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Transcript of Korean History
(and its importance) by Nuri Yi screenshots from ifitweremycountry.com Unified Korea is about the size of England, with a combined population the size of Germany. There's no way we'd skip learning about a country of that size in Europe. Why not Asia? Korea is only thought of as small because of its proximity to China, Japan, and Russia. But Korean history shouldn't be skipped over in favor of Japan and China because of its size. It's been called a "shrimp among whales" because of this distinction. Korea was a cultural bridge between China and Japan. Confucianism and Buddhism got to Japan from China by way of Korea, and of course it was changed on the way there.... If we're having an East Asia unit, shouldn't we talk about how the different civilizations interacted in the region? The history of Korea's interactions with Japan and China plays a huge part in the politics of the region today. Korea had a big part in the relationship between Japan and China. Neither can you say that Korea is simply an average of the two countries surrounding it. Is Germany simply the cultural average of Poland and France? We learn of the differences in similar cultures in Europe, so we need to do it for Asia. There's also an assumption that Korea was just a part of China, similar to the idea of people thinking that all Asian countries are the same. It's incorrect. According to myth, the Gojoseon was the first Korean civilization, established in northern Korean and Manchuria, in 2333 BC. This is important because the unification of Korean states would be useful to compare to the unification of Japan by the Three Great Unifiers. Like China, Korea adopted the civil service system, but it's clear that Korea had its own distinct culture and accomplishments, and wasn't simply an extension of China. The Joseon Dynasty replaced the Goryeo Dynasty in 1392 in a coup. Confucianism became Korea's official religion in 1394. King Sejong created hangul, the Korean alphabet as an alternative to the adapted Chinese alphabet, in order to make it easier for people to be literate. In the late 1590's, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and his forces attempted to invade China by way of Korea, but were ultimately defeated. This is important because it shows a different side of Japan and the Three Great Unifiers. Usually, with rulers, we try and learn about both the good things they did with the bad. I feel like people should know about this side, too. From the 1870's onward, Japan began trying to pull Korea into its sphere of influence. Korea became an empire in 1897, and became increasingly caught between China, Japan, France, the United States, and Russia's politics. Important because, again, shrimp among whales. In 1910, Korea was formally annexed by Japan in a military occupation. Korean culture and traditions were suppressed. This is important because it was a pretty brutal and exploitative occupation, but I don't know many people who know about it. Moreover, many Koreans are bitter over this, and it influences foreign relations with Japan. (The book When My Name Was Keoko is mostly about the Japanese Occupation. The Korean War After the surrender of Japan in 1945, Korea was split temporarily (well, it was supposed to be temporary) along the 38th parallel. The Soviets controlled the Northern half, and the United States were in control of the Southern half. War broke out in June of 1950. Most people do know about the Korean War, because of American involvement... There were nearly forty thousand American casualties, and possibly 2 million Korean civilians were killed. The Korean War is important because it divided Korea into the way it is today. The Korean War still isn't over. South Korea has the world's sixth largest army for a country with the 23rd largest population. The DMZ is still a dangerous place, poised on the brink of war. The country Goryeo was established in 918, from which the name Korea is derived. It unified the Three Kingdoms of Korea. During this time, the civil service system was introduced, and Buddhism grew. Korean celadon was greatly prized, and the world's first movable metal type was invented in the 13th century. Japanese warriors brought back the cut-off noses of hundreds of thousands of Koreans as war trophies, and kidnapped Korean artisans in order to further Japanese culture. During World War II, over 5 million Koreans were conscripted for labor, and thousands of men were forced into the military. Hundreds of thousands of girls and women were forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese military (which the Japanese government only acknowledged in 1993). The Korean language was outlawed, and Koreans had to take Japanese names. Korean artifacts were destroyed or taken to Japan. After the armistice, both Koreas attempted to recover. North Korea was better off for the first decade after the war, but South Korea eventually industrialized and modernized, with the help of the United States. Seeing the path both Koreas took to get to their respective places today is interesting, because it's only been sixty years. The Korean War still isn't over, and the peace with North Korea is an uneasy one. The example of the two Koreas is very helpful in contrasting the effects of communism and not-communism (since South Korea was under many military dictatorships until the 1980's). South Korea's GDP went from 3 billion to over a trillion dollars from 1960 to today. We don't necessarily have data for North Korea, but it probably hasn't changed much. This is important because it wasn't expected. Very few people expected South Korea to become a contender - after the Korean War, South Korea was war torn and extremely poor. Less than sixty years later, it is the 13th largest economy in the world. The Path to Democracy The First Republic of Korea was formally established on August 15, 1948, , with Syngman Rhee as the first president. Rhee's presidency is controversial, because although