Facts and Fallacies – History

1. The Makeup of the Korean People

Examples of Distortions
Taiwan: Signification of Koreans was relatively common because most Koreans were Chinese in origin. (Senior High School, History (2), National Institute for Compilation and Chinese Translation, 1994.)

The Philippines: People; Koreans are, like the Chinese and the Japanese, Mongoloids. People in the northern part of Korea are descendents of the Mongols and are generally tall, fair skinned and have a deep tone of voice. The people in the southern region are from a mixed heritage of Malaysians and Koreans, and they are generally smaller and have darker skin tones. (Secondary School history, The History of Asian Countries, Publication and Trading Co., 1994.)

People of the world belong to one of the three general categories of races: Caucasoid, Mongoloid or Negroid. Koreans belong to the Mongoloid race. The Mongoloid race is known to have originated near the Baikal Lake in Siberia. Mongoloid characteristics include high cheekbones and inner eyelids which are well suited for living in cold and harsh conditions such as in Siberia. Mongoloid can be further categorized as the Old Mongol or the New Mongol which differ in physical characteristics and language. The time when the two Mongols divided into different groups is still not known; however, the two groups have divided even further into many different groups. Koreans belong to the New Mongol which is composed of the Ugrians, the Finns, the Turks, the Mongols, and the Tungus. The New Mongols are also divided into the Ural language family and the Altai language family. Korean belongs to the Altai language family.

Koreans settled in Manchuria (present-day northeastern China) and the Korean Peninsula as a homogeneous people. That Korean myths and local religions have their origin in the shamanism of the Siberian region supports this view. The underlying culture of Korea has the same roots as the cultures of the Siberian region because the origin of Korean people and their lineage are very closely linked with the people of the Siberian region. Therefore, claims that Koreans are descendants of the Chinese due to the geographical and cultural closeness between Korea and China or that the people in the northern half of the peninsula are Mongols while the people of the southern half are Malaysians are false and are not based on any substantiated facts.

2. Omission of Koreas Prehistoric Age

Examples of Distortions
Hungary: Koreas prehistoric age is not known to the world because human skeletal remains from the Paleolithic and the Neolithic Era have not been discovered on the Korean Peninsula. (Peoples of the World, Gondolot, 1984.) 

Czech: The existence of Koreas prehistoric age is not mentioned, nor is the origin of Korean history. Only the names of the countries during the Three Kingdoms Period, Goryeo, and Joseon dynasties are cited. (Encyclopedia, Odeon, 1993.) 

There are some sources, for example Polish reference materials, which mention Koreas Neolithic Era. However, a claim that no Paleolithic Era existed in Korea appears in some sources due to the misconception that Koreas history is relatively short compared to that of China or Japan. These historical distortions concerning Koreas ancient history are the consequence of either ignorance or a failure to appreciate the value of archaeological remains found in Korea. The problem is exacerbated by an attempt to understand China and Korea separately even though China and the Korean Peninsula are contiguous. 

The first discovery of a Paleolithic site in Korea was made in the 1930s at Donggwangjin Cheongsong-gn Hamgyeongbuk-do Province along the Duman River. However, Korean scholars could not be certain about the existence of the Paleolithic era in Korea for a period of time because no other Paleolithic sites were subsequently found. 

In 1962, however, another Paleolithic site was discovered in Gulpo-ri Unggi-gn Hamgyeongbuk-do Province. The Korean archaeological community became even more certain of the countrys Paleolithic origins with the discovery of a new site at Seokjang-ri Chungcheongnam-do Province, which was excavated from 1964 to 1972. The Seokjang-ri site is as of yet the oldest Paleolithic site discovered in Korea, and it contains not only relics from the Paleolithic era, but also relics from the Mesolithic and the Neolithic era. For Korean archaeologists, the Seokjang-ri site is therefore a place of great significance. In addition, the Gumgul Cave in Danyang and the Black Moru Cave in Sangwon which were found near Paleolithic sites have been carbon dated back some 600,000 to 700,000 years. The Pillemot Cave on Jejudo, an island which constitutes the southern most part of Korea, has been discovered to contain Paleolithic relics also. Even some Paleolithic sites, which date back as recently as 10,000 years ago have been found. In total there are about 25 Paleolithic sites which have been discovered so far in Korea.

