Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"A Stranger in Chongno," online

The entire text of Scott Burgeson's essay "A Stranger in Chongno," (originally published in his book 더 발칙한 한국학) about the mad cow protests of 2008 has been posted - in English - at his site. It's well worth reading, as he was on the ground for nearly all of the protests, and was initially supportive of the protesters - until their violence and hypocrisy made him critical of the movement.
B.R. Myers gives a lengthy talk about how North Koreans see themselves (based on his book The Cleanest Race) here.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A less-than-relaxing trip on the South Manchurian Railway

Here's an excerpt from Yankee Hobo in the Orient, which was originally published as Why Japan Was Strong in 1943, and republished in an extended version in 1945 by the author, Jon Patric. Patric had lived as a hobo at different points in his life, and for months prior to traveling to Asia in the mid 1930s, did so again in order to both save money for the trip and prepare himself to travel cheaply on a basic diet. Here he describes one of his experiences in Korea:

After I had crossed the Sea of Japan from Shimonoseki to Fusan, gateway seaport of Korea, I had taken a train for Seoul, the capital. The name-changing Japanese called it Keijo. At every opportunity I alighted from the train and strolled curiously around the station platform. I never tired of that, for something interesting was always happening.

At one little back country station far in the interior of the Korean peninsula, two Government railway guards had caught a small, barefoot, soot-grimed Korean boy who was stealing a ride. They had jerked him from beneath one of the coaches, and as they led him away – he was only about eleven, and they could handle him easily enough – they were beating him pitilessly. They came toward where I was standing, continuing their beating as they came.

Now, as I have said, I used to steal rides on trains when I was a boy. In fact, I grew up to be a hobo. After I was full grown, I was kicked off trains by trainmen. They didn’t do it literally, unless I’d been warned to stay off and had climbed back on, or unless I’d stopped a train with stolen torpedoes as I did a few times when I found myself stranded in the rain, far from a town. I’ve been led out of boxcars, searched, and made to buy a ticket to as far away as what money they’d found would take me. I’ve been locked in the clink.

But nobody ever beat me like those government railway guards were beating the Korean. And when I’d been a kid, and had run away and hoboed my way from Seattle to Mexico and back, nearly all railwaymen I met were kind to me. They shared their lunches with me, they helped me locate other trains, they sometimes even let me ride in the cab. But they worked for the Great Northern Railroad, and for the South Pacific Company. They did not work for the government as did the employees of the South Manchurian Railway.

Since, even in Korea, I considered it the inalienable right of hoboes and boys without money to steal rides on trains, I was mad.

Before the guards realized what was happening, I had instinctively, without thinking it out at all, yanked the prisoner away from them, stood between them and him, given the boy a push, pointed to the near-by woods, and said:
“Scram,” now, isn’t a Korean word.
But I think it has a remarkably provocative sound in any language, and I predict that someday it will be universally used. On nimble bare feet, before the bewildered guards – who never had that happen to them before – could stop him, the boy had scrammed.

He had scrammed into the scrub woods beside the railroad right of way. The guards glowered at me.

Before long the train got under way again, with all its personnel, official train guards, and every passenger except the Korean hobo boy. But as the cars began to move, faster and faster, I saw the lad dart out of the woods and throw himself beneath the train. Surely, he’d be killed!

He wasn’t.

At the next station I got off again. With an air of carelessness I bent down beside the railway coach to tie a shoelace I had deliberately untied beforehand, and stole a surreptitious glance toward one of the heavy, multi-wheeled trucks upon rested the rear end of the car. There, on top of it, was the boy again, crouched catlike, clinging with fingers and toes. I hoped the guards had not seen him attempt to resume the journey that seemed important to him.

But they had.

Not two guards, now, but four of them, approached. Two carried side arms. These kept their hands provocatively and meaningfully on the butts of their revolvers to discourage any meddling foreigner with what it was their duty to do.

Up ahead, the engineer got down from his cab and lit a cigarette, as if he knew the train could not start again as quickly as usual.

The original guards – the ones from whom I had snatched the lad in the first place - now carried long and heavy sticks. These sticks were apparently kept on the train for some special purpose. They were about six feet long, maybe an inch and a half in diameter, and one end of them had been whittled, like pencils, to sharp points.

One of them men crawled to the other side of the coach with his stick, and an armed guard went with him. Then, from both sides, with their pointed sticks, two men prodded the boy to dislodge him. It wasn’t gentle prodding, and they didn’t try to persuade him – they poked at him savagely and roughly. He was a brave lad, and stubborn, and he held out at first. For a surprisingly long time he resisted the vicious lunging jabs of the two Jap officials. Once he grabbed for a stick and almost got it. I wished he had – he needed the weapon. Passengers – some – laughed as they watched; they were neutrals enjoying the show. The sticks punctured the flesh of the boys body, and their points tore and smashed at the little hands and feet that clung so tenaciously to the oily and dirty iron under the railroad coach.

But human flesh, even that of a determined little Korean hobo boy, could not stand such treatment long. Finally the lad loosened his grip, and fell to the gravel roadbed under the car – almost as if he had fainted for an instant. When the guards pulled him out, he bled in a dozen places, and his red blood stood out against the black and the grime of him. His hands and feet, by which he’d clung, seemed badly injured, and he had a strange look of one who had, at last, been cut down from crucifixion.

But they made him walk on his bleeding feet, and as he walked they beat him. After all, he was only a little Korean hobo boy, and they were officials of the “enlightened,” bureaucratic Japanese Government that controlled this South Manchurian Railway.


You might get that Patric wasn't a big fan of government, and the extended version of the book which he self-published has numerous digressions which make clear his libertarian beliefs. More information on Patric can be found here. One other tidbit: I first heard of this book in the book I Married a Korean, as Agnes Kim met Patric during her voyage over to Korea (and he got her in quite a bit of trouble after filling out an extra customs form with her name, ridiculous answers, and a reason for visiting Japan that led to her being questioned by several angry immigration officers: "To Assassinate the Mikado"). Their time on the boat together can be read here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Gwanghwamun reconstructed and unveiled

... in 1968.

