Korea: Definitions of Terrorism

WHEN A FOREIGN PROFESSOR teaching in Seoul referred to two famous Korean patriots as “terrorists” last month, he sparked an angry outcry from students and a heated discussion on the blogosphere – via Global Voices Online.

The London University professor was teaching a summer session at Korea University, and received a backlash when he referred to Yoon Bong-Gil and Kim Gu (both of whom attempted to assassinate the Emperor of Japan during the Japanese occupation of Korea) as terrorists. They are largely regarded as heroes of the Korean resistance movement, though there is some debate even among Koreans.

Richard over at The Marmot’s Hole has issued a pretty thorough report, translating material from a JoonAng Daily article [Kr].

From GVO’s snapshot of the Korean blogosphere reactions, most resent the comparison between the martyrs of the Korean resistance movement and those who took innocent lives on September 11. Korean bloggers also point out that those who took part in the French Resistance, a violent reaction against Nazi occupation, were never deemed terrorists.

The foreign professor has defended his remarks, saying that there was no other appropriate term for the armed resistance movement [MH].

This seems like a load to me – what the hell do we call the American revolutionaries? Not only that, but the professor should well have considered the current political context before using the word “terrorist.” Surely he cannot have been so foolish as to expect that when employing that heavily-loaded term for the purpose of historical analysis that students would not assume he was making an association between the those who kidnap and kill innocent people and those who have fought against brutal foreign occupiers.

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1 Response to “Korea: Definitions of Terrorism”


  1. 1 jonolan August 15, 2007 at 12:14 pm

    I think we need a solid definition for “terrorist”.

    IMHO Yoon Bong-Gil and Kim Gu weren’tterrorists; they didn’t sow terror or attack civilians. They just tried to blow military and government personnel.


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