The Last Phase of the East Asian World Order: Korea, Japan and the Chinese Empire, 1860-1882, and: Confucian Gentlemen and Barbarian Envoys: The Opening of Korea, 1875-1885 (review)
- Journal of Korean Studies
- Center for Korea Studies, University of Washington
- Volume 6, 1988-89
- pp. 234-244
- Additional Information
234Journal of Korean Studies References Burmeister, Larry L. 1988. Research, Realpolitik, and Development in Korea: The State and the Green Revolution. Boulder, Colo., Westview Press. Giddens, Anthony. 1985. The Nation-State and Violence. Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press. Henderson, Gregory. 1968. Korea: The Politics of the Vortex. Cambridge , Harvard University Press. Palais, James B. 1975. Politics and Policy in Traditional Korea. Cambridge : Harvard University Press. Larry L. Burmeister University of Kentucky The Last Phase of the East Asian World Order: Korea, Japan and the Chinese Empire, 1860-1882. By Key-Hiuk Kim. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1980. Confucian Gentlemen and Barbarian Envoys: The Opening of Korea, 1875—1885. By Martina Deuchler. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1977. In a secular parallel to the old Judeo-Christian notion that all human history represented the progressive unfolding of a divine plan, Ch'ing dynasty savant Chang Hsüeh-ch'eng (1736—96) offered the view that history was the comprehensible expression of the Tao, at once transcendent and immanent.1 Coming from a philosopher of history whose insights were shaped by the concrete features of China's diverse geography and complex population, Chang's Tao was not some ineffable, cosmic reality but a Chinese version of the modern anthropologist 's principle of "structuralism" that takes a holistic view of tradition and change and cautions against the tendency of ideologues to ignore the interconnectedness among the intellectual, political, economic , and cultural—"textual" and "contextual"—parts of the selfregulating organism called society. I was reminded of Chang's sage observation as I first read Ed1 . See Jacques Gernet (trans. J. R. Foster), A History of Chinese Civilization (Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 515-16. Book Reviews235 ward W. Wagner's masterly English rendition of Ki-baik Lee's Han'guksa Sillon (A New History of Korea)2 and then reread the two books by Kim and Deuchler, respectively. Lee's work is an encyclopedic survey of the entire history of Korea and so one would not ordinarily think of it in the same connection as the latter two books, for both Kim and Deuchler are concerned with a narrower political inquiry, covering in a rigorously focused manner the events ofthe 1860—85 era that were to lead the Yi monarchy ultimately to its extinction. Yet it is a tribute to both Kim and Deuchler that while not purposely painting a holistic picture of late nineteenth-century Korea throughout they still end up stimulating the reader to connect the political episodes of the period to the whole range of forces that Chang implied in his Tao of history and that become, in Lee's aesthetically informed historiography , the warp and woof of the variegated tapestry covering Korea's dialectical movement from one stage of evolution to another. When looked at in a larger context of this kind, the studies of Kim and Deuchler acquire a very special value indeed. It may be stated without exaggeration at the outset that though the titles of their books do not immediately reveal it both writers throw much light on the nature of Korea's efforts at self-definition or identity through their examination of the Yi dynasty's quest for the means of survival in a period filled with international intrigue and turbulence. Let me elaborate this point a bit. As expressions of the existential concern called identity, such polarities as history and hope, heritage and vision, conformity and creativity, stability and movement, "being" and "becoming," constitute a recurrent theme in the history of almost every state and nation. Unlike individuals, states and other sociopolitical collectivities do not have the option of retreating from the world. Their inescapable involvement with other collective units inevitably engages them in a perpetual search for self-definition. When one looks back with this perspective on the periods of "seclusion" and "opening" in the East Asian states, it becomes disturbingly clear that the negative connotations attached to such words as "seclusion" and "isolation" and the positive aura of "opening" that one often finds in the writings ofmany Western historians have never had any a priori, only a parochial, logic to them. For, within...