tag Paik Nak-chung
- The ‘Third Party’ in Inter-Korean Relations and Its Potential Contribution to Modern Asian Thought
- The following talk was given on the first day of the ‘Asian Circle of Thought 2012 Shanghai Summit’, October 12-19, held at Power Station of Art, Shanghai, China, organized by Inter-Asia School and 2012 Shanghai Biennale, with the general theme ‘World in Transition, Imagination in Flux’. WAKABAYASHI Chiyo (Naha), IKEGAMI Yoshihiko (Tokyo), Yin-Bin NING (Chungli) and WANG Hsiaoming (Shanghai) took part as designated discussants in the day-long sessions with LIU Xinyu (Shanghai) as moderator. The author wishes to express thanks to them all and the organizers, although the following text does not incorporate the ensuring rich discussions. The other main speakers at the conference were Jomo Kwame SUNDRAM (Kuala Lumpur / Rome), Partha CHATTERJEE (Calcutta / New York), ARASAKI Moriteru (Naha), ITAGAKI Yuzo (Tokyo), and Ashis NANDY (Delhi).
- Need for Multi-Dimensional Civic Participation for Peace on the Korean Peninsula
- The following keynote speech was delivered at the International Conference on ‘Configuration of Peacelessness on the Korea Peninsula: Dialogue between Humanities and Social Science’, organized by the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies (IPUS) of Seoul National University, held at Plaza Hotel, Seoul, 25 July 2012. ⓒ Paik Nak-chung 2012 Need for Multi-Dimensional Civic Participation for Peace on the Korean Peninsula Paik Nak-chung (Professor Emeritus, SNU; Editor, The Quarterly Changbi) It is a great honor to give the keynote speech at this conference, and I am grateful to IPUS for bestowing the honor on me, a literary critic and student of English Literature. True, I have published some five volumes addressing peace and reunification issues on the Korean Peninsula, but I am not vain enough to think that my academic colleagues at IPUS, who are mostly social scientists, have studied them with any assiduity. I probably owe my good fortune to the decision on the part of the HK Peace and Humanities Research Group at IPUS to open a ‘Dialogue between Humanities and Social Science’ (as the conference subtitle reads). In any case I heartily welcome initiatives for such dialogue. But I would go one step further and say that a mere dialogue between the humanities and social science as two discrete fields is not enough. We need to develop a set of entirely new ‘post-disciplinary studies’ amounting to something like ‘a single historical social science linked to politics’ (Immanuel Wallerstein’s terminology), or humane studies that, while resembling pre-modern humanities in encompassing the totality of learning, manage to incorporate modern scientific knowledge (both social and natural) in a new manner.1 This is not to deny the need for specialization, but only to affirm that specializations will have to be reconfigured and practiced in the context of that larger endeavor. For the humanities that lack rigorous social analysis run the risk of becoming irrelevant, while social analysis ungrounded in the humanities will prove fragmentary, one-sided, and often superficial. But let me turn to peace and peacelessness on the Korean Peninsula. Peacelessness is multi-layered anywhere, not only because peace means more than the absence of war, but because war itself is a multi-dimensional affair. This is especially true of the Korean case. To begin with, the Korean War (1950-53) was a combination of civil war, an international war involving opposing ideological blocs, and a ‘police action’ on the part of the United Nations unparalleled in scale and bloodiness—just to name a few prominent features of that war. But the structure of peacelessness became even more complex and anomalous in its aftermath. For the armistice that put an end to warfare in 1953 has persisted for nearly sixty years without a peace agreement to replace it. This is indeed a rare phenomenon in the annals of the world, and has produced and solidified a peculiar structure of peacelessness on the peninsula. First, the continuation of a juridiclal state of war has provided a strong case for a national security state on either side of the Armistice Line. Of course, the degree of democracy achieved despite such constraint varies greatly from one side to the other, but the inherently insecure armistice regime has lent structural support for anti-democratic forces on both sides. Secondly, great power involvement in the creation and maintenance of this peninsular structure has seriously limited national autonomy for both Koreas. Even the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) with its vaunted ‘self-reliance’ (juche) and record of defying foreign powers must be found seriously wanting if autonomy is measured in terms of the ability of a nation to achieve its objectives in the international arena. But this regime does not owe its longevity and relative stability merely to interventions by foreign powers or to a small clique in collusion with them. The ravages of the Korean War created popular sentiments preferring even a precarious armistice to new outbreak of war, and the prolonged existence of this state has produced sizable forces on either side with vested interest in the anti-democratic, heteronomous regime of division, vociferously hostile to their counterpart on the other side but often in conscious or unconscious symbiosis with it for the preservation of the status quo. I have used the term ‘the division system’ to characterize this reality. Here is not the place to explicate the notion at any length, least of all to go into the sterile debate over whether use of the term ‘system’ is justified. I shall only quote a sentence from a recent statement of the case in English: “[The notion of ‘the division system’] finds in this [peninsula-wide] reality a certain ‘systemic’ nature, a durability worthy of a social system (though a ‘system’ only in a loose sense), which calls for an analysis more systematic and holistic than studying each Korea as two discrete components of the world-system.”2 I may add two more points. One, the concept does not attribute everything wrong in Korea to the division. To the contrary, it implies a turn from a national to a global perspective, finding the division system not a self-enclosed system but a local manifestation of the world-system in and around the Korean Peninsula. Both Koreas thus share problems with other (mostly undivided) countries of the modern world. It also recognizes actors outside the peninsula, notably the United States and China, as