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More Korean Historical Distortion or Ignorance?

May 10th, 2007 . by Gerry-Bevers

A Korean professor at Busan Foreign Language University claims that the sea between Japan and Korea was called “Changhae” (蒼海 / 滄海 – 창해) between 1,000 and 2,000 years ago and says he has a map to prove it. He bases his claim on the following map, which was a historical map made by Choi Nam-seon (崔南善) in 1904. The map shows the historical divisions, marked in red, of the Korean peninsula during Korea’s Koryo (高麗) period (918 ~ 1392).

The professor’s claim is ridiculous since the above map was just a modern map of the time (1904) with the divisions for Koryo marked in red. We know that the whole map was not meant to be representative of the Koryo period since, for example, it shows Hamgyeongdo (咸鏡道) divided into North Hamgyeongdo and South Hamgyeongdo, which did not happen until 1896. That means that only the parts marked in red were meant to represent the divisions during the Koryo period. Since the name “Changhae” (蒼海 / 滄海 – 창해) was not written in red, that means it was just part of the background map, not the overlay, and was, therefore, not referring to the name of the sea during the time of Koryo. In fact, it even says under the title of the map that the red lines represent the divisions of Koryo territory and the red-letter names represent the names of that time. Here is what is clearly written on the map:

(붉은 테가 그 때의 경계, 붉은 글씨가 그 때의 이름)

(The red stripes were the borders of the time; the red-letter names were the names of the time)

Again, since the name of the sea was not written in red, we know that the map was not suggesting “Changhae” (蒼海) was the name of the sea during the time of Koryo. Notice also that the map shows Korea’s “West Sea” labeled as “Yellow Sea” (黃海 – 황해). I am not sure when Koreans first started using “Yellow Sea” to refer to their western sea, but I am pretty sure it was not during the Koryo period.

The above Korean professor is either ignorant or thinks the rest of us are. And KBS News and the other Korean news media who ran the story are just stupid.

I would like to think that the above professor is not representative of Korean historical scholars, but when it comes to historical issues involving Japan, I am afraid that he might be.

KBS News Video and Article

Naver News Video and Article

Translation of the Yonhap News article:

(Busan =Yonhap News) Reporter Jo Jeong-ho= While the general assembly of the International Hydrographic Organization is meeting in Monaco to decide the name for the “East Sea,” there is growing interesting in a claim that the original name of the “East Sea” was “Changhae” (滄海 – 창해 – Wide Sea / Blue Sea).

Busan Foreign Language University Professor Kim Mun-gil announced today that he had discovered a map that shows “East Sea” was written as “Changhae” (Wide Sea / Blue Sea) after the middle of the Koryo period. The map was made by Choi Nam-seon (Yuk Dang), a professor of Korea Studies during Korea’s occupation period, and was among a collection in “Joseon Historical Maps.”

Pro-Japanese scholar Choi Nam-seon personally made “Joseon Historical Maps,” which totaled sixteen pages and was approved and compiled by the government-general of Joseon. The book was used as a high school geography textbook and was republished several times. Professor Kim explained that it was even used after liberation.

He [Professor Kim] also made public an old map that was published in the 1904 edition of the “Topographical Maps of the Pennisula Region in Ancient Times” (古代半島附近地形圖) that shows the East Sea labeled as “Changhae.”

Professor Kim stressed that through these old maps we can know that between 1,000 and 2,000 years ago the East Sea was called Changhae.

Professor Kim added that Changhae means “Wide Sea” and was used as a proper noun by our ancestors since ancient times and was used interchangably with “Joseon Sea” and “East Sea” during the Joseon period.

He asserted that to counter the Japanese claim that the East Sea is “Sea of Japan,” we should use the old name that includes our country’s name, “Sea of Korea,” instead of “East Sea,” which our government is using. Link to the Korean

ccho@yna.co.kr


20 Responses to “More Korean Historical Distortion or Ignorance?”

  1. comment number 1 by: egg

    It is only my impressions but:
    I wonder why some Korean scholers seems to think of a hypothesis first and then try to find the evidence later (and not checking whether it really suits his/her hypothesis). And I wonder why Korean mass media tends to report his/her hypothesis without doubting it. When it is reported doesn`t the Korean people doubt that? Or is the mass media thought very low of and people consider it not important?
    I am always puzzled.

