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Friday, April 22, 2005

Comments

usinkorea

Just from this paragraph, my doubts start to grow.

"It had little or nothing to do with policies created by the colonial government of Japan. Japan annexed Korea for its own strength and growth. Its policies were tailored to the needs of Japan and to help fuel its future conquests."

We always for this topic into a "either / or" argument --- when it did not work out that way.

Korea before Japan was Confucianistic and East Asia focused. It did not react to the incrouchment of the Western colonial powers and their systems with a Meiji restoration type social revolution. It eventually fell to the Japanese imperialists.

Part of that Congucianistic feeling that dominated Korea was disdain for commerce. Yes, we can find examples of Koreans carrying out trade, but on scale, Korea was still defined by Confucianism.

Even if Japan didn't give a diddlie squat about Korea, Korea's transformation toward an industrial society was facilitated by the Japanese -- who had done the same thing within their own society in the 19th century.

non korean

Lets face it Korea would not be where it is today without four factors.

Japan helped change the Confucian negative mindset about business (as usainkorea points out), and introduced industrial technology and know how.

The US helped Korea with economic aid, loans, protection, and a democratic capitalistic system necessary for a strong economy. Look at Communist North Korea and Democratic Capitalistic South Korea to see how important a Democratic Capitalistic system is.

President Park helped Korea get over its past Confucian (Chinese) beliefs about business and put energy and money into industry. Basically followed through with what Japan started and the US said should be continued.

The Korean people worked their asses off and deserves a lot of the credit. But China worked their asses off from 1950-1980 and it got them nowhere. You need more than just hard work.

Without Japan and the US, Korea would still be stuck in the same mindset that China (Korea\'s traditional biggest influence) was in up until recently. They would be lucky if they were like Thailand today.

American

Acknowledging that Japan jumpstarted capitalism in South Korea does not necessarily mean you have to defend Japan's terrible treatment of Korea.

Korea never couldve accessed Japan's markets without colonialism. As lopsided as colonial trade is, this provided alot of capital for development in Korea.

Without Japanese educations, Koreans never could have learned the technology for industrialization and management so quickly. It wouldve taken them ***ALOT*** LONGER if they started from scratch in this regard.

Read "Offspring of Empire" by Carter Eckert. He basically proves this beyond a doubt. While we shouldn't "thank Japan" for colonizing Korea, it is silly not to recognize where Korean capitalism came from (like so many Korean scholars do)

PS Mr. Eckert is now writing a book on how Park Chung Hee's economic policies were a rehash of Japan's colonial policies. Once again, I expect his book will prove what everyone already deeply suspected.

usinkorea

After having read pretty much the whole post over at Plunge's sight, I think one of the biggest problems with the view is the lack of historical foundation. In part, he argues Korea in the late 1800s was already "on the right track" to reforming toward a modern economic society and thus if left alone, would have achieved a modern economic society. But, it seems to me the basic conclusion scholars have made about Korea in the late 1800s was that it was in chaos under pressure from many outside, conflicting sources. Plus, the late 1800s also saw the rise of Japanese influence in Korea which effected the Korean government and industry before 1905.

I think the strongest argument he makes is that Korean industrial infrastructure was wiped out by the Korean War, so we can't argue the industrialization of the 1960s was simply a continuation of what Japan left in the 1940s.

jtb-in-texas

Good point! everything in South Korea was essentially rebuilt after 1950... so look to the places Rhee and Park were influenced by for answers...

non korean

A decent argument.
But what Japan did leave after the Korean war was an industrial know how and spirit of industry in individuals that was not present in 1900. That is when US capitol was coming into Korea and why the US played a pivotal role in Korea\'s development along with encouraging a capitalistic system. They got the know how from Japan and the capitol from the US. They did the hard work by themselves but you need that combination for industrial growth to work. Without one of those components, Korea would not be where it is today.

jtb-in-texas

I respectfully disagree.

