‘Lineage’ Camp Invites Students

MBC’s popular historical drama, ‘Chumong,’ has been developed into a mobile game.

The drama, which ended its year-long run early this month with huge viewer ratings of more than 50 percent, is now available on mobile phones, serviced through SK Telecom.

It is an action simulation game, taking its main story from the drama, which is about the founding myth of Koguryo (37 BC – 668 AD), Korea’s ancient kingdom.


Rivals square off in history battle

Thursday, April 26, 2007

South Korea is fighting a battle with China over ancient history using one of the most powerful weapons in its arsenal – sappy TV dramas watched by hundreds of millions of viewers in Asia.
The dispute is over whether the 2,000-year- old Koguryo kingdom, whose lands covered much of the Korean peninsula as well as parts of China, was an ancient Korean royal house or a vassal of China.

“The Koguryo issue may be one of the smaller problems that China has, but it is everything for Korea. Koguryo symbolizes the identity of Korea,” said Kim Woo Jun, a professor at the Institute of East and West Studies at Yonsei University in Seoul.

Three South Korean television dramas on the Koguryo kingdom released in the past six months were hits at home and abroad, with scenes of galloping horses, court intrigue and sword fights.

But the TV shows raised hackles in the mainland and Hong Kong, where viewers supporting China’s claims to Koguryo crossed swords in cyberspace with those defending South Korea’s position.

The dispute became so emotive that the user-generated Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia blocked readers from contributing to the section on Koguryo “until disputes have been resolved.”

According to Seoul, the Koguryo kingdom reigned from 37 BC to 668 AD and was a regional power fighting off Chinese invaders. The territory it once held is now home to many ethnic Koreans who live in China.

In China, scholars say Koguryo was founded in its territory and was a vassal state. They say the descendants of the royal house were assimilated into the Han Chinese people.

Television producer Lee Joo Hwan’s historical drama Jumong was a big hit in South Korea where it was a ratings winner. But some Chinese viewers railed against the series on the Internet, branding it a Korean attempt to rewrite history.

A Hong Kong broadcaster went so far as to change the names of the entities in the series to make the show more palatable to its Chinese viewers.

“Despite the controversy, I don’t think the drama would have been popular if it hadn’t been interesting,” Lee said.

But there is little chance that the dispute will end soon as South Korea prepares to fire a new salvo in the historical debate with the launch of a big-budget blockbuster TV drama.

Taewang Sasingi is the story of what Koreans consider to be one of the greatest kings of Koguryo and will air in September, starring Bae Yong Jun, a favorite for fans in many parts of Asia.


Students to Learn Disputed History

Beginning in 2012, students will learn about controversial issues in Korean history involving neighboring countries.

According to the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development, the seventh edition of history textbooks for high schools includes territorial and historical disputes with Japan and China.

For example, the textbook will chronicle the fact that Seoul and Beijing have been in dispute over China’s five-year research program that claims Koguryo, an ancient Korean kingdom between 37 BC and 668 AD.

The book will also detail Korea’s demand that Japan stop distorting information about its colonization of the Korean Peninsula in school textbooks. Students will also learn that the two countries are entangled over the Dokdo islets in the East Sea. The islets are South Korean territories claimed by Japan.

Current history textbooks deal only with the Dokdo islets disputes and do not deal with history distortions by China and Japan.

“Students will learn historical and territorial disputes concerning other countries in the new history textbooks. The book holds a view that these disputes should be resolved peacefully,” Ahn Byong-woo, a ministry official said.

“East Asian countries have a clear identification through intimate cultural and idea exchanges for a long time. The new curriculum is expected to promote the co-development of the region,” he added.

The new East Asia history book will also cover Vietnamese history. Vietnam is involved in economic exchanges with Korea.

Apart from the new contents, the government plans to bolster history education. Under the plan, curricula for Korean history and world history will be integrated and junior and senior students at high schools may choose East Asia history as an academic course.

In gesture of support for the government’s plan to strengthen history education, 100 historians will gather in Seoul today.

By Kang Shin-who Staff Reporter
kswho@koreatimes.co.kr 2007-03-06 21:06

Koguryo Is Predecessor of Koryo

The following is the second in a series of articles on China’s distortion of Korean history.