he was "president", he served for three terms. His political opponents were often arrested and/or killed, and as time went on his office became more and more repressive. Rhee resigned on April 26, 1960, after a cycle of protests quelled by force leading to more people protesting called the April Revolution. The Second Republic of Korea gave rise to more political activity, especially from leftists and student groups. However, there wasn't enough reform and the Second Republic of Korea was eventually taken over in a coup d'etat. On May 16th of 1961, General Park Chung Hee and a group of military people ended the Second Republic of Korea in a military coup d'etat. Park ran for president in 1963 and won. Park began his presidency as the Third Republic of Korea. Relations with Japan were normalized in 1965. South Korea sent troops to fight in the Vietnam War. In 1967, Park was reelected as president (with 51.4% of the vote). In 1969, a constitutional amendment was passed that would allow Park to run for a third term, which sparked much protest. On October 17, 1972, Park declared martial law. The Fourth Republic of Korea was established on November 21, 1972, with the adoption of the Yusin Constitution, which lengthened a presidential term to 6 years and had no restrictions on the number of possible terms. The president would be elected indirectly. The government became increasingly repressive (sometimes violently so), as students and activists for democracy protested. In 1979, as these protests reached a peaking point, Park Chung Hee was assassinated by Kim Jae-Kyu, the director of the KCIA. (It's important to note that, although Park's regime wasn't good, Korea's economy flourished in this time period.) On December 12, 1979, there was another coup by Major Chun Doo-Hwan. Martial law was declared on May 17, 1980, which led to protest, once again. On May 18, 1980, protests escalated between student protesters and armed forces in the city of Gwangju (18 years before my birth date on my birthday in the city I was born). The protest spread city-wide and lasted until May 27th. Today it's known as the Gwangju Massacre - there were nearly 200 deaths and 850 injured. Chun Doo-Hwan was elected indirectly as president in 1980, and began the Fifth Republic of Korea at his inauguration. His presidency helped the economy, but was still essentially a military regime. In June of 1987, more than a million students and citizens protested against the government in the June Democracy Movement after the death of a Seoul National University student from torture. On June 29, 1987, as a result of the protests, presidential nominee Roh Tae-woo announced the Declaration of Political Reforms, which called for direct presidential elections. Direct elections were carried out in December, ending the Fifth Republic. The Sixth (and current) Republic of Korea was established in 1987. Roh Tae-Woo was elected as president (in the first direct election in 16 years), even though he had a part in the old regime, because votes were split between Kim Dae Jung and Kim Young Sam. The Seoul Olympics took place in 1988. Kim Dae Jung was elected in February of 1998. Best known for his "Sunshine Policy", a series of efforts to reconcile with North Korea, he later won a Nobel Peace Prize. The current president, Lee Myung Bak, was elected in 2008. The presidential elections will be held this year. Importance America has played a huge role in shaping modern Korean history, and it will continue to do so in the future. Informed decisions are wise decisions. This is modern history. The Gwangju Massacre happened only 34 years ago. Gwangju Massacre South Korea's democracy was fought for primarily by students. My mom was 18 when Park Jong Chul was killed. (She and my dad went to Seoul National University, actually, although it was after this.) She told me once, in the most normal tones, that sometimes tear gas was released at her university so students wouldn’t be able to protest. Tear gas. Her parents (my grandparents) would have been alive during the Korean War. But why's it important to America? The United States implicitly supported these military dictatorships, despite being supposedly for democracy and freedom. There's nothing we can do about that fact, but I think people need to be aware of it. Culturally, too, Korea is important. Just one of the most persuasive of many examples... 790 million views and counting on YouTube.
Many of the people who commented think Psy is Japanese. Or North Korean. Or something ignorant of that nature. YouTube isn't exactly known for its high conversation, but even so. So really, Korean history should be taught for a lot of reasons. 1) Korean history is linked to Japanese and Chinese history, which we already learn. Korea's interactions with Japan and China in the past, Korea's influence on Japanese culture, and the way the three countries interact today are all important. 2) Korean history, in its own right, is important, both as an example (of isolationism, of modernization, of the fight for democracy, of the dynamics of a smaller country surrounded by huge countries), and in understanding why things are the way they are today. (Two words: North Korea.) Also (I was going to mention this sooner, but I forgot), we learned about the Jesuit missionaries in China and Japan and their relative success, but in Korea Christianity was super successful. Today about 1% of Chinese and Japanese are Christians, while 10.9% of Koreans are Catholics (above 45% in metropolitan areas). 3) Why not? Quite a bit of Korean history could have fit in with the East Asia Unit - Hideyoshi's invasion, for example, and the art forms. Korea could really help to connect China and Japan into one integrated unit, which would lead to a deeper understanding of the concepts we learned (like the Mandate of Heaven and the class system). Korea could also help show the spectrum of influence and change as these concepts traveled east from China to Japan (or vice versa). the Korean alphabet the end thanks for watching!