Tuesday, April 05, 2022

Korea: Location of a long-lost Greek colony...

What happens when an American electrical engineer – almost certainly of Russian ancestry – works in Korea between 1947 and 1948 as part of the postwar US military occupation and hears Koreans saying, “네, 네” and thinks, “Hey, that sounds like the Greeks I heard saying ‘ne, ne,’ which also means ‘yes’”?

Well, you get Wladimir W. Mitkewich’s completely wrong-headed 1956 book “Koreans Are White,” which attempts to prove that Korea is a long-lost Greek colony. 

I first learned of this book in the essay “Incredibly Strange Books About Korea Written By Honkies,” which appeared in Scott Burgeson’s book ‘Korea Bug’ (2005; also originally in his zine, Bug 5, 2001). I stumbled upon it in the stacks of University of Washington Library and scanned it. It’s only 44 pages long, with 30 pages of text, so it’s a quick, unintentionally-amusing (if not exactly mentally nourishing) read.

The book can be read or downloaded here.

[Update: And then Robert Neff reminds me of Scottish writer N. McLeod's "Korea and the Ten Lost Tribes" [of Israel] - another book Scott reviewed in his "Incredibly Strange Books" essay.]


Sam Nordberg said...

"The Korean, who bluntly, rudely says what he really thinks, just like a little child, is a Truth-loving person, and as such, he is very similar to Socrates and Plato."

That sentence did not go where I expected it to go.

Kevin Kim said...

I reacted over at my own blog thus:

I've been reading through the book and shaking my head. There are some astounding leaps in logic, and plenty of examples of "cloud illusion" thinking, i.e., seeing patterns where none exist. At the same time, some of the information in the book strikes me as either legitimate or at least plausible, and it's this admixture of fact and fantasy that makes the book feel as if I'm witnessing a train wreck—fascinating and appalling all at once. If I thought my boss had been pulling theories out of his ass, well, this guy has my boss beat by a mile.

Oh, and I haven't even touched on the idea that any of this guy's work might be deeply offensive to the modern reader, Korean or otherwise. I do give the guy credit for at least trying to be earnest and, at least from his point of view, as fair as possible, but he is a product of his time. And as far as I can tell, he has no actual background in linguistics, cultural anthropology, or genetics. He's just a guy who thinks somewhat systematically, and who grabbed a bunch of dictionaries and convinced himself he was doing actual research. Just wow.

matt said...

Going places you don't expect seems to be the way of the book.

And Kevin, for more obviously offensive, 'product of his time' writing, see this book.

King Baeksu said...

This book is truly prophetic. According to the current dispensation, hard work, punctuality, stong familes, future orientation, competitiveness, valorization of science and status seeking are all features of "whiteness." Do not most Koreans uphold the same themselves? In other words, Koreans really are white!