Distortion, an act of altering the original shape of something for an unsound purpose, has been around people’s lives forever in many forms such as music and artworks. When Korean people first think of this word, the image that immediately comes to mind is history. For several decades, Korea has been involved in tacit combat with Japan and China, arguing over historical and territorial issues. It is necessary for the government to tackle this matter for the sake of Korea’s future.
▲ Professor Cho Myung Chul enthusiasticallytalking about the problem associated withhistorical distortionPhotographed by Lee Jun Geon
Historical revisionism is the denial of historical crimes and illegitimate distortion of the historical record to make certain events appear in a more or less favorable light. Historical negationism had occurred frequently and Korea seems to be the one of the most-often targeted victims as China and Japan constantly attempt to twist the past in their favor. Recently, Japan published a new type of textbook for social study classes at junior high school, marking Dokdo as official territory of Japan. They also deny the usage of comfort women during wartime and are still refusing to apologize on this matter. Likewise, China has declared Goguryeo, one of the ancient Three Kingdoms of Korea, as its traditional territory. Indeed, Korea has been suffering tremendously from such issue for decades.
As aforementioned, Japan is assiduously attempting to distort history with the purpose of acquiring Dokdo and avoiding international denunciation. In the case of Dokdo, Japan states that it is their island for numerous reasons, one being the exclusion of Dokdo in the 1953 San Francisco pact, which was made to clarify the territory after wartime. Professor Cho Myung Chul (Department of History) stated that due to Japan’s lobbying and bribery given to the United States (U.S.), the U.S. decided not to embrace the island as Korea’s territory. “It is erroneous for Japan to claim Dokdo as its island just because of the pact made in 1953. For several political reasons, it was not included. However, many more written documents have been uncovered that claim Dokdo to be Korea’s territory.”
Another piece of evidence Japan offers is the documents that indicate Japanese fishermen were permitted to catch fish near the island during the Joseon Dynasty. Moreover, in terms of international law, Japan had already registered the island as Takeshima in 1905. Thus, the Japanese government is constantly asking our government to bring this matter to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to resolve. “It is silly for the Korean government to bring this case to ICJ because this institution issues verdicts according to national power. Since Korea is internationally less powerful than Japan right now, the likelihood of Korea winning the case is zero,” says Professor Cho.
He further denounced the distortion of historical events that Japan is currently espousing. The theory of Imna Nihon-fu, an assertion by the Japanese that the Yamato government in Japan established a military outpost, the so-called Imna Nihon-fu, and ruled over Gaya (the ancient Korean kingdom) is the epitome of the brazen attempts of Japan to distort the past and educate people with exploited materials. Indeed, Japan is trying to accomplish its aim of historical revisionism through variegated means. When it comes to the Korean government’s response of such behavior, Professor Cho proclaimed that showing apathy and keeping silent whenever Japan provokes anger is imperative. However, in the case of textbook exploitations, the government must fiercely argue against Japan so as to spread accurate information about the events that had taken place.
Historical revisionism is also seen in the case of the Chinese government as it launched the “Northeast Project” on February 28, 2002 with the purpose of stealing the history of the Goguryeo period. Although Korean academic circles made strong protests to China about the project, it never stopped the research and is still spreading the notion that Goguryeo was a kingdom ruled under ancient Chinese dynasties.
The primary reason for promoting this project is to take an advantageous position when the South and North Korea reunite. After reunification, many problems will arise within China since ethnic Koreans living in China might ask for the right of self-government. It is unfavorable for China to take this issue into the ICJ because those people have actual records of living in the northeast region of China. To avoid a possible calamity, China is brainwashing those people and the international community by twisting the history of Goguryeo, which currently consists of regions in which Korean-Chinese people live.
According to many Korean academic circles, another key purpose is to lay the foundation for Pax Sinaca, the period of peace in East Asia maintained by Chinese hegemony, once more. Since it constantly seeks to surpass the U.S. in national power, many scholars view that its first step is to redesign history in a favorable way. Korea must intensify research and rebut China’s assertion with factual data and historical documents. Moreover, the government must demonstrate a stronger attitude with this matter, showing zero tolerance toward any sort of historical distortion. If not, in the near future, China will succeed in achieving its ultimate goal of becoming a powerhouse. It is worthy to scrutinize the reason why in particular
▲ The poster that raises awareness of history distortionProvided by hangunsworld.com
Korea is suffering from unwarranted alterations of history. “In order for us to avoid receiving this kind of frustration from other neighboring countries, we must gain more national power,” said Professor Cho. He highlighted that more and more people should further propagate the presence of Korea internationally and make huge accomplishments worldwide.
Historical distortion is not just restricted to Korea; however, we cannot deny that Korea has been one of the biggest victims of this issue. Japan and China are highly unlikely to cease their shameless efforts to change the past. Thus, Korea must continue its seemingly indifferent behavior and implement some policies or campaign to raise international awareness of this matter. In fact, renowned celebrities such as Kim Yuna and Psy are taking part in this project to preserve our old tradition and history. If more and more people partake on this scheme, Korea will not be shaken by external pressures.