Monday, April 10, 2006

Korea/late Chosun period/interpretation

See late Chosun period
I have found a interesting article about the late Chosun period.It seems the blogger wants to intepret then Korea in as positive way as possible.In particular, he seems to deny Ladd, who hold low esteem on Korea.

Let's see how western people looked at Korea.
Korean people

The ordinary European is a pygmy among the tall, straight, powerful Coreans. An indescribable gravity and dignity of manner lends itself to the impressive grace and strength and the noble features of this ancient race. As the men become old they grow long beards, which add to their naturally majestic bearing.Yet the Coreans are the emptiest-headed, most childlike, and most generally foolish people among civilized nations. They are the grown-up children of Asia. Their ignorance is not like the ignorance of Central Africa. Hundreds of years ago, they inspired Japan with the love of art, and their literature is as old as Egypt. They are gentle and meditative. Throughout the Corean peninsula, stately quotations from the noblest Chinese odes are painted on the public buildings, in the quaint summer pagodas, and on the walls of dwelling houses. Their very battle flags are inscribed with philosophic sayings. But the Coreans are drugged with abstract scholasticism and demonology. They are credulous almost beyond belief.

The Koreans certainly are a handsome race... Mentally the Koreans are liberally endowed... The foreign teachers bear willing testimony to their mental adroitness and quickness of perception, and their talent for the acquisition of languages, which they speak more fluently and with a far better accent than either the Chinese or Japanese. They have the Oriental vices of suspicion, cunning, and untruthfulness

It seems that they agreed that Korean man looked handsome.
While we are at it, it is interesting to note that the blogger does not mention how the western people looked at the Korean woman while he wanted to emphasize the fact the western people looked Korean guys as nice.
Underwood’s first comment on Korean women is,

“Korean women as a rule are not beautiful. I, who love them as much as any one ever did, who look upon them as my own sisters, must confess this. Sorrow, hopelessness, hard labor, sickness, lovelessness, ignorance, often, too often, shame, have dulled their eyes, and hardened and scarred their faces…” (Underwood 11)frog

“The women of the lower classes in Korea are ill-bred and unmannerly, far removed from the gracefulness of the same class in Japan or the reticence and kindliness of the Chinese peasant women.” (Bishop 339)frog

one may be refreshed by the sight of women of the poorest class, some ladling into pails the compound which passes for water, and others washing clothes in the field pools which is peculiar to the capital, a green silk coat---a man's coat with the "neck" put over the head and clutched below the eyes, and long wide sleeves falling from the ears It is as well that the Korean woman is concealed, for she is not a houri.Biship p45

Ladd, when expressing his own pity for the state of women in Korea also makes a comparison with Japan, “The hardest crust to break will doubtless be that which encompasses and crushes the Korean lady. In Japan there has never been anything quite comparable to the still present degrading influences bearing upon the womanhood of the upper classes in Korea.” (Ladd 87)

By the way, how you evaluate the beautiy of woman depends much on your preference,

The photo above is the Korean noble man with his slaves.Personally I do not think European people look pigmy beside him.The photo below is a Korean woman.Personally she look very cute.

Let's returen to the topic.
We need to note that Bishop in another place also said;
“Narrowness, grooviness, conceit, superciliousness, a false pride which despises manual labor, a selfish individualism, destructive of generous public spirit and social trustfulness, a slavery in act and thought to customs and traditions 2,000 years old, a narrow intellectual view, a shallow moral sense, and an estimate of women essentially degrading, appear to be the products of the Korean educational system.” (Bishop 387)frog

Gale, who is perhaps the most familiar with the history and complexities of Confucian scholarship, is also deeply critical, but mostly because of its complete lack of progressivist and pragmatic elements.

“We aim at the development and preparation of the student in a practical way for life before him; the Korean has no such thought. He aims to fix or asphyxiate the mind, in order that he may shut the present out and live only in the past. Development is our idea; limitation his. A Western student rejoices in a variety of attainments and the number of branches in which he has been introduced; while the Korean, in the fact that he knows nothing of any subject but the reading and writing of Chinese characters.” (Gale 176)

Now let's read Ladd,
The silliness of mind, the almost hopeless and incurable credulity and absolute absence of sound judgement which characterizes, with exceedingly few exceptions, the political views and actions of even the official and educated class in Korea, was the impression made upon me by this, as by all my experiences during my stay in the land.

It seems that Ladd's opinion is not so radically different from others.
(I don't intend to imply that their descripitons mirrors the true nature of Korean people.That is absurd. They are just western (biased) perceptions of korean people in a special circumstance.In this regard,we should note Bishop's obsevation:
In Korea I had learned to think of koreans as the dregs of a race, and to regard their conditoin as hopelss but in Primosk I saw reason for considerable modifying my opionion
if they ever have an honest administeration and protection fro their earnings, may slowly develope into men Bishop p236


He stood behind a table, in front of a gaudily upholstered European chair, with his small, nervous hands crossed lightly over his ceinture, -- a slender, shy man, with an oval face, thin, silky mustache and chin beard, a kind, voluptuous mouth, and soft, dark eyes. He had the eyes of a beautiful girl. When he smiled he hung his head on one side, half closed his eyes, looked straight at us, and opened them slowly with the expression of a bashful woman.

the King, with all his amiability and kindness of heart, is weak in character and is at the mercy of designating men,as has appeared increasingly since the strong sway of the Queen was withdrawn

In Korea, the King is feebleminded,

Now let's read what Ladd said about the king
His face wore a pleasant smile with which he is said to greet all foreigners... although it's asthetical effect is somewhat hindered by a bad set of teeth.

We get the picture of the king by reading these comments.Again, I don't see any big differences in their opinions.

The blogger seems to want to deny what Ladd said about Korea by citing Mackenzie.

Ladd was more than up to the task. His disparaging view of Korea was no doubt coloured by the Japanese guides who explained the country's history and culture (or lack thereof) to him. As F.A. McKenzie wrote in The Tragedy of Korea (1908):

One distinguished foreigner, who returned home and wrote a book largely given up to laudation of the Japanese and contemptuous abuse of the Koreans, admitted that he had never, during his journey, had any contact with Koreans save those his Japanese guides brought to him. Some foreign journalists were blinded the same way.Gusts Of Popular Feeling

However from the comment Ladd made,it seems clear he met the king of Korea and Korean woman.So either Makenzie was talking about the other man or he was making the statment in order to give impressoin that his book was telling the truth despite the fact the mojority of th report says things to the contrary.

After reading his article on the blog, I somehow sensed the Korean recurrent theme that Korea is a victim, Japan is evil.
It seems obvious that Japan colonized not because she wanted to help Korea.
But it was usual for most of the western nations to colonize in the name of modernizing the backwackward nations.They said, that was whiteman's burden.

Japan was backward in vew of western standard, but she changed fast.She westernized herself fast.She colonized neibghoring countries in the same pretext as the Western used.
The werstern nations admitted Japanese colonizatoin because it was convenient for them to counter Russia.My guess is that if Korean had changed first, then Japan would have been colonized.The times was when you could not be afford to be independent without colonizing.

It was probably humiliating for Japanese to be invaded by the West.There were younger Japanese people who realized the desparate situation of Japan and who felt the need that the radical reform was absolutely necessary to counter the Western Powers.She was quick to reform herself. .
It was probably humiliating for Koreans to be invaded by Japan, there were a lot of Korean people who realized that the reform is essencial to counter the Powers.They set up Issihinkai.Iljinhoe
Korean people, for some reasons, tend to ignore or deny this association.
How you want to look at the past may depend on how you are looking at the present.
See also

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