significant agents in the operation of the division system. Two, the concept implies a turn from a state- to people-oriented perspective, calling not for any unification whatsoever but for a reunification process that would entail a substantial improvement in the lives of the population throughout the peninsula. Thus, it subsumes and even presupposes various ‘domestic’ reform agendas for such a reunification process to succeed. It is a sobering fact that, despite all efforts toward this goal, the division system has persisted to this day. Indeed, its peacelessness appears to have become more dangerous and virulent over the past few years. Yet it is important to realize that this is precisely the signs of a long-term trend destabilizing the division system as a whole. Nor should we forget that the June 1987 Uprising in South Korea with subsequent democratization of the country dealt a permanent blow to the division system. Dictatorial rule formed an integral part of the division system from the start, so that its collapse on one side, though not necessarily producing a similar consequence on the other side, has put the whole system into crisis. The blow was all the more powerful as it was accompanied and followed by a great geopolitical change—the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the end of the East-West Cold War—removing a major international pillar of the division system. Destabilization, however, does not necessarily lead to a new system, nor to a speedy collapse of the old. It can more easily result in a prolonged period of increasing chaos unless a new path is opened toward a better future. And in Korea such a breakthrough did occur in June 2000 in the first-ever inter-Korean summit meeting. It produced the June 15 Joint Declaration that agreed (in Article 2) on a gradual, phased reunification process including an intermediate stage of confederation or union of states, and thus enabled a quantum leap in inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation. Of course, we know that the process of reconciliation and reunification so begun has since traversed a rocky road, facing numerous barriers along the way, including the change of U. S. Administration (from Bill Clinton’s to George W. Bush’s) in the same year 2000 and more recently the advent of the Lee Myung-bak regime in the South in 2008. DPRK’s hard-line, at times paranoiac response certainly has not helped. One consequence of the June 15 Joint Declaration, perhaps unintended by the two leaders who signed it, was to create a space for participation by ordinary citizens in the reunification process. For as soon as the process becomes a slow, phased, and open-ended process, government authorities cannot dominate or control it as in a military conquest or speedy one-shot unification. And let me stress that civic participation should not be confined to actual inter-Korean contact and cooperation: citizens can—and, at least in the South Korean case, increasingly do—intervene by carrying out various domestic reform agendas suited to a more peaceful, democratic, and eco-friendly peninsula, by affecting government priorities, and, if the government will not listen, by effecting a regime change through the electoral process. But what of North Korea where little of such multi-dimensional civic participation seems possible? That certainly is a nagging question which must be answered more fully on a different occasion, based on serious and impartial research. Here I shall stop at noting two points of general principle. First, the fact that civic participation in the North is far more limited than in the South offers cannot justify out giving up on the attempt to maximize our own input whenever and wherever possible. Secondly, the almost total absence in the North of ‘civil society’ as understood in the South should not lead to the hasty conclusion that ordinary people in North Korea are making no input at all in the making of history except under the dictates of the party and the state, nor that more consciously independent actors will not increase in number and visibility as the process of inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation is revived (as it is bound to be) in the coming years. Civic participation for peace on the Korean Peninsula will then become even more multi-dimensional, and only such participation can ensure that people on the peninsula will enjoy genuine peace, rather than mere absence of war. 1 See Paik Nak-chung, “The ‘two cultures’ problem and renewal of the humanities,” Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Vol. 11 No. 4 (Special Issue on Paik Nak-chung, December 2010), 524-30. 2 Paik Nak-chung, ‘Preface to the English-Language Edition’, The Division System in Crisis: Essays on Contemporary Korea (University of California Press 2011), xvi.
- The June 15 Joint Declaration and the 2013 Regime
- The following talk was given at the ceremony and dinner commemorating the 12th anniversary of the June 15 North-South Joint Declaration, held on June 14, 2012 at the Convention Hall, 63 Building, Seoul. The event was co-sponsored by the Kim Dae-jung Peace Center, Kim Dae-jung Presidential Library and Museum of Yonsei University, Korea Peace Forum, and the Special City of Seoul. ⓒ Paik Nak-chung 2012 The June 15 Joint Declaration and the 2013 Regime Paik Nak-chung (Professor Emeritus, SNU; Co-Chair, Korea Peace Forum) Today we are gathered to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the June 15 North-South Joint Declaration. Although we are celebrating a historic event, I think many of you must have mixed feelings. It is our third such ceremony without President Kim Dae-jung, the co-signer to the Joint Declaration and founder of Kim Dae-jung Peace Center. And I recall that the atmosphere of the 9th anniversary, when President Kim joined us for the last time, was not all that bright and cheerful, either. Back then, we had just suffered the tragic loss of the former President Rho Moo-hyun, and in the case of former President Kim, too, the occasion turned out to be his last public address. At the event held under the title, ‘Let’s return to 6/15’, President Kim, as if he was announcing his political testament, “earnestly and with desperate urgency” (and I am quoting him verbatim) appealed to the nation for each citizen to become a ‘conscience in action’. He even affirmed, “Those who do not act are on the side of evil.” And to President Lee Myung-bak he offered the message, “If President Lee and his government do not change their course, I can say confidently that