(From Seoul Through Pictures 4)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

388 grams trumps 44 seeds

[Update: On second thought, I imagine the teacher was sent a 388 gram cake which contained pot, not that she was sent 388 grams of pot in a cake.]

Back in June, NoCut News reported on the "serious social problem" of English teachers in Jeju smuggling pot into the country, giving examples of three recent cases (though one was not ever described as an English teacher, but why let facts get in the way of a good "emerging social problem?"). In July, it was announced in Jeju media that one teacher who imported 44 pot seeds (via international mail, ordered from a UK website) was fined 5 million won. The other teacher mentioned in that NoCut News report, "J" was recently sentenced to 3 years in prison [suspended for 4 years] for importing 388 grams in a cake (sent by her mom, it was said), and once again it was reported by NoCut News (along with Jeju Ilbo, Jeju ui Sori and Yonhap).

What I find odd is that there have been several reports lately on the outcome of cases where teachers have been arrested, from the two cases above to the recent case of the Canadian teacher sentenced to 18 months in prison for "harassing" a young boy (the Korean articles use the word 성추행, or 'molestation'). This was reported by Yonhap, YTN, Herald Gyeongje, MBN, Segye Ilbo (twice), Financial News, News Hanguk, Kookmin Ilbo, Kuki News, City Shinmun, Herald SaengSaeng News, Seoul Gyeongje, Hanguk Ilbo, and the Chungcheong Ilbo (though it's worth noting is that I don't think his arrest for this was ever reported).

Is this a generalization, or do the Korean media generally report more on arrests and less on the outcome of the court cases?

And while we're on the topic, are cash settlement cases like this one often reported in the media?

Monday, August 23, 2010


James Wade tries the typical comparisons of Korea ("______ of the Orient") and comes up with a surprising answer.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Kim Wan-sun

Listening to the Shin Jung-hyun box set, I was surprised to find 80s music by him which was more synth-based, and was even more surprised that some of it was quite good. One track that stood out was "리듬속의 그 춤을" by Kim Wan-sun, which made it clear that someone was listening to the likes of New Order. Here's a performance from 1987 I found on youtube (uploaded by orienkorean, of course):

What struck me about that performance were the B-boys. As far as I've read, Koreans picked up B-boying from GIs in places like Itaewon in the late 80s, so I didn't expect to see B-boys on stage with a popular singer in 1987.

(Another song from the same concert is here.)

Nice to see the 88 Gymnasium was the venue - I'm assuming it's the same one on Gonghangno in Gangseo-gu.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The land that God forgot

James Wade writes about a jacket worn by a soldier and gives some insight into how Koreans felt about Americans in Korea in the 1960s (among other things):

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

High Kick Indeed!

I've been struck by the 'solution' to problem foreign English teachers that has popped up in media in recent years - only to realize it goes back farther than just the past few years. It's worth remembering the summaries of the following episodes of MBC's Chief Investigator, such as the December 8, 1983 espisode "American Dream":
"Richard, a young American in his twenties, ends up staying in Korea working as a teacher at an English hagwon after entering the country on a tourist visa. Hwa-suk, who dreams of marrying a foreigner, learns English conversation from Richard and late one night on his way to her house he is murdered in an alley. Trying to pinpoint a suspect, the investigation team learns the fact that at the time of the murder Hwa-suk's ex-boyfriend Seok-gi was waiting for her at a nearby tea house."
On September 27, 1984, another episode was to be broadcast about illegal foreign teachers, but was canceled:
"Seoul Wind" was about the social problem that has recently come to light of the illegal employment of unqualified foreigners on temporary stays, and featured French youth ‘Pierre’, who is attacked in a dark alley at night after entering Korea on a tourist visa, conning his way into working as a French language teacher in a private school, and becoming part of a love triangle between a female university student who blindly follows him, and her boyfriend.
So, one show features the beating of a foreign teacher, the other the murder of an English teacher. There don't seem to be any happy endings. Note that 1983 episode was broadcast less than a month after a bill was passed 'banning' foreigners from working in hagwons (as translated in the second half of this post), much as the later (unaired) episode was to come out a week after the new laws banning foreigners from teaching private lessons were announced.

After the English Spectrum 'scandal' occurred 2005, a few shows about foreign teachers were broadcast. Most notorious is of course the February 2005 broadcast of the SBS 'news' program '그것이 알고싶다,' or, 'I want to know that,' the producers of which decided the best way to open a program about foreign English teachers would be to take the worst thing ever written by one on the internet and re-enact it:

I took a closer look at that episode here, and this is how the Chosun Ilbo reported on it at the time:
The report, entitled "Is Korea their Paradise? Report on the Real Conditions of Blond-haired, Blue-eyed Teachers," reveals that teachers at some language schools engage in sexual relations with middle and high school students and offer their students marijuana. It says some teachers use fake academic records to get jobs with local private language schools, universities and businesses. The show includes fresh explosive comments by foreign teachers like, "I think only 5 percent of foreign English teachers in Korea are qualified," "Korean women are the easiest women to get into bed," and "I think of Korea as a big cash machine."

Immediately after the broadcast, the bulletin board on the program's website was flooded with over 1,000 furious posts. "I was so infuriated after the broadcast that I couldn't sleep," one read. "I'm frightened to send my children to an English academy," read another.
Some comments didn't get translated above, such as "Let's attack foreigners living in Korea."

There's also a 2007 episode of Pandora's Box which communicated some valuable information to its viewers:

"Illegal foreign instructors are violating Korean women!!!"