It has been discovered that the Paleolithic Era primitive people, from Homo Erectus to Homo Sapiens Sapiens, lived in Korea. On Mt. Seungnisan in Pyeonganbuk-do Province, a jawbone of belonging to a Homo Sapiens Sapiens was found, and scholars have named this artifact the Mt. Seungnisan Man after the name of place where it was discovered. Studies have found that this particular individual lived in the Paleolithic Era sometime between 50,000 and 12,000 years ago. Now it is widely accepted that there was a Paleolithic Era not only in China and Manchuria, but also in Korea.

3. Omission of Korean Ancient History

Examples of Distortions
Japan: The Chinese culture peaked on the Korean Peninsula following the establishment of the four Guns including Nak-rang by the Han Dynastys Emperor Wu of China at about 108 B.C … (High School, History of Japan, Ziyushobo Publishers, 1994.) 

Czech: The beginning of Korea goes back to B.C. 2 to the first century A.D. (The Encyclopedia of World Geography, Columbus, 1994.) 

Japanese history textbooks fail to mention Gojoseon (Dan-gun Joseon), the first nation state in Korea which is believed to have been established about 2,333 B.C. Instead, these textbooks have Korean history begin with the four commanderies of the Chinese Han Dynasty. Consequently, the beginning of the Korean history is pushed forward to a much later date, and it is implied that Korea was under Chinese rule from the very beginning of its history. This is a gross distortion, which omits an entire portion of Koreas national legacy. Furthermore, Japanese history textbooks omit any reference to Koreas Bronze Age and, instead, stress the influence of Chinese culture over Korea. 

However, it is a widely accepted view both in Korea and Japan that Koreas Bronze Age culture, which started at about the 10th century B.C., significantly influenced the culture of Yayoi Japan. Therefore, a correct description of Koreas ancient history would start with the fact of the existence of human habitation on the Korean Peninsula from prehistoric times, acknowledge the existence of Gojoseon as, Koreas first nation, and credit Koreas Bronze Age Culture for its influence on the development of Japans own Bronze Age culture. 

The idea that Korean history began with Gija Joseon comes from the idea that Gija of Chinas Yin Dynasty came to the Korean Peninsula and established Gija Joseon. The truth about the Gija Joseon idea is that it was used and repeatedly emphasized by Japanese colonialists to deny the autonomy of Korean history. At present, Korean scholars do not acknowledge Gija Joseon because the historical records of China which are used to support Gija Joseon are flawed, and there are facts which prove that Koreas Bronze Age culture is a branch of the northern Siberian culture which is completely different from Chinas Bronze Age culture. 

A prevailing view in Korean academic circles is that Koreas Bronze Age began at about the 10th century B.C. Moreover, Koreas Bronze Age culture is thought to have been influenced by the Karasuk-Tagar Bronze Age culture of Siberia, when it spread onto the Korean Peninsula and Liaoning Seong through northern Manchuria. Therefore, the beginning of Korean history should start with the upper historical limits established by Korean archaeological findings. 

The examples mentioned above indicate that Korean history began under Chinese rule and that Japanese history is longer than Koreas. These distortions of history deserve to be pointed out and corrected.

4. The Implication that Korea was a Chinese Colony

Examples of Distortions
US: Chinese Tang Dynasty in fact ruled Silla after Goguryeo and Baekje had been destroyed (Secondary School Social Studies, World Religions, Brown, 1993. ? Corrected in 1994 edition) Japan: Yi-Joseon became Mings colony (High School, Detailed World History, YamaKawa Publishers, 1994.) 

According to Koreas foundation legend, the beginning of the nations history goes back to the days of Go-Joseon, the first nation established by Dan-gun wanggeom in about 2,333 B.C. This is a source of great pride among Koreans. 

During its long history, however, Korea was subject to constant invasions from neighboring countries including China and Japan and at one time faced the prospect of total collapse. However, Koreans have never ceased to guard their autonomous identity by fiercely resisting and fighting against the invasive forces. 

Historically, Korea maintained an inseparably close relationship with her neighbor, China. Such a relationship was maintained through tributary diplomacy which was a formal acknowledgment of the reality of Chinas superior power. Tribute was a gesture of friendship made when two countries made official contact and was a kind of economic barter of rare items. 

From the Three Kingdoms Period, Korea carried out tributary diplomacy with China, and official contacts between the two countries were maintained accordingly. Hierarchy between the two countries was established through the tributary relationship. However, tributary diplomacy did not mean that China had colonized Korea nor that Koreas independence had been destroyed. Cultural exchanges and commercial trade were based on the understanding and acknowledgement of Chinas superior power. Many countries in East Asia including Korea were able to achieve political stability and satisfy economic and cultural needs by approaching China through this form of diplomacy. 

