Thursday, November 27, 2003

KOREAN VS. CHINESE IRREDENTISM: The Marmot has a post on Chinese claims to the ancient Korean kingdom of Koguryo. This seems to me to be the latest salvo in an ongoing battle over the history and identity of Manchuria. The Choson Kingdom had several disputes with the Qing Empire over the Kando/Jiandao border region. Some earlier Choson monarchs were proponents of marching north to attack the Qing and reclaim lands in Liaodong. And of course there wouldn't be a Chonju Yi clan-ruled Choson Dynasty in the first place if Yi Song-gye had not been sent north to attack Ming China in 1388. As many of the comments of the Marmot's post indicate, placing the label "Korean" on peoples before Koryo is a tricky and often misleading business. But there is plenty to dispute even in more well documented and understood historical periods. An interesting (to me) aside: Andre Schmid's book Korea Between Empires discusses at least one Korean historian of the late 19th century (the name escapes me) who argued that Korean history has ever been a history of North-South division: Koguryo-Paekche/Silla, Unified Silla-Parhae, Liao/Jin/Yuan-Koryo, and Qing-Choson. Not only does this conception eerily prognosticate the current situation on the peninsula, it also turns the tables on Chinese expansionistic claims: if the Qing (and Yuan, Jin, and Liao) were all "northern Korean" kingdoms, then even places like Tibet and Xinjiang (both Qing conquests) are really Korean!

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