The Japanese, for all their successes in reaching out to the West, did not help Korea in any way. They're just better at PR.

Let's just say my information is based on extensive interviews of my in-laws--people who lived in Wonsan, Seoul, and Taegu during the Japanese occupation. They believe the Japanese Legacy was the loss of natural resources, the loss of national identity and pride, the division of their country between US and Soviet forces, and the attempted destruction of Korean language and culture...

Don't ask fans of K-Pop... ask the people who were there when the Japanese "Cultural Revolution" were chiseling out the Hangul inscriptions all around the country...

usinkorea

The problem is trying to define "the legacy" as a totalizing conclusion ---- that whatever conclusion is formulated, it is an absolute applied to all elements of the topic.

So, Japan colonization ultimately bad must equal everything connected (directly or remotely) to said colonization was bad.

Let me put it this way, many of the same people who are the strongest against the Japanese occupation and against the idea any benefits were generated out of that period --- are also some of the strongest in wanted to hunt down, for history's sake, the pro-Japanese Koreans.

In this light, they are some of the strongest in claiming the government in South Korea, unlike the communists up North, allowed pro-Japanese collaborators who came out of the occupation with land, money, factories, banks, or other material goods in significant quantities major posts in the South Korean government and industry. They say that no matter how bad North Korea was, at least they got rid of the pro-Japanese elements.

Well, they can't have it both ways. If many of the people who set up shop in South Korea after 1945 have their guilt defined by the economic status they gained or held while under the Japanese, they can't also claim Japanese colonization was some totality where Koreans gained nothing.

The post on Plunge's website says that the companies that had some strength before and after 1945 had disappeared or had little to do with South Korea's rise in the 1960s.

I can't say I have focused on this period as much as he seems to have judging by his source material noted, but I have doubts about this.

Eckart's (sp?) book gives a lot of information not only on the chaebol family it is centered on, but the circles of Koreans and Japanese they travelled in to do business.

And a key reason why I lean more toward Eckart than Plunge is this ------

Eckart says in his book that there is a gap between views of that family's chaebol after occupation and during it. That doesn't sum it up well, but it is like this ------

Eckart says that he found in the material on the corporation (both created by the corp to define its history and in non-connected opinion), this corp was presented by Koreans as a great example of how its early leaders were able to set up the foundation for the corp despite the Japanese colonial government of oppression.

In short, the portrayal of the family and corp was patriotic.

But, Eckart claims, when he went into the historical documents of the corp (which the corp let him into for his research) and elsewhere, he found a lot of connections between the family, the corp, and the colonial government.

Eckart doesn't allow some definition of "collaboration" to guide his book at all. But he does lay out the case for how this company (and by extension other "Korean" controlled companies in the colonial period) survived and grew not isolated by some miracle from the colonial government, but had to work with it on key levels.

My point in mentioning all of this is this ---- how many of the early businesses that sparked South Korea's miracle on the Han rise to fortune had some roots in pre-1945 --- which no scholar like Eckart has taken the painstaking time to examine?

It is impossible today to really know this, because any effort like that of Eckart stands a damn good chance of being derailed by colonial apologist/pro-Japanese vs anti-colonial sentiments.

This is true even of non-Korean scholars.

The talk too easily breaks down into a simple argument over whether the colonization was "good or bad."

usinkorea

What I meant in the last part of the previous comment (which I flubbed badly) is this ----

If the example Eckart disclosed was considered, before he looked into it, a great example of patriotic Korean spirit in overcoming the oppression of colonial rule by setting up a "Korea only" business "despite the bastard Japanese forces of occupation".....

but, as Eckart claims, the historical documentation paints a very different picture....

how many of the other post-1945 Korean chaebol and wealth generating families in South Korea have similar historical records that have not been unearthed yet?

If South Korea's government sponsored witch hunt gets rolling, it might not like a good bit of what it finds.

And I'm not even suggesting there aren't some real witches to expose.