not only the nation but also the Lee administration will face an unfortunate future.” President Lee, however, has taken no heed of President Kim’s warning. Far from returning to 6/15, his government issued in 2010 the so-called ‘5/24 measure’ in response to the sinking of the naval ship Cheonan, thus reversing the inter-Korean reconciliation process since the 6/15 Joint Declaration, or indeed ever since the Rho Tae-woo administration, and tried to cut off inter-Korean exchanges completely. The result has been only to increase North Korea’s nuclear capability and its reliance on China, while causing enormous damage to the South Korean economy and a sharp diminishing of our role in the international arena. Not only have the entire Korean nation and the South Korean people become unfortunate, the Lee administration doesn’t seem to find itself in a happy situation, either—exactly as the late President Kim predicted. Many South Korean citizens, on the other hand, did heed the former President’s desperate appeal. Despite the all too familiar red-baiting by the government and the ruling party, the voters in the June 2 local elections of 2010 inflicted defeat on the Grand National Party, and in the by-election for the Mayor of Seoul in 2011, they again punished the unrepentant Lee administration, although this election was not directly related to inter-Korean relations. Even the results of the April 11 general elections this year represented only a denial of confidence to the opposition party with its petty bickering over short-term advantages rather than respecting the late President’s political testament. Despite the opposition defeat voters have made it quite clear that they would not tolerate the ruling party’s reckless unilateralism any longer as in the outgoing 18th National Assembly. At the same time, they have left open the possibility that the opposition circles, if truly united and renewed, can win the Presidential race slated for December this year. So everything is up to us. We can hardly expect Mr Lee Myung-bak to change after all these years, and even if he did, he could not do much in the remaining months. All we can hope is that he does not make things much worse and that he may open a bit wider the door for civilian inter-Korean exchanges that he has recently been allowing by fits and starts. Meanwhile, the ruling party’s leading presidential candidate Park Keun-hye has been trying to differentiate herself from President Lee and talks about acknowledging in principle the June 15 and October 4 Declarations. But it is doubtful how much sincerity and real content we may find in her words, given the kind of people that surround her, the hackneyed red-baiting she doesn’t hesitate to indulge in, and her harping on ‘loyalty to the state’ of which we had had more than enough during the years of dictatorship. In the end there is no alternative than for each of us to become a ‘conscience in action’ and to reform politics and society as a whole, and to pick a leader with conviction in and a strong vision for democracy. In the process we need also to clearly settle the controversy over ‘following North Korea’ that has recently been ignited. The deterioration of mainstream journalism and public discourse in South Korea over the years of the Lee government has propagated a tendency to condemn even the support for the 6/15 Joint Declaration as a sign of ‘following North Korea’ or of belonging to ‘pro-North Korean leftist forces’. It is precisely such discourse that has made it difficult to openly discuss and criticize the problem of blind adherence to North Korea, and helped shelter from public eyes minority groups actually following the North Korean line. For it has blurred the distinction between the approach of ‘engaging North Korea’ (t’ongbuk), which favors dialogue, contact and, where necessary, cooperation with the Pyongyang regime for the sake of South Korea’s national interest and the safety and well-being of the population of the Korean peninsula, and ‘following North Korea’ (chongbuk), which, in the context of North-South confrontation, chooses to consistently follow the official North Korean line. Recently, in connection with the disastrous developments in the United Progressive Party, President Lee, the ruling party and conservative media have raised with one voice the issue of ‘following North Korea’, dreaming of an easy victory in the upcoming Presidential election. But we have no reason to fear a debate on this issue. ‘Engaging North Korea’ and ‘following North Korea’ should by all means be differentiated. Our clear choice is the former. In criticizing the latter, however, the important thing is to decide from what vantage point the criticism is made. The criterion should be the principle of democracy, not an anachronistic anti-communism or authoritarian statism; and it must reflect the principle that in order to achieve a peaceful, gradual, and phased reunification as agreed upon in the June 15 Joint Declaration, we South Korean citizens should assume the role of ‘the third party’, that is, we should stand tall as sovereign citizens refusing blind submission either to the North Korean regime or even to our own government. Only when the opposition circles manage to get their act together in line with this principle and conviction will they be able to win the coming Presidential election and go on to build a new era successfully. Many people including myself who aspire to open a new era with the launching of the new administration in 2013 have adopted the notion, ‘the regime of 2013’. The idea is to make the year 2013 as great a turning point as the one marked by the June Uprising of 1987, which is said to have initiated a new stage of contemporary South Korean history generally known as ‘the regime of 1987’. This regime has indeed accomplished much, including the end of military dictatorship, economic liberalization, and positive developments in inter-Korean relations marked by the Basic Agreement of 1991, the June 15 Joint Declaration (2000) and the October 4 Declaration (2007). Despite such achievements, however, various factors both at home and abroad militated against its advancing in time to a new stage. As a result the constructive driving force of its early years has been spent, and social disruption gradually has become aggravated. Amidst such confusion the Lee government came to power with the slogan of ‘a leap into an advanced society’. However, it not only failed to make that ‘leap’, but has indulged in misrule and backtracking, so that the country has come to face