Organizer and Chair: Edward J. Shultz, University of Hawaii
The Worldview of King Kyongmun (r. 861-875) of Silla and His Milieu
Vladimir Tikhonov, Moscow State University
Before his accession to the throne, King Kyongmun (Kim Ungnyom) was a leader of hwarang (lit.: "flower-boys") youth organization, which performed a lot of religious, educational and political functions. Kyongmun and his hwarang milieu are believed to have shared indigenous conception of the society and universe, based on the notion that the nation is to be protected by spirits and a member of hwarang organization is able to communicate with these spirits. It has been deemed possible and, what is more, necessary to find out the will of spirits through divination, and then act accordingly or influence the spirits by reciting ritual vernacular poetry (hyangga). Embracing Buddhism, hwarang members, and Kyongmun among them, understood it as a part of native shamanist tradition, Buddhist monks-turned-hwarang members playing the role of sooth-sayers and hyangga poets. At the same time King Kyongmun, like most of his hwarang CO colleagues, was a champion of the state ownership of the land and centralized monarchy, and had to fight rampant local landlords. This required some kind of complex social ethic, foreign to native tradition. Kyongmun found that Confucianism and Taoism were the ethical systems he needed. Preoccupied with Silla's social problems, Kyongmun was not interested in doctrinal differences between these two teachings and tried to find in both Confucianism and Taoism the common moral elements that the centralized state could use. As a whole, King Kyongmun's worldview encompassed traditional shamanism and shamanized Buddhism inherited from the past and ethical postulates of Chinese philosophical systems useful for the social stratum Kyongmun himself represented. It is also interesting to note that the broad syncretic nature of King Kyongmun's philosophy was not fully acceptable for some later Korean historians, champions of much more partisan beliefs. Most prominently, in his "History of the Three Kingdoms" (Samguk sagi) Confucian Kim Bu-sik (1075-1151) simply omitted the facts about King Kyongmun's connections with hwarang organization, native beliefs and Buddhism, thus making Kyongmun an exemplary follower of the Chinese thought that Kim Bu-sik himself admired. On the other hand, Buddhist monk Iryon (1209-1289), compiler of the "Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms" (Samguk yusa), emphasized the indigenous background of King Kyongmun's charisma.
The 'Scorched Rat' Incident of 1527: Sorcery and Politics in the Choson Court
Milan Heijmanek, Harvard University In the second month of 1527, a dead rat-its limbs severed, eyes gouged, and fur singed-was discovered hanging outside the bedroom of the Crown Prince on his birthday. The uproar provoked by this act of sorcery stalled the normal functioning of the court for over a month in a frantic search for the malefactor. In the end, a culprit was named: an out-of-favor consort. However, her banishment and subsequent execution did not end speculation into the hidden significance of the affair.
This act of lèse majesté struck the court at a time of dynastic uncertainty and mediocrity, during the reign of Chungjong, the ineffectual replacement for the deposed Yonsan'gun. In the wake of the 1519 kimyo purges of Neo-Confucian activist officials associated with Cho Kwang-jo, the court of Chungjong was adrift with no clear policy or distinction. The incident and the furor it aroused suggest both a barely latent dissatisfaction with the monarch and the political potency of heterodoxy within a court in which Neo-Confucian learning was languishing.
Beyond its political significance, the incident prompted the recording of voluminous depositions in the Sillok describing the functioning of the women's quarters in the palace. They document in rich detail the daily life of, and tensions among, the various groups of palace consorts and their attendants.
This paper examines afresh the incident, proposes an alternative culprit, and discusses the larger historical significance of political sorcery within the inner court of the early Choson dynasty.
History as Exorcism: Nation and Collaboration in Korean Historiography
Koen De Ceuster, Leiden University, The Netherlands
For a state coming out of a prolonged period of foreign occupation, it is imperative to rebuild a sense of national cohesion. The reconstruction of a new national identity in the wake of a traumatic and socially divisive occupation is achieved by relying on a selective combination of different group memories which, in their combined form, gain the status of national myth, a process well-documented in the case of France.
The South Korean authorities constructed a similar national myth. Regardless of the political coalition of Syngman Rhee with collaborationist elements, the South Korean regime-through its master narrative-claims ancestry in the independence movement. At the same time, Korea's national identity is supported by the myth of a people united in unrelenting resistance against the Japanese occupation.
Though the state's claim to ancestry in the independence movement is contested, the contestants-Pierre Bourdieu's field concept will be applied to determine who these contestants are-fail to question the constructed national myth of the resisting nation. By exorcising collaborators from its history, the Korean nation escapes all responsibility for this "dark page" in its national history. By delving up forgotten cases of collaboration, the legitimacy of the South Korean state is undermined, but the occupation history is not rewritten. The nationalist paradigm remains uncontested.
Discourse on Han (Grudge, Resentment): A Socio-Historical and Interpretive
Account of its Rise in Postwar Korea
Jim K. Freda, University of California, Los Angeles
The notion of han in post-war South Korea has become enshrined in both popular and academic discourse, where it acts as a uniquely Korean sentiment or "structure of feeling.1" Often embedded in essentialist and nationalist frameworks, han recalls the suffering experienced by the oppressed. This discourse flourished in the immediate post-war decades. It reached its peak in the 1970s where it played a central role in the formation of opposition (minjung) political thought and the related form of Korean liberation theology, minjung sinhak.
Following Chôn I-du, I discuss the recent rise of discourse on han in two periods: In the 1950s and 60s its more nihilistic, passive form was elaborated by literary critics reading, for example, the work of Kim Sowôl. I focus on the later rise in opposition politics in the 1970s of a more activist, political form of han. This stands in contrast to the ideological and economic strategies of Park's Yushin reforms, to which it was in part a protest. I provide extensive treatment of this radical discourse on han as it is used by such figures as Paik Nak-ch'ông, Kim Chi-ha, and Sô Nam-dong.
On a broader level, discourse on han was a response to the dislocations and schizophrenia which Korea underwent in its modern experience of colonization, civil war, and national division. Thus discourse on han offers a material intervention into some of the modernist assumptions of Western critical theory-it is a moment when the subaltern finds its voice.
1. Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford 1977)