But, I will actually be suprised if this "fact finding" mission to "set history straight" --- does not take a sudden turn down the road ---- a sudden turn from a "zealous hunt for the truth" to an uncomfortable silence or claringly obvious amnesia ------

when the search for the truth starts to turn up information that makes average Koreans uncomfortably expand their view of how widespread "collaboration" was -- as they define it now --- during the colonial period.

In short, I think as they start lopping off the historical heads of some people, they will find themselves in a chain-reaction that will mushroom like the French Revolution, and they will revolt at the carnage and back away from the project to avoid the logical end the witch hunt will lead toward.

Also, I forgot this point from what JTB wrote --- I've never discussed the colonial period with my in-laws, but an American Korea scholar I know said his in-laws and others he's discussed the issue with said their memories of the colonial period were not all that bad. Of course, they would have preferred greatly if the Japanese had not colonized Korea, but they said life went on.

Admiral Yi Sunshin

From non-korean: The US helped Korea with economic aid,

Yes.

<>loans,

Yes (although the aid and loans were given to many other countries that have had none of the success of Korea).

protection,

Definitely yes. While it's true that many other countries do not have to worry about a neighbor like North Korea, the fact is that South Korea did and does, and the US helped take a lot of that pressure off, for which it does deserve credit.

and a democratic capitalistic system necessary for a strong economy.

What democratic system are you talking about in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s? There was oppression and dictatorship. Park was able to rule with an iron fist, which helped him push his policies. It was just a fortunate thing that he actually knew what he was doing as far as those economic policies were concerned.

Look at Communist North Korea and Democratic Capitalistic South Korea to see how important a Democratic Capitalistic system is.

Capitalism, yes. But Korea's development started and boomed long before democracy took over.

President Park helped Korea get over its past Confucian (Chinese) beliefs about business and put energy and money into industry. Basically followed through with what Japan started and the US said should be continued.

I don't think so. The United States was against many of Park's ideas but he went through with them anyway.

Rhee proved that just going with what was there before didn't necessarily work. Years after the war, Korea was still a basket case. Park deserves credit for this. The fact that he was following the Japanese who were following a Harvard professor doesn't mean the Japanese deserve credit. If they did, things would have been far better at the end of the 1930s, and things would have gotten back on track by the late 1950s.

Admiral Yi has spoken.

usinkorea

But, Korea was more business oriented and especially in the (western) industrial sense in the 1930s than it was in the 1880s. We can always argue about "what could have been" had Korea not been pressured by Japan (and others) in the late 1800s to 1905 when Japan officially took over much of Korea, but the fact is that the initial period of orienting Korean society toward a western economic and industrial model took place under heavy Japanese pressure and then colonization.

non korean

Admiral Yi

You are right President Park was a dictator. In the 60\'s-80\'s it was a dictatorship not a democracy. At least an ideal (democracy) was something to strive for in the minds of Koreans.

I disagree with you that Park did not \"help Korea get over its past Confucian (Chinese) beliefs about business and put energy and money into industry. Basically followed through with what Japan started and the US said should be continued.\"

The US was against SOME of his ideas- yes but they were also for many of his economic programs. It was his hard hand socially that America often disagreed with him.

Your point about the loans going to countries that have not enjoyed the success of Korea is true. That is why there are many pieces to the puzzle of developing a good economy. That is why industrial know how (given by the Japanese) is so important. Much of Europe was destroyed after WWII but and was a basket case for a good 5 years. But because of their industrial know how and the Marshal Plan (American aid) they rose up again. Of course Korea who was less advanced would take more time to recover.

Park should be given a lot of the credit but so to should the men working in the factory that knew how to set up and run an assembly line and other such things dealing with industry from the Japanese.

JTB-IN-Texas. Don\'t get me wrong if I were Korean I would prefer my freedom to any advances Japan gave. I\'m not arguing that. Many times people think of Japan\'s reign as all bad. Yes it was overall a bad thing but just as anything there are positives and negatives. With the economy and industry specifically and detached from what Japan did socially, Japan did help Korea economically and in industrial thinking. That is what I am arguing.