a wholesale crisis, including crisis in democracy, ordinary people’s livelihood, justice, and peace on the Korean peninsula. The June 15 Joint Declaration occupies a crucial place in ‘the 2013 regime’, which should overcome the current crisis and must, this time, carry out a genuine leap. It signifies more than a simple restoration of the process of inter-Korean reconciliation, peace and cooperation opened up by the 6/15 and 10/4 Declarations. The inter-Korean relation under the 2013 regime will be played out on the basis of popular judgment on the forces that have been negating those Declarations. Consequently the role of ‘the third party’ will have vastly increased in the process of building a peace regime on the peninsula and in the move towards a gradual integration of the two Koreas. Thus, an unprecedented virtuous cycle will be created for domestic democratic progress, improvement of inter-Korean relation, and betterment of people’s livelihood. As a matter of fact, the ‘87 regime had the intrinsic limitation that, while the June Movement managed to terminate the military dictatorship that had been in place since 1961, it failed to bring about a fundamental change to the Armistice regime of 1953, which served as the basis of the subsequent dictatorships. True, the ‘division system’ was shaken by the arrival of the 1987 regime, but never really overcome by it. It was the June 15 Joint Declaration that opened up the possibility of a new peninsular order beyond the current division system. The fate of the 2013 regime will depend on whether we can replace the Armistice with a peace agreement in the spirit of the Joint Declaration. Of course, the 6/15 Joint Declaration does not contain any reference to a peace regime. That is because at the time the concerned powers had not reached any agreement on peace in the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia. Only after the Joint Declaration came the US-DPRK Joint Communiqué of October 2000, and in 2005 the September 19 Joint Statement of the 4th Six-Party Talks in Beijing produced the first comprehensive agreement among major stakeholders. But with the inauguration of the Bush administration in the U.S., obstacles kept presenting themselves; and above all, there was insufficient preparation on the part of ‘the third party’, South Korean citizens, and insufficiency in their ‘conscience in action’ as well. The painful consequence is now plaguing the country, the nation, and the incumbent president himself. In this circumstance, if we South Korean citizens can change politics and society through our own efforts, nothing will stop the coming of the 2013 regime. I hope this 12th anniversary will be the last to commemorate the June 15 Joint Declaration with so much mixture of somber feelings. Thank you.
- [PAIK Nak-chung] East Asia and North East Asia in Contemporary South K…
- Paik Nak-chung Editor, Creation and Criticism Quarterly. Professor Emeritus of English Literature, Seoul National University This is the text of a lecture delivered at the University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, on February 26, 2004, as one of the Jeremiah Lecture Series. The event was cosponsored by the Center for Critical Theory and Transnational Studies, the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies, and the Office of International Programs, University of Oregon. The author wishes to thank all the sponsors and participants of the event, particularly Professor Arif Dirlik, Director of the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies. © Paik Nak-chung 2004 ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————- I I had better begin with a few disclaimers so that you won ‘ t entertain false expectations. By profession I am a student of English Literature, that is to say, neither an East Asianist nor a Koreanist. Moreover I have had the temerity to come here without sufficient research in the literature even in the Korean language. On the other hand, as a citizen, university teacher, and literary critic, I have been active for some four decades in South Korea ‘ s cultural and political scene, and I like to claim that the journal I edit, Ch ‘ angjak kwa pip ‘ y ? ng (freely translated into English as Creation and Criticism and in Korea usually abbreviated as Changbi),  has been a significant venue of South Korea ‘ s literary and intellectual discourse since its founding in 1966. I shall have more to say on the journal, but let me briefly remark that nowadays the biggest portion of my time is taken up by a project on which I embarked a few years ago. I am serving as Chair of Citizen ‘ s Broadcasting Foundation, a corporation to support and operate a digital satellite television channel largely (though not exclusively) devoted to programs of citizens ‘ own making. Its principle has much in common with the various public access channels in the United States, but the fact that it ‘ s a nation-wide, rather than a community, channel makes the venture quite different and almost unprecedented in application. The channel began broadcasting in September 2002, but it still remains an open question whether it will grow to make a real difference in Korean broadcasting and civic life, or ultimately disappoint the high hopes of the many activists who worked to obtain it and, for me personally, prove a lesson against fatal overreach at a time of life when one could ill afford to waste one ‘ s remaining energy. But to go back to Creation and Criticism , it is, I am happy to report, much more of a proven success story. Its career has seen many vicissitudes, including forced closure for nearly eight years after Chun Du-hwan ‘ s military coup in 1980, but today it is by far the largest and most influential quarterly in South Korea. For those unfamiliar with it, I may characterize it as a sort of hybrid between the ‘ thick journals ‘ of the nineteenth century Russia and the intellectual quarterlies of contemporary Europe or the United States. Its circulation of some thirteen to fourteen thousand copies would also correspond to that intermediate character. The very existence of such a journal has often aroused envy in many colleagues from Japan or the Western nations that I have met. From the beginning the journal ‘ s main emphasis was on literature, publishing both imaginative and critical works, but literature open to social and historical concerns and to intellectual endeavors in other fields. This stance soon turned the journal into a rallying point for oppositional writers and intellectuals under Park Chung Hee ‘ s dictatorial