The second part deals with the Koguryo Kingdom (37 B.C.-A.D. 668) that occupied the northern part of the Korean Peninsula and northeastern region of China. _ ED.

Travel boycott to China: Demonstrators march down Chongno street, central Seoul, Wednesday, to protest China’s ‘Northeast Project,” which claims ancient Korean kingdoms were under Chinese rule.

The demonstrators urged China to be historically accurate and called on Koreans not to travel to China as long as the project continues.

I went there to look around Korean history but it felt like I was just seeing China’s sightseeing spots under the supervision of the Chinese authorities,” Kim Seon-ju, a 24-year-old college student, said.

She visited China last week to observe the remains of Koguryo, an ancient Korean kingdom, as a participant of a sponsored trip by a Seoul company. When she and other companions were about to put out the Korean flag to take a picture in front of the remains, Chinese guards came and cautioned them not to do it.

The situation was similar when they arrived at the Stele of Great King Kwanggaeto (375-413), who expanded Koguryo’s territory to its largest during his reign in the fifth century. They couldn’t even put out placards to promote the trip as Chinese officials warned tour guides.

“I heard from the guides that it is a taboo to ask in China to which nations Koguryo belonged. That means Koguryo-related issues are on thin ice,” Kim said.

Discord over ancient history between South Korea and China erupted in 2002 when China unveiled a research program on Northeast Asia which claims sovereignty over Korea’s ancient kingdoms.

On the Web site (http:chinaborderland.cass.cn) of the so-called “Northeast Project,” the Chinese insisted, “Koguryo was a part of ancient China, which lasted 700 years. It was a provincial government of ancient China.”

Mentioning the project, many teaching materials of universities and history textbooks carry the same insistence, the Dong-a Ilbo, a vernacular newspaper in South Korea, reported on Monday. Even guidelines at a museum in Jian, northeastern China, with the remains of Koguryo echoed the argument, saying that Chinese ethnic minorities founded Koguryo.

Ahn Byung-woo, a professor of Korean history at Hanshin University in Osan, Kyonggi Province, refutes Chinese scholars’ argument, by examining the relationship between Koguryo and the Koryo Kingdom (918-1392).

Koryo is an archetype of the current name of Korea.

Chinese scholars have insisted that successive relationship didn’t exist between the two kingdoms. In other words, the Chinese say Koryo was a state constructed by current Koreans’ ancestors whereas Koguryo is part of China’s history founded by the forefathers of today’s Chinese, Ahn said.

“They argue that people have called both of them Koryo from ancient times but that is a misnomer which caused confusion,” the professor said.

Koguryo was founded in 37 B.C. and collapsed in 668, while Koryo started in 918 and fell in 1392.

“Even though it had a 250-year gap, Koryo was the successor kingdom of Koguryo,” Ahn continued.

The evidence is found in the conversation on the succession issue between General So Son-nyoung of the Liao Dynasty (916-1125) and Seo Hi, a Koryo diplomat, Ahn said.

The history dates back to 993 when troops of the Liao Dynasty invaded Koryo whose capital was located in Kaesong, now in North Korea. Kaesong was called Kaegyong at that time.

Saying Liao was occupying the territory of Koguryo, the general argued that Koryo had to return its land to Liao because Koryo originated from Silla Kingdom (57 B.C.-935 A.D.) which was established below the Han River, now in Seoul. Then, Seo told the Chinese general that “Koryo succeeded Koguryo as its state name showed. So Liao had to hand over the territory of Koguryo to Koryo.”

Seo’s argument represents the general belief of the Koryo people at that time that they were the legitimate successor to Koguryo,” the professor went on.

The belief was completely reflected in the “Samguk Sagi,” a historical record of three kingdoms _ Paekje (18 B.C.-A.D. 660), Silla and Koguryo, he said.

The book was written by Kim Bu-sik (1075-1151), a famous scholar of Koryo. Lee Kyu-bo (1168-1241), another Koryo scholar, also dealt with the belief in his epic, titled “King Tongmyong.”
The work, written in 1193, describes the achievements of the king who founded Koguryo. On the other hand, history books written during the Chinese Song and Yuan dynasties classified Koguryo as well as Koryo into a category of foreign countries and admitted Koryo’s legitimacy, Ahn said.

