Prof. Sergei Kurbanov gave an illuminating presentation on the topic of researching the national history of North Korea, a difficult task even for the most experienced scholars. Unlike many scholars who refer to North Korea as a communist state, Prof. Kurbanov offered his own unique concept of North Korea as a “nationalistic tradition-based forced/self-isolated Asian Korean country”. He went on to explain that, in compiling a history of North Korea, there are two main principles. The first is a national North Korean history compiled for the North Korean population; the second is “external” North Korean history written by foreigners, which explains North Korean history to foreign audiences.
Prof. Kurbanov notes that historians of the latter category often – whether intentionally or not – inject their own country’s worldviews in compiling the history of North Korea or any other country for that matter. One example of approaches to North Korean history narrative is the Soviet case of historians emphasizing the “development” of North Korea as the result of Soviet help. In contrast, the U.S. history of North Korea describes the nation as “dictatorship regime”. This means that the language that history is written in reflects the point of view of the native country. For example, histories written in Russian are bound to be influenced by Russia’s political relationship with North Korea as is the case of American. Thus, understanding the perception and worldview that is embedded within different languages is incredibly important. Prof. Kurbanov posed the question of whether it is possible to overcome these national and cultural perspectives and compile a scientific history of North Korea. He argued that theoretically this would be possible though practically very difficult.
Towards the end of his lecture, Prof. Kurbanov gave two principles of describing two ways of compiling history gijeonchae and pyeonnyeonchae. He concluded his lecture a brief overview of major events or nodal events that have taken place in North Korea post-1945. The compelling presentation highlighted important aspects of conducting research on the history of North Korea.
For more lectures on similar topics, please stay tuned for more Soh Jaipil Circle news!
Written by Soo-Jin Kweon