The Korea Herald


Scholars’ foray to discover ‘non-killing’ culture in Korea

By Claire Lee

Published : April 6, 2012 - 18:15

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Nonkilling Korea: Six Culture Exploration

Edited by Glenn D. Paige and Ahn Chung-si

Seoul National University Press

To those used to studying the turbulent modern Korean history, which consists of war, division and an ongoing ideological dispute, the term “non-killing Korea” may not ring a bell at first.

But the latest book published by the Seoul National University, “Nonkilling Korea: Six Culture Exploration” is what the unfamiliar term is all about: It seeks to discover “nonkilling” or non-violent cultural values in South Korea, as well as in the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.

“Nonkilling Korea can be envisioned as a unified society in which no Koreans kill other Koreans, no foreigners kill Koreans and no Koreans are sent abroad to kill foreigners,” writes the book’s editor Glenn D. Paige.

“Society is characterized by an absence of weapons specifically designed to kill and absence of ideological justifications for killing.”

The scholarly articles featured in this book were presented during the “Nonkilling Korea: Six Culture Exploratory Seminar” which was held at the Hoam Faculty House of Seoul National University in August of 2010. During the event, each participating scholar shared their views and research findings on non-killing customs and culture in the country of their origin.

According to the book, Koreans have suffered from killing “within and from invasion by Han Chinese, Mongols, Manchus, Japanese, Americans, Russians and others” over the centuries, while the United States have a “lethal legacy” of killing from its early history ― especially during their battles with the aboriginal peoples, the American Revolution and Civil War. Meanwhile, killing contributed to the formation of China’s current and ancient kingdoms, from the establishment of the Qin Dynasty (221- 207 B.C.) and Mao Zedong’s proclamation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The book also explores killings in Japan, delving into the country’s involvement in World War II, its colonization of Korea and other Asian countries in the 20th century.

In spite of the violent history of the states, however, the book offers a hopeful vision ― claiming that nonkilling states are in fact achievable. “Gandhi said in order to be nonviolent in any meaningful sense you had to be capable of violence, and renounce it,” writes Michael N. Nagler and Stephanie N. Van Hook, in their article titled “From Nonkilling to Beloved Community: Can America Help?”

“Time and time again, we have seen that the violent can undergo conversion to nonviolence by a logic that surprises the uninitiated. … School personnel have consistently found the greatest troublemakers become the best mediators.”

“What is the basis for confidence that a killing-free Korea is ultimately possible?” writes Paige. “Basic confidence resides in a simple fact. Most Koreans, Americans, Chinese, Japanese and Russians have never killed anyone. Present populations of the six cultures testify to the dominance of nonkilling over killing within them. If humans are killers by nature, parents and children would have killed each other and extinguished human life on the planet long ago.”

Among the featured articles, scholar Kang Jang-seok’s article titled “Spiritual and Practical Assets of Korean Nonviolence” offers an interesting overview on Korea’s history of nonviolence, exploring the 1919 March 1st Independence Movement, which is considered as one of the significant non-violent resistance against the Japanese. Russian scholar Tatiana Yakushkina explores the evolution of the idea of nonkilling in Russian culture, while Dahua Tang examines whether “peaceful nonkilling” China is possible.

This book is co-edited by scholars Paige and Ahn Chung-si. Paige is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Hawaii, and chair for Global Nonkilling, Honolulu, and author of “Nonkilling Global Political Science.”

Ahn currently serves as professor emeritus of political science at Seoul National University, and is the author of “Social Development and Political Violence.”