Seo Kung, an envoy of the Song Dynasty mentioned that Koryo inherited Koguryo in his book “Koryo Tokyong,” a report on his visit to Koryo in 1123,” the professor said.

A history book, titled “Songsa,” of the Song Dynasty also begins with a chapter on Koryo, saying “Koryo originally was Koguryo,” and portrays its founding process.

The name “Koryo” is one of the most distinctive factors to testify it is the successor kingdom of Koguryo, he added. Wang Kon (877-943), the founding king of Koryo, decided his kingdom’s name was Koryo to signify that his new kingdom succeeded that of Koguryo, which had perished some 250 years earlier, historians said.

The founder of Koryo also drove a “Northward Policy” to recover the old territory of King Tongmyong and set Pyongyang, the old capital of Koguryo, as another capital of his kingdom. The capital was called “Sogyong” or western capital, according to historic records.

All of his efforts should be understood as public moves to declare the fact of his succession to Koguryo, Ahn said.

Some Chinese scholars have insisted that Wang Kon came from Silla but a range of records such as “Koryo Segye,” a lineage of the Koryo royal family written during the Koryo period, show that his ancestors were from the north, either Koguryo or the Palhae Kingdom (698-926) founded by the Koguryo people, Ahn argued.

With regard to China’s attempt to distort Korea’s ancient history, Kang Sun, a lecturer at the department of humanities of Sookmyung Women’s University in Seoul, said it was to meet the possible collapse of the North Korean regime or unification of the Korean Peninsula.

“By including Koguryo into China’s history, China can demand ownership of the North’s territory as well as Koguryo’s after unification on the Korean Peninsula,” Kang said.

09-13-2006 17:33


Korean history dramas’ audience growing

By Jeff Chung

The historical Korean drama “Jumong” is a production of one of the three largest networks in South Korea, where its ratings are soaring.

Contemporary Korean dramas have taken center stage in Hawai’i, but historical dramas, too, have a huge following — particularly among local men.

Men have taken a big interest in dramas such as “Emperor of the Sea” and “Immortal Yi Soon Shin.” Now, at 9:30 on Wednesdays and Thursdays, “Jumong” has taken the limelight.

The story of “Jumong” dates to the foundations of Korea in the 2nd century B.C, when three kingdoms existed: Goguryeo, Silla and Baekje.

The English name for Korea was derived from the Goryeo dynasty, which had a large territory in what is now northeast China.

Jumong, or Chumong, was the name of the founding king of Goguryeo, played in the historical drama by Song Il Gook.

This series is a production of MBC, one of the three largest networks in South Korea, and a special program developed to celebrate its 45th anniversary.

In South Korea, the ratings of “Jumong” are soaring in prime time. The MBC network plans to turn its multi-acre set into a tourist attraction after the program is over.

There is some confusion as to how to spell the lead character’s name; it’s spelled “Chumong” in the subtitles. In the late 1990s, South Korea adopted a standard for English-language spellings that reflect the pronunciation of the place name. So Cheju Island is now Jeju Island and Pusan is now Busan. The old spelling of the founding king’s name was “Chumong,” but it’s pronounced with a “J” sound.

Whoever did the translation at the network did not follow the standardization, instead using the old way of spelling; the drama is subtitled using the spelling Chumong when it should have been Jumong.

Since the network chose to use this format, KBFD had to be consistent when providing schedule information and promotion.

Adding to the confusion, Jumong is also known as “Jungmo” and “Chumo,” depending on which Chinese character is used to spell the name.

Jumong has a mythical background, as he is said to have been the son of Hae Mosu, the son of the Sun God. Jumong’s mother was the daughter of a river god, Habek, named Yuhwa. Yuhwa gave birth to an egg from which came Jumong.

The word jumong is supposed to have meant skilled in archery, as Hae Mosu was extremely talented with the bow.

Jumong is said to have had tremendous archery skills from birth and to be a natural leader, but in the TV program, Jumong is played as more of a quiet and subtle character.

In the opening action of series, Jumong’s palace brothers are trying to get the title of crown prince, currying favor from the king. And Jumong marries a woman named Ye Bu-young, who bears him his son Yuri.

