All posts tagged: History

Goodbye, Pyongyang Time Zone

[Image description: Two clocks on the wall, side by side. One reads 11:46 (Seoul), and the other reads 11:16 (Pyongyang). Source: Yonhap Agency] Today, Pyongyang’s 30-minute difference with Seoul (and Tokyo) time zone will cease to be, as Kim Jong-Un orders North Koreans to set the time forward to match that of South Korea. “To reconcile our history” seems to be a prominent reason. However, if the Korean peninsula wants to reconcile with its history, it should actually be be Seoul changing its time 30 minutes back, considering the current Seoul time zone was implemented by the Japanese colonial government. As I’m writing this, a Dutch friend tells me: “Well, the South can’t very well do that; makes it look like Seoul is ceding to a Communist Revolution”. Basically, I’d be a jongbuk for saying this. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/05/time-for-change-north-korea-moves-clocks-forward-to-match-south

1989. Universal freedom of travel

[Image description: A Korean female clerk at The Korean National Airlines (1946-1962; later dissolved and incorporated into Korean Air) is seen checking in passengers in 1957.] 1989: South Koreans are granted universal freedom of travel, without having to provide any reason to the government. Prior to this, every person leaving the country had to be assessed individually. Until 1980, no civilian passports were issued. When the first passports were issued in 1989, up until 1992, all applicants had to pay for an  “Anti-Communist Training” including learning about cases of South Koreans defecting to the North, as well “security information” for a full day, and be issued a certificate for completing the programme, before they could receive their passport. A video clip by the government states the following: 관계부처와 관광공사 그리고 여행사 자체에서의 교육은 물론 여행자 자신이 여행상식과 정보, 각국의 문화, 관습 등을 보다 철저히 배우는 노력이 있어야 하겠습니다. 관광은 서로 다른 문화 간의 대화이며 흥분과 환상의 세계를 제공하는 것입니다. 그러나 국제관광은 자칫 나라의 위신과 국민 전체의 명예를 손상 시킬 수도 있기 때문에 우리는 해외여행에 앞서 …

Why Confucianism Is Alive And Kicking

   Toegye Yi Hwang and Yukgok Yi-i considered to be the greatest Joseon scholars Neo-Confucianism was adopted by the ruling class as a combination of political doctrine + religion + social norms in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897). As opposed to the Buddhism-centered Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), the Yi ruling clan of Joseon chose Confucianism, mainly because of its weight on the intelligent and honourable ruler and general focus on the class system. The king was a well-read scholar, and it is documented they spent every day reading Confucianist texts and discussing them with the court officials. They also passed a large part of their youth reading, analysing and discussing Confucianism. Confucianism is known for its strict hierarchy between: ruler-courtiers, husband-wife, father-son, and so on. The society was divided into Yangban (scholars), farmers, artisans, and merchants, in that order. The very bottom class was composed of slaves, shamans, butchers and the children of concubines, who were barred from civil service exams. Buddhism in Goryeo grew more and more corrupt in Goryeo and enabled the elite to amass fortunes. Additionally, Yi …

[Film] Uigwe, The 8-Day Festival (KBS, 2013)

Original title: 의궤, 8일간의 축제 Release date: April 17th, 2014 (Korea, 3D) Jeongjo, the 22nd monarch of the Joseon dynasty, is one of the most revered Korean rulers of all time. Politically, he successfully managed to balance factionalism between the many parties. Diplomatically, he opened up to Western powers for their technology while repressing Christianity  (the Joseon Sillok records that Jeongjo wore glasses in his forties due to his deteriorating eyesight). Socially, he paved the way for equality: Seo-eol, sons of concubines, were recruited in key government positions; efforts were made to abolish the slavery system. Culturally, advances were made in the printing press & The Suwon Fortress was built using modern technologies such as pulleys. In 1762, Jeongjo’s father, then crown prince Sado, was sentenced to death. His mental illnesses escalated in killing and raping sprees. Yeongjo, Sado’s father, eventually sentenced he be locked up in a wooden box without any food or drink. He died after 8 days. Although Jeongjo did not avenge political figures who supported his father’s death (and who subsequently argued that Jeongjo had no right to …

No You’re Not Allowed To Talk About Colonization

[Image description: Koreans rejoice by waving their flags on August 15th, 1945.] Unless you come from a country that was once colonized. It’s like this: I had Stage 4 cancer, and miraculously came back to life after extensive surgery and chemo that took all my hair, health, and life. My boyfriend of 5 years also left me because he couldn’t handle the pain I was in. And then you say “Hey, you used to be overweight, now you’re all thin! Looking great, mate, you should totally get a better guy now, forget about that loser!”. I now reserve the right to slap you with my hand, which is studded with metal rings. You can’t say “Yes, but Japan did bring modern law and railways, which really helped the Korean economy”. You can’t say “But now that Indians all speak English well and all, isn’t it better? You guys can all go to Silicon Valley and work, as soon as you get a job and a visa!”. You can’t say “You have French nationality even though you’ve …

Answer 1. Do (South) Koreans Really Want Reunification?

Photo source: Yonhap News (Feb 22nd, 2014) Short answer: No. To be precise, it’s “Don’t really care“, not “Don’t want”. Reunification doesn’t carry the note of passion it used to in my parent’s generation – back then, if you were asked “Do you want tongil?”, and you said no, you were a complete treacherous, unpatriotic, heartless brat. But now, we’re too busy thinking about other things, the memories of having once been a single nation are fading, and most of all, Koreans most definitely do not want to carry the economic burden reunification will entail. Despite the avid propaganda from the South Korean government – Reunification will allow us to tap into the North’s invaluable mineral resources, we will gain direct access to cheap and disciplined (disciplined, for lack of a better word…) labour force, we are of the same blood and are one people – People’s enthusiasm has grown thin with the crazy outbursts of “We will see Seoul burst in flames if you don’t give us what we want and respect us” tantrum …