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Korea finds some allies in Goguryeo history spat

Sept 16,2004
Korea got some moral support yesterday from third-country academics in its attempts to rebut Chinese claims that the ancient kingdom of Goguryeo was not under China’s sway. Koreans have accused China of trying to hijack Korea’s own history by claiming that the kingdom of 2,000 years ago was a satellite of the Middle Kingdom.
Twenty historians from seven countries attended a conference yesterday organized by the Goguryeo Research Foundation, a Korean group. Several of the academics appeared, like Korean scholars and the general public, to be upset at the Chinese claims.
O. Batsaikhan, 42, a Mongolian historian, said his country had complaints similar to Korea’s about Chinese attempts to “distort history.”
“China is saying that Genghis Khan was Chinese,” the scholar said. “China started weaving Mongolian history into its own history a long time ago. Mongolia and Korea need to join in solidarity on this issue and stand up to China.”
The discussion heated up when a Chinese historian presented a thesis that echoed the Chinese position that has stirred Koreans. This was the first time that a Chinese expert had visited Korea to brave the storm here.
“During Goguryeo times from 37 B.C. to 668, the kingdom was a minority group and a provincial government of China,” said Sun Jinji, a director of the Sunyang Research Center for East Asian Studies. “The present is the standard by which history should be judged. The land that Goguryeo occupied now belongs to China, making China the major successor. The two Koreas share the history.”
That assertion provoked outcries from other panelists. Pankaj Mohan, an Indian Asian Studies teacher at the University of Sydney, asked him, “If today is the standard, then are you saying that the Buddha is a Nepalese because his birth place is now part of Nepal?” Winding up, he continued, “If China one day annexed Nepal, then would that mean that Buddha would become a Chinese? One’s history cannot change with borders.”
J. B. Duncan of the University of California Los Angeles, joined the fray. “For the last 1,000 years, Goguryeo was an important factor in helping modern Korea find its identity,” he said. “Goguryeo is part of Korean history.”


by Bae Young-dae, Lee Min-a


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