A Proposal for Historical Reconciliation: The “Dokdo Movement” of Korean Americans in the Washington Area
Institute for Korean Historical Studies
Bongseok Han was a Reconciliation Fellow in 2011. He is currently enrolled in a Ph. D program at Sung kyun kwan University in South Korea. Since 2007, he has been working as a researcher at the Institute for Korean Historical Studies, one of the most important research associations in contemporary Korean history studies. From 2008-2009, he was also a visiting researcher at the Korean-American Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).
His research interests focus primarily on the cultural relationship between American aid and Korean society, with special attention paid to aid, youth culture, and youth identity. The subject of his Master’s thesis was “The Investigation of the Correlations among ‘Community Development Program’ – America’s Aid to Asia, Formation of Korean Agricultural Culture and Formation of Citizenship.” Following his thesis, Mr. Han went on to investigate the understanding of the 4H Club, one of the series of movements supported by the United States in the 1950s supporting the growth of citizenship of the youth in farming and democracy. Such an interest in the youth was expanded to the areas of North Korea, which, at the time, was connected to the investigation of the nationalization process of the North Korean youth through Joseon Boy Scouts activities since the liberation in 1945.
During his Harry & Helen Gray/AICGS Reconciliation fellowship, Mr. Han will study territorial nationalism focusing on the diverse ‘Dokdo Debates.’ The current issue of Dokdo is not restricted to political issues between Korea and Japan. It also covers the more general discussions and struggles, transforming it into a ‘cultural’ domain that should include relations among many ethnicities overseas, in addition to Korea and Japan. Therefore, it is thought that the resolution to the problem should be sought through the interpretation of the cultural backgrounds of individuals taking actions, rather than from the political aspect. The results of Mr. Han’s research will prove helpful to the next steps for “Reconciliation” between Korea, Japan, and others.
Watching the daily lives of Korean Americans, one thing stands out: the way they live. Korean Americans are distinct, from the wrapping paper they use at dry cleaners, their supermarkets, their senior citizens associations, Korean restaurants, or even the inside of their cars. The reason for Korean Americans’ distinction is Dokdo, a small group of islets between Korea and Japan. Wherever there are Korean Americans you will find objects or people related to Dokdo. That does not mean, however, that Korean Americans are obsessed with it …