China`s Goguryeo motives probed
The Goguryeo Research Foundation, a
Korean academic group composed of historians and China experts, examined key
issues surrounding the history disputes with China at a conference yesterday.
"While previous forums focused on the facts about Goguryeo Kingdom and the
legitimacy of Korea`s claim for the ancient kingdom, this conference is designed
to identify China`s real motive and strategy," said Kim Jeong-bae, director of
The conference, held at a hotel in downtown Seoul, is the latest of a series
of academic forums aimed at countering China`s repeated claims that Goguryeo
belongs to the Chinese history.
The Korea-Chinese diplomatic relations have strained because of the rout over
the kingdom, even though their economic interdependence is growing amid a surge
of bilateral trade.
The Goguryeo foundation`s conference highlighted the details of China`s
strategy to promote its own perspective of history, while discussing its policy
toward ethnic minorities and the distortion of Korean history in Chinese college
"The bigger issue is that China`s ambition goes beyond Goguryeo and stretches
into the entire Northeast Asia region," said Kim, former president of Korea
University in Seoul.
China touched off a huge controversy here by making an attempt to incorporate
Goguryeo into its own history. Korean scholars, civic activists and politicians
continue to oppose China`s alleged move to distort history.
While many believe historical evidence supports the argument that Goguryeo
was a kingdom of ancient Korea, artifacts from the period have been held and
preserved by China because of their geographical distribution within its
borders. The kingdom stretched from the northern region of the Korean Peninsula
into the northeastern part of what is today China.
Lee Hee-ok, professor of Hanshin University, outlined China`s claims about
Goguryeo by assembling and citing various Chinese documents. Lee argued that
Korean policymakers and scholars should focus on China`s broader efforts to
identify its history and stabilize minority-related conflicts rather than its
alleged political ambition in the Northeast Asian region.
Lee said that long-term measures are in order and policymakers should come up
with effective measures that can deal with China`s aggressive stance. "In
fleshing out policy measures, the government should separate Goguryeo and other
territorial disputes, while taking initiatives in mapping out Northeast Asian
history," Lee said.
Park Jang-bae, research professor of Hanshin University, said China`s current
stance should be understood in line with its broader integration policies for
peripheral regions. "China is pushing for a massive development project in the
poverty-stricken mid-western region, which is bound to reconfigure ethnic
minority structure there," Park said.
China is keen to protect its national identity from potential challenges
stemming from its fast-paced economic development and market-opening measures.
"Given that China is now trying to reorganize its mid-western ethnic map, it is
hardly surprising that China wants to put its own perspective in other regions
like Northeast that affects Goguryeo and Korea," Park said.
Gogoryeo foundation`s assistant researcher Lim Sang-seon said the latest
showdown traces back to the conflict over the history of Balhae (Po-hai) Kingdom
about 20 years ago.
"Korean and Chinese scholars are still arguing over the founders of Balhae,
its ethnic composition and cultural foundation, and China is applying the same
tactics to the dispute over Goguryeo," Lim said.
Balhae is a nation that prospered for 229 years from 698 to 926 in the
Manchurian region, and Korea, China and Russia are interested in the history of
the ancient kingdom because contemporary history continues to unfold across the
old territory of Balhae.
Lim said China`s alleged attempt to "distort history" will continue until all
the northern kingdoms will be incorporated into its history. "Eventually, the
dispute will spread into other areas of ancient Korean history," he predicted.
Meanwhile, Yoo Yong-tae of Seoul National University offered a meticulous
comparison between the old and new history textbooks used in Chinese colleges.
"In a nutshell, the new textbooks reflect China-oriented and imperialistic
perspectives," he said.
Korean scholars believe the dispute over Goguryeo has come as China is bent
on streamlining its policy toward ethnic minorities. China has long labeled
neighboring minority peoples as "barbarians" and the current Chinese
policymakers are keen to integrate its potentially divisive ethnic groups into
its Han Chinese historical legacy.
China is wary of the Goguryeo boom in Korea, which could lead to a civic and
political movement claiming for the lost territory in the Manchurian region.
Korea is also deeply worried about China`s motive about the claim for Goguryeo
since the issue could affect ethnic Koreans living in the Manchurian region.
The controversy between the scholars of the two countries over Goguryeo was
first triggered in 2002 when China`s state-run Social Science Academy launched
the "Northeast Asia Project," a $2 million program on the regional studies of
By Yang Sung-jin
(Korea Herald 2004-10-27)