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:
Then, just click on the appropriate link which has the browser you're using.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

[Decal] Week 1(*Updated): You missed week 1? PowerPoint Files...

If you missed week 1, there was a presentation about why I think you should care about Korea, but no, if you missed week 1, I don't see why you shouldn't be able to take this course... The week's PowerPoint File is available now.

Enrollment, Waiting List, and the Like: I have been told by Amanda that she continues to receive e-mails regarding whether or not people will be able to get in or not and I assure you that there will be no problem getting into the class and it'll always be more about "do you really want to take this DeCal?" than "Can I get in?" If it were upto me, there really would be no need for a waiting list, but let me explain. Right now, it says both on telebears and the schedule site that the "waiting list is being handled directly by the department" or "manually," which actually means that one of us needs to talk to somebody in the Ethnic Studies department, who in turn must contact the Registrar's Office to move those on the waiting list and into the class. This is necessary as the size of the waiting list had been bigger than the initial, allotted class size. For example, this class was first listed to show the class will be limited to twenty underclassmen and fiften upperclass men. Also, if space does become available, people aren't automatically moved into the DeCal without a visit/phone call/e-mail from one of us to the ethnic studies department. So, that is the reason for this delay.

The waiting list will now "be processed automatically each weekend during Tele-BEARS Phases I and II and nightly during the Adjustment Period." However, if necessary, I will visit Mr. Fong again before the add/drop deadline, and see if he can just raise the enrollment limit to the limits physical size of the classroom, so enrollment issues can and will just take care of themselves. Regarding the phyiscal size of the classroom, it can accomodate sixty-five to seventy students, and we as facilitators have made the conscious decision to take on that many students (of course with the sincere belief that realistically this class will not fill up). But, anyways, as more people enrolled, the limit of the class size has expanded and will continue to expand, if necessary. Moreover, the ratio of freshmen/sophomores to juniors/seniors can and will be adjusted.

I do understand that the add/drop deadline is just a week away, but I don't seriously think that there will be anybody that wants to take this course that won't be able to since (1) there are 48 enrolled with 1 on the waiting list while the physical size of the classroom stands at 65-70. (2) As I jested in class and earlier on this blog, this is a DeCal about Korea and not Japan or China, so I don't expect that the class will fill up. Of course, people have been been struck by lightning before, but anyways, I don't see why there won't be space. As to try and answer the naturaly question of why they don't just list the class with its real limits is beyond me; I would think it would eliminate excessive phone calls/visits/e-mails. Anyways...

PowerPoint Files: In accordance with my hope of trying to make everything available online. I have made the first presentation available here. And, if you scroll down, you will see a newly created list on the left hand side that will over time hold links to all the presentation files. Again, these presentation files are being made available for both those enrolled in the class and those not. But, I would like to point out that, if you do take a look at the PPT files, you will see that as I don't revert to reading of notes (or memorization) so even as I make these presenation files available along with a full curriculum that includes the syllabus and a complete reading list, it will still feel incomplete. This is why I feel the need to introduce podcasts. Again, all the material produced in this course will be made available with the hope that someone, somewhere will also create a similar course offering somewhere out there and/or follow along and contribute to our discussion.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

[DeCal] General, Administrative, and Podcasting

Availability of PowerPoint Presentations
I understand that programs, such as DeCal's, are now being offered or tested at other UC campuses. I am going to make all my Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation files available (Not to mention audio podcasts, a full curriculum, and reading list all also available). I am doing this with the hope that similar courses can be offered at other universities. Provided that (1) due credit is given (2) Bruce Cumings book, Korea's Place in the Sun is read. Please contact me.

Attendance: I have received a couple e-mails already asking if it is okay to have missed the first lecture and, while attendance is 40% of the course grade as outlined in the syllabus, in the presentation today, I did talk about how hard it actually is to fail the course. It is up to you to be able to come up with some combination of numbers to hit the magic 70% to pass the course. So, space for the moment will not be what will prevent you from enrolling in this course. You will need to talk to Amanda about the exact details of this either in person or by e-mail at, but if you are on the waitlist, don't worry we still have about twenty seats left.