A few months later, Christopher Paul Neil was found to have taught in Korea, and reports like this one by MBC were broadcast:

Some of the editorial responses were translated over at the Marmot's Hole, such as an October 18, 2007 Seoul Shinmun editorial :
[W]e really can’t help but worry whether Korea will become a “paradise for criminals from English speaking nations.”
This from a JoongAng Ilbo editorial:
The insecurity of school parents concerning native speaker teachers and instructors is growing by the day. This is because the teachers’ shameless crimes are growing. […] There must be even more crimes that have yet to be revealed. It’s time to hurry and formulate measures.
The justice ministry soon revealed that new measures were on the way (originally translated here):
No more illegal native speaking conversation teachers

- The verification of native speaking conversation teachers’ qualifications and management of their residence here will be strengthened to [...] eradicate illegal activity by native speaking conversation instructors, who have caused social problems such as unqualified teach[ing], taking drugs, and sex crimes. [...] To prevent illegal conversation teaching and illegal activity by conversation instructors such as drug use and molestation, a concerted crackdown on illegal conversation teaching will be continuously and systematically implemented, and foreigners who are caught will be deported. At the same time, steps will be taken to regulate the entry of foreign teachers into the country [...] in order to prevent native speaking conversation instructors who arouse public criticism through their drug taking, molestation, and alcoholism from living in Korea.

It is expected the unease of citizens caused by unqualified conversation instructors will be largely resolved by t
he Ministry of Justice's recent measures regarding conversation teachers. These measures will make it possible to block illegal conversation teachers who acquire visas using forged documents, drug users and those with criminal records from entering Korea and will stop unqualified conversation instructors who have entered the country without visas from teaching conversation illegally.
Problem solved, I guess. And no one needed to be attacked. Still, a few months later, in April 2008, the first episode of soft-porn late night TV show Sexy Mong Returns was given this description:
The first episode of “Sexy Mong Returns,” a four-part series to run every Wednesday and Thursday starting from April 23, is already drawing attention as its deals with an episode involving sexual assault by foreign English teachers, something that has been a social issue for some time.

I looked at this episode in more depth here. Message: It's okay to headbutt the foreign teacher (or at least the white guy speaking English) who's groping a Korean girl, even if she's his girlfriend.

I looked at the movie Bandhobi a few months ago, which is about the relationship between a Korean high school girl and a Bangladeshi migrant worker, and which also involves a leering English teacher who the high school girl essentially attacks. Here are the pertinent scenes:

Message: It's okay to squeeze the balls of the foreign teacher (or at least the white guy speaking English). One shudders to imagine the response if he had done the same thing to her.

When I wrote the post about Bandhobi, I thought of this post at AES, in which they suggest that you kick and send flying the foreign teacher who tries to molest you.

As it turns out, this wasn't a bad idea. The following scene (which practically writes itself!) is from High Kick 2 (지분뚫고 하이킥), a series which was written about in depth at the Joshing Gnome (here and here), and first linked to at the Marmot's Hole (the link is now dead).

Granted, he's not an English teacher, but again we see the white guy speaking English hitting on a Korean girl attacked in some way (and threatened with death). Oddly enough, the English teacher in Bandhobi was played by Jean-Sebastian Bressy, who is French, while the guy working at the bakery was played by Pierre Deporte, who also appeared in Tamra the Island, where he got to work with Seo Woo.

No wonder the guy wanted to kick him. It's rather odd, though, that we have French actors in the last two examples, and a TV episode from 1984 which appeared after weeks of negative articles about foreign teachers in which a shifty French guy teaching in Korea was attacked in an alley. Obviously, things have changed since 1984. Back then, the shows depicted white guys teaching (or speaking) English getting attacked in alleys; now they're depicted being attacked in public.

The collage of newspaper cartoons depicting foreign teachers I posted awhile ago didn't quite seem complete without the underlying message added in North Korean font:

Needs some work, but not bad for a first try, I thought. On the topic, this article about typefaces and fonts might be of interest.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Some articles about Korean film that have turned up recently:

An Im Kwon-taek retrospective at the Korean Film Archive will run until October 3.

Mark Russell looks at the changes Korea's entertainment industry has gone through over the past few decades, a subject he covered in depth in his book Pop Goes Korea.

The Korea Herald writes about recent 'violent' Korean films, such as Moss, The Man from Nowhere, and Kim Ji-woon's new film, which I knew nothing about:
Writer-director Kim Ji-woon’s controversial latest, the Lee Byung-hun, Choi Min-sik tandem, “I Saw the Devil” -- set for an Aug. 12 release -- has been scoring high in the buzz meter among local audiences not to mention attracting plenty of media attention since it was recently given a limited release judgment due to its excessive screen violence. “I Saw the Devil” is currently being trimmed for a third submission to the KMRB.
I'll be curious to see what Kim comes up with this time, after all the hype of The Good, The Bad, The Weird.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Gwanghwamun's unveiling: a time to reflect on the suffering caused by the Japanese

