Archaeologies

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 304–339 | Cite as

The Nationalistic Trend in South Korean Archaeology: Documenting the Development of a Unilinear Evolutionary Trajectory of a Homogeneous Korean Peoples

Research

Abstract

This article aims to trace historical process of nationalism becoming embedded in general evolutionism in South Korean archaeology. The mindset sedimented in South Korean archaeologists is that all groups and polities in prehistoric and proto-historic Korea must be incorporated into a unilinear evolutionary stage model as a single people. Since 1945, South Korean archaeologists have endeavoured to establish the ethnic origin of this people, along with the timeline of Korean prehistory in order to reconstruct the unilinear independent history of the homogenous nation. By adopting periodization systems created in Western archaeology—such as the Three Age System and neo-evolutionism—leading South Korean archaeologists have attempted to objectify their irrational ideological idea of homogeneity and a unilinear evolutionary process. Even today, periodization itself is a very important issue in Korea, because it is not easy to combine the internal development pattern with the impact of external cultural traits diffused from China and incorporate various contemporary groups with different development levels into a single stage. These issues cause severe disputes; South Korean archaeologists, however, fail to offer an adequate solution, instead deepening the contradictions entailed in a unified timeline model, because they cannot change the fundamental premise of South Korean archaeology, namely the homogenous Korean nation formed in the Bronze Age. Moreover, these disputes rather prevent the application of a multi-evolutionary process model based on the political economy approach to the prehistoric and ancient Korean cases.

Key Words

South Korean archaeology Periodization Homogenous Korean peoples Nationalism 

Résumé

Le présent article tente de retracer le processus par lequel le nationalisme s’est immiscé dans l’évolutionnisme général de l’archéologie en Corée du Sud. Les archéologues sud-coréens sont convaincus que tous les groupes et entités politiques de la Corée préhistorique et protohistorique doivent être intégrés à un modèle évolutif unilinéaire en tant que peuple unique. Depuis 1945, des archéologues sud-coréens tentent de déterminer l’origine ethnique de ce peuple ainsi que la chronologie de la préhistoire coréenne, afin de reconstruire l’historique unilinéaire indépendant de la nation homogène. En adoptant les systèmes de périodisation de l’archéologie occidentale, dont le système des trois âges et le néo-évolutionnisme, les plus grands archéologues de Corée du Sud ont tenté d’objectiver leur idéologie irrationnelle de l’homogénéité, ainsi qu’un processus d’évolution unilinéaire. La périodisation représente toujours un enjeu très important en Corée, car combiner le modèle de développement interne aux incidences des caractéristiques culturelles internes diffusées de la Chine n’est pas une mince tâche, pas plus que l’intégration de divers groupes contemporains et différents niveaux de développement en une phase unique. Les enjeux provoquent des disputes graves; les archéologues sud-coréens sont toutefois incapables d’offrir une solution adéquate. Ils approfondissent plutôt les contradictions concernées en les intégrant à un modèle chronologique unifié, car ils ne peuvent pas modifier le postulat fondamental de l’archéologie sud-coréenne, soit celui d’une nation coréenne homogène formée à l’âge de Bronze. Qui plus est, lesdites disputes interfèrent avec l’application d’un modèle multiévolutionnaire fondé sur l’approche de l’économie politique aux cas de la Corée préhistorique et ancienne.

Resumen

El presente artículo tiene como objetivo rastrear el proceso histórico del nacionalismo que se ha ido incrustando en el evolucionismo general en la arqueología surcoreana. La mentalidad sedimentada en los arqueólogos surcoreanos es que todos los grupos y sistemas de gobierno en la Corea prehistórica y protohistórica deben ser incorporados a un modelo unilineal de etapa evolutiva como un solo pueblo. Desde 1945, los arqueólogos surcoreanos han tratado de establecer el origen étnico de este pueblo, junto con la línea de tiempo de la prehistoria coreana con el fin de reconstruir la historia independiente unilineal de la nación homogénea. Al adoptar sistemas de periodización creados en la arqueología occidental - tales como el Sistema de la Tercera Edad y el Neoevolucionismo - destacados arqueólogos surcoreanos han tratado de objetivar su irracional idea ideológica de homogeneidad y un proceso evolutivo unilineal. Incluso hoy, la propia periodización es una cuestión muy importante en Corea, porque no es fácil combinar el patrón de desarrollo interno con el impacto de particularidades culturales externas difundidas por China e incorporar diversos grupos contemporáneos con diferentes niveles de desarrollo en una sola etapa. Estas cuestiones causan serias disputas; los arqueólogos surcoreanos, sin embargo, no logran ofrecer una solución adecuada, en lugar de profundizar las contradicciones que conlleva un modelo de línea de tiempo unificado, porque no pueden cambiar la premisa fundamental de la arqueología surcoreana, a saber la homogénea nación coreana formada en la Edad del Bronce. Asimismo, estas disputas más bien evitan la aplicación de un modelo de proceso multievolutivo basado en el enfoque de la economía política con respecto a los casos prehistóricos y antiguos coreanos.

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Copyright information

© World Archaeological Congress 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistorySungkyunkwan UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea
  2. 2.Sunkyunkwan University MuseumSeoulRepublic of Korea

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