Past of the evidence indication Koreas independence was the use of an independent reign title, which expressed and enhanced the nations sense of sovereignty. In the even that China threatened or infringed upon Koreas independence, Korea boldly resisted and fought back. For example, Goguryeo fought against and annihilated the Chinese invaders of the Su () and Tang () Dynasties. Silla ran the Tang forces out of Korea and unified the Three Kingdoms (Silla, Baekje and Goguryeo). Goryeo attempted to conquer the Liaodong region of China during the latter days of the Goryeo period. Similar examples can be found in the case of Joseon which had a tributary relationship with the Ming (٥) Dynasty of China. However, Joseon planned a war against Ming and trained its military when Ming violated Joseons autonomy. In light of these historic facts, describing Joseon as a colony of Ming China is a distortion and a misunderstanding of traditional diplomacy in East Asia. 

Hence, it is a clear misreading of history for foreign textbooks to describe Korea as Chinas former colony. As a matter of fact, this is a most serious distortion of history and must be corrected as a matter of priority.

5. The Fallacy of a Japanese Outpost on the South Coast

Examples of Distortions
Japan: The Yamato Administration, which ruled Japan, expanded its power to the southern region of Korea in about the 4th century in search of steel and the superior technology of the continent(Middle School Social Studies, History, Kyoiku Publishers, 1993) 

US: The southern part of Korea is marked as part of an Imna Japanese outpost on a map. (Secondary School Social Studies, World Cultures, Prentice Hall, 1993) 

The argument that ancient Japan ruled the southern region of Korea (the ancient Japanese military outpost, Mimana (369~562), is a story trumped up by the Japanese imperialists during the late 19th century while Japan legitimizing its occupation of Korea. 

According to this story, ancient Silla and Baekje sent tribute to Japans Yamato Administration. Then, the Yamato Administration invaded the southeastern region of the Korean Peninsula in about 369 and established a Japanese military outpost in the Gaya region. The Yamato Administration is said to have colonized and ruled this area for about 200 years until 562. However, there are serious flaws in this interpretation of history. 

First Korean scholars believe that the Nihon Seogi,(Ѻ), on which Japanese scholars base the Japanese outpost idea was authored by Baekje exiles or their descendants. Because of this, it is very possible that the author(s), who were exiled from a ruined kingdom (Baekje) embellished their story to favor Japan or to enhance the prestige of Japans rulers. Other evidence that the records in the Nihon Seogi are not true is found in the Kojiki, which was written eight years before the Nihon Seogi. The Kojiki does not contain any record of any Japanese military outpost in Korea. 

Second, considering the power structure of East Asia, Japan was not capable of advancing onto the Korean Peninsula from the fourth to the sixth century. At that time, no unified nation existed in Japan. Furthermore, Japan did not have the shipbuilding skills to build ships to carry out a large-scale military operation overseas. In other words, China was the most powerful country followed by Korea. Japan was very weak at that time. Third, assuming, for argument sake, that a Japanese military outpost had indeed existed in Korea, it would then be natural to assume that ruins or artifacts remaining from that era would remain. For example, artifacts from Goguryeos King Gwanggaeto, were discovered in Gyeongju. Gyeongju was the capital of Silla, but Goguryeo had control over Silla at that time. Contrary to this, not a single artifact indicating Japans supposed presence in Korea has been found in the region even though Japan allegedly ruled the region for about 200 years. This is another piece of evidence suggesting that Japans allegation that it had colonized the southeastern part of Korea is false. 

Fourth, from the end of the fourth century, many Baekje people emigrated to Japan. During their journey to Japan, Baekje people stayed in the Gaya region. A commercial house was established for those staying in Gaya at that time, and Japan may have distorted this commercial house into the Japanese military outpost. 

No one denies that Japanese pirated from the western part of Japan invaded and looted the southeastern shores of the Korean Peninsula, and because of this, there were military confrontations between the ancient kingdoms of Korea and the Japanese pirates. However, it is a great distortion of history to argue that Japan conquered the southern region of the Korean Peninsula and ruled the region for a long time through its military outpost. 

The question of whether there was a Japanese military outpost is the subject of intense debate between Korea and Japan in regard to ancient relations between the two counties. Korean scholars continue to argue and have provide proof that the Japanese military outpost idea is a fabrication of the Japanese colonialists. Any reference to this should therefore be stricken from the textbooks and reference materials of other countries.

