In order to understand the history of East Asian diplomatic relations, one needs to keep in perspective the epochal significance of the nineteenth century. In the latter half of that fatal century, the Sino-centric international order that had been in existence for a couple of millennia was replaced by a novel normative discourse that had originated in Europe. In this story of world-historical significance, Korea, starting out as a vassal state of the Celestial Empire, achieved (at least a semblance of) sovereign independence through the conclusion of the Treaty of Commerce with China, the first ever equal treaty between the former suzerain and vassal, in 1899. In this article, I will trace this story from the vantage point of treaty-making. My focus will be on the question of how Korea, becoming increasingly aware of the formative and constitutive power of treaty as a strong indication of independence, tried to employ this medium to become a sovereign self with a distinct political identity, in particular, in relation to China. I will discuss the evolution of the Korean perception of treaty by analyzing landmark treaties such as Treaty of Amity with Japan (1876), Treaty of Amity and Commerce with the United States of America (1882), and Treaty of Commerce with China (1899).
In July 2007, the Republic of Korea finally pushed forward the exclusive usage of the metric system, prohibiting the customary use of pyeong, the Japanese unit of area, and geun and don, Korean traditional weight units. The Gabo Reform (1894) was the first overall reform of the metrology system, and in 1902, the metric system was introduced in Korea, adjusting the traditional base units of cheok, seung, and nyang to meter-based scales. As the influence of the Japanese colonizers increased, weights and measures gradually resembled those used in Meiji Japan. In 1926, the metric system was adopted as the legal metrology. Nevertheless, customary weights and measures were still allowed “for the time being” in everyday life. Such a compromise continued after liberation, even after the introduction of the Measurement Law in 1961. The reasons the Korean government adopted the metric system seem to be the general trend of international society and the export-oriented tactics of the Korean economy, rather than a demand by civil society. Thus, while the government has made an incessant effort to adopt the metric system for nearly a century, the related laws have not been efficiently executed. The use of customary weights and measures was not completely eradicated until 2007 even though their use was outlawed in 1961. This prolonged process of accepting the metric system seems to be the result of a lack of public discussion and social consensus on the metrology system.
This paper treats historically the implications of a human rights agenda under the Syngman Rhee government during the 1950s. In the process of forming an international human rights regime and the reorganization of the world order after World War II, Korea was introduced to basic rights and human rights as a modular mechanism of a nation-state. With the establishment of the Republic of Korea, the basic rights of the people were provided for in the constitution and the government commemorated Human Rights Day and Human Rights Week. Apart from the influence of the international human rights regime, the political tactics of the Syngman Rhee government worked largely to institutionalize domestic human rights. Arguing that it was “the only legal government recognized by the United Nations,” the government began to commemorate and propagate United Nations Human Rights Day. Commemorated since 1950, it worked as an instrumental justification to maintain the anticommunist state of Syngman Rhee.
This paper assesses the role of the Korea Campaign to Ban Landmines (KCBL) in the internalization of anti-landmine norms in the Republic of Korea. The KCBL, a NGO network specializing in landmine issues, has been a successful intermediary between international anti-landmine norms and domestic politics. It has carried out fact-finding surveys to reveal the existence of landmine victims who were overshadowed by security concerns, and has co-opted politicians and other social movement groups to increase awareness of landmines as a human security threat. Also, it has pressured the Korean government to give up “dumb” landmines and clear landmine fields in the rear. The Korean government, which has faced a dilemma between international criticism and security concerns, has partially incorporated anti-landmine norms, even though it refused to sign the Ottawa Convention in 1997. Furthermore, the National Assembly has been reviewing a few draft bills which would compensate landmine victims. This case shows that non-governmental actors can play a crucial role in internalizing international norms in domestic politics.
The purpose of this paper is to study the diverse concepts of nature and the Way in the poetry of Kim Si-seup. In the poetry the representation of nature functions in relationship with the experience and life of the poet and his philosophy of the Way of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. Through an analysis of the nature and function of Chinese characters and the poetry, as well as its expression of the experience and life of Kim Si-seup, including his views on the laws of nature, human nature, and being true to one’s nature, this paper attempts to show that the representation of nature functions in relationship with the Way of Confucianism in the rational form of the poetry, in relationship with the Way of Buddhism in the compassionate purpose of its depiction of the world of impermanence and suffering, and in relationship with the Way of Taoism in its portrayal of the virtue and wonder of a life lived in accordance with the providence of nature.
In the period from 1945-1950, North Korean elites were indeed oriented toward the Soviet Union, but they also followed developments in Asia with a sophistication that is too rarely acknowledged in histories. This article uses North Korean foreign affairs publications, political cartoons, and captured government documents from the Korean War to argue that during the “liberation” period prior to June 25, 1950, the North Korean people were attuned to world politics and developments in Northeast Asia in particular. Case studies are made of North Korean perceptions of U.S.-occupied Japan and the Chinese civil war. The paper is intended to clear the way for more objective discussion of the historical stereotype of the DPRK as a state perpetually mired in isolation.
This paper looks at the continuously changing nature of contemporary folklore by focusing on the practice of praying for the souls of dead animals in ceremonies referred to as dongmul wiryeongje in contemporary Korea. From the 1990s onwards, Korean newspapers have increasingly reported on these ceremonies as held at animal laboratories, zoos, and other locations where animals have died or have been killed in their service for humans. Attitudes toward animals in Korea have undergone much change in the last twenty years. With the recent pet boom and active animal activism, animals have become a significant subject of debate in Korea. However, there remains a lack of interest in animal-related issues in studies of Korean culture up to the present. Part of the reason for this may be contributed to the human-centered character of Korean society. In addition, preceding studies of Korean animal folklore have mainly focused on long-term continuity of certain cultural elements and symbols, i.e., tradition. By looking into the history and contemporary situation of these dongmul wiryeongje, the author will show how focusing on changing human-animal relationships can bring new insights to the everchanging nature of folk culture in Korea.