Confucius is the 'father' of Northeast Asia.

by on Thursday, 08 November 2007 Comments
Confucius’ teachings and ideograms link North-East Asians together.
Confucian thought is an integral part of the culture of Northeast Asian countries. Studying modern Korean literature requires knowing Chinese classical literature and understanding its influence on Korean literature. Borum, doing a Master degree in Korean philosophy at the Academy of Korean Studies, and who has been learning classical Chinese for many years, said Confucianism is still rooted in Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and even, to a certain extent, in Vietnam.
More than a merely academic trend, Confucianism has deeply influenced thought and life in North-East Asia, creating strong ties between the people of these countries. One can find similarities in their ways of thinking and living, and in their education. “I particularly noticed it when I was living in Taiwan for eleven months, two years ago. The Taiwanese, like Koreans, value familial piety….”
Studying Mandarin at National Taiwan University during her stay in Taiwan helped her realize another important point linking North Asians. “Chinese characters are the root of the Korean and Japanese alphabets. Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Taiwanese people write with ideograms, a unique system in the world which also separates us from the rest of Asia. I found it easy to adapt to the culture and life style of Taiwanese, but I believe it would have been quite different in a Southeast Asian country”.

Asia does not need one Union, but several according to the different area cultures. Borum says that she started to cheer any Asian team who is competing at the Olympics and this cultural identification to other part of Asia than only the Northern one broadened her way of thinking. “I realized how narrow my vision of Asia used to be: a combination of Japan, China, Taiwan and Korea. There were neither Arabian countries nor Southeast Asian countries in my concept of Asia”. When Western people define ‘Asia’, they draw the borders of a geographical area and fail to consider the cultural differences among Asians. Borum refutes this, saying, “I cannot see much similarity between Japanese and Indians except that they both have a craze for rice”.
Although she thinks it is essential for Asians to be more united, she feels Asia could be split into five regions, respecting the cultural differences between the different areas in Asia: an Arabian Union, a Southern Himalayan Union, Indo-China, a Union of different Islands and a China-Korea-Japan-Taiwan Union. “The population of Asia is almost 5 times that of Europe. These divisions are already large enough for us,” she explains.
In her vision of a more united Asia, she thinks that these geographically and culturally integrated unions would cooperate more easily.

South Korea could set a political example for the Asian Union.
However, on the international scene she still feels that Asian countries need greater economic cooperation. “Although South Korea, is a strong local economy, the country is too small to face the European Union and NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) alone. International relations always follow national interest and for a country like South Korea which has a limited domestic market, international trade is an important concern.” Further cooperation within an Asian Union would also facilitate access to the natural resources that South Korea needs. Even so, Borum is resistant to the idea of cooperating with countries such as China which do not respect human rights and which exploit poorer Asian countries.

Politically, Korea sets a very good example for the political construction of an Asian Union. “If you consider the short history of democracy and the adversities of the Japanese invasion, the Korean War and the division of the Korean peninsula, Korea’s current political development is a miracle. As a result of struggling against military dictatorship for 25 years, South Korea has become the most liberal country in Asia. We even have diplomatic relations with North Korea”. Hence, she thinks South Korea’s contribution to the Asian process could be to provide a model for Asians to accept more cultural and racial diversities. “One of the reasons why the film industry in South Korea has thrived is South Korea’s political openness”, she says.
Since the end of WW2 South Korea has been isolated culturally from the rest of Asia by the geographic barrier of North Korea. But now there are more and more Chinese and Vietnamese migrants, workers and wives coming. “It is an opportunity for South Koreans to open further their relatively traditional culture”.

Reuniting South Korea and North Korea is a national priority.
The Korean peninsula is split into two entities, “two countries with two identities”, and this separation is a primary concern for South Koreans. “I do not think the construction of an Asian Union would help us to reunite, because we feel other strong Asian powers such as Japan or China would not let it happen, unless it would obviously benefit them. Right now, the close relationship between China and North Korea threatens South Korea. I think the FTA negotiations should be the main issue of the South Korean government. They are more important than the construction of an Asian Union.” An amicable solution to the problem would also remove an obstacle to peace within the North Asia area.

Borum’s vision for the future of Asia:
“I think Asia should not be limited to a single union. China and India are already big markets. Twenty years from now, I hope there will be several unions in Asia, reflecting their cultural and linguistic families. I also hope that the union which includes Korea will include ONE Korea. Most of all, above economic concerns, I hope the unions will provide food and basic medical treatment for all their people.”

Transcript by Aurelie Kernaleguen

Borum Kim

Borum is doing a Master degree in Korean philosophy at the Academy of Korean Studies.\n"I am a student who is learning old wisdom and trying to renew what I have learned for tomorrow." (Borum)


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