Jumong, in fear for his life from his palace brothers, leaves for Jolbon land, where he befriends leaders in Gaeru. After gaining the support of Gaeru provincial leaders, he joins with other neighboring tribes and establishes Goguryeo, changing his surname from Hae to Go.

“Go,” which means “high” in Chinese characters, is the “Go” in Goguryeo. Jumong was also known as King Dongmyeongseong.

Jumong then marries Soseuno, a princess of Gaeru who bears him two sons. His first wife and son Yuri escape to Goguryeo, and Jumong then gives the title of crown prince to Yuri.

Jeff Chung is general manager of KBFD, which televises Korean dramas.
If you have a K-drama question or comment, call KBFD at 521-8066 or reach him at jeff chung@kbfd.com.

Korea-China History Row Flares Again

SEPTEMBER 07, 2006 06:48

China’s state-run research institute revealed its true intentions in its ‘Northeastern Project.’ The project, which ends in next February, is clearly aimed at claiming not only Goguryeo (37 BC ~668 AD) but also ancient Korean kingdoms of Gojoseon, Buyeo and Balhae.

China’s claim that Balhae was part of China’s ancient history was controversial from the beginning of the project because Balhae succeeded Goguryeo. The Center of China`s Borderland History and Geography Research publication in 2003 distorted the history of Gojoseon. It argues that Gojoseon and Goguryeo are part of Chinese history, saying the peoples of the kingdoms were descendants of Chinese royals.

Also, key researchers of the center divided the Korean race into Han-ethnic of the South and Yemak ethnic of the North, and said that Gojoseon, Buyeo and Goguryeo should be categorized as Yemak nations, and Shilla, Goryeo, and Joseon as Han nations.

Therefore, the 18 research themes that the center uploaded on the website since last September are not new. The problem is that when the Korean government was focusing only on the history of Goguryeo and showing lukewarm responses, China was pursuing research on a broader basis.

The Korean government firmly trusted an oral agreement on five clauses between the two countries’ diplomatic channels on the history of Goguryeo in August 2004. The agreement was that the two countries do not raise political disputes over the history issues but sort them out by academic discussions in the private sector. The Korean government considered the situation to be frozen for the time being, but China expanded the area of research.

‘The situation is analogous to the situation when a country is not even thinking about reclaiming its territory when the whole country except for the capital was taken by the enemy,’ criticized Goguryeo Research Society Chairman Seo Gil-soo.

In such a dire situation, Korea did not even launch its Northeast Asia History Foundation, which is to replace the Goguryeo Research Foundation. The Goguryeo Research Foundation was founded in 2004 and disbanded last month. The reason for disbanding the foundation was to launch a more comprehensive history institute to deal with modern history disputes with Japan and Dokdo issue. However, the Northeast Asia History Foundation, which was scheduled to launch around August 20, only designated chairman on September 1 and the plate-hanging ceremony was not even held.

Also, some point out that the focus of the foundation is tilting toward Japan rather than China. The chairman, professor of Seoul National University Kim Young-deuk, majored in Japanese history, and there are two Japan-related teams and one China-related team.

The foundation is an extension of a research institute directly responsible to the president. There was controversy on whether to affiliate it with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade or the Ministry of Education and Human Resources, and the bill was not passed until this May. During the time, researchers felt insecure about their job.

The academic circle is urging the government to respond more aggressively, saying that best defense is offense. That means Korea should work on not just defending its history of kingdoms of Gojoseon, Buyeo, Goguryeo and Balhae but expanding its historic spectrum to include the history of Yelu, Khitan and Mongol tribes.

‘History is distorted in the ‘Yo-ha Civilization Exhibition’ in China in June, but Korean academic circles are doing nothing about it,’ said Kang Yoo-bang, guest professor at Ewha Womans University.

Goguryeo Tomb Paintings in China Stolen

Korean burial tomb wall paintings from the Goguryeo-era located in what is now China’s Jillin Province are missing and appear to have been removed by grave robbers ahead of their designation as World Heritage by UNESCO next year. Part of one of the two sites had already been raided in 1996.

