By Professor Vladimir Tikhonov (Pak Noja) Institute of East European and Oriental Studies University of Oslo
The tradition of anti-war protest in Korea dates back to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, when the Korean Left began to include 'No to the imperialist war!' slogan in their campaign repertoires. From 1950s and onwards, the idea of 'peaceful unification of Korea' became the center platform for moderate socialist 'reformists'(hyoksin). This ideology, which was linked to demands for 'neutralization' of the peninsula, acquired sufficiently broad appeal that it was later even appropriated by conservative liberals such as Kim Daejung, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former president of Korea. As appealing as it was to the conservative liberals, the ideology was also embraced by renegade Protestants such as Ham Sokhon, a pioneering Quaker and his followers as well as by some pacifist churches (Jehovah's Witnesses, for example). They waged an uphill battle against the militarized South Korean state by disobeying the conscription and demanding in exchange, an alternate civil service. The state still refuses to grant them this right today. In 2001 and 2002, some socialists, Buddhists and Catholics joined the ranks with the conscientious objectors and this anti-conscription movement has spawned a powerful struggle against the militarized statehood and has become an important cornerstone of the South Korean radical civil movement.
Born in Leningrad (St-Petersburg) in the former USSR (1973), Dr. Vladimir Tikhonov (Korean name - Pak Noja) was educated at St-Petersburg State University (MA:1994) and Moscow State University (Ph.D. in ancient Korean history, 1996). Professor Tikhonov has taught at various institutions, such as KyungHee University (1997-2000) and Oslo University (2000-2006, associate professor) and is now the full professor for Institute of East European and Oriental Studies at University of Oslo (2006). His main field is history of ideas in early modern Korea, with particular attention paid to the Social Darwinist influences in the formative period of Korean nationalism in the 1880s-1910s. His book, Usung yolp'ae ui sinhwa (The Myth of the Survival of the Fittest, 2005) is one of the first monographic studies on the subject. He is also regular contributor to several of South Korean academic and popular journals.
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Sponsor(s): Center for Korean Studies
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