Monday, 3 January 2011

Reading on: The Koreans

Michael Breen is an author I recommend for decent insight into contemporary Korean affairs.

"The Koreans. Who they are, what they want, where their future lies" is a book that had been published several times already and gives a brief and light encounter into Koreas mindset and sketches history. This really helps in understanding what makes a present day Korean.

However I would argue that Breen is wrong in several opinions he forms in the book. In the chapter titled "Two ways to be Korean" he states leaving safe rhethoric question mark, that Koreans could have prevented their division. There were too many leaders with far too many opinions and ideas.

Domestic freedom movement inclueded moderate nationalists who, similarly to Poland during positivism, decided to develop educated elites to be able to take over later on. This did not really succeed, mostly because the outbreak of war with China changed the course previously imposed by Japanese governor Satamoto. Satamoto gave room for limited Korean activities in terms of language and culture, decided to establish Korean press, the oldest of which, Chosun Ilbo, had just celebrated it's 90th anniversary last year.

In such circumstances moderate independence movement was created and had been growing. Until the outbreak of 2nd World War in the Far East, when Japanese authorities had shown the most horryfying face not just to the Koreans but also to other nations in Asia. All previously allowed activities had been banned. Development forced by Japanese war machine created as well many opportunities of jobs which had tempting wages. During that time most of the Independence Movement leaders lost credibility as they either collaborated or were broken by merciless investigations. Those who would later create modern Korean states were born abroad or returned from exile: Kim Il Sung and Syngman Rhee, who is described in one of the previous posts. Syngman Rhee for sure holds responsibility for rival attitude to his political counterparts but so would be anyone holding his position.

Modern Iraqis and Kurdish face the same problem, they have obviously too many voices and too many leaders. I will use this example as parallel. Although they have too many leaders, they depend on foreign stronger powers in as to who actually would hold the position of the president. Initially the first leader was Allawi, the closest friend of USA, however maybe not the most popular among Iraqis themselves, but accepted by foreign powers.

It was the same situation in Korea. Foreign powers decided to play for a piece of cake. Literally Soviet Russia decided to establish communism on the Korean penninsula and USA had secured the Southern part up to 38th parallel. But they designated Syngman Rhee as a first leader of Korea simply because he spent there most of his life and they knew him. They had no idea about any other leaders even if they would be better for the country. At second in a game between two ideologies there was no room for unified leadership. I contradict Michael Breen on his argument. My answer is no, they could not have prevented their own division. And rightly so, at least citizens of the South can strive for building their own future with increasing citizens participation.

On side from the main argument I must admit that however stupid and short sighted may US foreign policy be, bravery of her field troops saved a lot of dreams in the world and had stopped numerous genocides up till now. Unjustified and non-needed action in Iraq had changed American course for many years and caused her withdrawal from president Wilson's commitment, that every nation has right to self representation and democratic development.

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