I have also talked with my parent in laws. Of course they would have liked Japan gone but they also said it was not as bad as many today believe and are taught.

koreansaram

So, you've talked to your in-laws, what they say doesn't mean all Koreans agree with them. Maybe your in-laws had it good during the occupation - maybe they were the lucky ones, we all know what happened to the unlucky ones; and so your in-laws weren't resisting the Japanese, like many of the northerners, and so your in-laws didn't have to suffer exile, hunger, threat of being hunted down ......... seems like some people lack compassion and empathy and only want to see what's happening in their own bubble.

Modernization and development without political progress is meaningless. that is why china a relatively undeveloped nation up until recently is passing korea and japan in leaps and bounds.

western philosophy is short term and modernization is seen as a goal in itself, not as a means to an end. Japan is now seeing a future where growth is declining. Korea which has followed japan's model also faces the same.

I think japan's colonization was all bad. it pushed korea in a direction where it didn't want to go and where it finds itself today. korea faces the task of undoing all the things that japan and the japanese collaborators did to korea.

John Kim

non korean,
You are wrong. Japan is a confucius country also, but without Japan, Korea would be like China under the commies between 1960-80. Thank god for Japan for saving Korea.

Admiral Yi Sunshin

From nonkorean: I disagree with you that Park did not \"help Korea get over its past Confucian (Chinese) beliefs about business and put energy and money into industry. Basically followed through with what Japan started and the US said should be continued.\"

The US was against SOME of his ideas- yes but they were also for many of his economic programs.

I believe the US was against many of Park's most ambitious industrial projects, the ones for which Korea is often recognized today (e.g., automobile manufacture and shipbuilding, and possibly electronics). If I remember correctly (and please correct me if I'm wrong), Park had to get assistance elsewhere for these.

It was his hard hand socially that America often disagreed with him.

Particularly during the Carter administration. But the opposition to some of his ambitious economic projects is separate from this.

Your point about the loans going to countries that have not enjoyed the success of Korea is true. That is why there are many pieces to the puzzle of developing a good economy. That is why industrial know how (given by the Japanese) is so important.

I respectfully disagree (imagine: a blog where people talk this way!). If Korea's success were due to industrial know-how from Japanese occupation, then Korea's economic might would have increased during the Rhee administration, when things were actually pretty bad.

Instead, it was during Park that things got on track. Yes, it's absolutely true that Park was following a Japanese industrial model, but this something copied from the Japanese, not given by them. Japan would be about as deserving of thanks as Korea would be if Southeast Asian countries develop along Korean lines.

Furthermore, Park's ability to raise Korea up by dramatically changing institutions and practices based on those of another country is an indicator that the same could have happened if the reformists (generally favoring Japanese-style modernization) had been able to run things (without Japanese interference). It makes such a scenario far more likely, had the Japanese not taken over but simply maintained close ties with Korea.

Korea proved that Korea could do it, and Japan had already proved that it was doable in the late 19th century. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that Korea may have been capable of doing so in the early 20th century.

Much of Europe was destroyed after WWII but and was a basket case for a good 5 years. But because of their industrial know how and the Marshal Plan (American aid) they rose up again. Of course Korea who was less advanced would take more time to recover.

But this is an indication that Japanese know-how during the occupation had had little effect.

Park should be given a lot of the credit but so to should the men working in the factory that knew how to set up and run an assembly line and other such things dealing with industry from the Japanese.

The hard-working people who sacrificed so much for what they thought, on faith, would be for the good of the country are deserving of praise and credit. Park may have been guiding the economic ship, but the average Korean was acting as oarsman.

The Admiral has spoken.

usinkorea

Koreansaram,

You can sum up Western "philosophy" in one sentence?

Also, China is growing by leaps and bounds, because the very wealthy and corporate wealth and national wealthy from all around the world is pouring investment money into it like a flood.

