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Contending “Revolutionary Traditions”: Reconstruction of National Liberation Movement History in the Early North Korean History Academia

Soo-Ryong Jo 1

1국사편찬위원회

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This study investigates the process of establishing Kim Il-Sung’s anti-Japanese armed struggle as so-called Monolithic Revolutionary Tradition (Yuil hyŏngmyŏngjŏnt’ong) inside the early North Korean history academia. In particular, this study pays close attention to multiple modes of understanding of national liberation movement history, which were excluded or abandoned in the aforementioned process, rather than to the mythification of Kim Il-Sung’s anti-Japanese movement. In early historical narratives that were shared inside the history academia, led by Choi Chang-ik and Lee Cheong-won, multiple versions of “revolutionary tradition” were recognized such as the Korean Communist Party and the Korean Independence League (Chosŏn dongniptongmaeng), in addition to Kim Il-Sung’s anti-Japanese armed struggle. Be that as it may, historical perception of these multiple traditions were by no means liberal from contemporary realpolitik as they granted legitimacy to Kim Il-Sung’s struggle. This point becomes more evident in comparison to the description of exiles such as Lee Sang-jo and Kim Seung-hwa, who fled to the Soviet Union. Once sided with Choi Chang-ik in the anti-Kim Il-Sung movement in 1956, both Lee Sang-jo and Kim Seung-hwa not only criticized harshly the errors and limitations of Kim Il-Sung’s armed struggle but also degraded it as one of multiple national liberation movements in their articles published after defecting to the Soviet Union. In sum, this study suggests that the disparity in perceiving national liberation movement history among the North Korean history academia before the establishment of MRT was much more fundamental than previously estimated.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.