(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").
(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:
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)