‘It is so serious that in some places the whole wall is gone,’ says the head of the local Chinese Public Security office responsible for protecting historical sites and artifacts. ‘The culprits are all Chinese citizens, including an ethnic Korean. We have arrested them all, but the murals are nowhere to be found.’ Burglars appear to have removed the mural in pieces, cutting fragments out with a chain saw, after apparently using the ‘Frisco method’ of spreading lime over the mural area to absorb the color and preserve the painting in full. Chinese authorities are refusing to disclose the whole of the incident, but they have sealed the entrance to one site with cement and another, which lies in the middle of a corn field, has had its steel doors welded shut. Official at a local museum claim the sites were raided on May 19 and August of last year.

The wall paintings include some of the only existing evidence of life in Goguryeo, founded in 37B.C., and was, along with Silla and Paekje, one of the ‘Three Kingdoms.’ One painting, of Koreans worshiping Buddha, is the oldest record of Buddhism among Koreans. The paintings were first introduced to the South Korea public in 1992, when the Chosun Ilbo organized an exhibit of pictures of the paintings titled ‘Ah! Goguryeo.’

(Shin Hyeong-jun, hjshin@chosun.com)

National Museum Shows Wealth of History

The National Museum of Korea is a sanctuary of calm and historical preservation in Seoul, one of the world’s most thriving and populous cities. Located next to Gyeongbokgung Palace in the heart of this nation’s capital, The National Museum of Korea is a juxtaposition of cultural heritage and national identity in a city whose ethos is hell-bent on modernization and westernization. Amidst artery-clogging traffic and tall skyscrapers topped with flashing screens and neon signs, this 59-year-old museum hosts a collection of more than 240,000 artifacts and artworks dating back thousands of years.
Visitors usually begin on the second floor in the Prehistory Gallery. Here the National Museum of Korea exhibits artifacts of the Paleolithic, Neolithic, Bronze and early Iron ages, proving that humans have lived on the Korean Peninsula for at least 500,000 years. Blunt choppers and scrapers characterized the tools of the Paleolithic era, otherwise known as the Stone Age. However, by the Bronze and Iron ages, the inhabitants of this region had evolved to creating bronze and iron knives and daggers, fishhooks, currency, and jewelry, as well as ceramics.

Golden Earrings of Silla Dynasty
The next gallery is the Proto Three Kingdoms Gallery, comprising the time around the beginning of the Christian era when iron weaponry and agricultural tools began being mass-produced. During this period, the Korean Peninsula was divided into three kingdoms: The Goguryeo Kingdom in the north, and the Baekje and Silla kingdoms in the south.

All Three Kingdoms developed highly sophisticated state organizations on the Korean Peninsula, adopting Confucian and Buddhist hierarchical structures with the king at the summit, while increasing efforts to expand their territories. State codes were also disseminated to initiate a legal system to rule the people. In the gallery, artifacts excavated from the ruins of houses and tombs are on display, as well as ceramic works of art of the era.

The artifacts displayed in the Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla galleries represent the cultures in each of these kingdoms respectively. These relics are truly objet d’art, and include ornaments and accessories excavated from royal tombs, including gold and jade crowns, earrings, necklaces and belts belonging to kings and queens, as well as glass vessels from Persia and clay effigies of animals and humans.

Goguryeo Golden Ornament
The Unified Silla Gallery displays artifacts from the 7th century, when the Silla Kingdom unified the three kingdoms, strengthened sovereign power and reorganized its central and local administrative systems. Buddhism also flourished during this time. In this gallery, the museum exhibits ceramics of the period, noted for their low heels, patterns and green paint. As well, the Unified Silla Gallery displays clay images of the 12 zodiac signs, revealing Silla’s trade relations with China and the Western world.

The first floor of the National Museum of Korea is mostly devoted to ceramics. The Goryeo Celadon Gallery displays beautiful celadon ware from the Goryeon period (918-1392). Celadon ceramic, which was brought to the Korean Peninsula from China, is most noted for its splendid jade green color. These works, which were created into a variety of items, including jars, wine pitchers, plates, cups, incense burners and flower vases, were used for ostentatious display rather than for everyday use. The gallery also features white porcelains, iron-coated chinaware and black-coated wares.

The Joseon Buncheong Ware Gallery displays ceramics from early on in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). These wares were widely used among all classes, from the royal families to the common people; thus, fine high-quality vessels as well as plain and coarse wares were mass-produced.