China is leap frogging Korea on economic scale, because China is huge in physical size and population.

China is gaining in industrial technology production, because everybody is pouring the technology in too in the hopes of profit.

But, China still has a long way to go to even catch Korea in things like construction or ship building or producing its own electronics.

Almost lastly, it almost sounds like you are saying overall South Korea needs to get rid of western social structures such as industrialization??? A need to return to "the Korean way."

Lastly, I'm also interested in what you meant by "like many of the northerners"....

The colonial period isn't my area of interest and previous study, but are you suggesting that the areas of North Korea were more heavily peopled with freedom fighters whereas the South was not?

Right off the top of my head, I don't see how you can conclude that easily unless you include Manchuria as part of northern Korea. Many resistance fighters and leaders went up North. People like Kim Il Sung ----- and Syngman Rhee.

I thought the orbit of resistance leadership inside Korea during the colonial period was centered on Seoul --- the capital --- just as everything else has usually centered on Seoul.

non korean

korean salam

\"So, you\'ve talked to your in-laws, what they say doesn\'t mean all Koreans agree with them.\"

Of course it doesn\'t mean all Koreans agree with them. It was not my intention to say that. I was simply pointing out that some Koreans think the occupation was a bad thing but not as bad as some would have people believe.

My in-laws didn\'t \"have it good\" during the occupation. They were simply students going to school like the vast majority of Korean students. No they were not resisting the the Japanese \"like many Northerners\". A very small minority of Koreans actively resisted the Japanese while the HUGE majority of Koreans did not actively resist the Japanese. They were just trying to survive.

Admiral Yi Sunshin.
I guess it depends on how you look at the word \"against\". I\'m not aware that the US told Korea they couldn\'t make cars. Maybe they advised Korea to try something else. Just because Korea didn\'t get economic assistance for that industry does it mean the US was against it? Do you happen to know who Korea got assistance from for those two industries? Just curious.

I said: \"Much of Europe was destroyed after WWII but and was a basket case for a good 5 years. But because of their industrial know how and the Marshal Plan (American aid) they rose up again. Of course Korea who was less advanced would take more time to recover.\"

Admiral Yi Sinshin said: \"But this is an indication that Japanese know-how during the occupation had had little effect.\"

Actually I think it backs up my point perfectly. It took Europe (very advanced countries with the longest history of industry a long time to recover from WWII. It did not happen overnight. It took a long time. Of course it would take Korea ( at that time not an advanced country with a short history of industry) a longer time to recover their industry.

\"The hard-working people who sacrificed so much for what they thought, on faith, would be for the good of the country are deserving of praise and credit. Park may have been guiding the economic ship, but the average Korean was acting as oarsman.\"

I agree with you 100% that the average Korean rolled up their sleeves, worked hard, and deserve a lot of the credit.

pacifist

Is this chapter still working?

I would like to say that if it were not for Japan, Korea continued to be a tributary to China, keeping the Chosun dynasty without modernization.

Please remember who liberated Korea from China. Please remember who introduced modern system, such as wester-style schools, police system, trains and roads, public water supply, water drainage system, etc.

And if the dynasty went on until today, Korea should be a country like North Korea. (North Korea is a kind of the Kim dynasty.)
Or it was included in China, just as Tibet. China can "liberate" their former tributaries as they like because they recognise all the tributaries are Chinese territory. 

pacifist

Is this chapter still working?

I would like to say that if it were not for Japan, Korea continued to be a tributary to China, keeping the Chosun dynasty without modernization.

Please remember who liberated Korea from China. Please remember who introduced modern system, such as wester-style schools, police system, trains and roads, public water supply, water drainage system, etc.

And if the dynasty went on until today, Korea should be a country like North Korea. (North Korea is a kind of the Kim dynasty.)
Or it was included in China, just as Tibet. China can "liberate" their former tributaries as they like because they recognise all the tributaries are Chinese territory. 

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