The Joongang Ilbo reports on the unveiling of Gwanghwamun, including this quote from President Lee:
"Gwangwhamun was blocked and neglected, and the flow of our national spirit was choked off," he said, adding, "We incessantly endeavored and struggled for the country's independence."
Obviously he (or his speechwriter) thinks that destroying the old Government General Building was a good idea, as it was the first step in unchoking the geomantic axis of energy flowing between Seoul's major mountains that determined where Gyeongbokgung was built when the city was founded. It seems a bit much to call the lines of energy on which the capital of the Joseon dynsasty was built the "national spirit," but then I'm no speechwriter. An article from a week or so ago looked at some of the controversies surrounding Gwanghwamun's restoration (such as whether the sign should be in Hangeul or Hanja) but had some errors, such as saying that "it had been destroyed by the Japanese" 300 years ago (actually, most of the palaces were destroyed by angry mobs of Koreans who burned slave registers, among other things, after the royal family fled north before the Japanese troops arrived). It also says that
During the Japanese colonial era (1910-1945), the Japanese moved Gwanghwamun to the east side of the palace to give the new General Government Building a clear view down Sejongno in 1927. In fact, the Japanese tried to destroy the gate outright, but Korean intellectuals successfully petitioned for its preservation.
I can't find it at the moment, but Andrei Lankov wrote an article years ago about how Gwanghwamun was preserved due to the actions of a Japanese academic. Today's article tries to push hard the idea that restoring Gwanghwamun is related to Korea suffering at the hands of the Japanese.
People from younger generations such as Moon Sang-seon, 38, were perhaps less emotionally affected, but feel Japan has to do more to make up for its past militarism. The recent apology by Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan didn't fully atone for its wrongdoings, he said.
It then manages to connect comfort women to Gwanghwamun as well. Nifty stunt, that. What I don't really get is why Japan is being talked about (yes, I know, it's independence day, when Koreans celebrate the anniversary of the day their country was magically liberated from Japanese rule - no mention of the terms "allied forces," "island hopping," "firebombing" or "Hiroshima" today, please). The last time the gate was destroyed was in 1951, during a war started by North Korea, not Japan.

Yes, the Japanese did destroy most of Gyeongbokgung by 1915, when it held an exposition there, but that's not being talked about; instead, we see gymnastics being done to link Gwanghwamun's destruction to the suffering of the colonial period (or even the Imjin War) despite its destruction during the Korean War having had little to do with the Japanese.

We saw the same thing when Gwanghwamun Plaza was opened a year ago, as it was also tied to 'liberating' Sejongno from the scars of Japanese rule by removing 29 Gingko trees which were said to have been planted 100 years earlier by the Japanese (despite the fact that photos from the 1930s show no trees there at all). (There's criticism of Gwanghwamun Plaza here).

While this article mentions the politics (or lack thereof) involved in moving the unveiling date for Gwanghwamun up to Independence Day, perhaps having done it during the 60th anniversary of the Korean War would have made more sense. Of course, that would have meant putting blame on North Korea for starting the war which led to Gwanghwamun's destruction, but unfortunately narratives of victimization do not carry same symbolic weight when the aggressor isn't foreign.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

You know you've had too much to drink...

...when you drive the wrong way on the 401, North America's busiest highway, for 25 kilometers.
A 39-year-old Aurora man is facing charges after he was spotted driving the wrong way down Hwy. 401 early Friday.

Police say several witnesses reported seeing a Toyota RAV4 driving east on the westbound 401 near Trafalgar Rd. around 3 a.m.

Soon after, an officer heading west in the westbound lanes tried to stop the vehicle as it neared Dixie Rd., but had to perform a last-minute evasive manoeuvre to avoid colliding head-on with the SUV as it passed, said OPP Const. Graham Williamson.

About five kilometres down the highway, near Hwy. 427, officers on the eastbound 401 were able to grab the driver’s attention across the median with their cruiser’s blaring sirens and flashing lights.

The driver pulled over – almost 25 kilometres from where he was first spotted – and was promptly arrested, Williamson said.

While wrong-way drivers are “a very common call” for police, “most people realize what they’ve done and quickly correct themselves. Occasionally there’s one who gets stopped and fortunately in this instance there were no injuries or collisions,” Williamson said.

Il Kyoung Kim is charged with dangerous driving, refusing to comply with a breathalyzer demand and impaired driving.

He is due to appear Sept. 27 in a Brampton court.

Photo from here (where there is video as well)

The article above almost seems to play it down, unlike this article:
"It was incredibly dangerous," OPP Const. Graham Williamson said. "The potential for disaster was there at every moment."
I'll say. There is always pretty heavy traffic on that highway, even in the middle of the night.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Shin Jung-hyeon LPs, Kim Jung-mi songs

Awhile ago I found this blog which posts links to mp3s of psychedelic rock from around the world, including a few lps from Korea, such as Shin Jung-hyun and the Men's 1972 album "Woman of the Evening Sun." Have a look here for the album, or here for their long take on "Lies" from another album. Not an amazing album, but its standout would be the 10 minute version of "Beautiful Rivers and Mountains, " which can be listened to at youtube:

In finding the above video, I realized there's a lot more of Shin's stuff up on Youtube, including one of my favourites, Kim Jung-mi. Here's her singing one Shin's best psychedelic folk songs, "Bom."

You can also find her singing "Baram" and what is likely my favourite version of "Beautiful Rivers and Mountains."

You can also see her performing live here and here. You've gotta love her suit.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Bando Hotel's interior

From the book I mentioned here comes photos of the interior of the Bando Hotel (seen above). The hotel was built in the late 30s or early 40s (anyone know when exactly?) as the Hanto Hotel, and was the tallest building in the city for years. It was used as the US Embassy from 1948 to 1962, and was demolished to make way for the Lotte Hotel in the late 1970s. Here's what it looked like on the inside:

"Bando Hotel Tea Room"

"Bando Hotel Bedroom"

"Bando Hotel Dining Room"

"Bando Hotel Recreation Room"

"Sky view of the Bando Hotel"

I think it appears briefly in this video (posted here two months ago, when I missed it). It can also be seen in this post, along with several photos taken from its roof in 1945.

