We are Running Out of Time to Protect Our History

김지혜기자l승인2012.04.01l0호

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Many Koreans know about King Gwanggaeto the Great. That is because this king had many great achievements and initiated important innovations. However, credit for these innovations is in danger of being stolen by China. The Chinese government has planned to include these achievements as part of the history of their north eastern region. The Observer investigated about China’s Northeast Project situation and the historical distortions.

The Meaning of the Northeast Project
The Northeast Project is a study project promoted by the Chinese government. The project is related to historical revisions made in the northeast region of China and the purpose of the project is to reshape China’s history along the northeastern frontier.

The Purpose of the Northeast Project
There are three reasons why China is undertaking the Northeast Project. First, the Chinese government is preparing to enter into territorial disputes in the event that Korea reunifies in order to prevent confusion caused by ethnic Koreans living in China. Second, as Northeast Asia’s strategic importance increases, China’s intention is to preemptively press historic rights in preparation for changes if Korea ever reunifies. Third, the Northeast Project is focused on claiming North Korea’s world heritage registration in order to take sightseeing benefits by asserting that Goguryeo’s heritage belongs to China.

China’s preparation for the Northeast Project
China decided to pursue the investigation of the Northeast Project in June of 2001, so they organized the Northeast Project over 8 months. The Chinese government officially approved the project on February18th, 2002.The project was planned to run for 5 years. The project ended in January of 2007, but China has continued to distort the history of this region.

Disputes regarding the Northeast Project
Korea has disputed many points regarding the Northeast Project. It is because the project distorts Korea’s ancient history. China has made this a national policy, if Korea’s ancient history is stolen it can have profound ramifications on our national heritage.

China’s changes in opinion about Goguryeo's history
In the 1970s, China accepted that Goguryeo’s heritage was part of Korean history. In the 1980s, China slightly changed their position. They stated that before the capital was transferred to Pyongyang, Goguryeo was part of Chinese heritage and after the transfer of the capital to Pyongyang; Goguryeo became part of Korean heritage. In the 1990s, China simply stated that Goguryeo was a minority group in China and that its entire history was part of Chinese history.

China’s historical distortions
China has distorted many historical records. First, the remains of Goguryeo in areas around Jian were severely damaged. Second, China built the Hu mountain fortress on Bakjak mountain fortress and claimed the east end of the Great Wall of China was the Hu mountain fortress of Dandong near North Korea. Third, sign names in front of Bisa mountain fortress which was an important fortress for protecting the Yalu river areas were changed to Daeheuksan mountain fortress. Daeheuksan mountain fortress is the Chinese name for Bisa mountain fortress, China has also insisted that Balhae country was under China control in 2011 on Chinese central TV.

China’s cultural distortions
These days, China has moved toward changing culture through the Northeast Project. China has registered the traditional music and customs of ethnic Koreans living in China as its own cultural heritage three times. For example, Nongak dance, Neolttwigi and swing were included in May 2006.Traditional ceremonies and clothes were included in 2008 as well as the song Arirang pansori in May 2011. The World Heritage list, announced by UNESCO in 2009, included the Nongak of ethnic Koreans living in China and listed them as Chinese. A sightseeing video of Yanbianin China also introduced Kimchi as Chinese. Taekwondo was introduced to China by ethnic Koreans living in China, but in 2009 an announcer said Taekwondo originated as a Chinese martial art when the Chinese came to wear Taekwondo clothes in 2008 at the 18th World Taekwondo Festival.

Response from the Korean government
The Korean government has tried to address the crisis, and initiated the Goguryeo study institute through the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in 2004. The Northeast Asian History Foundation constituted and consolidated Goguryeo study institute in 2006. At the Korea-China summit in 2006, Korea and China agreed not to interfere with each other’s ancient history. However, even after this arrangement, China has still not stopped distorting history.

Response of the Korea people
VANK (Voluntary Agency Network of Korea) has worked to correct distortions regarding Goguryeo’s history on popular world sites like National Geographic. The Association of Goguryeo, Balhae and the Northeast Asian History Foundation, including specialists in the field, has opened academic events periodically and has established English and Korean publications. However, only a few specialists have maintained interest. Most people do not know about the urgent northeast problems in detail.

Criticism of the Korean government’s diplomatic policy
By notifying the Chinese government, the Korean government knew our heritage had been designated by China as Chinese national cultural heritage at that time. The Korean government has been very passive. The government did not take any measures regarding the Northeast Project and the improper designation of Goguryeo artifacts by UNESCO. Third, they failed to clear away the remnants of Japanese colonialism and did not insist on corrections to ancient history. In order to effectively confront distortions made by the Northeast Project of China, North Korea and South Korea have to cooperate. However, in fact, no one has made any real effort. Finally, even after the Chinese government finished the project in 2007, the Korean government has yet to officially look into the current false claims being made by the Chinese.

The ways to restore distorted history
The Korean government should research and launch projects disputing the Northeast Project, and they should support investment in research. There is a way that North Korea and South Korea can work together as well. In order to make an effective rebuttal against the Northeast Project, they can establish a South-North Joint Commission and they should conduct research into Goguryeo’s history on a broad basis while investigating heritage sites and relics in North Korea and South Korea. People should also have interest in their history continually. Finally, we can take advantage of Korea’s strength in IT Information Technology. Korea can use advertisements and Social Network Services to make the people around the world better understand Korean culture quickly and easily.

Our history is the story of our ancestors. We are obliged to preserve our history for our descendants, because without our unique history our society would not exist today. We still have time. We should endeavor to inform the world that Goguryeo’s history and culture is ours and to recognize the greatness of Goguryeo’s contributions. In addition, we need to have a strong voice and show courage in denouncing the distorted history being proffered by the Chinese government. Therefore, the interactive efforts of government and people are needed to understand our history and to make sure it is never stolen from us.
김지혜기자  chiechann@ynu.ac.kr
<저작권자 © The Yeungnam Observer, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>

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