Restoring Korea’s historical prideKorean-Japanese historians Kang Jae-eon and Lee Jin-hi lectured on modernization efforts during the late Joseon Dynasty at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security on Sunday.
Mr. Kang, 78, and Mr. Lee, 75, who are first-generation Korean-Japanese, also discussed the inscription on the tombstone of King Gwanggaeto of the Goguryeo Dynasty at the session, which was sponsored by Hallym University.
Mr. Kang is an honorary professor at Hanajo University and Mr. Lee is an honorary professor of Wako University. Both schools are in Japan.
The two scholars have challenged the conventional Japanese view of Korean history. Their lives have centered on one theme: the Korean people. “We don’t know how often we can visit our country in the future, but we have no regret over our devotion to challenging Japanese historians’ view that the Joseon Dynasty succumbed to imperial powers because of its inability to modernize the country,” Mr. Kang said.
Their scholarly efforts greatly affected Korea in the 1970s and 1980s. Mr. Kang sought to emphasize that even before colonization, there were movements for modernization within the Joseon Dynasty.
Mr. Lee spent 10 years collecting 500 rubbings of King Gwanggaeto’s tombstone in order to repute Japanese historians’ argument that Japan controlled the Korean peninsula from the 4th to 6th centuries. Mr. Lee said Japanese historians even tried to manipulate history by using lime powder to change the inscription on the tombstone.
“Recently, Korean pop culture has started to boom in Japan and the Korean language has become the second most popular language after English,” Mr. Lee said. “It feels exceptionally rewarding to live in a Japan that is completely different from the 1960s and 1970s, when Koreans were looked down upon.”
by Bae Young-dae