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Global Commentary
Saturday, 7 August 2004
Topic: Politics
The Straits Times reported today that a dispute has erupted between China and South Korea over the treatment of the ancient kingdom of Koguryo.

Koguryo was a kingdom that lasted between 37 BC and AD 668. At its peak, it spanned territories in both Korea and Manchuria. The latter is, of course, now part of China.

According to The Straits Times, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences had carried out the North-east Asia Project to study the history of China's north-eastern regions. The study claimed that Koguryo was a Chinese vassal state and key to China's history. Korean academics, on the other hand, consider Koguryo an independent state that was often in conflict with China.

The current dispute began when, in April, the Chinese Foreign Ministry website deleted Koguryo from its introduction to Korean history. Then on Thursday, the ministry removed all of Korean history before 1948.

This led Professor Ahn Byung Woo of South Korea's Hanshin University to say to The Japan Times: "China's North-east Asia Project is not just about Koguryo, but aims at asserting its historical claims to Manchuria and even part of the Korean peninsula in case the region turns unstable."

Even North Korea, long-time ally of China, accused the latter of "manipulating history for its own interest". Its state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun said that the Chinese claim on Koguryo was like "stealing water from another man's rice paddy".

The problem lies in the fact that Koguryo was, to a large extent, a Manchurian state, not just a strictly Korean one. If Manchuria is considered a part of China, then it is only reasonable to suggest that the history of Koguryo is an important part of the history of China.

That, of course, does not justify implying that Koguryo is not also an important part of the history of Korea, or implying that Korea has no history before 1948.

Posted by lim_cs at 3:51 PM JST | post your comment (0) | link to this post

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