6. The Incident of the Japanese Battleship Unyeo and Koreas Emergence into the International Community

Examples of Distortions
Japan: Thereafter, the Japanese government took an aggressive stance during the talks with Joseon after a Japanese naval vessel was fired upon in 1875 (the incident) while it was training and surveying along the shore near Hanseong (Seoul). (Middle School Social Studies, History; Japans Change and the World, Chyukyo Publishers, 1992.) 

Meanwhile, Saiko Takamori and Itagaki Taisuke tried to conquer Joseon by dispatching troops, because Joseon did not accept Japans demands.(Middle School Social Studies, History, Nihon-syoseki Publishers, 1993.) 

The facts of the Unyo incident which occurred in 1875 were distorted by the Japanese at the time they began their imperialistic expansion. After having opened its ports to the United States in 1854, Japan achieved rapid modernization over two decades and then began to turn its ambitions toward the Asian continent, including Korea. While Japan pursuing diplomatic talks with Korea (at that time, Joseon), some radical imperialists in Japan insisted that Japan should invade Korea as it had done in the past. However, their arguments met with opposition from the moderates and a gradual approach to the invasion of Korea was then planned. In order to aid such a gradual invasion plan, Japan conducted surveillance near the shoreline of the island of Ganghwado. This region is a part of Koreas territorial waters and the gateway to Koreas capital, Seoul. The surveillance was conducted by a naval battleship, the Unyo which had been purchased from England. The Joseon naval forces, which were then guarding the shorelines, fired on the Unyo so as to prevent it from approaching the shore. 

At that time, not only was there a lack of means to communicate between vessels and guards on shore but also the Korean Navy was on alert due to the frequent appearance of Western naval vessels along the shores leading to Seoul. The Unyo responded by firing its canons and approached closer to the Korean coast. With a show of military power, the Japanese protested against the actions of the Joseon naval forces and claimed that they had approached the shore for water. Furthermore, the Japanese navy demanded an apology from the Korean Government and a trade agreement. Such steps taken by the Japanese in approaching Korea are similar to those taken by Western vessels. 

In the following spring (February 1876), Japan sent six naval vessels and 500 soldiers to Korea headed by a man named Kurota, to demand an apology from the Korean Government for the Unyo Incident and an official trade treaty. At that time in Korea, there was strong opposition to opening up the country to trade. However, Korea ultimately had no choice but to sign the 1876 Treaty of Ganghwado because of the strong support of those in favor of opening the country to foreign trade, the use of military force by Japan and the influence of China. The Treaty of Ganghwado forced Korea to open up its harbors and provided an opportunity for the unrestricted economic activities of Japanese merchants in Korea. While the Treaty of Ganghwado was the first step in the opening of Korea to the world, it was, at the same time, the first step in Japans plan to invade Korea. Thereafter, Japan continuously found ways to further its incursion into Korea. 

The Unyo Incident was carefully orchestrated by Japan in order to induce the Korean Navy to attack first, so they could use this as an excuse to demand a trade treaty. However, Japan tries to shift the responsibility for this incident onto Korea, implying that it was caused by a provocation by the Korean Navy. If Japan had not planned the incident, they would have retaliated against Korea with force. Moreover, Japan would not have demanded or pursued the Treaty of Ganghwado. The claims made by Japan about the Unyo Incident are a classic example of its attempts to distort historic events.

7. Rationalization of Japans Invasion and Colonization of Korea

Examples of Distortions
Rumania: Economic development in Korea is partially based on the industrial infrastructure created during the Japanese colonial period and (Modern Industries, Mircheastomian, 1992.) 

China: Joseon modern education system developed rapidly under Japanese rule. The Japanese Governors Office sought to modernize education in Joseon by introducing the Japanese education system. Joseons educational accomplishments during that time greatly contributed to the subsequent modernization and development of the country(Yin, Bao-yun, Why did Korea succeed, Wen-jin Publishers, 1993.) 

There are those who believer that Japans colonial rule greatly contributed to Koreas development into a modern nation. This view accepts Japans justification of its colonization of Korea. 

In other words, according to some Japanese scholars, Koreas backward economic structure was replaced and the groundwork for a modern capitalist economy laid during the Japanese occupation of Korea. For examples, there are those who maintain that Korea achieved significant industrialization during the Japanese occupation because of a land survey, plans to increase rice production and the construction of plants for making war materials. All of the above were initiated by the Japanese, but it was dont to exploit the resources of Korea. 