Podcasting: Due to miscommunication between myself and a Mr. Lee and a Miss Lee, we were unable to record the first week's presentation. Nonetheless, future meetings will be fully podcasted. Trust me, no one is more heavily disappointed than I am. But, along with the podcasts, the syllabus, the reading material on the syllabus, and the Microsoft PowerPoint files, it is my wish that anybody can pick up and participate in the discussion that is going on in class and/or even start their own DeCal at another UC or even a school somewhere else.

Recommended Book: Again, I heavily recommend that you purchase, Korea's Place in the Sun by Professor Bruce Cumings

"Bruce Cumings' research and teaching focus on modern Korean history, 20th century international history, U.S.-East Asian relations, East Asian political economy,and American foreign relations" (Department of History, University of Chicago).

While he has been heavily criticized by some, especially those in Korea of his views, I believe much of it owes to the fact that some Koreans have a hard time that "foreigners" can be more knowledgeable about Korea than Koreans. He is generally considered to the most prominent expert in these fields, particulary pertaining to the Korean War. What makes it particularly attractive is that he condenses Korea's history into a one-volume book with prose that many find to be particularly inspiring. His work is revisionist in the sense that he looks at contemporary and past events on the Korean peninsula with neither a focus on how Korea's importance in history dwells down to how she transmitted Chinese culture to Japan (a very Japan-centric view of the world) or how the tragedy that Koreans have witnessed in the twentieth century is a tragedy for tragedy's sake. The currriculum of the DeCal is largely based around his book.

Recommended Assignment: Please e-mail Prof. Bruce Cumings and see if he could make it to Berkeley. I mentioned in class today that I e-mailed him earlier this summer, asking him to see if he could come guest lecture at Berkeley, but his response was that "he will be busy this semester... and next semester." Perhaps sixty students asking him to come to Berkeley might change his mind. His e-mail address as listed on his webpage is here or

[DeCal] Breaking Down Borders : Korea DeCal, Fall 2009 Team

Fall 2009 Breaking Down Borders: Korea, DeCal Team:

"My name is John Yeun, currently a senior studying Business Administration. I'm a Korean American who was born and raised in Southern California (Cerritos, Brea). I'll be here to help out with the DeCal while also learning more about Korea's history and modern day issues myself." (John Yeun)

"My name is Amanda Lee. I am a second year, intended Political Science and Economics major. I was born in Pennsylvania but I was raised in Pico Rivera/ Downey in Southern California. This is my first time teaching this Decal but I took this Decal for two semesters last year so I am familiar with this topic and area of study" (Amanda Lee).

"Born and raised in Southern California. Born in Northridge and raised in La Crescenta, near Glendale. Went to Korea from 2001 to 2005. Economics and Applied Mathematics Double Major" (Joseph Chang).

Please direct all course related e-mails to

[Natural Order] Communism was unavoidable... and of John Maynard Keynes

I just came across the perfect phrase to describe how I view the stage where Sinic countries viewed Communism early on in the twentieth century.

Thus the extraordinary occurrences of the past two years in Russia, that vast upheaval of Society, which has overturned what seemed most stable—religion, the basis of property, the ownership of land, as well as forms of government and the hierarchy of classes—may owe more to the deep influences of expanding numbers than to Lenin or to Nicholas; and the disruptive powers of excessive national fecundity may have played a greater part in bursting the bonds of convention than either the power of ideas or the errors of autocracy (of The Economic Consequences of the Peace by John Maynard Keynes).
For at that time, it was problems, such as the rapid growth of population and the diminishing ability of states in the Sinic Orbit to be functioning governments, that bankrupted the credibility of old and past institutions. For Korea, look at none other than the Donghak Movement, which led to none other than the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95). Now, consider that Western (U.S.) support for those that had been either colonial colloborators or participants in these past
insitutions made democratic or a market economy incredibly unpopular.

But, what makes East Asia different is that Communist leaders in this part of the region were first and foremost, popular national heroes, who came to identify with Communism. This was more or less a result of the just mentioned logic and by the U.S. decision to support colonial colloborators or participants of past institutions (more or less). Though, the communism is the future thing played its role too. You see, while I'm not exactly writing part IV in this installment yet, I'm setting the argument up for how economic development, or these so called "miracles" in East Asia seem to keep happening over and over again.