The Joseon White Porcelain Gallery also exhibits porcelains from this period, which were used by the gentry as general household vessels, utensils for sacrificial rites, decorative works, and jars. Some are pure white without any decorative pattern, while others are beautifully adorned with blue patterns of the four gracious plants: plum, chrysanthemum, orchid and bamboo, as well as majestic clouds and landscapes.

The basement level of the National Museum of Korea is dominated by the Buddhist Sculptures Gallery. Devoted to two rooms beautifully lit with soft warm light, this impressive gallery displays both large and small statues of Buddha and Bodhisattva from the Three Kingdoms period to the Joseon Dynasty. Visitors may notice that many of the statues do not have hands — they were removed during the Joseon period when Yi Seong-gye, founder of the Joseon Dynasty, and subsequent kings tried to remove all influences of Buddhism from the government and adopted Confucianism as the guiding principles for state management and moral decorum.

Buddhism was essentially outlawed and monks had to flee to the mountain temples, far away from state officials. It wasn’t until Japan forcibly took control of the Korean Peninsula in 1910, that Buddhism experienced a renaissance and made efforts to adapt to the changes of modern society.

The National Museum of Korea
For those who would like to visit the National Museum of Korea, plan to spend a full day there to take in each of the 18 permanent galleries, plus the several special exhibitions. The museum opens at 9 a.m. from Tuesday through Sunday (it is closed on Mondays) and beginning on March 1, it will close at 7 p.m.; the admission fee is 700 won. One-hour English language guided tours are conducted at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m., Tuesday through Friday except national holidays. The museum is very easy to get to by subway — get off at Gyeongbokgung station, Line 3 (Orange), take Exit 5 and follow the signs to the National Museum of Korea.

By Kathryn Brimacombe
Editor / Feature Writer

[EDITORIAL]Imperial approach

China has renewed a claim over Goguryeo, one of the three ancient Korean kingdoms, as being part of its own history. It also claims old Joseon and Balhae were part of ancient China, an unmistakable attempt to rewrite its influence on Korean history into Chinese history.

The claims are contained in the abstracts of papers a Chinese research institute has recently posted in its website. The posting violates a 2004 \”verbal understanding\” that China would take no action to trigger a diplomatic row over ancient history.

The Chinese claims, contradicted by historical records, are apparently politically motivated. The reasons range from the control of ethnic minorities to the prevention of border disputes. But China will have to understand that history is history and it cannot be sacrificed to its political goals, no matter what. Otherwise, China will be accused of being imperialistic in the interpretation of history, if not in realpolitik.

What China needs to do is encourage unbiased academic research in its shared history with Korea and others. A first step toward this end is to guarantee unhindered access to historical records that China has in its possession, and to historical sites located in its territory. These should be open to Korean historians and other foreign experts. It must not repeat the past practice of denying Korean historians access to monuments and tombs of Goguryeo and Balhae.

For its part, the South Korean government has much to do to keep ancient Korean history from being misinterpreted by the Chinese. It will have to subsidize studies by Korean historians, sponsor conferences with foreign experts and promote joint research projects with North Korea, to name only a few.

At the same time, the South Korean government needs to remind the Korean people that China\’s misinterpretation of history is no less serious than Japan\’s attempt to whitewash its wartime past.


Government Information Agency

The Korean Cultural Center in Germany has locally registered an Internet site (www.goguryo.de) to bring accurate information on Goguryeo (37 BC-AD 668), an ancient Korean kingdom, to the people of Germany, according to ‘Guk Jeong Briefing,’ an online news site run by the Korean government.

The move is part of the government effort to counter recent Chinese attempts to misrepresent facts of history about the Korean kingdom, describing it as part of Chinese history.

The center has secured and registered two additional sites, using the names of Koguryo and Kaoli, on which the center is currently working to automatically link them to the principal www.goguryo.de site.

The promotional campaign, set to begin next month, will focus on clarifying that Gojoseon, Buyeo and Balhae, along with Goguryeo, were unmistakably ancient Korean kingdoms, and that the Chinese claims are fabrications of history. For a more effective campaign, the center plans to post quality materials and historical evidence showing the Korean heritage and lineage of these ancient kingdoms, as well as Goguryeo Kingdom, as indubitable parts of Korean history.

The center will also provide reader participation space on the new sites to encourage discussions about Korea, her long history and other issues among Korean and German Internet users and experts.