Close, but no cigar
Posted by ampontan on Friday, January 29, 2010
IN THE CORNER, the blog at the National Review website, Jonah Goldberg quotes a Melanie Kirkpatrick review of two books about North Korea.
In attempting to understand North Korea, Mr. Myers argues, outsiders almost invariably get it wrong. The country’s dominant ideology is not Communism or Stalinism or Marxist-Leninism. Nor is it Confucianism or even the regime’s governing doctrine, called Juche Thought, usually translated as “self-reliance.” The real North Korean worldview, Mr. Myers notes, is based on a belief in the unique moral superiority of the Korean race.
So far, very good to see some real insight about Northeast Asia for a change. But then:
The closest analogy is the fervent nationalist ideology that governed prewar Japan and influenced North Korea’s founding fathers. Having grown up in colonial Korea, they embraced Japan’s propaganda methods after coming to power in 1948. Kim Il Sung, the founder of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — the North’s full name — even had himself photographed, Hirohito-like, astride a white stallion.
This doesn’t quite make sense. He says the closest analogy is the prewar Japanese ideology, but then talks about propaganda methods rather than ideology.
Perhaps that’s because the propaganda methods are those of the Japanese, but the ideological strain of Joseon racial purity was already thriving long before the Japanese got there.
It turns out that Mr. Myers is B. R. Myers, a professor at Dongseo University in South Korea. A foreigner in South Korea parroting the Korean Peninsula’s anti-Japanese line? Big surprise there.
Mr. Myers misses out on the cigar for two reasons.
1. He failed to mention that while these tendencies exist throughout the region, the undisputed East Asian champs in this weight class have always been the Chinese. They still are.
2. He missed the part of Japanese intellectual history in which the Japanese nationalists of more than a century ago used as one of their justifications for the annexation/colonization/merger with Korea the idea that the Japanese and the Koreans were the same tribe to begin with.
Ah, well. Some progress is better than none.
“Almost invariably”? An ideology “governing” a country, rather than people?
Is there an editor in the house?