Also, it has been pointed out that Mongolia is a state that does not enjoy economic development, which is geographically positioned in Northeast Asia (roughly). However, I would like to say that Mongolia was and has never been a state with Confucian institutions and I believe it is either Henry Kissinger in Diplomacy or Paul Kennedy in the Rise and Fall of Great Powers, who mentions that it is precisely those civilizations that adopted certain parts of Chinese civilization that were the ones that survived intact and independent. I would argue that Mongolia is not and has not been a state with Confucian institutions.

This is another installment in this natural order argument. Perhaps, it could become part of a lengthy paper one day... Earlier I wrote:

Monday, September 14, 2009

[DeCal] Why Should I Care About Korea?

The first meeting for Breaking Down Borders: Korea DeCal is on Monday and one of the things that we will be talking about is "Why Should I Care About North Korea?" Or, Korea at all for that matter (Other than to be a more well rounded and informed individual). You see those are the wise words of none other than former U.S. President George W. Bush as reported in Bob Woodward's book, State of Denial:

George W. pulled Bandar aside. "Bandar, I guess you're the best asshole who
knows about the world. Explain to me one thing." "Governor, what is it?" "Why
should I care about North Korea?" Bandar said he didn't really know. It was one
of the few countries that he did not work on for King Fahd. "I get these
briefings on all parts of the world," Bush said, "and everybody is talking to me
about North Korea." "I'll tell you what, Governor," Bandar said. "One reason
should make you care about North Korea." "All right, smart alek," Bush said,
"tell me." "The 38,000 American troops right on the border." ..."If nothing else
counts, this counts. One shot across the border and you lose half these people
immediately. You lose 15,000 Americans in a chemical or biological or even
regular attack. The United State of America is at war instantly." "Hmmm," Bush
said. "I wish those assholes would put things just point-blank to me. I get half
a book telling me about the history of North Korea." "Now I tell you another
answer to that. You don't want to care about North Korea anymore?" Bandar asked.
The Saudis wanted America to focus on the Middle East and not get drawn into a
conflict in East Asia. "I didn't say that," Bush replied. "But if you don't, you
withdrawl those troops back. Then it becomes a local conflict. Then you have the
whole time to decide, 'Should I get involved? Not involved?' Etc." At that
moment, Colin Powell approached. "Colin," Bush said, "come here. Bandar and I
were shooting the bull, just two fighter pilots shooting the bull." He didn't
mention the topic. "Mr. Governor," Bandar said, "General Powell is almost a
fighter pilot. He can shoot the bull almost as good as us." (I obtained this excerpt directly from this blog).

You see, I'm of the belief that President George W. Bush, the first president I voted for during the 2000 election cycle, though I really was pulling for Senator John McCain at that time, became president since he was a likeable figure thought to be not too different than the average American (Though, former President Gore's likeability issue and disgraced activist Ralph Nader probably also had something to do with it). So, when then Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. becomes a tutor of George W. Bush's and answers precisely why the U.S. should care and in a very concise manner too, it should go someway in helping us to understand as well.

If the U.S. probably had a very public debate about fighting another Korean War, then I doubt U.S. public opinion would support it at all (meaning if another war did break out then I'd think another Republican would get elected to office, probably not too unlike that of, let's say, another President Eisenhower). Why else would both Republican and Democratic administrations --except for the first Clinton administration, oddly enough -- be so willing to accomodate North Korea? (George W. Bush's first administration doesn't count. During his first administration, there really was no U.S. policy towards North Korea -- I'd suggest reading "The Long Road To Pyongyang" (Foreign Affairs Nov/Dec 2007).

"But a look back at the history of the Bush administration's approach to North Korea highlights a somewhat different aspect of the White House's foreign policy. The portrait that emerges is not one of a confrontational, militaristic administration; what instead becomes apparent is an image of a White House with extremely poor conceptual strategies and decision-making processes" ("The Long Road to Pyongyang" : Foreign Affairs)

At any rate, if North Korea launched an invasion, then overnight the U.S. would have about twenty thousand dead Americans. What happened on 9/11 will pale in comparison to the loss of life if such an event were to truly occur. It is in this light that the U.S. should care. Basically, North Korea holds U.S. foreign policy hostage; that is North Korea can basically force the U.S. to be at war overnight.

