China's Northeast Project is getting worse day after day, deeply affecting Korea. We can't just keep a blind eye on this. We are the only ones who can protect our culture. .......................Ed
On March 23, the Korean-style, creature historical drama, Joseon Kumasa, set during the reign of King Taejong of Joseon, was cancelled due to the controversy over the distortion of history. From the first scene of the drama, Joseon Kumasa portrayed scenes featuring Chinese snack mooncakes and Fidan (Chinese food with duck eggs), which became problematic. Through Weibo, Chinese netizens began supporting the scene, saying it was typical of Korea at that time. While China recently conducted its “Northeast Project,” which entails the process of claiming hanbok, kimchi, and pansori as part of its own culture, Joseon Kumasa provided another excuse.
China’s “Northeast Project,” the center of controversy, is a research project on the history and phenomenon of the northeastern frontier promoted by China since 2002, making all the history within China’s borders, including Goguryeo and Balhae Kingdom, into Chinese history. The ultimate purpose of the Northeast Process is to prevent possible territorial disputes when the Korean Peninsula is reunified by creating history related to the Northeast region, especially Goguryeo and Balhae, a strategic region in China. Thus, China started the Northeast Project to claim sovereignty over Kando. Furthermore, China is pursuing the Northeast Project to detect the possibility of separation and independence of ethnic Koreans living in China with a strong sense of nationality and regression, and to prevent ethnic breakaway and border disputes after inter-Korean reunification.
1. Northeast Project in Clothing
In early November 2020, the 3D-styled Chinese mobile game, ‘Shining Nikki,’ was released in South Korea. Shining Nikki promoted Hanbok as a traditional costume to commemorate its launch, and Chinese users protested strongly, claiming that Hanbok originated from ‘Hanfu’ in China. In response, Shining Nikki’s production company, Paper Games, posted an apology to respect traditional Chinese culture and protect the dignity of the country, and revised Hanbok as traditional Chinese clothes. Later, when Korean users protested, they scrapped the hanbok item a week after it was released, and decided to withdraw from the Korean market suddenly. Moreover, more and more Chinese contents, such as dramas and entertainment programs, are describing Hanbok as part of the Chinese culture.
2. Northeast Project in History
In 2017, the Chinese government promoted Goguryeo as if it were a part of the history of China, stating on the historic site information board of Goguryeo cultural heritage sites in Jian, Jilin Province that “the monument to King Gwanggaeto is a monument of the Chinese people.” The site still describes the monument to King Gwanggaeto in Chinese, English, Japanese, Russian, and even Korean as a cultural heritage of the Chinese people, promoting Goguryeo as part of the history of China to foreigners all over the world. China is also attempting to make Goguryeo, Balhae and even Korea entirely as Chinese history to people around the world through major publishers, textbooks, and websites.
3. Northeast Project in Culture
In 2011, China attempted to list Arirang of ethnic Koreans as China’s intangible cultural heritage, saying, “Since ethnic Koreans are Chinese minorities, and Arirang, a song they sing, is also part of Chinese culture.” In response, the Korean government first applied to register Arirang as UNESCO Heritage in 2012. Eventually, Arirang was listed as an intangible cultural heritage of Korea. However, a recent scene in China’s dance entertainment program, Street Dance of China, in which people wear hanbok-like costumes and perform fan dances to Arirang with Korean lyrics was mentioned as a culture of ethnic Koreans. Furthermore, in the Chinese song contest program, WangKai, performers introduced the Korean children’s song, ‘Bandal’ as a folk song of the ethnic Koreans, and sang it.
4. Northeast Project in Food
L i z z i , a famous Chinese YouTuber with 1 4 m i l l i o n s u b s c r i b e r s , p u b l i s h e d a video titled, ‘Life of Daikon,’ in January. This video showed her making food that looks like kimchi. This dish, which contains salted cabbage and is covered with red marinade, is no doubt kimchi. She even made kimchi stew by using the kimchi she made. She is known as a YouTuber who introduces traditional Chinese culture. Also, the video shows #ChineseCooking with hashtags. In November last year, another Chinese YouTuber, Jeon Seoso, with a concept similar to Lizzi, posted a video of roasting meat and wrapping lettuce on a grill. It has been embroiled in controversy over making Korea’s grilled and ssam culture into Chinese culture.
As such, China has been steadily working to promote the Northeast Project in many ways. If we don’t pay attention and take action, our history could become Chinese history. Despite China’s move, however, the South Korean government has failed to come up with a strong response, and has remained passive. It is necessary to come up with active countermeasures to ensure that our nation’s identity is not shaken. Moreover, for the Northeast Project, all Koreans should unite with one mind to form a national movement. Why don’t we take the time to study our history? We have to keep our eyes open, and prevent it from being taken away from us? It’s more important to know what’s ours than to be angry only for a short while and forget so soon.
Oh Joo-eun (Web Editor)
Kim Yu-jeong (ST Cub-Reporter)