Update, June 23, 2023:

The 1974 Eighth Army Chronology has the following entry for June 20, 1974:
Seoul's 38-year-old Bando Hotel closes to make room for the 45-story Hotel Lotte. From Aug 45 to Aug 53, the nine-story building, once Korea's finest, served alternately as HQ for USAMGIK and the XXIV Corps, the American Embassy, US economic aid mission, and field grade quarters for Eighth Army.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Corporal punishment to be banned

According to the Joongang Ilbo, corporal punishment is to be phased out in Gyeonggi-do schools.
In Gyeonggi, students who were to receive corporal punishment will instead receive “knowledge and virtue-based punishments,” such as writing book reports, completing community service projects or doing extra assignments.
They're also to be phased out in Seoul Schools as well, but no concrete steps have been taken in this direction. This is interesting:
Examination of students' belongings without prior notice, regulation of hair length, verbal abuse and school violence will be prohibited. The teacher’s duty to monitor students' dress code and conduct of behavior at school gates will be removed. Measures will be taken to raise awareness of student rights and student councils will be given greater autonomy.
Regulation of students' appearances has been relaxing for some time now, but not everywhere. A Korean friend of mine who teaches at a private high school in Gangseo-gu told me his school has become more strict over the past year due to the pronouncements of his principal, who has hired a roving band of enforcers who, instead of checking students at the gate, enter classrooms - while a class is in progress - and check students' hair and clothes, cutting their hair on the spot if it is deemed too long. He's pretty pissed about this, wondering if they're "living under yusin" (the name of Park Chung-hee's dictatorial constitution under which he ruled from 1972-79) again. One wonders this would change if Seoul adopts these measures, or if it will mostly continue with business as usual (with the hope that students won't be videoing any 'lapses').

Also on the topic of education, via Korea Beat comes a story of a girl who posted a notice that she had quit university, not wanting to be a part of the rat race (much like the student seen here who protested taking the university entrance exam).

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Seoul of the future, as seen in the 50s

A few months ago I stumbled on a book at Yonsei University Library which presented readers with images and maps of Seoul, places to visit, and future plans - all from the 1950s. Or so I think; I forgot to write down the book's name, and no date was visible. There are a few clues, however. If you look at the photo above, of Namdaemunno, you can see the Bank of Korea on the left, and the old post office - built in 1916 - on the right (here's a photo from a similar view taken during the colonial era). Now, this may be an older photo, taken years before the publication of the book. The reason I say that is because the post office was heavily damaged during the Korean War (it was shelled and burnt out, though its walls still stood intact), and I'm not sure when it was finally demolished (a shame, as it was a beautiful building, but understandable, as reconstruction, not preservation, was the goal of everyone at the time). One little thing I noticed in the photo above are the jeeps.

Here's a map of Seoul at the time:

Here's the introduction to a very interesting map:

Seoul's population would reach almost 2.5 million in 1960, so a population of 1.5 million would suggest the book is from perhaps the mid 1950s. Also, the expansion described above took place in 1963, enlarging Seoul to pretty much its current boundaries. You have to enjoy the projection that the enlarged city would "be able to embrace about three million population in the future." The map itself is rather interesting:

The projected boundary for Seoul seen above is not exactly how it turned out. In the northwest, it encompasses much of what is now Goyang-si (you can see that Neunggok is included in Seoul), and further south, Gogang-dong in what is now Bucheon is also included within Seoul. What I found really fascinating is the fact that there is a canal from the Yellow Sea to the Han River on the map, in almost the same location as the Gyeong-in Canal being built at the moment. The one difference is that on the map above it runs south of Gaehwasan and cuts Banghwa-dong in half. Also worth noting is that the area where the canal turns south after reaching the coast is no longer ocean - that entire area has since been reclaimed.

I'll post a few more photos from the book (and a few others I dug up) over the next few days.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Yi Kwangsu's Japanese nationalism

A few months ago I wrote about the development of Yi Kwang-su's nationalism, and the influence his ideas have had on both North and South Korea. This debt to Yi is mostly forgotten or willfully overlooked due to his actions later in life. Those actions - and his writings - in service of the Japanese empire are the subject of this post.

Michael D. Shin's essay "Interior Landscapes and Modern Literature" (in Colonial Modernity in Korea) opens with this quote by Kim Hyeon: "Yi Kwangsu is like a wound that grows more painful the more one touches it." This is because, despite his nationalist past, from 1940 to 1945 "Yi demonstrated unusual zeal in producing pro-Japanese propaganda. He extolled Korean youth to volunteer for the Imperial Army, and eulogized the greatness of the Japanese emperor," as Andrei Lankov notes. It was a description of this propagandizing (accompanied by the slide below) in a lecture by B.R. Myers that first got me interested in Yi (Hwarang were Silla-era warriors, and were invoked in much the same manner as the Kamikaze - the 'divine wind' that protected Japan from Mongol invasion - was).

Yi Kwangsu is quoted in Shin's essay writing about why he chose to change his name to a Japanese one:
In "Changssi wa na" (The change of the name and me), originally published in the Maeil Sinbo on Apr. 20, 1940, Yi wrote: "The state allowed Koreans to experience 'Japan and Korea as a single body (naisen ittai).' The ones who should lead this movement are indeed Koreans. What else can we desire for other than our becoming not different from those in the naichi [Japan]. [p.421]
Beongcheon Yu's Han Yong-un & Yi Kwang-su: Two Pioneers of Modern Korean Literature, also quotes from Yi's writings about changing his name in 1940:
Now we are all subjects of the Japanese empire. It would seem most natural to have Japanese sounding names rather than Chinese sounding ones. Determined to be Japanese, I have adopted Kayama for my family name and Koro for my personal name, my wife and children following suit. All this, I believe, is part of my loyalty. [p. 98]
Later that year, he went even further:
At last I have reached this conviction: The Koreans must forget that they are Koreans; they must become Japanese in flesh and blood, to the bone; and this is our only way of perpetual preservation. Under the new system, Korean writers and intellectuals have a threefold objective to pursue: Firstly they must have themselves Japanized; secondly they must devote themselves to have all other Koreans Japanized; and thirdly they must be warriors uplifting Japanese culture and spreading it the world over. Here lies the future of Korean culture for which the Koreans will have to bring about the gradual dissolution of their national sentiment and tradition. And this gradual dissolution we call the Japanese-Korean unity. [p. 98]
This was written before the beginning of the Pacific War in December 1941, when the Japanese organized associations like the Rokki Renmei (Green Flag Alliance) and drafted formerly nationalist writers like Yi Kwang-su, Choe Nam-seon, Yu Chin-o, Yun Chi-ho, Helen Kim into propagating Japanese imperialist ideology and justification for the Pacific War. More than others, Yi threw himself totally into collaboration and wrote novels in praise of Japan’s war efforts in China, as well as other collaborationist literature which depicting the positive relationship between Korean and Japanese characters (in tune with the naisen ittai campaign) As is noted here, "Yi Kwang-su’s “pro-Japanese” novels, written in a combination of Korean and Japanese or entirely in Japanese, reveal a sense of deep anxiety about the Japanese accepting Koreans as their equals, and make Japanese characters “apologize” to the Korean characters for their practices of ethnic discrimination."