If twenty thousand Americans died overnight, there'd be no way that the U.S. would let it just pass by (and no way that the North Korean regime would survive in tact of course). But, nonetheless, aside from general and genuine concerns of North Korean proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile technology, counterfeiting U.S. dollars, abducting foreign nationals, and, of course, probably the worst human rights violations in the history of the world, this is the prime reason, why we as Americans should care.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

[Natural Order] An unnatural divison and unnatural order.

I could never have imagined how much friction I'd encounter with the previous couple postings that it seems I never have to worry about writing for the sake of writing or posting for the sake of posting.

This is the third part in this installment:

But, a couple points seem to have come up that needs clarification though I have bolded it. The natural order of things pertains to:

#1. The natural order of things on the Korean Peninsula is to have a single Korean state. Korea has had the same borders with the same homogenous group of people since 664 A.D. even without having to resort to the most ridiculous exercise of revisionistic or nationlistic history that has become the Balhae debate. So, imagine a country that has had one ethnic group... No minorities whatsoever for 1300 years... A country where the word, our is synonymous with the word Korean and them or they are synomous with the word foreign. For example, "Woori" or "Uri," are romanized terms that mean "our," but could just as easily mean Korean. For example, "Woori Bank" could also be interpreted to mean "Our (Korean) Bank" (not to get confused with the real Bank of Korea (한국은행), that is the real Central Bank of Korea). Or, perhaps, judging by the Lone Star fiasco, you may be inclined to think it could even mean Bank for Koreans.

And, of course, another example would be "our language" is often used to mean the "Korean Language" when speaking to other Koreans, of course. Though, I wonder what one Indonesian tribe may have to say about that now. Perhaps, the best possible example though and the most relevant one is that of "our (fellow) countryman" (우리 나라 사람). For example, let's say I introduce myself to somebody and they ask me if I'm Chinese. Then, I'd say, well I might say I'm American, but I might as just well say, "아니, 우리 나라 사람인데요" or equivalently, "No, I too am of our country," which if given a more liberal translation would just come off as, "No, I'm Korean."

What's my point?

My point is that Koreans have had a unified Korean state and lived in a homogenous society for so long that it is so unnatural to have two Koreas. For example, imagine a conversation that goes something like this, especially for those that are fluent in Korean, and you might come to appreciate exactly how ridiculous this division is.

South Korean (speaking in "Korean"): "Oh, hi. By chance, are you of our country (Are you Korean?)" (혹시, 우리 나라 사람이신가요?).

North Korean: "No, I'm not. I'm a Joseon person (North Korean) (아니, 조선 사람인데요)."

Could you imagine that? A definition of being Korean that excludes half of the Korean peninsula? There is a huge identity crisis going on in that part of the world right now. And, it's just downright unnatural when you look at the past 1300 years of history (well, of course, we can go back to 2333 b.c.e., but, of course, sources on that period are just not as reliable), but that's exactly what has been the case for the past sixty years. But, no one can say it.

Continuing on, in Korea either you're Korean("we") or an outsider (of course, "Chinese" would count here as well, too). If you go back far enough into Korean history, you'd actually see that Ming, yes, Ming Chinese emissaries in Korea were not allowed to even travel outside certain roads without Korean "interlopers" in not what is North Korea, but what was Joseon (a unified Korea)... Of course, it should also be noted how much Joseon admired and tried to emulate Ming China (not too different from that of North Korea emulating Stalinism or Maoism).

Anyways, take these xenophobic tendencies that have been created for over the past 1300 years (or more than 5,000 years, depending on your source) and then brutally colonize the country for thirty six years. Then, add in a devastating civil war (the Korean War) that wasn't allowed to see its natural conclusion - a war ending with there being two rival Korean states is definitely unnatural (or just look at the fact that the armistic isn't even a peace treaty, but a cease fire signed by China, North Korea, and the U.S.). That's at the heart of my argument. And, then what do you have left? A bizarre state that is North Korea today that builds dams to kill other Koreans and, of course, a South Korea left in denial. While the Sunshine policy has been discredited, what has remained consistent is the "Do Not Let North Korea Fail at All Costs Policy." It has been argued that the costs of unification are too expensive, but what I have been arguing from part I of this installment is that the costs of unification have already been paid -- during the Korean War.

