The use “chunghung”

Does anyone have any thought or evidence on whether the use of chunghung (restoration/renovation/rejuvenation) during the Park Chung Hee years was generic or deliberate in an historicized way?

I refer specifically to the evocation of the term in the slogan “minjok chunghung” (national restoration) and the use in “munye chunghung (culture and art renovation) 5 year plan.”

I am wondering if it is possible to consider whether the use of the term chunghung was purposefully designed to evoke its deep Chinese/Confucian connection. Mary Wright’s book on the T’ung Chih Restoration (The Last Stand of Chinese Conservatism) provides a good chapter on the term’s significance in Chinese dynastic history. Andre Schmid’s Korea Between Empires has two mentions of the use of chunghung to refer to Kojong’s efforts with the Taehan jeguk (Kojong chunghung?). Bruce Cumings mentioned in a manuscript review that minjok chunghung was a term that has colonial origins (although by who and in what source I am not sure).

In an earlier brief discussion on the Korean Studies Discussion List on the term “yusin,” Prof. Ledyard talked about the Chinese/Confucian roots of that term and speculated that Park Chung Hee was very possibly aware and deliberately used the term with that connection in mind. Vladimir Tikhonov in the same discussion speculated that Park’s educational advisor Park Chong-hong would have known that historical significance and would have been in a position to advise PCH and that the evocation of the term/concept embedded in Chinese imperial ideology was “hardly accidental.”

I wonder if we can make a similar inference about chunghung. Better yet, does anyone have any evidence that can take us beyond speculation.

Jiyul Kim

1 Comment

  1. Two helpful substantive comments from Gari Ledyard and Micahel Robinson on this question from the Korean Studies Discussion List:

    Ledyard: As noted by Jiyul Kim, the term goes far back in
    history, with a career much like which was discussed here a
    few months ago. They also share some connotations. Whereas yusin
    suggests reform and the re-establishment of legitimacy, chunghUng
    implies revival and a restoration of spirit or prosperity, which
    comes especially from the second character, hUng– start up, rise,
    increase, prosper, etc. The first character, chung, is the common
    character for “middle,” but that is the sense only when read in
    classical Chinese in the so-called “level” tone; in this compound
    it is usually glossed in Chinese texts in the “departing” tone, and
    has the meaning (among others) of “second” in a group of three or
    four, or “repeat,” or “again.” The basic idea of the compound is
    “prosperity once more,” or, to go at it with an etymological
    calque, “a reprospering.” (Of course, Sino-Korean readings don’t
    have any tones when spoken, but if one’s education involved Chinese
    poetry, as it did for many, one had to know the tones in order to
    write or parse the poem correctly.)
    is not as obscure or arcane as some of the postings
    seem to reflect. It’s in three ordinary pocket dictionaries within
    reach as I write; and though I wouldn’t say it’s any longer an
    everyday word in Korean, I’ve seen it in ordinary newspaper or
    magazine articles where it was used without the writer feeling that
    it needed to be explained. Any decently educated Korean who read
    literary or even general magazines in the 30s and 40s would have
    been familiar with it, or readily grasped its meaning from the
    characters– which of course wouldn’t be the case today. When Park
    Chung Hee was a young man it hardly required a classical or
    Confucian education to be capable of understanding it. We don’t
    have to imagine him having to depend on old wizened scholars to
    know what it meant, and suggesting as much would be to unwisely
    underestimate him. Thus I suspect he used the term well aware of
    its historical meaning, and also in the belief that most literate
    people in Korean society (a very large number indeed) would
    understand exactly what he meant.
    As for an expression like “Kojong chunghUng,” it would have been
    impossible while Kojong was alive, since “Kojong” was his
    posthumous designation, not decided upon until after his death in
    1919. “Kwangmu chunghUng,” using his year title for the years
    1897-1907, could probably be found in the journalism of that
    decade. In saying that the phrase “minjok chunghUng” originated in
    the colonial period, Bruce Cumings surely referred to the use of
    the term with “minjok,” which itself came into Korean only in the
    early colonial period or just before.

    Gari Ledyard

    Robinson: Thanks to Gari for once again providing us with a great summary on this term. I have nothing to add on the historical derivations of these terms, but would like to note that the terms must surely be understood in their contemporary context. As Gari points out these are in everyday use. Park Chung Hee used a number of terms that could be linked to long historical useage within Confucianism or otherwise, but it was what he made of them that was important. From the mid-1960s onward he gave a number of speeches and the press followed his comments in detail with a vast amount of comentary…..they also printed the government’s own elaboration of his development ideology ad nausium. It seems to me there was no mistaking where he was going with these terms at the level of the general public. I particularly remember the great jokes and send ups on the propaganda that revolved around the saemaul undong and all the uisik it demanded. These jokes were sophisticated play with all the meanings possible within the termenology. It within this discursive context that the terms continue to live, and quite possibly continue to morph as they are re-deployed. One might only consider the American English example of how the useage of “liberal/liberalism” has changed over the last generation.

    Mike Robinson

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