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Friday, October 14, 2005

Great Korean National Leadership

I am continuously being provided with all too plentiful material to use in my class (Issues on Modern Korean History, in Finnish) as examples of reinterpretations, revisions, and arguments of contemporary Korean history by Kang Jeong-gu, by the conservative press, and by the non-conservative press alike. (There's too much to link to in all the cases.)

The latest addition to the debates is provided by Chang Si-gi of Dongguk University, who writes from his sabbatical leave in South Africa under the title "Kim Il-sung is a Great Modern Leader" (Yonhap article in Hankyoreh) that Africans (talk about generalizing) feel more affinity with North Korea than South Korea and regard Kim Il-sung as a great modern leader (widaehan kûndaejôk chidoja), but he handily continues the use of those epiteths on the late Kim even after he doesn't talk about Africans any more, letting us understand that Kim the father was a great national leader at the time when such leaders were needed (as in the natinonal struggle against the USA). According to Mr Chang, what is now needed in Korea is a leader who makes the future, and is a internationalist leader building on Koreanism (hanbandojuûi) and Asianism (asiajuûi).

But doesn't Mr Chang forget that Kim Il-sung was already all that?

By the way, on what does Mr Chang base his claim that North Korea is more favored than South Korea among Africans, other than his talks in South Africa? I understand that DPRK was very active in the African nations at the time it could afford to (so that the two Koreas were very busy opening embassies exceeding the actual diplomatic needs), but shouldn't "the Africans" be a bit more aware of the goings of the world that Mr Chang lets us know?

But it is true that many African nations still have a true friend in the North, even if the assistance is more in the form of congratulatory messages than in concrete things. This time the president of the Equatorial Guinea has received a message of congratulation for the 37th anniversary of its independence.

And let's not forget also that National Society of Juche Studies in Kongo among other like-minded organs in other countries has held all kinds of celebrations at the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Korean Labor Party.

Aaron notes in the comments that the asiajuûi used by Chang Si-gi recalls the "Pan-Asianism" of the Japanese empire in the late 19th and early 20th century. Ironically, that ideology was also used to colonize of Korea, but Chang seems to have missed these connections. (Talk about "cleansing" the vestiges of Japanese colonialism...) What makes such ideology (or the use of such terminology), once used for imperialist goals against Korea, compelling is its Anti-Western nature.

Update, October 19, 2005
Marmot provides links and quotes to the reply by the Seoul embassy of South Africa to Mr Chang's views. The embassy denies Mr Chang's points concerning South Africa as "totally distorted from reality." Marmot also links to and quotes accounts of what the DPRK support in more concrete in its more concrete manifestations.

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