rule (1961 to his assassination in 1979, but with particular harshness after he became virtual life-time President in 1972). It also brought upon the journal frequent reprisals, although as yet mainly in the form of suppressions of individual issues (and titles by its publishing arm launched in 1974) and punishment of individual authors like the poet Kim Chi-ha and journalist and professor Lee Youn g-hui. I myself was fired from Seoul National University for demanding a democratic constitution and convicted (though not actually imprisoned) for publishing a book on contemporary China compiled by the above-mentioned Professor Lee. If one had to identify the one discourse most readily identified with the Changbi journal during the 1970s, it would be ‘national literature’. I will not go into explaining the concept, although it is a somewhat complex notion that does require some explanation. Let me only point out that it is not the same thing as national ist literature. For, while foregrounding the national agenda of reunification and resistance to foreign domination, it conceives this task as requiring more than nationalist energies and perspectives, involving as it does class and many other global and local issues. At any rate, the concept provided a fertile ground for a vigorous and wide-ranging debate during the 1970s and ‘80s, which included questions of democracy, national unification and the empowerment of the people, as well as more narrowly literary topics. Much of this debate was carried out in the quarterly journal and other publications of Changbi. But neither East Asia nor Northeast Asia made much of a mark in this debate. Whichever one you chose, it was in those days an area full of dire presences: North Korea as the ‘anti-state organization’ par excellence under the National Security Law (which, by the way, still remains in force, with some mitigations), ‘Red China’, Soviet Union as the commanding post of ‘International Communism’, Vietnam where South Korean troops fought under the Americans and lost, and Japan itself teeming with Communists, left-wingers and clandestine supporters of South Korea’s oppositional movements. Thus, a sense of solidarity with our regional neighbors found expression mainly in terms of ‘the Third World’, which was also an important theme of Changbi’s discourse at this time.  The brief interval (commonly called the Seoul Spring) between the death of Park Chung Hee and General Chun’s takeover in May 1980 allowed me to return to my university post, but the new military regime promptly suppressed the journal. Only in 1988, that is, as one of the fruits of popular resistance in June 1987, was it able to resume publication. I could unfold a lengthy tale about what went on during those seven and half years, including the temporary closing down of the publishing house itself (between 1985 and ‘86), but that would be straying too far from my topic. To return to the subject of discourse, then, discussions of national literature led in the late ‘80s and through the ‘90s to an attempt, on one hand, to conceptualize a ‘division system’ of the Korean Peninsula, and on the other, to expand the discursive horizon to modernity itself, postulating ‘the double project of simultaneously adapting to and overcoming modernity’.  The ‘division system’ remained for some years almost my private discourse, but in recent years the terminology, if not the concept, seems to have gained wide currency. Its purport, at any rate, is to perceive the reality of Korea’s division not so much in terms of two opposing regimes, peoples, or ideologies, as (mainly) of contradiction between the vested interests on both sides (together with forces outside the Peninsula) and ordinary people variously suffering the consequences of this division. In addition to this people-oriented perspective, the concept also introduces a global dimension by seeing the division system not as a discrete structure on its own but as a local manifestation of the reigning world-system. Abolishing Korea’s division through significant popular initiatives would not mean the full overcoming of this larger system, but a decisive step in the long struggle of the Korean people to cope with the modern world-system and a crucial contribution to its final transformation into a better system. It was in the course of these discursive endeavors that the topic of East Asia and/or Northeast Asia acquired in the 1990s increasing prominence in the pages of the Changbi journal.  In this particular instance, however, the lead was taken by my younger colleagues, especially Choi Won-shik, a scholar of Korean literature as well as a practicing critic, and Baik Young-seo, a professor specializing in modern Chinese history. My particular take would be an attempt to relate the regional dynamics to the task of overcoming the division system, and to utilize them in the more general ‘ double project ‘ regarding modernity. II After this long and somewhat self-centered introduction, I turn at last to an account of East Asia and Northeast Asia in contemporary South Korean discourse. In contrast to my own meager qualifications, both the geographical location of the Korean Peninsula and the geopolitical and cultural situation of South Korea seem eminently to favor the development of such regional discourse. Whether you speak of East Asia or Northeast Asia, and however you define the contour of each, Korea is plump in it and nowhere else. This is in striking contrast to China, for instance. The expanse of its territory alone, situated in more or less the middle of the Asian Continent and bordering with various South Asian, West Asian, and Central Asian nations as well, would make even East or Eastern Asia, let alone Northeast Asia, an inadequate term of geographical description. In terms of political and cultural concerns, too, it is understandable if many Chinese (including Sun Yatsen in the past and a contemporary intellectual like Wang Hui) prefer the larger framework of Asia to East Asia. There is much less resistance to ‘ East Asian Civilization ‘ as an historical entity or construct, even though the term ? like ‘ Asia ‘ itself ? was invented in the Western world. But I will come back later to East Asia in this particular sense. Japan, on the other hand, is indubitably a part of Eastern Asia, and even with its territory stretching to the Ryukyu Islands and into the Pacific, could reasonably classified as a Northeast Asian country. The main impediments to the development of a vigorous East Asian discourse would seem cultural and historical: