|by Kim Hyung-jin
|September 13, 2006
SEOUL, Sept. 13 (Yonhap) --
China's distortion of Korea's ancient history is key to its
moves to boost its historical claims over neighboring countries
and ethnic minority groups on its soil, steps critics say are
linked to Beijing's regional hegemonism.
Earlier this month, South Korea's drawn-out disputes with China
flared again when a state-run Chinese research institute
disclosed several theses claiming almost all of Korea's ancient
kingdoms, which straddled in the northeastern Chinese region of
Manchuria and the northern part of the peninsula, as China's
The disclosures immediately angered many South Koreans since
they violated a 2004 accord in which the two nations pledged to
ease the history row.
Beijing's Foreign Ministry said the research papers didn't
reflect its government's position, but critics accused China of
revealing its ambition to become a hegemonic power by "snatching
away" the history of other countries.
The Chinese moves "not only steal our historical sovereignty but
also pose a serious threat to a peace in Northeast Asia," a
group of history study groups in South Korea said in a joint
statement issued on Wednesday.
"We all have to unite and protect at any cost our history that
our ancestors and martyrs have defended by sacrificing their
lives," it said.
Media reports and analysts point out that China also triggered
similar history disputes with neighboring countries such as
Vietnam and Mongolia and took a series of steps to deny the
"independent" histories of its autonomous regions of Tibet,
Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia, where separatist sentiments have
In 1986, China's former leader Deng Xiaoping ordered a research
program to be launched to strengthen its control of Tibet, a
contested border region that once flourished as an independent
kingdom from the 7th to the 13th centuries and came under
communist Chinese rule in 1950.
The research program later produced theses that deleted Tibet's
8th-century history, when its kingdom grew to be a dominant
force in Central Asia and reached the capital of China's Ming
China also carried out a similar academic program to incorporate
the history of the Muslim Uighurs in the western region of
Xinjiang, which was ruled sporadically by local leaders while
being successively subject to rule by Tibetans, Uighurs, Arabs
International human rights groups have reported widespread human
rights violations of imams and ordinary people in Xinjiang every
year, but the suppression intensified in recent years in the
name of cracking down on terrorism. The province is traversed by
the Silk Road.
China's history distortion has also been directed against
Mongolia and Vietnam.
In 1995, China put out a three-volume publication arguing that
Mongolia's territory is part of China, drawing an angry response
from Ulan Bator. Beijing also repeatedly insisted that Nam Viet,
an ancient kingdom encompassing southern China founded in 208
BC, was its provincial government, while Hanoi believes the
kingdom was the root of the Vietnamese people.
"China is seriously challenging Japan's reputation as Asia's
champion for revising historical and territorial truths," the
English-language Korea Times in Seoul said in an editorial last
"It's regrettable that Asia is running in the opposite direction
of Europe, which is seeking unity in diversity."
The paper also said the Chinese
distortion of Korea's history is aimed at blocking possible
Korean claims to Manchuria after its reunification, or the
collapse of North Korea, which is expected to cause a flood of
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun expressed regret over the
issue during a meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on the
sidelines of an EU-Asia summit in Helsinki earlier this week.
However, calls for the government to react more strongly emerged
as China was found to have allowed schools to use history
textbooks containing distortions of Korea's ancient history
starting from this semester. China also took a series of steps
solidifying its historical claim over Mount Paekdu, the highest
peak on the Korean Peninsula, nearly half of which belongs to
the Chinese territories.
Kim Moon-soo, a third-term lawmaker with the main opposition
Grand National Party, called on South Korea to take joint steps
with other Asian countries to cope with the Chinese moves.
"International cooperation with China's neighbors is necessary
for us to deal with its efforts to twist history," Kim said in a
recent media interview. "I believe other regions, such as Tibet,
Vietnam, Cambodia and Mongolia, have the potential to join us
and refute this Sinocentric world view."