Hence, I argued that Truman is as much to fault as is Stalin. I believe the Soviets thought the North Koreans to be as bizarre in a fashion not too unlike how the rest of America would find Berkeley or San Francisco to be bizarre. Thus, when Truman announced the aptly named Truman Doctrine in 1947, he should have promptly and directly told the Soviets that the U.S. viewed the Korean Peninsula to be in the vital interests of the U.S. or, if she hadn't, then not enterred the war. And, I believe here is where it gets controversial. The U.S. should not have enterred the war as she did and, if she did, then she should have made sure to get a single Korea and not half of one. For you see, the U.S. didn't liberate South Korea from Communism (at that point in time) as Communism was the ideology chosen by default since every idea, including Democracy with a market economy, had such a huge stigma against it.

What the U.S. did do was provide a market for South Korea (much, much later on), but that was not a sufficient condition for South Korean economic development, but rather just a necessary one. This then leads to the other natural order I initially argued that regardless of which government unified Korea, Korea would definitely not be the North Korea of today and over time come to see the wealth that South Korea enjoys today. But, anyways, that's for part IV it seems.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Jaebeom of 2PM gets to go back

Aside from Lee Soo Young (이수영) and a select few songs, I don't really listen to Korean music. But, when I first heard this story and then read the details of it, I could not help but sympathize with lead singer, Jae-beom, a Korean-American, of the group 2PM:

Jae-beom issued an apology Saturday when comments he made in 2005-2007 to an acquaintance in United States were revealed by fans. The singer wrote comments like ``Korea is gay. I hate Koreans. I wanna come back'' on his social networking Web site myspace, enraging fans who later commented that they were disappointed and some even felt betrayed by his posts.

The Korean-American singer at that time was an understudy at JYP Entertainment, the current agency of the seven-member group``I first came to Korea as a high school freshman. I didn't know much about Korea nor the language and the food was different,'' Jae-beom said in the public apology. ``The comments that I made were emotional expressions of discontent over my situation at that time … I sincerely apologize.''

Jae-beom debuted in 2PM in 2008, and the group has become one of hottest in Korea ("2PM Leader Jae-beom’s Past Comments Enrage Korean Fans Despite Apology" : The Korea Times)

I mean, to be honest, when I first set foot there at twenty, it would be dishonest for me to say I didn't make similar comments or hold those very same feelings that have upset so many Koreans.

[Natural Order] How will we judge the Korean War in a century?

I believe some of the words from the previous post, "I'd blame Truman" to have been misconstrued to somehow mean that I am saying it would have indeed been a good thing to have had Kim Il Sung quickly unify the peninsula on his terms. By no way, did I mean that I wish Koreans in South Korea today would be better off had this been the case. I mean, it is irrefutable, that South Korea enjoys a moderately wealthy existence compared to the bizarre state that is North Korea today as North Korea recently again demonstrated by killing six civilians in South Korea by flooding a dam that was built to do just that, yes, by flooding a dam that was built to kill people

"The Peace Dam is probably the only dam in world constructed with no reservoir"("North Korea Kills Six In South Korea with Flood" : ROKdrop ).

"North Korea built dams including the Mt. Kumgang Dam to inundate Seoul," he said, but the project was foiled by South Korea building the Peace Dam. "But North Korea believes it can decisively threaten Seoul if it opens the floodgates at times of heavy rainfall," he added. ("Was N.Korea's Dam Release a Shot Across the Bow? : Chosun Ilbo).

This is not the type of government that I think should inwould even want to exist, let alone be the state of a unified Korean peninsula. let alone even an island.But, the point I was trying to make was, consider this article from the New York Times, though some are secondary sources, I doubt any would refute these facts; unless you really were like the spokepiece of North Korea, such as Kim Myong Chol, whose "work" frequently appears on Asia Times, such as "Rich lessons in North Korea's playbook." As for Stalin beling held responsible for the North Korean invasion, first consider U.S. failure to communicate its intentions and interests in the period leading up to the Korean War, then consider:

"We later learned from Khrushchev's memoirs that, far from initiating the attack, Stalin only slowly consented to Kim Il Sung's overconfident plan for a campaign that would be over before the Americans could react. Khrushchev's version has been reinforced by other Soviet witnesses in the years of glasnost."

