History means a lot in East Asian international politics. Past histories that are related to ongoing issues are reinterpreted, revised and debated among countries. The most prominent topic in the region involves the controversies between Japan and countries that were colonized or occupied by the Japanese Empire. Regarding this issue, China and South Korea are on the same boat. In 2014, for example, China built a memorial for An Jung Gun, a Korean independence activist who assassinated Ito Hirobumi, then Prime Minister of the Empire of Japan, in Harbin at Korean President Park Geun-hye’s request.
As two neighboring countries, however, China and Korea also have their own history issues. In the 2000s, the Sino-Korean relationship was soured by the history debates over an ancient kingdom in Northeast Asia, Goguryeo. In the Northeast Project, a Chinese government-sponsored research project that was launched in 2002, a group of Chinese historians revised the ancient history of the northeast regions of contemporary China. One notable revision was the inclusion of Goguryeo in Chinese history. Goguryeo was an ancient kingdom which occupied the Northern regions of the Korean Peninsula and Manchuria between B.C. 37 and A.D. 668. Before this revision, the kingdom was generally regarded as a part of ancient Korean history. However, the project rejected this conventional wisdom and defined the kingdom as a local Chinese ethnic regime. Moreover, the Chinese government registered the remains of Goguryeo as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2004, and the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ official website deleted the Goguryeo entry from its pages on Korean history in the same year. (more…)Continue Reading →