on one hand, there are the shadows of the erstwhile ‘ Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere ‘ inhibiting many progressive intellectuals;  and, on the other hand, the tradition of ‘ breaking away from Asia and joining Europe ‘ ( datsua ny ?? ) still remains strong, buttressed no doubt by the global reach of Japanese economy but still producing an unseemly craving for a special relationship with the United States and a cavalier disregard for the sensitivities of its Asian neighbors. In South Korea, too, as I indicated above, there have been strong constraints on the development of any meaningful discourse on Asia. The Cold War ideology that imposed the binary scheme of ‘ Free World vs. the Communists ‘ was reinforced by Park Chung Hee ‘ s assiduous attempt to emulate the ‘ Japanese model ‘ . More recently, democratic reforms and pressures of post-Cold War globalization have created a new terrain, but the essentially Eurocentric and capital-oriented ideology remains potent. The problem now is not suppression or suspicion of Asian discourse as such, but the use of even such discourse in the cause of capitalist globalization, thus promoting datsua ny ?? on a pan-East Asian scale. High hopes that once hung on ‘ Confucian capitalism ‘ or on ‘ Asian values ‘ as ingredients of a more humane capitalism suffered a heavy blow during the Asian financial crisis of 1997: a fuller embracing of neo-liberalism seems to have become unavoidable unless one intends radically to challenge capitalist globalization. But there is every possibility that neo-liberal capitalism itself may combine with selective Asian or East Asian values. The thing may even take shape under the rubric of ‘ socialism with Chinese characteristics ‘ ! It is not necessarily a problem that only selective values are mobilized: one need only to be aware of the selectiveness and of how, for instance, Buddhist, Daoist, and other values tend to become erased when the focus is on Confucianism. Nor does it constitute a serious objection that ‘ East Asia ‘ is not coterminous with Eastern Asia as a cartographical entity, provided one is lucid about which ‘ East Asia ‘ one has in mind, particularly about whether one refers to a certain historical civilization or to a portion of Asia in the present world. For as far as the contemporary world is concerned, I believe there is only one civilization, the capitalist ? even though ‘ capitalist civilization ‘ sounds more and more like an oxymoron, as the globally unfolding logic of endless accumulation threatens to destroy all civilized values and even the very possibility of human survival. The essential point then is how to face and overcome these dangers: how to utilize a given regional framework, or set of frameworks, in the global endeavor to create an alternative world, and what particular civilizational legacies to resort to for that purpose. Perhaps it speaks for the strength of democratic and other social movements in South Korea that the discourse of Confucian capitalism never gained much currency beyond a narrow sector of the academia. President Kim Dae Jung himself was an outspoken critic of Lee Kuan Yew on ‘ Asian values ‘ vs. universal human rights, and even though in the wake of the IMF bailout numerous neo-liberal policies have been adopted both by him and his successor, there probably is more active resistance to neo-liberalism in South Korea than in any of the neighboring countries. ‘ East Asia ‘ in the discourse of my colleagues also reflects this oppositional stance. When Choi Won-shik speaks of searching for an ‘ East Asian perspective ‘ in one of the feature essays mentioned above,  his aim is to find an alternative conception of the world and of human living to counter the globally dominant one, and he looks to the civilizational legacies of East Asia for support in this endeavor. One finds therefore no problem with the fact that East Asia in this context leaves out a good deal of Eastern Asia: not only the South Seas but Russia and much of Southeast Asia as well. It is a different matter, however, when he goes on to discuss ‘ East Asian solidarity ‘ . If he envisions a solidarity of intellectuals sharing an ‘ East Asian perspective ‘ , it need not be confined to the area formerly belonging to the East Asian Civilization. If, on the other hand, it concerns a framework of regional cooperation based on shared political and economic, as well as cultural, interests, the area needs to be more specifically delimited in terms of current realities, and if most of Southeast Asia is to be excluded, another appellation must be chosen. III As with personal identity, one ‘ s regional identity need not be singular. On the contrary, it is both inevitable and generally desirable that one should belong simultaneously to Asia, Asia-Pacific, Eastern Asia, East Asia and Northeast Asia ? and to different formulations of these as well. With this caveat, I will now move on to Northeast Asia. For Koreans ‘ Northeast Asia ‘ has the particular attraction of placing Korea at or near its center and potentially giving them a pivotal role. The point is highlighted by the current crisis over North Korea ‘ s nuclear capabilities. For obvious reasons ‘ East Asia ‘ as a cultural or geographical space becomes much less relevant here than ‘ Northeast Asia ‘ , though the situation naturally has global and East Asian ramifications. The crisis on the Korean Peninsula, now being addressed by the second round of ‘ six-party talks ‘ in Beijing, has also managed a more adequate inclusion of the major players of the region. North Korea, an indubitable Northeast Asian entity but all too apt to be forgotten in many an East Asian and Northeast Asian discourse, assumes a highly visible presence. We are reminded, too, that Russia, occupant of a huge landmass and holder of a large political, economic stake in Northeastern Asia (as well as Northern and Central Asia), is also frequently excluded in certain discourses of East Asia. Of the nations in the region, only Mongolia is absent at the talks, while a power from outside, the United States, joins them as one of the parties. This, however, not only follows a familiar pattern encountered almost everywhere in the world, but given the long-term stationing of U.S. ground troops and other instances of America ‘ s physical presence in the region, could be understood as a reasonable expansion of the concept of ‘ a Northeast Asian power ‘ . If the term East Asia seemed unduly confining to China (not to speak of Russia), Northeast Asia would naturally prove even more