NAHF accused of accepting China’s view on history

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NAHF accused of accepting China’s view on history

The Korean government sent to the U.S. Congress documents that appear to accept China’s attempts to incorporate Korea’s ancient kingdoms into part of its own history, a position to which it has firmly been opposed, according to a ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker.

The Northeast Project by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a Chinese government-backed study conducted from 2002 to 2007, purported that early Korean kingdoms in the northeastern provinces of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang have always been under China’s control.

In the past, Seoul strongly protested China’s attempts to extend its claim over the histories of Korea’s Goguryeo and Balhae Kingdoms.

According to a JoongAng Ilbo report on Monday, ruling Saenuri Rep. Lee Sang-il uncovered that in August 2012, Seoul sent to the U.S. Congressional Research Service (CRS) a report on Korea’s perspective on the changes between Korea and China’s economic and historical relationship that included excerpts and maps supporting China’s stance instead.

The CRS requested such a report from the Korean government at the time to reflect its viewpoint in order to analyze the possibility of China’s intervention in North Korea and in the case of inter-Korean unification.

But three years later, Lee discovered that some of the information - including maps that the Northeast Asian History Foundation (NAHF), a think tank affiliated with the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, provided the CRS - indicated that Seoul would support China’s claims.

This included incorrect maps that limited the boundaries of what will constitute present day Liaoning Province, in northeastern China. The boundaries should have extended further northeast, to include the Jilin, Heilongjiang and Maritime provinces.

A member of the Special Committee on Northeast Asian History, Lee added that in a description of historical Korean maps and its borders with China, Gojoseon (ancient Joseon, or Choson), the earliest government in Korean history, was incorrectly described as dating back “as early as the third century BCE.” However, Gojoseon was founded in 2333 BC.

Another map sent by Korea describes “the territory of the Four Han Commanderies after the Old Choson’s conquest by Han China in 108 BCE” and marks key provinces that should have been a part of the Korean Peninsula, as ruled by China, backing the claims of the Northeast Project. Instead of the Korean spelling of Chinbon, the map labels it using the Chinese spelling, Zhenfan. Likewise, Imtun is called by its Chinese name, Lintun; Naklang called Lelang; and Hyundo called Xuantu.

Other maps have similar mislabelings or incorrect dates.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences argues that the history of Goguryeo is separate from the history of Korea’s three kingdoms. It claims that Goguryeo was founded by ancient Manchuria and that two-thirds of Goguryeo’s territory is currently located in northeast China.

The report that Seoul provided to Washington was used in the 2012 report by the CRS, “China’s Impact on Korean Peninsula Unification and Questions for the Senate.”

“For historical perspective, Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff obtained information about Chinese claims that parts of the Korean Peninsula were historically part of China, and South Korean assessments about those claims,” the report states. “The Northeast Asia History Foundation in Seoul greatly assisted by providing South Korea’s view of China’s historic claims.”

Lee pointed out that the state-run foundation is tasked with setting straight historical distortions in the region but that, instead, it included a position that went against the country’s stance.

Korea has in the past strongly has protested how the Chinese Foreign Ministry officially describes the history of Goguryeo as being part of its own.

On Monday, the NAHF was questioned during a parliamentary audit on the controversy over the erroneous maps and documents. “We acknowledge these problems,” NAHF President Kim Ho-seop told the National Assembly’s education and culture committee. “Following discussion with historians, we will try to correct them if possible under the guidance of the Foreign Ministry.”

BY YOO JEE-HYE, SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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