But, most importantly, is the conclusion of this article written some 40 years after the Korean War broke out and nearly two decades from today:

What deserves our respectful attention is that Harry Truman's basic decision, with its human cost, especially to us and to the South Koreans, was right ("The Korean War, 40 Years Later; The Right Decision" : The New York Times).

What I am arguing is will this be the consensus twenty years from today (or forty years after this article was written). I mean, yes, most ordinary South Koreans enjoys such material prosperity that probably only a select few and I mean a very select few in North Korea could only begin to dream about. I am saying that had the Korean War run its course without intervention from the United States (or equivalently had Harry S. Truman not settled on a policy, the Truman Doctrine, where not winning wars, was supposed to be a success ), then Korea would most likely have been a poor, failing state for perhaps a half century or so. But, this is what I was getting at in the previous post:

While it may be the case that economists in yesteryear saw South Korean economic development as a miracle, in the heart of prosperous Northeast Asia, I would argue, it is in fact North Korea that seems to be the exceptional case and the miracle ("I'd blame Truman" : Breaking Down Borders: Korea).

Considering this, then I don't think so. I think in this alternate scenario, if you envision Korea to be like Vietnam, and especially where that economy seems to be heading, and you'd get a good idea. A unified Korea in 1950 would have suffered perhaps a famine (one and probably just one as in what happened in Communist China) and a period of dire economic mismanagement. But, then since no rival Korean state exists and after the country reconciled the fractures and fissures the nation found itself in in the aftermath of forced industrialization and colonization, the Korean state would then have been able to adopt the necessary political and economic reforms to eventually find the material prosperity and democratic institutions that South Korea enjoys today.

I am sure this will be the story of Vietnam in a generation or two, but what about those of North Korea? Millions will have been and could still be suffering under this perverse communist regime that is North Korea. In this light, can it still be argued that if the Korean War is seen from a Korean perspective and not in the perspective of the cold war, was it really a success (post-1988)? I would argue no.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

[Natural Order] I'd blame Truman, but a North Korean apologist...I am not...

Recently, I found myself in the awkward position of having to argue against the United States and even argue that the United States was indeed responsible for the divison of the Korean Peninsula (I'm not arguing that the continuing division of the peninsula is the U.S.' fault). It is a position that I would not ever have dreamt of and, indeed, please note that I consider myself a proud Korean-American, where I'd like to point out that the word Korean is an adjective that modifies the noun, American. Indeed, I am American and a very proud one at that (Though, I would also say I'm a proud Korean too).

But, I would have to argue that just because South Korea finds herself to be moderately wealthy, while North Korea has turned out to be a very bizarre state - though I will argue given the place (geography) and time (history) that North Korea finds herself to be in; it doesn't seem all that bizarre. But, not just the division of the peninsula, but the perverse nature of the North Korean state does actually lie in the hands of the United States. More so, I would like to say that it would be disingenious to argue that Joseph Stalin should be held any more responsible for the Korean War than Harry S. Truman.

The division of the Korean Peninsula was agreed during the Potsdam Conference. Although the Soviet Union should not have been in a war against the Japanese since they only enterred the war when Japanese defeat was all, but assured, it was not clear where and how the Korean Peninsula would be divided -- although a similar, parallel argument can be made about the U.S. invading continental europe only after German defeat was all, but assured after the Battle of Stalingrad, it was the Soviet Union, who assented, to the U.S. demand that the Soviet Union allow U.S. soldiers to land on the Korean Peninsula.

But anyways, you see, it was the Soviet Union who assented to the U.S. demand of division of the Korean peninsula. Note, that the U.S. refused the division of Japan when the Soviet Union asked if Soviet troops could land on Hokkaido. The Soviet Union, quite aware of which the more powerful country was at that time (and who also possessed nuclear weapons), assented and actually waited for the U.S. soldiers to arrive on the peninsula.