This anxiety was not really so obvious in some of the articles he wrote in places like the Maeil Sinbo, as noted in this worthwhile essay:
Yi Kwang-su was in his non-fiction writings promoting a Japanese style of living: “We must work vigorously towards the goal of reconstructing ourselves in our everyday lives as imperial subjects. The new spiritual system will only come to be completed in as much as it manifests itself in everyday life”.

One ought to “keep one's back straight,” “children should remain silent,” and meals should be treated as “important events and at the same time as rituals.” Yi remarks that “at meal times, it is the Japanese spirit to first make an offering to the gods and Emperor and then eat.” He argues that this is due to the fact that “every grain, every drop of liquid is thought to be changed into something given by the gods and His Majesty the Emperor, and at the same time one should think of the hardships endured by one's ancestors and brethren and give thanks, expressing true feelings of appreciation.”
He wasn't always so certain, however.
This ritual of kyūjō yōhai, in which one turns to face Japan – or more precisely, the emperor in the Imperial Palace – and bows, began in tandem with the Third Chosŏn Educational Act (1938), which had been amended by Minami Jirō, the Governor General in Korea, and which was enforced with a siren in the cities that rang out at 7:00 am every morning. Yi Kwang-su describes it as follows:

"I first opened my eyes at 6:00 in the morning. The 6:00 a.m. siren rang. It was the siren that told all Japanese nationals (Nihon kokumin) to get out of bed. Nothing like this had happened before. We were free to choose when to sleep and when to get up. From now on, the fatherland (sokoku) told all nationals (kokumin) to get up at 6:00 am. If we didn't do it, the great work being carried out by the state (kokka) would be difficult. I finally opened my eyes at 6:30 in the morning. I couldn't hear the 6:00 a.m. siren anymore. I got to sleep late because I was working on my manuscript last night. The manuscript is also something for the state, but that still no excuse to oversleep. As I was told by the mother's association (mama-kai), I read a book after cleaning. Another siren rang out. “What do you think it's for?” Since I still haven't gotten used to this type of national life (kokumin seikatsu), I didn't realize that it was the 7:00 am siren for worshiping the Imperial Palace from afar. When you hear that siren, the whole family, even servants, immediately clean up and stand in place, worshiping with all their hearts. [...] Yesterday, at the Great Chosŏn Fairgrounds, I heard the noon siren and thought to set my watch, but I forgot to offer a silent prayer. I'm still not that good at national life. I suppose you've probably got to really try for years before you learn how to live like this."
The last paragraph helps to show how invasive the Japanese state was in the lives of Koreans (at least those living in urban areas). As the 1940s wore on, everyone on the street car passing the entrance to the Shinto shrine in Seoul had to bow as they passed it, and at least one member of the neighbourhood association had to visit the shrine daily. In an essay in which he emphasizes individual responsibility toward the nation-state, Yi makes clear how the central the state was in the lives of the emperor's subjects:
In other words, if you eat the grain of the nation-state, you should work for the nation-state. In the new order, there will be nothing like your own body, your own property, or your own son. Everything will belong to the nation. The way of thinking which says – this is mine, so I will do with it what I like – is inexcusable, it is individualism, liberalism, and it is incompatible with the ideology of the new Japanist value system (Nihonshugi shintaisei shiso).
Reading this, it may start to explain the poverty of liberalism in post-liberation Korea (both north and south). It's also worth examining a passage from Yi Kwang-su on the concept of “Japan and Korea as one body” (naisen ittai):
Until now, “Japan and Korea as one body” meant throwing away that which is Korean and learning from that which is Japanese. This in the first place means cultivating the spirit of loyalty towards the Imperial Household. The feelings of Japanese people towards the Imperial Household are truly unique, and it will require a great amount of study for Koreans to approach this level. It is not the same thing as what we used to call “loyalty to the ruler and love of country” (chūkun aikoku).

The feeling of loyalty of Japanese people cannot be explained merely with the Chinese character “loyalty” (chū, 忠), but rather resembles the loyalty of the Jews to Yahweh. Japanese people think of all good fortune bestowed on them as something that stems from the Emperor. One's land belongs to the Emperor, one's household belongs to the Emperor, one's children belong to the Emperor, one's body and life belong to the Emperor. Because your body belongs to the Emperor, if the Emperor calls upon you, you happily give up your life. The Emperor is a living god. This is an entirely different relation from that found in China or Europe between the ruler and subject.
Having written so much in service of the Korean nation, and then so much in service of the Japanese state/emperor, one may be curious as to why he 'betrayed' the nation. Over the years, Yi offered different reasons. One turning point for Yi was, according to Yu, the arrest of his mentor and surrogate father Ahn Chang-ho in Shanghai in 1932, and Ahn's imprisonment in Korea from 1934-36. As I noted in the last post, in February 1922, Yi had organized the Suyang Tong'uhoe, a version of the Heongsadan (Society for the Fostering of Activisists) founded by An Chang-ho in LA in 1913. By the mid 1930s, the Suyang Tong'uhoe was one of the last nationalist groups still openly operating (as it had been organized as a non-political group), but it was under increasing pressure by the Japanese government. Yi met Ahn to discuss its future in 1937 (after Ahn's release from prison), but both were arrested when the key members of the Suyang Tong'uhoe were rounded up that year. Yi and Ahn were released due to ill health, but Ahn died in 1938. Some of Yi's biographers have pointed to Ahn's last words (which were passed on to Yi) which reportedly were, "Chunwon [Yi's pen name], save our comrades!" It was after this that Yi began to cooperate with the Japanese authorities.

