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Historiographie development in South Korea: State and society from the Mid-Koryö to the Mid-Yi dynasty FujiyaKawashima BOWLING GREEN STATE UNIVERSITY A great step forward has been taken in South Korean historiography since the mid-1950s. More than six hundred articles and monographs have been published only on the sociopolitical and economic aspects of the period from the mid-Koryö to the mid-Yi dynasty. The enthusiasm and achievement of South Korean historians are demonstrated not only in sheer quantity but also in the extent of coverage and quality of research . Such an accomplishment may be viewed as a natural outcome of liberation from the Japanese yoke. Upon liberation, indeed, freedom of learning, especially freedom of access to historical materials, and a new sense of national commitment to historical research, led to ways of studying and evaluating the development of traditional civilization. But due to the Korean War, visible progress in historical writing was possible only after the mid-1950s. We should note, furthermore, that beginning from the late 1950s vigorous and large-scale projects were undertaken to compile, publish, and sometimes to translate basic primary materials. Such efforts are evident in the publication of the Chosön wangjo sillok and the Koryösa, each with a detailed index, the Süngjöngwön ilgi, the Pibyönsa tüngnok and the Ilsöngnok, among others. These publications helped facilitate the growth of research by providing scholars easy access to original source materials. One of the most appreciated and successful attempts at translation is Yi Ki-baek's work on the military section of the Koryösa. His translation and well-documented index of nearly five hundred terms and names indicates the extent of progress made in research on Koryö by the end of the 1960s. 30KAWASHIMA One of the salient characteristics of historical writing in South Korea is the commitment to refuting Japanese colonialist historiography and to bringing about an objective understanding of Korea's traditional civilization . Yi Ki-baek best summarized the Japanese colonialist view of Korean history as being molded by the so-called theories of stagnation, nondevelopment, peninsula particularism, and unoriginality.1 Scholars in South Korea today have largely succeeded in superseding these views by analyzing the dynamic process of historical development in traditional society. By so doing, they have not only raised many important questions but also have revealed the complexity and richness of Korea's traditional past. A Korea specialist profiting from the writing of South Korean historians will realize the extent to which colonial experiences affected, at both conscious and unconscious levels, their approach to traditional civilization. Reacting against the theory of stagnation and nondevelopment , Korean scholars rightfully replaced it with a theory of change and development. However, if it were a theory of a mere progressive change and development, it would be rather an obsolete product of the Enlightenment by such eighteenth-century philosophers as Condorcet and Herder. It is also doubtful that the mode of production, for example, dictates in the final analysis the complex historical development of traditional Korea. It is dogmatic to label the Koryö to Yi transition as one from a slave-aristocratic to a feudal-protocapitalistic stage of development . Change was inevitable, but continuity is also discernible; and I would argue that change must be studied as an open-ended process of human interaction and potential. Unlike her Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese neighbors, Korea witnessed only two dynastic changes in the full millennium from the tenth into the twentieth century. This is not a sign of stagnation, but of Korea's unique ability to bring about change within the continuum of her great tradition. State and Society in the Mid- to Late-Koryö Dynasty Post-1945 historians in South Korea were confronted with the immense task of refuting the colonialist views of a static Koryö and establishing an objective interpretation of dynamic Koryö development. To what extent have they been successful in shedding light on change and development in the Koryö state and society? What are the major research areas and problems explored and left to be explored? An analysis of the Koryö state and society began in preliberation Korea. These earlier scholarly pioneers are represented...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1529
Print ISSN
0145-840X
Pages
pp. 29-56
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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