Ok…let’s continue on the issue of homogeneity.
Korean history, particularly the recent history, has much to do with the idea of homogeneity, possibly relating to why there aren’t so many independent Korean voices in American academia. I wanted to avoid the history issue altogether, but found that this is a “no can do” matter. The reason for the change of heart is that I believe know or not knowing the past can influence one’s conclusion. Even if the conclusion may look the same from an outsider’s point of view, the depth of the answer reached would differ. Hence, here begins a short trip into the long history of Korea, relevant to homogeniety, the misunderstood.
Korean history is full of resistance and factionalism, hardly an ideal picture of homogenic society. For instance, Koguryo (BC 1000~AD 668) was a constant threat to China, even to the Chin Dynasty which unified China for the first time. Kokuryo was one of the main reason Emperor Chin had to build the Great Wall so close to Beijing, only one hour distance the city by car–Kokuryo’s sphere of influence would not allow the Chinese to construct its major line of defence any farther than the current location. When Shilla unified the Korean peninsula, Shilla had to exert its utmost power to keep its people at bay from waging a war against China to reclaim Koguryo’s territory beyond the Korean peninsula. The movement continued to Koryo (918~1392) and Balhae (713~1117). Against the Mongols, many Koryo kings secretly had planned a war, which often became their own demise. Balhae was able to reclaim a part of the old territory and spread into today’s Sakhalin, Russia. However, Koryo brought down Balhae’s glory after 30 separate wars. Even when Koryo became Chosun (1392~1910), the people’s desire to regain its old territory continued. Some may say that Korea’s history has mostly been volatile to say the least. Homogeneity in Korean history has less to do with being docile or complacent.
Then, things began taking a different turn since the Hideyoshi war, Japan’s invasion to Korea. Imginweron, as Koreans call it, which occured from 1592~1598, was devastating (I translated parts of a modern novel based on this war which I may post here someday, provided that the posting would not violate the copyright of the author). The Korean king, during the time, had to flee to the north of North Korea and into the Chinese territory. Some war historians claim that this was a strategic move, just like the Russians retreated endlessly, burning down everything along the way, so that the German soldiers would be depleted of their supply soon. Nevertheless, fleeing to China was a national disgrace–especially when the King had even sent two diplomats to Japan to detect if there were any signs of war preparation in Hideyoshi side. One diplomat said there were plenty of signs of impending danger, and the other said there was none. The King chose to believe the latter. Hence, the King screwed up.
In order to dodge the blame and keep his throne, the King began netting a tight control over its people. He blamed that the was occurred because the public moral/ethics was at fault. Korea had always been known as the Eastern Nation of Moral. And because Korea’s moral standing had fallen, even the island-dwelling midgets thought that it could invade, and did, Korea. Along with the aristocrats who made the booboo, the Korean King blamed the women, the relatively weaker social class of Chosun, the primary cause of the deterioration of Korea’s moral standing. The top dogs who were really at fault had to invent lies after lies to keep their wealth and position. And the idea of homogeneity to reclaim the old glory had turn inward in the shape of “homogeneity,” or the game of let’s-eliminate-the-dissidents (I have another piece of translation which would show how the concept still lingers on). Hence an era of the end of independent voice started.
The Korean people, of course, didn’t just sit around and swallowed the lies. There were violent upheavals. But all of them ended fruitlessly. Chosun, as a nation, battled to keep down the people’s voices, concentrating the main portion of its power on oppressing domestic revolts. This led Korea to lose its edge and stay in the mud of stagnation. Korean kingship and government system rotted. Japan, which opened its doors to Western world earlier, became once more a formidable power to Korea. In 1910, Korea ended up signing over its soverignty and diplomatic power to Japan, another huge disgrace on a national level. And Japan immediately signed over the once Balhae territory to Soviet Union with the promise that the Soviet Union would not attack Japan as Japan invaded Chine via Korea.
With its government’s spine as sturdy as that of a jelly fish, Korean people rose again. Interim Korean governments were established in Shanghai and in the United States. Many people lost their lives in assasination attempts (many succeded), and in their work to overthrow Japanese control. Then there were many, usually from the aristocrat class and the lowest and oppressed class, that worked for Japan for their own lives. They were downright traitors, and they were the ones in power, just like the King and nobles during the Hideyoshi war. When Korea regained its independence from the help of UN Forces and United States military power, the US and Soviet Union divided the Korea into halves. The US took the South Korea.
The US, in its ill-fated logic and unfamiliarity of Koreans in general, hired Korean people to help the US rule over Korea. And the US thought that those who had been in power during the Japanese regime probably had a more working knowledge of how Korea was run and to be run. And the traitors unexpectedly assumed the power again. Korean people did not stand still and just took this. However, when Korean War broke, none of this mattered.
After the Korean War, those traitors who amassed the wealth relcaimed their land and fortune. And American government wanted the traitors (or the pesky Santa’s evil helpers) to be happy and cooperative. The language barrier probably had a lot to do with the situations, too. Americans just did not know what they were doing. And from 1953 and on, oppression by the traitors to keep holding onto power continued. Lies after lies were fabricated to support their comfortable lives. And Amercan military power made sure to let other Koreans know that the US proudly supported their helpers. After the Japanese regime, Korean ended up serving the same traitors in power, in partnership withAmerican regime…..alas!
Then through a brief history of Korea since the war, each President succeded the throne by coup d’Etat, amassed enormous personal wealth and incarcerated for it. Then in 1980, Kwangju massacre occured under the tacit consent by the American government, and etc….. Only in the last 10 to 15 years or so has Korean people seen peaceful hand-over of the throne. Even then, extortion and embezzelment continued since those who were doing it were the same traitors, or their offsprings, from the Japanese-American regime (the Presidents might have been changed, but not the Congressmen). And the traitors’ favorite slogan during the last 50 years or so was homogeneity: We are Koreans, we are one people who endured many invasions, we need to stick together, let’s not make noise to split our attention from what we need the most…our survival.
And, guess what happened to so-called an independent or consciencious voice of Korea?
Acting out, or raising one’s indepent voice is considered as rocking the boat. Spliters are never welcome. Hierarchy is the rule everyone must obey.
Many Koreans consider that Confucionism truly blossomed in Korea. In fact, Confucionism has been twisted over the last 400 years in Korea to become a handy tool to rule over Korea and Koreans, namely homogeneity or, as I see it, anti-heterogeneity out of fear and lies.
So…here is the question to pop. Is homogeniety really the cause of
the silence among Asian American scholars? The Answer is YES, as whatever-the-scholar’s-name-was pointed out. However, what YOU consider “homogeniety” may differ from the “homogeniety” Korean understands through the stories, upbringings, and school education they have experienced….
The better question that what’s posed above would be How to break the chain of Homogeneity among Korean American scholars? Who’s going to stand out first?