  2. comment number 2 by: pacifist

    egg,
    .
    I think it’s because they have to think what their government wants first. This bias may cloud Korean scholars’ eyes, as the same happened in the scholars in Imperial Japan.

  3. comment number 3 by: GTOMR

    Oh, It is intersting of this Map.There is nothing discription about Liancourt Rocks on this map in 1904 also. In 1904, It had already started Seals hunting in Liancourt Rocks and Korean in Ullungdo knew the rocks conducted by Japanese fishing industry. So Korea hadn’t recognized that Liancourt Rock was her own territory in 1904.

  4. comment number 4 by: goda

    Sorry, I can’t realize what he want to say.

    Did he present the old document as evidence in which the sea between Japan and Korea was called “Changhae” (蒼海 / 滄海 – 창해) in Koryo period?

    Or, is it a joking show in the kindergarten?

  5. comment number 5 by: goda

    append,sorry.

    Not only the map?

  6. comment number 6 by: Gerry-Bevers

    Goda,

    I translated the Yonhap News article and added it to the post.

    The map seems to be the only piece of evidence he presented to claim that the name “Changhae” was used during the Koryo period.

  7. comment number 7 by: T_K

    GTOMR,

    It could be that the rocks are beneath the resolution of this map.

  8. comment number 8 by: goda

    Gerry,

    Fooooom,,,

    Then, though I am sincerely regretted, I can say South Korea as kindergarten.

    He is a typical South Korean styled racial and political scholar of imitation.

    I don’t know whether he is mere foolish or simply timid against pressure or brain-washed.

    Anyway, it is never worthy for calling them scholar who never loves truth and fight for it or not be sincere in own. Never.

    Gerry, You are admirable person for keeping your academic and cautious-full attitude for such bull-shit people.

  9. comment number 9 by: egg

    pacifist
    Thanks for your opinion.
    Do you think that the eyes of some scholars in Korea are clouded even in fields that are not related to Japan? If so, are the Korean government trying to control many fields? (It might be that eyes get clouded only in fields in which Japan is related, and the Korean governments may have some effect.)
    But the Korean government is a democratic one not like the one in Japanese imperial era, and there are opposition party too. So I am not denying all you suggest but it is a little hard for me to think it as the only reasom. (Sorry) But if it is the only reason it must be very difficult to change the culture. If Japan had won the WW2, my country would have still been the same as the imperial era, I guess. I think today`s Japanese culture owes a lot to American occupation.
    I was thinking about the issue today, and my hypothesis (there is a big chance that it is wrong and I am willing to change it so please point it out) is that training of counter-arguing might be considered lightly in Korean accademic fields. What do you think? (Though I am not saying that I am trained in arguments.)

  10. comment number 10 by: pacifist

    egg,
    .
    I don’t think all the Korean scholars’ eyes are clouded. It depends on the matters about which their government is nervous.
    .
    I don’t say the system of Korea is the same as Imperial Japan but I sometime feel the resemblance to it.
    .
    During the era of Imperial Japan, one couldn’t say that USA was superior to Japan and that USA would win in the end. If one said these kind of things, he would be blamed as “非国民(unpatriotic person)” and may have been caught by the special secret service police (特高).
    .
    In today’s Korea, even if one says that Japan wasn’t wrong, he won’t be caught by secret police as in the Imperial Japan. However, he would claimed as “親日派(jin-il pa)” and his normal social life would be restricted. Some scholars had to resign their posts. Some had to apologise before TV crews.
    .
    Such an atmosphere may help to reproduce another distorted theory by scholars and reproduction of such distortions goes on and on. It is just the same as what happened in Imperial Japan.

  11. comment number 11 by: egg

    pacifist
    Sorry I might have been misunderstanding your post at 2.
    I guess you are saying that there is an atmosphere in the Korean society that ristricts scholars to claim or question something in some fields (especially where the Korean government is nervous). And things related to Japan is included in one of the fields. Some Korean posters may be angry, but I think I can agree with you about that. It is only my impression but there are so many scholars in Korea claiming famous figures in Japanese history to be Korean. (I think the present one is Sugawara Michizane who is considered to be a kind of knight of studies).
    I can understand scholars shutting their mouth against the public legitimate opinion. What I am puzzled is that there are some scholars who try to make myths going along with the social atmosphere. Do you think they are lying? I personally don`t think so. I think they are believing their hypothesis from heart. From another view point it can be easily decided to be wrong, but still they claim those things. Why is that they claim such a riduculous thing that can easily be proved wrong? My answer to this question was my post at 9.
    Sorry if I am misunderstanding you again and I hope I am descriving my idea accurately.