so. But where matters of military and national security are in question, states inevitably become decisive factors, and the People ‘ s Republic of China as such, and to a lesser extent the Russian Federation, must be counted as a Northeast Asian party. This, of course, should not prevent China from assuming other regional identities, nor from intervening in this region in a less holistic manner when the agenda is of a different nature. In any case it seems evident that resolution of the crisis on the Korean Peninsula is a prerequisite to a fuller regional cooperation whether of East Asia or Northeast Asia. I do not have the expertise, and probably no expert possesses the clairvoyance, to predict the eventual outcome of the negotiations. But if the six-party talks can continue even if producing no dramatic results, they may lay the foundation for a more lasting arrangement for regional security and cooperation. The relevant model here will not be NATO, although some have emphasized the importance of that military alliance as a precondition for the evolution of Europe ‘ s regional framework. In Northeast Asia there is no outside camp for the six parties to ally against, (as there was for NATO in the past,) and a formal multilateral military setup is in any case out of the question for them, while an alliance of five against one, whether desirable or not, is equally unrealistic. To insist on a NATO-like structure of collective security would therefore amount to counseling despair. If Europe provides a helpful precedent, I think we should look instead to the European Conference for Security and Cooperation, or the ‘ Helsinki accords ‘ , of 1975, a non-binding ‘ declaration ‘ by political leaders but opening the way for wider participation of civil society. Even such a gentleman ‘ s agreement is impossible in the present state of U.S.-North Korea confrontation, and apart from that immediate difficulty, one could foresee an arduous process of negotiations before some provisions on human and social rights may be agreed to. Let us only hope that the six-party talks may serve as both an effective means of removing the immediate danger and a starting point for more far-reaching multilateral accords. This particular version of Northeast Asia discourse is closely related to another version that has gained prominence in South Korea, especially under President Roh Mu-hyun. One of the slogans of the new administration is to make South Korea ‘ the economic hub of Northeast Asia ‘ . The Korean word chungsim is often translated as ‘ center ‘ , and thus evoked more ridicule than anger among our neighbors, who would have had to see China and Japan turned into ‘ peripheries ‘ to South Korea ‘ s ‘ center ‘ . Seoul hastened to publicize the correct translation and also to remove the word ‘ country ‘ from the original ‘ hub country ‘ ( chungsimguk ). The adjustments do make the goal somewhat less fanciful, for with its strategic location and various resources and potentials South Korea could develop into some kind of a hub, most plausibly in logistics and transportation, in the rapidly growing and increasingly interdependent economy of the Northeast Asian region. Yet a full year after Roh Mu-hyun ‘ s inauguration the idea of ‘ the economic hub of Northeast Asia ‘ seems to have lost much of its luster. For one thing, the continuing tension on the Korean Peninsula has not only limited the inter-Korean exchange on the Peninsula but put a damper on many a scheme of regional development, including the connecting of Korean rail-lines to Trans-Siberian and Trans-China Railways and construction of a pipeline for Russian natural gas through North Korea. Also, the inability of the Government sufficiently to carry out the necessary domestic reforms to qualify South Korea for any kind of logistical hub, not to speak of making its metropolitan sector a financial hub, of Northeast Asia. These problems might be solved over time, especially in the event of a diplomatic breakthrough between the United States and North Korea. But the whole notion of ‘ the economic hub of Northeast Asia ‘ seems to call for reexamination and for considerable refinement or revision. Although the Seoul government has taken out the word ‘ country ‘ from chungsimguk , the thinking seems to proceed very much in terms of nations and states. Indeed, there doesn ‘ t seem to be sufficient awareness even in non-government circles that, unlike in Europe, regional economic or cultural cooperation in this part of the world (whether East Asia or Northeast Asia) cannot have nation-states as its basic components. Aside from historic legacies of mutual distrust, the sheer fact of China ? the fact that it is not a ‘ country ‘ or ‘ nation ‘ in the same sense that Korea or Japan is ? makes any international agreement for regional cooperation difficult to bring about and of limited application. Of course, state-level arrangements are necessary in providing minimum protection and support for the flow of people and goods, but regional cooperation will have to be conceived primarily in terms of relevant regions or localities within the nation-states involved, although in the case of a smaller national unit like Korea we may see a more total involvement. In this connection I would like to introduce the notion of ‘ the Yellow Sea Urban Community ‘ , of which the architect and urban designer Kim Seok-Chul has written in the pages of the Changbi journal.  He contends that in order to give substance to regional cooperation and community in Northeast Asia, we should focus on the Yellow Sea Basin – stretching the term a little to include the Southeast of Korea and the Osaka-Kobe and Setonaikai regions of Japan – as the site where already highly concentrated economic activity is taking place and where we are likely to see a further rapid growth in both production and exchange. It will be an urban and largely maritime community in the sense that the rim of the Yellow Sea will be interspersed with mega-cities, industrial clusters and ‘ urban unions ‘ , which depend heavily (unlike in Europe) on sea routes for intraregional exchange, and promising to restore the Yellow Sea as the center of commerce and culture that it was before the Ming Dynasty closed the ports. This is not the place to go into the specifics of Kim ‘ s conception, but one of its theoretic merits lies in its emphasis on the actual movement of people, goods, and ideas rather than on the formal combination of states, assigning the latter a subsidiary (though still crucial) role. It also suggests a new approach to