Moreover, the incipient development of capitalism in Korea during the Japanese occupation was not intended to benefit the Korean people. Rather, it was intended to exploit Korean resources for Japanese economic development. That is, Korea was forced by Japan into an abnormal form of modernization which only benefited Japan. Koreas independent attempts at modernization which were made prior to Japans colonization, never had a chance to materialize due to Japans annexation of the country. 

Koreas fast economic growth in recent decades was driven by abundant and high-quality labor, a high regard for education, and a strong sense of industriousness. The legacy of the Japanese occupation left nothing but negative practices in Korea, including a Jaebeol (conglomerate) oriented economy and collusion between politicians and businessman. Therefore, the argument that Japans actions benefited Korea fails to appreciate the enormous hardship suffered by Koreans under Japanese colonial rule. Furthermore, such a claim ranks with statements made by some Japanese politicians who attempt to justify Japans military expansion in Asia prior to and during World War II as the liberation of Asian countries from Western colonial rule.

8. Claims that the Socialists Led Koreas Independence Movement

Examples of Distortions
China: In early June 1937, a unit of the Joseon Peoples Liberation Army led by Gim Ilseong, broke through the rugged region of the Amnok River and invaded Bochunbo.(Senior High School, World History (3), Peoples Education Press, 1993.) 

Poland: In April 1932, a guerrilla force was organized by Gim Ilseong, who had been fighting for Koreas liberation since he was 14 years old, in the Baekdu mountain region, and he became commander of the Peoples Liberation Army. Gim led the unified front against Japan and was elected as the commander in 1936. (Alexandra Dominique, Korean History, Katovicze, 1992.) 

In regard to anti-Japanese activities by Koreans during the Japanese occupation, only the guerrilla activities led by Gim Ilseong are mentioned while nationalist anti-Japanese movements are rarely mentioned or are completely omitted. In reality, however, Gims guerrilla activities were only one of many anti-Japanese independence efforts made by Koreans. Beginning in the late 19th century, countless Koreans fought against imperial Japans intrusion and continued the anti-Japanese struggle even after colonization. 

During Japans 35-year colonial rule of Korea, resistance never ceased. First, resistance came to a climax with the March First Independence Movement of 1919, which was a non-violent, civil demonstration to make the world aware of the Korean peoples desire for independence. Beginning on March 1, independence demonstrations spread throughout Korea, and thousands of people were killed by the Japanese military during their ruthless suppression. Thereafter, Korean resistance forces were formed in the Manchuria area and fought against the Japanese military. The Battle of Pong-o-dong and the Battle of Cheongsan-ri(Chingshan-ri in Chinese) were large-scale battles during which the Korean forces crushed the Japanese forces. 

Second, a Provisional Government of Korea in exile was established in China and led the anti-Japanese movement abroad. In 1940, the Provisional Government formed an alliance with the Chinese Government and established the Korean Liberation Army. Moreover, the Provisional Government declared war on Japan and fought on the side of the Allies in World War II. During the War, the Korean Liberation Army formed an alliance with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) of the United States and carried out special training in preparation for military operations on the Korean Peninsula. The Korean Liberation Armys anti-Japanese efforts continued in China, Manchuria and as far as the Indian and Burmese fronts. 

Despite such historic facts, some foreign textbooks (especially those published in socialist countries) misrepresent the independence efforts of Koreans as being led by socialists, including Gim Ilseong. They need to be revised as quickly as possible to accurately reflect the whole story of the liberation efforts

Published by the Korean Educational Development Institute 
- Editors: Yong Taik Sohn, Ph.D. (KEDI), Mr. Kwang Jae Kim (KEDI Research Assistant) 
- Editorial Consultant: Suzanna Samstag (Editor of Newsweek Korea),Robert Abraham (LG EDS Systems) 
- Writers: Yong-ha Shin, Ph.D. (Seoul National University), Ki Suk Lee, Ph.D. (Seoul National University),Yong Kyu Choi, Ph.D. (Korea National University of Education)ang Joon Nam, Ph.D. (Chungju University of Education) Bum Jik Lee, Ph.D. (Konkuk University), Jae Taik Yoo, Ph.D. (KEDI)- Reviewer: Won Soon Lee, Ph.D. (The National History Compilation Committee of the Republic of Korea),John Hee Lee, Ph.D. (The University of Seoul),Mr. Byong Yong Yoo (The Academy of Korean Studies),Wan Bom Lee, Ph.D. (The Academy of Korean Studies),Chan Hee Lee, Ph.D. (KEDI)

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