Jung-shim Lee's essay "History as Colonial Storytelling" (found here as a pdf) looks at Yi's later life and the influence his conversion to Buddhism (in 1934) had upon him, especially on his decision to collaborate:
Yi’s awakening to the insight that life is the most fundamental good directly affected his decision with regard to the Suyang Tong’uhoe case. In one of his essays, he remarks:

For what reason did I pose as pro-Japanese? [...] The reason is, in short, to save my compatriots from suppression even though I had to make sacrifices and even though I could save only a few […]. I simply felt an affinity to the Buddhist imperative that if you can save even one living being in exchange for your life, you must consider yourself fortunate.
The main idea he put forward at that time was that saving lives was more importance than loyalty to the nation, and in his essay "Repentance for Korean Literature," (1940), he wrote that, "What I feel deeply remorseful for, looking back on a lifelong creation of literary works, is the underlying attitude to life which I clung to, this being the concept of the nation."

He also notes that after his conversion to Buddhism it helped him become disenchanted with the nation and the narrow-mindedness of nationalism, leading him to write novels and short stories in the late 1930s "in order to outgrow the confused and erroneous concept of the nation."

After liberation, however, his tune changed somewhat, as he wrote, "I only collaborated for the sake of the nation" and "I don’t feel the slightest morsel of shame in saying that I lived and died for the nation."
In his postcolonial text Na-ǔi kobaek [My Confession], Yi gives a detailed explanation of the story behind his overt collaboration. In this text, he emphasizes how important the self-cultivation movement was and how the movement shared a common destiny with the Korean nation. Therefore, if the organization had been dissolved and its leading members had met their deaths, the Tong’uhoe undertaking would have ceased to be. It would have meant that the life of the nation had come to an end. For the survival of the nation, Yi felt responsible for the rescue of the Tong’uhoe’s leaders.
This is somewhat different from what he argued in texts he wrote under colonization, in which "he made it clear that the self-cultivation movement was no more than a superficial remedy for the Koreans". Yu quotes Yi stating elsewhere that he was actually a closet nationalist the entire time:
Great master wonhyo was serialized in the maeil sinbo while I was collaborating with the Japanese. In this novel I, as far as their censors permitted, presented a drama of our traditional spirit, glories, patriotism, and national consciousness to my fellow Koreans who were forced to shout ‘Banzai!’ for and pledge allegiance to the Japanese Emperor. Whatever I had written since Heartless, be it the Tragic History of King Tanjong, Yi Sun-sin, Rebirth, or A Woman’s Life, was just a cover for nationalism. [p. 137]
Jung-shim Lee's essay goes on to suggests other possible reasons for his change of heart:
Another account in Na-ŭi kobaek might furnish us with a different explanation for Yi’s actions. Apparently, although it is impossible to verify, there was a death list drawn up by the Japanese imperial authorities which contained the names of 30,000 to 38,000 national leaders and members of the elite. The rumour of the existence of this list made Yi Kwangsu realize that such a massacre would be the most catastrophic thing a nation might befall next to the entire nation’s collapse. Yi judged that in the case of such a national emergency, non-cooperation might provoke a vengeful massacre. Therefore, he volunteered to collaborate with the Japanese in order to prevent the nation being eliminated before independence was even achieved. By doing so, he sacrificed his reputation as a national leader.
What Yi truly believed will likely never be known. He was arrested after liberation, eventually released, and then arrested by the communists during their rule of Seoul in 1950. They dragged him to North Korea, where was never heard from again. As Agnes Kim notes in I Married a Korean, after the war, "His daughter...came to America for the New York Herald Tribune's Youth Symposium and appeared several times on television with young people of other nations. [p. 153]"

Yi's collaboration has been rather difficult to fit into the Korean nationalist/traitor framework, and its likely for this reason that Yi's contribution to nationalist ideology has been overlooked (while the acceptance of Shin Chae-ho's contributions likely rests on the ignoring of the fact that he later became an anarchist).

In Michael D. Shin's essay "Interior landscapes and modern literature," he writes that
Scholars are still obsessed with explaining how someone so seemingly nationalistic turned into a collaborator. [...] Another motive behind research on Mujeong and Yi Kwangsu's other writings from the 1910s seems to be the hope of finding evidence that his nationalism was not genuine, in the period when he was apparently a 'true' nationalist; such evidence would discredit him and end the controversy once and for all." [p .249]
Now if we read this -
At last I have reached this conviction: The Koreans must forget that they are Koreans; they must become Japanese in flesh and blood, to the bone; and this is our only way of perpetual preservation.[emphasis added]
- it could be argued that this supports the idea that he was afraid of the Korean nation being destroyed, and that he collaborated because he felt it was the only way for himself - and the Korean nation - to survive, at least in some form.