U.S. naivete not only wrongly interfered with the natural development of East Asia, but in particular with respect to Korea, the greatest tragedy was that by the U.S. interfering in what was basically a civil war, the peninsula saw all the carnage and destruction that would've played out anyways had the U.S. not interfered, but the wardid nothing to unify the nation ("Containment"). Moreover, the perverse state that North Korea finds herself to be in is a direct result of the natural order of things being prevented from occurring. Other Sinic nations experienced similar bouts of reconciliation, but with the fruits of unification.

I believe the U.S. during that period in time chose the wrong side. It was as if the U.S. in almost a John Bolton-esque fashion held so rigidly towards ideology that the nation was blind to what was really going on. The Civil Wars in the Sinic nations in East Asia were more a natural development of land reforms and a conclusion to societal fissures that had been building up for quite some time and, while Communism promised to be the "quick way" towards modernization, the U.S. belief in this communist bloc to be a monolithic one was misguided (and costly) to say the least.

Moreover, only after the U.S. signalled to Stalin that the U.S. did not care about the Korean Peninsula did Stalin give Kim Il Sung a green lightto invade the ROK armed with Soviet Tanks. Of course, the U.S. then abruptly changed her mind - or perhaps, it was just the case that President Truman who singlehandedly decided that the U.S. did care after all. As a result of this decision or perhaps indecision and miscommunication on the part of the United States, millions of Koreans and Chinese died along with many thousands of Americans.

Most importantly though, millions of Koreans would continue and still do continue to suffer in North Korea as a result of this indecision. While it may be the case that economists in yesteryear saw South Korean economic development as a miracle, in the heart of prosperous Northeast Asia, I would argue, it is in fact North Korea that seems to be the exceptional case and the miracle. Hence, I would argue that, if blame were to be assigned, then it would not be Stalin, but Truman who should be faulted.

Of course, the nation remained divided and while in 1988 with the Seoul Olympics the U.S. did ultimately enjoy the fruitful dividends to the war on the peninsula, the nation remains divided.It is in this light that I'd humbly argue that the U.S. interfered in the natural development of things. The fissures that were built up during thetimes leading upto the Japanese Colonial Period and during this periodwere never reconciliated.And, I would also think that the perverse state that is North Korea todaywould not and could not exist had it not been for the presence of a rich and prosperous South Korea. Hence, the logic behind the U.S. interferingin the natural order of things.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Decal Update, Fires

Decal Update:

I know there's a few that are waitlisted, but I asked for a fairly large class. And, after speaking with somebody in the Ethnic Studies Department, I'm fairly sure anybody that wants to get in will be able to do so. The capacity of the reserved classroom is sixty-five students and from the past two semesters I've facilitated this course and the two semesters before that in which I enrolled in Stella Kim's DeCal, I believe it should be plenty of space.


I've been meaning to post in detail what happened when I visited the North Korean embassies in the U.K. and France, but among other things, such as the beginning of my (super) senior year, I've also been preoccupied with the fire as of late. Despite what I may have said about the reporting done by the Los Angeles Times, which to me strikes a sensational tone to this tragedy, it truly is amazing when you consider how large of an area the fire has spread to and continues to burn, and yet how few homes have actually been lost. Not to mention the fact that my mother's home in La Crescenta had been until today under mandatory evacuation, but as I lived there for a large chunk of my life, from Mountain Avenue Elementary and Rosemont Middle School to Crescenta Valley High School, I still hold a strong affinity to the neighborhood. I lived on the La Crescenta side of Pickens Canyon and as a kid I remember building clubhouses with friends and then setting traps to protect our clubhouses, getting poison oak while exploring, or just simply making a routine cross through Pickens Canyon to reach those friends that lived in La Canada. While the two suburbs straddle each other, there is no direct road that runs from La Crescenta to La Canada until you get down to Foothill Blvd, so I remember the canyon intimately. A picture "Los Angeles firefighter Thomas Rindge takes a break from battling the Station fire in La Crescenta Monday" (Los Angeles Times):

And, from Wikipedia, this is a beautiful picture of the area before the fires. La Canada-Flintridge is also in the picture and is the middle-right part of the picture.