[FOUNTAIN]Revisions and CaricaturesBruce Cumings is an American political scientist well known in this part of the world. His book "The Origins of the Korean War, Vol 1" published in 1981 had a significant influence on the Korean academic circle.
It has been said that the student movement during the 1980s, especially the pro-North Korean groups, which advocated the North's state ideology of juche, or self-reliance, drew on this book's allegedly pro-north interpretation.
The book does, in fact, put more responsibility for the division of Korea on the United States than on the former Soviet Union. It also characterizes the Korean War as a civil war between a revolutionary power (North Korea) and a conservative one (South Korea). Cumings is revisionist in his theory of the war's origin, saying that it was an extension of the numerous clashes at the border just before the outbreak of the war in June, 1950. That view would largely fade in the 1990s. In a recent book titled "The Fading Revisionism," Professor Chun Sang-in of Hallym University makes a painful observation. "Academic circles and intellectuals in this country were divided into friends and enemies in the face of Cumings' revisionism," he said. One sector of academia would be affected by "Cumings complex" while the other would suffer a "Cumings allergy."
The media would not be immune to the observation. Mr. Chun also said in his book, "On every anniversary of the war," he said, "the major dailies would be sure to label Cumings as a dangerous character who called the war an invasion by the South." That is, Mr. Chun said, a shameful position still not entirely renounced by the media. He notes that the Hankyoreh must have considered Mr. Cumings as a comrade, and when he said in a 1997 book, "Korea's Place in the Sun: A modern History," that the people of the annexed Choson had a significant part in the drafting of the 'comfort women' as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers, the paper was heartbroken. The conservative Chosun Ilbo, Mr. Chun continued, saw that second Cumings book as marking the end of his revisionism; one passage suggested that Kim Il-sung was responsible for the war. The Chosun then declared the war debate over.
Had Mr. Cumings known about the assertions, he would have laughed, and other Korean newspapers are no more sophisticated in their analyses. They all disguise superficial ideas in glorified packages.
There is a warning that goes "Everyone likes to see his personal limits as the limit of the world." But, of course, that warning does not just apply to the media.
The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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