This study conducts an archeological analysis of the notion of gungmin, and focuses in particular on how the term gungmin used to indicate the sense of belonging to a group has ensured its own identity amidst an intense competition with various other identities. A review of the history of notions is also implemented herein from the standpoint of the political history of identity. In the case of the Republic of Korea, the people of Korea only became gungmin of the Republic of Korea after having gone through a process that saw them be identified as inmin of the Joseon dynasty, sinmin of the Daehan Empire, and sinmin and gungmin of the Japanese empire. The concept of minjok can be regarded as having been the most important psychological resource used during the process of creating the identity of the Republic of Korea. Here, the notion of minjok can be seen as having played as important a role in the politics of identity in Korea as the notion of gungmin. Not only has North Korea made frequent use of the notion of one minjok (nation) as part of its united front approach to South Korea, but the latter has also employed policies that have been based on this same notion in its dealings with the North. As such, viewed from the standpoint of the politics of identity, the notion of gungmin in Korea can be said to have been routinely confronted by, and interacted with, the notion of minjok.
A thorough analysis of Syngman Rhee’s vision of the Republic of Korea that goes beyond a mere historical evaluation of Rhee as the first President of the Republic of Korea is required in order to evaluate the direction taken by Korea in the contemporary era. Syngman Rhee has been evaluated as an independence activist and patriot who played a leading role in the establishment of the Republic of Korea. On the other hand, he is also regarded as a dictator whose hunger for power made him unable to fathom the thought of any political dissension. Such historical evaluations of Syngman Rhee hinder discussions on the identity of the newly born Republic of Korea, particularly as Korea now faces the task of re-highlighting its core identity. In this regard, the examination of the birth and development of the state based on the task of fostering a better understanding of Syngman Rhee’s basic vision for the newly born Republic of Korea, while removing the ‘mythical elements’ raised by various discourses, represents an essential element of any such efforts. This study not only points out the need for an active discourse that is based not on Syngman Rhee as an individual, but on his role as one of the core figures behind the establishment of the Republic of Korea, but also analyzes Rhee’s visions and ideals for the establishment of the Republic of Korea and examines how his ideals were refracted when combined with the political reality on the ground.
The national identity of the Korean people is the result of shared experiences during Korea’s modern and contemporary history. In this regard, anticommunism, which greatly influenced society following the birth of the Republic of Korea, was closely related to the identity of the Republic of Korea. In general, the national identity tends to be identified with ethnic identity. In the case of Korea, which found itself under the unique environment characterized by the division of the nation into two Koreas, the identity of the political system has greatly influenced the formation of the national identity. This study focuses on the formation of the identity of the political system, and in particular on the anticommunism that is regarded as having exercised the greatest influence on the formation of the identity of the political system. Previous studies have exhibited a tendency to overemphasize the negative impact which anticommunism had on liberal democratic values and political development, while overlooking a periodic situation that was characterized by the advent of the Cold War order and the uniqueness of the North-South Korean relationship. Anticommunism, which is based on communal principles, has in some ways had a negative impact on liberal democracy, under which individual freedom is regarded as being of great importance. However, viewed from the standpoint of national security, anticommunism ironically can also be regarded as having served as a bulwark that protected liberal democracy. The Republic of Korea could not have achieved its current levels of economic prosperity and political democratization if it had not served as an anticommunism bulwark that protected its system from the political attacks of the communists. Consequently, it was inevitable for the Republic of Korea, which found itself confronted by North Korea, to opt for the ‘necessary evil’ of anticommunism.
North Korea made great efforts after liberation to establish a national identity that could be distinguished from that of South Korea. Here, such means included the acceptance of the Soviet system and the following of the tenets of the proletarian internationalism adhered to by socialist countries. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was established amidst a propaganda-based competition with the South Korean government to prove the superiority of its chosen system to the Korean people. As the proletarian class, Communist Party, and Great Leader (suryeong) became the essential qualities that defined the inmin, the residents of North Korea were in essence degraded to the status of people (inmin) of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. This study analyzes the relationships of identity between inmin, gungmin and minjok in North Korea. Identity politics during the early stage of the North Korean regime revolved around the usual socialist propaganda that national sovereignty rested in the members of the proletarian class such as the inmin (laborers and farmers). However, in the aftermath of Kim Il-sung’s establishment of the Juche ideology as a means to prop up his dictatorship, the North pursued a form of politics that saw national sovereignty be transferred from the inmin of North Korea to the Great Leader. Here, emphasis was placed on the history of the anti-Japanese armed struggle so as to distinguish the North’s identity from that of the South Korean regime.
This paper discusses the political engagement of second-generation Korean Americans in formal politics, including naturalization, voter registration and turnout, and party affiliation. Drawing from the results of in-depth follow-up interviews conducted with a subsample of second-generation Korean Americans who were randomly chosen to participate in the 1998 New York Second-Generation Survey, the paper describes the views, in their own words, of second-generation Korean Americans toward politics, particularly their reasons for participating in electoral politics. Also included are their views on becoming naturalized, registering to vote, and endorsing a particular political party and candidate. The results illustrate a degree of complexity and nuance to conventional discussions of determinants of political behavior among Korean and Asian Americans. In addition, the results provide insights into the politics of second-generation Koreans who are gaining greater visibility and presence in national and local politics.
This study suggests directions and tasks of educational policies for Overseas Chinese to realize multicultural education in Korea. Overseas Chinese have been residing in Korea for over 100 years, and they are permanent residents who plan to continuously live here. Most of their children have feelings and cultural experience as Koreans. Schools for Chinese children, however, have recently been faced with problems of establishment of identity, reorganization of educational courses, and decrease of students and thus have requested active support from the Korean government. The Korean government should solve the following problems of Chinese schools to prepare the foundation for a multicultural education that cultivates citizens with diverse cultural backgrounds. First, the political directions of education for Overseas Chinese should be re-established from a viewpoint of multicultural education. Second, a strategy to harmonize the autonomy of Chinese schools and the Korean government’s right to supervise education should be developed. Third, equality with other foreign schools should be established.