China ministry takes unclear step as Korea steps up history protest
South Korea sent a top ranking official to Beijing
yesterday to sort out a dispute over the sovereignty of the ancient kingdom of
Goguryeo even as China added a new twist by deleting a section of Korean history
prior to 1948 on its Foreign Ministry Web site.
Beijing`s latest move only became known around noon yesterday as visiting
Chinese journalists and South Korean counterparts met at a luncheon at Seoul`s
It was seen by many as a way for the Chinese government to avoid future
disputes with Korea but the deletion puzzled officials here as to whether
Beijing`s intention is to avoid an overall conflict with Korea while sticking by
its claim over the ancient kingdom.
Seeking to counter the heightening tensions, Park Joon-woo, director general
of Asia-Pacific Affairs at the Foreign Ministry, set out on a three-day Beijing
trip to "set the record straight.".
His aim is to present Seoul`s objection to China`s claim of Goguryeo and
demand a revision to their historic records of the kingdom, which both countries
"During the trip, Director-general Park will meet with high-ranking Chinese
officials to deal with the distortion of Goguryeo and firmly demand an immediate
revision," an official at the ministry said.
"We have expectations that Beijing will take a turnaround approach on their
position, considering the future of the Korea-China alliance." Park`s trip,
initially scheduled as a general tour of China after he took over as
director-general last month, is expected to focus on the diplomatic conflict
between the two Asian neighbors since he will be dealing with his Chinese
counterparts on the thorny and emotional historical issues.
The latest row surrounding the Goguryeo Kingdom, which reigned from northern
Korea to northeastern China 37 B.C. to 668 A.D., erupted after the Chinese
Foreign Ministry deleted the description of the kingdom from the introduction of
Korean history on its Web site.
That deletion angered Koreans as it was viewed as a move by China to treat
the ancient kingdom as its local government. Seoul`s Foreign Ministry has
repeatedly demanded China reinstate the description.
The introduction of Korean history on the Web site before the deletion in
April, described ancient Korea as being made up of three kingdoms: Silla, Baekje
Park`s trip is expected to shed some positive light to the issue, as China
has expressed its understanding of Korea`s serious stance, an official said.
The official also said the "history of ancient Goguryeo represents the roots
and identity of Koreans, and (it) cannot be left for China or any other country
to distort that historic fact." "The government is adamant on the change and
will not be indifferent to any wrongly stated historic fact that Goguryeo is not
an ancient sovereignty of Korea."
By Choi Soung-ah
(Korea Herald 2004-8-6)