Thursday, January 16, 2014

Bits and pieces

I saw this love letter to Lee Eung-tae, written by his wife upon his death in 1582, awhile ago, but since I saw it again the other day I'll link to it here.

As noted at Korean Literature in Translation, the Literature Translation Institute of Korea has made available translations of 20 stories from 20th century Korean literature. I'm looking forward to reading the stories by Yi Sang and Chae Man-sik

Over at the Korea Times, Robert Neff celebrates the 84th birthday of Fred Dustin, who has lived in Korea since 1955, by looking back at his life and times. I especially found the story of the Koryo Club ("a group of Koreans and foreigners with an interest in Korea and its culture") interesting.

With almost 15,000 views over almost three years, my post about black face in Korea is the most popular post I've ever written, and appears to have been - at least in part - the basis of Korea's inclusion on this list (the photo in that article is most certainly from that post). On a similar topic is this list of Kpop's 'most racist moments of 2013.'

Speaking of racism, Sam Hammington spoke out briefly about racism he has faced in Korea, as noted in this post which translated the top-rated comments upon the article.

A high-tech cheater gets caught.

And this article about the Park Geun-hye government's moves to control the content of history textbooks deserves more attention than I can give it right now, but is well worth reading.


King Baeksu said...

"History Sinks into Politics"

This just shows how shallow and naive -- or more likely, disingenuous -- The Korea Times' thinking is here. All history is political, and how could it not be? The problem with progressives and liberals in South Korea is that they somehow seem to think that their own particular interpretation of history is value-free, neutral and "universally true," when in fact it's just as biased as historical narratives produced by so-called New Rightists.

In other words, how can we expect an honest accounting of history from those who are so fundamentally dishonest about the historical enterprise themselves?

"History is more than just a simple process of remembering. The essence of it is finding an organic relation between the present and the past — debating and understanding why things happened the way they did, how they related with other events, and how they influenced and shaped the conditions we now live in. The past is indestructible because it’s not re-livable, and thus, subject to endless possibilities in interpretation.

"It’s not about narrowing the answers. It’s about increasing the questions. Marching students through a succession of facts toward a predetermined outcome would be entirely missing the point. And that’s what Korea seems to be in danger of doing."

The target here seems to be New Right historians and the Park government, but what the writer is really talking about in this passage is Korea's test-based system of education, which runs directly counter to a culture of classroom debate and discussion. Korea's is a "teach-to-the-test" model of the pedagogical enterprise, which by its very nature allows no room for ambiguity or shades of gray.

More disingenuous claptrap from the "progressive" Korea Times, in other words. How can such a silly and unserious newspaper presume to lecture others about such a serious matter? Laughable!

King Baeksu said...

According to a recent poll, 73% of South Koreans today identify as center-right politically:


Meanwhile, just 24% of South Koreans described themselves as liberal in the same poll.

One can therefore see the profound hubris and narcissism of the Korean left when they claim to speak "universally" for the Korean nation. Don't they see how alienating such rhetoric is to the other 74% of South Koreans who do not identify as liberal today?

Trapped in the cocoon of their own insufferable arrogance, which is often tinged with more than a little frog-in-a-well xenophobia, Korean politics moves on without them. President Park, for example, recently redefined reunification in economic rather than ethnic terms when she described it as a potential "jackpot," effectively stealing yet another key platform issue from her political opponents. Say what you will about Korea's conservatives, but at least they understand the power of effective branding, which more than anything else requires the humility to actually listen to one's target market -- rather than shoving down their throats what one arrogantly thinks is best for them. Clearly such an approach does not work in business, and there's no reason to think it's an effective strategy in modern democratic politics, either.

In short, the first thing Korea's progressives need to do is overcome their own arrogance and condescension towards the Korean electorate, so that they might better articulate a more resonant vision for the future. However, that would require that they first overcome their own pride, admitting to the errors and mistakes of the past, and as we cast a glance at Korean history, we can see that Korean pride and stubbornness have arguably been the greatest weakness of Korea's leaders.

Does the Korean left have the maturity to look itself squarely in the mirror and take full, honest measure of itself? Let's just say that I won't be holding my breath to hear the answer.