On the other hand, the problem may lie in perceiving his actions and writings as being either pro-Korean or pro-Japanese. Looked at from the point of view of nationalism in general, one finds many similarities in what he wrote 'for Korea' and 'for Japan'. For example:
Firstly they must have themselves Japanized; secondly they must devote themselves to have all other Koreans Japanized; and thirdly they must be warriors uplifting Japanese culture and spreading it the world over.
Replace 'Japan' with 'Korea' and perhaps you'll suddenly have visions of the Dokdo riders or full-page ads for Dokdo or the East Sea in the Washington Post or of students studying in the U.S. coming to school with 'Dokdo' shaved into their hair (a lot of Dokdo there, but then it seems that Dokdo has also come to symbolize the nation in a manner similar to Baekdusan). This may also sound familiar:
In other words, if you eat the grain of the nation-state, you should work for the nation-state. In the new order, there will be nothing like your own body, your own property, or your own son. Everything will belong to the nation. The way of thinking which says – this is mine, so I will do with it what I like – is inexcusable, it is individualism, liberalism, and it is incompatible with the ideology of the new Japanist value system.
While this was written in 1940, Yi had been moving in this direction for some time, as noted in Shin Gi-wook's Ethnic Nationalism in Korea. 'In "Basic Morality of Old Koreans", published [in 1932], he lashed out at individualism and liberalism calling for we-ism (uri juui), group-ism (danche juui), and totalitarianism (jeonche juui). This departed from his earlier view that championed western individualism and free will, which he now charged with destroying Korea’s tradition of we-ism and group-ism,' and called for restoring collectivism based on the "communal spirit of villages of old Joseon."'[p. 48, 69]

Yi had been moving in a direction away from western ideals (and a criticism of Confucianism) and towards (literally) totalitarian ideals which stressed the primacy of the group and nation, arguing at one point that "anyone who insults the nation must be denounced as a sinner against the nation." [p. 56] Worth noting is that Yi, while reacting to Japanese colonial policy, was at the same time influenced by Japanese ultra-nationalism, facism, and campaigns in Japan for ‘Japanization’ rather than ‘westernization.’ [p. 56]

What I wonder is if, instead of positioning Yi's Korean nationalism against his pro-Japanese writings, it might be helpful to look at them within a continuum of nationalism. In that case it might not be such a drastic leap to move from anti-western Korean nationalism which bolstered itself with traditions from the past and which stressed the Korean race and the nation itself as paramount, to a Japanese nationalism which was anti-western, bolstered itself with tradition and which stressed Emperor as paramount. Both involved, for Yi, subsuming one's own identity within that of the nation or the emperor. I can't help wondering if looking for similarities between Yi's 1930s Korean nationalist writings and his Japanese nationalist writings might bear some fruit, but have doubts that highlighting such similarities would be well received, seeing how it would challenge the patriot/collaborator orthodoxy that has been in place for sixty years.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Lee Eun-ung not the 'Lee' in the Itaewon article

I was asked yesterday in the comments here by Daeguowl if the 'Itaewon is a paradise for losers' article had been amended, and a quick check revealed it had. It originally read:
The founder of the "citizen's group", Mr. Lee (40) is an English teacher who received a TESOL certificate/diploma in Canada. During a two day interview he explained in detail the truth about Itaewon. Contacting him after a long time, I asked him what the situation was like in Itaewon, and he answered, "Still the same."
It now reads:
Jasminhyang,” who was active in the “citizen’s group” in the past under that ID, is an English teacher who received a TESOL certificate/diploma in Canada. During a two day interview he explained in detail the truth about Itaewon. He said he left the group in 2007. Contacting him after a long time, I asked him what the situation was like in Itaewon, and he answered, "Still the same."
Jasminhyang was indeed a prominent poster at the site for its first few years. I looked over at AES's website and there was a post by Lee Eun-ung (ID 'm2') saying he had not been interviewed by the article followed by another post (first result here):
New Daily article… Who is the person impersonating a cafe manager?
Don’t believe it!

A few months ago at a meeting of ranking members we discussed the fear that someone might impersonate m2. Now this has really happened. It’s a shock.
Jeon Gyeong-ung and New Daily have made a mistake.
The manager in the article is not m2.
None of our cafe managers have TESOL certification or are English teachers.
This is a lie.

Currently our cafe does not comment on activities related to foreigners’ dating and entertainment activities or foreign crime and club culture.
In the comments 'm2' also notes that members who were only concerned with foreigners' dating, the foreign crime problem and club problem separated from the group in 2007.

It seems that many who read the original article assumed the 40 year old 'Lee,' founder of AES, was Lee Eun-ung, and indeed members of AES also worried about this. This is to be expected, of course, considering Lee has always been AES's public face, except when a 'Kim' or 'K' was interviewed for several BreakNews articles in 2006 (though circumstantial evidence suggests that was just a pseudonym for Lee. After this article was posted on AES in late 2007, in the comments, members thanked 'Mr. Kim'. 'M2' - the ID of Lee Eun-ung - coyly wrote "I'm curious about Mr. Kim;..." Of all people it was 'jasminhyang' who left a comment saying "the first letter of Mr. Kim's nickname is 'm'."). The 'Lee, the English teacher with a TESOL degree received in Canada who found it hard to find work' motivation did seem a little too good to be true.

It's also not surprising the newspaper clarified who the source was so quickly - AES will defend its good name if need be (I could swear this image used to be at the top of this article).

You have to enjoy the fact that New Daily clarified sentences that made Lee Eun-ung look bad by attributing to him negative or just plain racist quotes about foreign English teachers, Nigerians and Pakistanis, but otherwise left all of the offensive quotes otherwise intact.

English teacher accused of sexual assault

So reads the headline of a Korea Times article.
According to police, an America citizen, a native English teacher at a private language institute, is accused of sexually assaulting a Korean barmaid in a public restroom of a building in Dunsan-dong, Daejeon, at 3 a.m. Saturday.

Police said the victim didn’t want the investigation to go further in exchange for compensation from the American. Under the law, police investigations into a rape case can only continue with the victim’s approval, meaning that the probe must be halted.

But police will inform the American’s workplace of the case to hold the offender accountable for his crime.
Oddly enough, this has only been reported by two news outlets - the Korea Times and Newsis (once as an article and once as part of a news roundup). The Korean media hasn't really bothered reporting on this. The Newsis article notes that the teacher was a 24 year-old American named 'A', and that the police will report him to 'relevant agencies.' One assumes this will mean not just the workplace, but also immigration. Otherwise, if the compensation system is used instead of prosecuting and the offense is not recorded, it would seem people would be able to continue working in places like schools with unblemished records.