Archive to re­vive 1907 Korea

The Korea Times - - OPINION - Kim Ji-myung The writer (Her­itageko­[email protected]) is chair­per­son of the Korea Her­itage Ed­u­ca­tion In­sti­tute (K*Her­itage).

While I was fi­nal­iz­ing my dis­ser­ta­tion in Novem­ber 2017, UNESCO de­cided to list on the Mem­ory of the World Reg­is­ter the very doc­u­men­tary archives I had been re­search­ing — the Na­tional Debt Redemp­tion Move­ment Archives. Those thou­sands of his­tor­i­cal records, hand­writ­ten let­ters and news­pa­per ar­ti­cles from 1907 to 1910 at­test to the first na­tion­wide vol­un­tary fundrais­ing move­ment by the Korean peo­ple.

To briefly ex­plain the back­drop of this civil move­ment, Korea had long been slowly usurped of her sov­er­eign rights, mainly to Ja­pan, since the 1870s by in­ter­fer­ing Japanese ad­vis­ers, while China, Amer­ica and Rus­sia were also com­pet­ing to claim their por­tion of in­ter­est in this wan­ing king­dom.

The pe­riod of the Korean Em­pire from 1897 to 1910 hit Korean so­ci­ety with a par­a­lyz­ing force on all di­men­sions. Forced to open the na­tion by treaties with other coun­tries, through ne­go­ti­a­tions han­dled by for­eign ad­vis­ers and in­ter­preters, the royal court and govern­ment of­fi­cials alike were lost, sus­pi­cious and di­vided among them­selves.

On the other hand, for­eign books, re­li­gions and alien cul­tures came in, shak­ing the in­tel­lec­tual cadre and pa­tri­otic lead­ers. So­cial move­ments emerged to en­lighten the com­pa­tri­ots, open­ing schools to ed­u­cate young­sters and or­ga­niz­ing women to awaken them.

My re­search found that pub­lish­ers and the press played key roles in ush­er­ing in so­cial changes in all strata of so­ci­ety, in­clud­ing housewives who could not read tra­di­tional books writ­ten in clas­si­cal Chinese.

Ob­vi­ously, the in­scrip­tion of the archives I was re­search­ing on the UNESCO Mem­ory of the World was a co­in­ci­dence and truly un­planned good for­tune that be­fell my fu­ture. Es­pe­cially so, as the Korean govern­ment and the city of Daegu had be­gun tak­ing ac­tion to build a state-of-the-art dig­i­tal online and off­line multi-func­tion li­brary-archive-mu­seum to en­ter­tain vis­i­tors from in and out­side Korea.

I feel as if I am the very per­son des­tined to do this job, for two rea­sons. Firstly, my re­search of this doc­u­men­tary her­itage dif­fers from a tra­di­tional his­tory scholar. Rather, I hope to com­pile and re­or­ga­nize all the data and re­search re­sults avail­able and fur­ther ex­plore mean­ing­ful re­la­tion­ships among the el­e­ments con­tained in those records.

By sub­jec­tively build­ing them into a se­man­ti­cally struc­tured dig­i­tal archive, I hope new re­la­tion­ships among the peo­ple, events, lit­er­a­ture, or­ga­ni­za­tions and lo­ca­tions can be re­vealed so that they can be uti­lized as com­po­nents for rep­re­sent­ing the past in the present time and space.

Se­condly, re­searchers in tra­di­tional do­mains such as Korean his­tory, po­lit­i­cal sci­ence, eco­nomics, women’s stud­ies and in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions usu­ally fo­cus their study within the frame­work of their area. When we deal with an event that oc­curred on the Korean Penin­sula, it is nat­u­rally con­sid­ered as be­long­ing to Korean his­tory.

Such a schol­arly ap­proach em­pha­sizes the Na­tional Debt Redemp­tion Move­ment as an “un­prece­dented, his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant, vol­un­tary move­ment of the Korean peo­ple.” It was the pa­tri­otic act of all Kore­ans — from the king on the top to the beg­gars and even butch­ers, who were re­garded as the low­est class. Some Kore­ans liv­ing in Ja­pan, Hawaii, Amer­ica and Rus­sia also joined the cam­paign, but re­search is miss­ing for those out­side the penin­sula, in­clud­ing the north­ern half of Korea. In gen­eral, the nar­ra­tives are over-sim­pli­fied.

“Hyper­con­nected World” will be a most im­por­tant con­cept in my pro­posal for the dig­i­tal Debt Redemp­tion Move­ment Archive. Tech­ni­cally, there should be no bar­rier be­tween Daegu and Jeju, for ex­am­ple, or be­tween Korea and Zim­babwe, or be­tween Seoul and Py­ongyang of course.

Lan­guage should also not be a hin­drance. At least English speak­ers will be able to en­joy full ac­cess to the con­tent, which will be ac­com­pa­nied by help­ful com­men­taries.

By check­ing out the con­tent of the archive ei­ther in­side the phys­i­cal li­brary-archive-mu­seum fa­cil­ity or on your smart­phone, vis­i­tors will learn about how, be­fore the fall of the Korean Em­pire, there were dra­matic deals be­hind the scenes dur­ing the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars. And school­child­ren will learn that for the first time in his­tory Korea was in­tro­duced to the out­side world in full force by those for­eign war cor­re­spon­dents who rushed to Korea to cover the Russo-Japanese War in 1904.

The most suc­cess­ful his­tory rep­re­sen­ta­tion, in my view, is to bring peo­ple back to the point in time and place of his­tory.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Korea, Republic

© PressReader. All rights reserved.