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China set to distort Korean history via completion of project

China set to distort Korean history via completion of project

Posted January. 12, 2012 01:49,   


This year marks the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between South Korea and China. Beijing, however, has reignited the dispute over the Northeast Historical Project of China by airing the documentary “Mount Changbai (Mount Baekdu in Korean)” on the state-run broadcaster CCTV.

The documentary says the ancient Korean kingdom of Balhae was a military government organization as well as a provincial government of China’s ancient Tang Dynasty. In the Sino-South Korean summit in April 2007, the two countries agreed to prevent ancient history issues from becoming a stumbling block in the development of bilateral relations. Despite this agreement, China is getting on South Korea`s nerves with a sensitive historical issue involving the two countries at a diplomatically sensitive time. What is Beijing`s intent?

South Korean historians are keenly aware that China will complete a 10-year project to write the history of its ancient Qing Dynasty this year to mark the centennial anniversary of the dynasty`s collapse. The government-led project is to compile China`s official history by restoring the history of Qing, the last ancient kingdom of China.

Cho Beop-jong, a history professor at South Korea`s Woosuk University, said, “From China’s point of view, the integration of Korea`s ancient kingdoms such as Goguryeo and Balhae into its history can naturally complete China`s history that encompasses not only Qing but also the Yeojin and Manchu tribes,” adding, “The Mount Changbai Culture Project that China is pursuing as a follow-up to its distortion of Goguryeo history is to stress that the history including all of Manchuria, which is symbolized by Mount Baekdu, is part of Chinese history.” In his regard, South Korean historians warn that history distortion projects that China has long implemented will produce results this year.

This year also marks the 300th anniversary of the erection of a Baekdu memorial stone marking the border between China and Korea, which has long been a source of a territorial dispute. When territorial disputes continued between Joseon and Qing residents 300 years ago, the stone was erected to set the Yalu River as the western border and the Tomun River as the eastern border. Disputes erupted over whether the Tomun River equals the Tuman River or is an estuary of the Songhua River, however. In South Korea, scholars are preparing to shed new light on Goguryeo to mark the 1,600th anniversary of the death of the Korean ancient kingdom`s King Gwanggaeto by holding symposiums.

As such, South Korea and China will lock horns against each other over major historical issues. In addition, geopolitics is rapidly changing in Northeast Asia in the wake of the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. By taking advantage of all of this, China seems to achieve internal integration through projects to distort history. Jeon In-gap, a Chinese history professor at the University of Incheon, said, “In the process of expanding its military, political and economic influences, China apparently seeks to make internal integration that encompasses minority ethnic groups by showing its people and the world that it has the soft power of robust history.”

Unlike China, which has undertaken history projects through government support in a calm and orderly manner, South Korea has responded passively whenever a history distortion broke out, experts say. Yoo Yong-tae, a history professor at Seoul National University, said, “(Historical issues) cannot be resolved through oral agreements between the Korean and Chinese governments. Concrete evidence is needed to ward off China`s attempt to distort history."