Asian anarchism in western languages (3): Korea

Suggested reading list from Libero International.

Submitted by Spartacus on February 18, 2011


  • Chong-sik Lee: The Politics of Korean Nationalism (Univ of California Press, 1963), DeDetailed account of the anti-Japan struggle from the late 19th century to 1945, suggesting that nationalism permeated the thinking of communists and anarchists, creating a very negative -kind of movement. Three chapters (9- 11) on practical activities in China between 1919 and 1945 mention the anarchists briefly, but the main focus is on the right-wing and "pure" nationalists who occupied the center of the stage.
  • Nym Wales and Kim San: Song of Ariran, A Korean Communist in the Chinese Revolution (Ramparts Press, 1972), $2.95. Exciting first-hand account of one Korean revolutionary's passage from pure nationalism, through terroristic "anarchism," into putschism at the command of the Chinese Communist Party, and finally, dissillusioned with all the bloodshed, to a more fundamental understanding: "To be in advance of your time does not qualify you for leadership but only for propaganda work and criticism."
  • Robert A. Scalapino and Chong-sik Lee: "The Origins of the Korean Communist Movement," (Journal of Asian Studies XX/1 (Nov. 1960), pp. 9-31, XX/2 (Feb. 1961), pp. 149-67. Mainly useful as background material, showing the birth of the radical movement amid the nationalistic reaction to Japanese annexation in 1910.
  • --------: Communism in Korea (Univ of California Press, 1972, 2 vols.) Tersely-documented, unbelievably detailed, almost readable study. A careful sifting-through will reveal important information on the anarchists, but mainly useful, like the article, for background. Volume 1 is on the pre-1948 movement, volume 2 on north Korea. Highly unsympathetic to anything "un-American."
  • Dae-sook Suh: The Korean Communist Movement, 1918-1948 (Princeton University Press 1967). Not seen. Vaguely sympathetic academic study. Lots of good background again.
  • ------: Documents on Korean Communism, 1918-1948 (Princeton University Press, 1970). Companion to above item, not seen.
  • "The Pre-War Korean Communist Movement" (Libero International No.1, pp.28-30, No.2, pp.32-33). A chronology.
  • "The Present Korean Movement Under Martial Law" (Libero International No. 1, pp.32-40, No.2, pp.38-45). On the organizations set up by the anarchists to cope with the repression of Park Chung Hee's regime. -Part 2 describes current publications.
  • "The Post-War Korean Anarchist Movement" (Libero Int'l No.3, pp.24-28, and cont. in this issue.)
  • "Shin Chae-ho" (Libero Int 1, No.2, pp.34-37). Biography of a well-known anarchist historian.
  • Pearl Buck: The Living Reed (London, Pan, 1963). Well-written and moving historical novel following the fortunes of a liberal Korean aristocrat and his revolutionary son from the late 19th century to the American invasion in 1945. Hero is based on Kim San. Great until the last 100 pages or so, when the all-American anti-communism gets a bit too strong. Climax sees the revolutionary committing suicide in protest at American illiberalism and his brother becoming keeper of LIN cemetery after the civil war. Still, it's a good book with thoroughly researched background.

    As can be seen, there is (to our knowledge, anyway) simply nothing dealing specifically with the anarchist movement itself except the pieces in LI. While the Korean movement has had its historian, in the person of Lee Jung Kyu (LI 1, 2), the problem of translation has kept him almost completely unknown outside Korea. However, much of the information in LI is taken either from conversations with Lee or from his memoirs, published in Seoul, in 1974.

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