delimiting a region. For the ‘ borders ‘ of the Yellow Sea Community will be shifting and permeable as actual developments on the ground (and on water) unfold themselves, much like the borders of a ‘ civilization ‘ . It is certainly a significant step toward loosening the grip of what the world-systems analysis calls ‘ the inter-state system ‘ , and in a direction opposite to the U.S. neo-cons ‘ attempt to replace that system with a unilateralist imperium. Whether the Community will represent a similar loosening of global capital ‘ s grip is another matter. Kim ‘ s vision naturally presupposes a large influx of capital into the region, but he is also aware that because of the huge concentration of population in the region and the lateness of the hour in the environmental clock of the earth, development of Yellow Sea Community along the hitherto familiar line of economic growth will spell disaster to the entire world. It is no accident that the immediate occasion for his exposition was the controversy regarding Saemangum, a huge reclamation project started by the South Korean Government some thirteen years ago to build a 20-mile long dike at the mouth of a bay on the Southwestern coast, with the aim of turning more than forty thousand hectares of sea and tidal flat into dry land and fresh-water lakes. The environmental disaster it promises (with scanty prospects of realizing the intended economic benefits) have provoked wide protests at home and abroad, but with the dikes nearly completed, supporters of the project also have remained adamant. Kim ‘ s intervention was intended to break the impasse by proposing a scheme that both sides could accept, (though, predictably, neither side has promptly come forward to accept it): by utilizing the already built dikes and the inadvertently created lagoon-like inner sea (comparable in size to the Laguna of Venice), he would build an aquapolis that, joining in an ‘ urban union ‘ with other cities of the Honam Plain, will become one of the hub ports and markets of the Yellow Sea Community as well as a site of tourism and ecological education. If successful, the scheme would meet a good deal (though certainly not all) of the environmentalists ‘ demands while satisfying the aspirations of the local population for economic development. Its plausibility derives from the expanding economic activities around the Yellow Sea and the consequent demand of the regional economy for a maritime urban center of Saemangum ‘ s size and strategic location. But the greatest significance in the long run may be that its success would entail a different, more eco-friendly paradigm of development, and a new pattern of combining small or medium-sized cities with adjacent agricultural and fishing countryside. I offer these cursory remarks only as an example of the ongoing development and diversification in South Korea ‘ s discourse of Northeast Asia. I personally feel a strong interest in the Yellow Sea Community, for I believe the growing weight of this particular area as potentially the largest global center of economic activity is a foregone conclusion (short of a nuclear war originating in the Korean Peninsula): the real issue is whether we shall see the renewed domination of the Yellow Sea by China in alliance with global capital, or a genuine community with more or less equal participation by various national, local and individual groups. But this particular regional combination, I repeat, need not and should not exclude other regional frameworks that might serve the real interests of humanity and the regional population. □  Some information in English is available at the website of Changbi Publishers, Inc., www.changbi.com/english ; see also at the same site Kim Yeong-hui, “Doing a Literary Journal in a Divided Country,” a presentation at the 2000 Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Conference on ‘Transitional Era, Transformative Work’, Fukuoka, Japan, December 1, 2000 ( http://www.changbi.com/english/related/related12_1.asp ).  The term itself has become much less fashionable since the disappearance of the ‘ Second World ‘ , but the ‘ Third World perspective ‘ that Changbi espoused has retained its relevance even in the discourse of the new century. For the ‘ Third World ‘ , as I observed in an essay published in the Autumn 1979 issue of Creation and Criticism , was “ not so much a word to divide the world into three, as one whose true significance lies in the aim to see the world as a single whole, but to see it thus not from the point of view of the rich and powerful of the First or the Second World but from that of ordinary people. ” ( “ Chesam segye wa minjung munhak [The Third World and people ' s literature] ” )  A brief explication of these notions are found in my “Coloniality in Korea and a South Korean project for Overcoming Modernity,” interventions Vol. 2 No. 1, 2000 (London); available also as ‘Related Material’ at www.changbi.com/english . On the notion of a ‘non-nationalist national literature’, see also Paik Nak-chung, “Nations and Literatures in the Age of Globalization,” in Fredric Jameson and Masao Miyoshi, eds., The Cultures of Globalization (Duke University Press 1998).  The first concentrated effort was the feature ‘ East Asia in the World: Searching for New Solidarities ‘ in the Spring 1993 issue, which included a translation with the author ‘ s new postscript of Arif Dirlik ‘ s “ The Asia-Pacific Idea: Reality and Representation in the Invention of a Regional Structure ” (first published in Journal of World History , Vol. 3 No. 1, Spring 1990).  ‘ Northeast Asia ‘ obviously would be less of a problem in this regard. At any rate, the Japanese historian and intellectual Haruki Wada was one of the first in the region to propose a ‘ Common House of Northeast Asia ‘ , discussing it in the pages of the Changbi quarterly as early as the Spring 1995 issue and recently presenting his ideas in book form (Wada Haruki, Tohoku azia no kodo no ie [The Common House of Northeast Asia], Tokyo: Heibunsha, 2003).  Choe Wonsik [Choi Won-shik], “ T ‘ alnaengj? n sidae wa tong ‘ asiaj ?k sigak ? i mosaek [The post-Cold War era and the search for an East Asian perspective] ” , Ch ‘ angjak kwa pip ‘ y ? ng 79, Spring 1993.  Kim S ?kch’?l, “Saemang?m, honam py?ngya, hwanghae tosi kongdongche [Saemangum, the Honam Plains, the Yellow Sea Urban Community],” Ch’angjak kwa pip’y?ng 121, Autumn 2003. See also his earlier “Saemang?m ?i miraer?l y?n?n saeroun sigak [A new perspective that opens the future of Saemangum],” Ch’angjak kwa pip’y?ng 118, Winter 2002.