The Asian population is not homogeneous. It includes many groups who differ in language, culture, and length of residence in the United States. Some Asian groups, such as the Chinese and Japanese, have been represented in the United States for several generations. Other groups, such as the Hmong, Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians, tend to be comparatively recent immigrants.


Of the total United States population, 11.9 million people, or 4.2 percent, reported they were Asian. This number included 10.2 million people, or 3.6 percent, who reported only Asian and 1.7 million people, or 0.6 percent, who reported Asian and at least one other race. Table 1 shows the number of people reporting a single race from among the detailed Asian groups and a tally of the number of times the group was reported
Anyways, this is a subpoint that I just wanted to get the data for from my main posting: Traits Characteristic of Koreans

What did I mean by "A Model Minority"...

I changed the title of the original posting since I felt that it doesn't accurately portray what I was saying and a conclusion like that is best left to the reader. But, my point does stand that if you can find certain characteristics in Korean-Chinese that you'd expect from Korean-Americans either by stereotype or not, then this data should lend some credence to these very same expectations (stereotypes). So, it's left to the reader to interpret whether characteristics, such as being more highly educated or scoring higher on standardized tests, actually warrants or deserves the term "model minority." I mean it's one thing for me to say that a certain group has this trait; but, it'd be quite another to say that this implies Korean-Americans are a model minority group.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Traits characteristic of Koreans

There are a few interesting conclusions to take away from this article, "A Comparison of the Korean Minorities in China and Japan." . While it does look somewhat dated (and hence, we don't know how the exact conditions have changed in the two autonomous Korean(Joseon) Prefectures in China, we can grab that:
  1. As table 1 shows on page 6, Koreans have not really lived in Manchuria for centuries.

Second, I know that Bruce Cumings devotes an entire chapter in Korea's Place in the Sun to argue against the labelling of Korean-Americans as a model minority group and trying to defend the diversity of Korean-Americans as a "group." Though here, and it may come off as a surprise, but according to I believe the 2000 U.S. Census Data, Korean-Americans are actually the poorest income "group" among Asian-Americans. Of course, it's 4:28 a.m4:51a.m. Sunday Morning here, and I'd rather not try to look it up now, but I remember seeing it from the U.S. Census Bureau website itself somewhere, sometime ago.According to data from the U.S. Census bureau, we have that Korean-Americans are one of the poorer minority groups with an income below that of not only other Asian-American groups, but also of the average American household.

But, what's interesting is to see the parallels between what this paper finds and how it stacks up to how ethnic Koreans are perceived or how Koreans are expected to be in the United States. Considering that China too is a very diverse, multiethnic country and that, at least on paper, the Chinese have a similar definition of identity as that of the United States, I'd like to argue that it can be shown that the expectations or beliefs that Americans may hold towards Korean-Americans can indeed be validated. We can show by seeing if these same expectations can be confirmed from data found among ethnic Koreans living in China (Joseon-jok, 조선족). Hence, we have that:

In terms of achievement in standardized tests and percentages of high school and college graduates, the Koreans not only do better than any other minority group in China, they also outperform the Hans, the majority group in China. For example, 175.3 Koreans completed four years of college per 10,000 Koreans six years old and over, compared to 72.9 for the total Chinese population and 31.6 for all minorities (C. Lee, 1986)

Now, I couldn't get the primary source for this data, but based on what is said here, it wouldn't be to hard to say that Koreans as a people very much value education (I can also recall reading that another source puts South Korea as being the largest source nation of foreign students in both China and the United States). Recall that South Korea is half a country of less than fifty million. I'd also argue that by extension that this also quantifies the argument that Koreans have been most influenced by neo-Confucian values and institutions as well as a number of other conclusions. But, I'll leave that for either a future posting and/or to the reader..

With respect to why I changed the name of the title: The term model minority group is just one interpretation and not necessarily one I am in favor of. Though what I am saying is that it if can be argued a model minority group is defined by a certain set of desirable characteristics and these characteristics can then be found to describe a certain minority, then it could also be argued that this group constitutes a model minority group. Nonetheless, I feel I am treading on thin ice here and I feel the title takes away from what I'm trying to say here so that's the reason why I changed the title from "A model minority group." Anyways, I wrote the exact reasoning here.

[Decal] Week 2: Why History Matters

Reading for this week is:

Pyong, Gap Min. "A Comparison of the Korean Minorities in China and Japan." International Migration Review 26.1 (1992): 4-21.

We will be going into Why History Matters, particularly when we talk about Korea and in trying to understand all the peculiar institutions in both North Korea and South Korea.

Also, a draft copy of this week's presentation has also been uploaded.

[Decal] Accessing JSTOR from off-campus...

If you need to access JSTOR from off-campus, all you need is your Calnet ID. Login instructions are pretty straightforward and it took me a good 15 seconds.
Instructions can be found here: http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/Help/proxy.html
Then, just click on the appropriate link which has the browser you're using.