  12. comment number 12 by: pacifist

    egg,
    .
    Thanks for your reply.
    .

    Do you think they are lying?

    I don’t know. Someone may speak his theories accomodating to the atmosphere, some other guy may speak his theory he really believes, or one may speak his theory unconsciously noticing it isn’t true.
    .
    But I believe almost all of the true scholars who know the truth keep silent about the sensitive matter such as Takeshima/Dokdo.
    .
    In the Imperial Japan, the same occured. Some novelists or painters published novels or paints to encourage military Japan’s wars accomodating to the government, while some, who were against the government and wars, didn’t publish anything during the war time.
    It was after the WWII when the people in the latter group could publish their works.
    .
    I hope that there will be the days when every scholar in Korea can speak his theory freely.

  13. comment number 13 by: Kaneganese

    What is his name in Chinese Character? 金文吉 or 金文起? Anyway, it looks like he is a repeater and (in)famous on Naver BBS. ” Oh No, Not You Again, Prof. Kim !!”

  14. comment number 14 by: goda

    pacifist.

    >But I believe almost all of the true scholars who know the truth keep silent about the sensitive matter such as Takeshima/Dokdo.

    This is my opinion.
    Perhaps, almost of all scholars whether he is “true” or “imitation”, know the fact.

    Society forces them to shut own mouse, or to do act foolish mimicry.

  15. comment number 15 by: Gerry-Bevers

    Kaneganese,

    The professor’s name is Kim Mun-gil, so 金文吉 are probably the correct characters. Anyway, he is a professor of Japanese History and Culture in the Japanese Department at Pusan University of Foreign Studies, which according to this notice seems to be proud of his latest recognition.

    It is hard to believe the guy is a history professor when he does not even seem to be able to read a map.

  16. comment number 16 by: goda

    In Japan,
    He 金文吉 seems to be famous as a fraudulent historial scholar, even the amateur is refusable.

    He is pierrot.

  17. comment number 17 by: kteen

    “…but when it comes to historical issues involving Japan, I am afraid that he might be”
    Jeez…
    GB, I’m afraid my fears about you are just as good as confirmed. I’d recommend you to see a psychiatrist.

    And seriously, where do you find the time and reason to dig up every single piece of crap(try searching for 창해 in naver. I only found 5 results, and they don’t seem very convincing) said by some Korean no-one’s even heard of?
    I don’t usually say these kinds of things to people who are older than I am, but Gerry, you are an idiot.

  18. comment number 18 by: kjeff

    kteen,

    I don’t usually say these kinds of things to people who are older than I am, but Gerry, you are an idiot.

    Come on…. Do what you are used to!!!

    GB, I’m afraid my fears about you are just as good as confirmed. I’d recommend you to see a psychiatrist.

    And seriously, where do you find the time and reason to dig up every single piece of crap(try searching for 창해 in naver. I only found 5 results, and they don’t seem very convincing) said by some Korean no-one’s even heard of?

    Come on… what do you expect, really? Quit bitching about it already! It’s all in the game(Just finished rewatching 4 seasons of The Wire, all-time best TV show). And, Gerry found several articles; it’s not much of a ‘digging’ if it’s on KBS, no? Blame it on the Korean media for publishing those ‘craps’, and give one to Gerry’s team.

  19. comment number 19 by: egg

    pacifist
    I think I have got your concern. I agree with you in some degree. And I fear it would be rather desperate situation, curing this probrem. As I wrote in 9, I think Japan was able to change because we lost the war and America occupied us. There will be no country occupying Korea so they will have to change the atmosphere themselves. I will not say it will be impossible but it will be quite hard, I think. So I am afraid your wish in your last sentence may not come true in the near future. Sad guess.
    .
    In the meanwhile I wish some of the scholars get trained with arguments and stop trying to make stupid myths,fairytales following the social opinon. It quite irritates me and maybe I will not be able to wait untill pacifist`s wish comes true.

  20. comment number 20 by: GTOMR

    T_K said on #7:

    GTOMR,
    It could be that the rocks are beneath the resolution of this map.

    I dont think so.
    If there was Liancourt rock on this 1904’s map,they would have strongry shout “There is crucial evidence that “Dokdo is our land”? But ,they didn’t.