Poland for Koreans

webpage constructed (2012.3.1)



    Poland is a country in eastern Europe surrounded by Sweden (once strong country), Russia, Austria (once strong country), and Germany. The country's environment is very similar to that of Korea. Foreign powers came in and ran the country to satisfy themselves. Yet, the people of Poland took advantage of the those foreign influences in order to maintain their own identity and to develop their own talents. They are like Koreans. How and when I became interested in Poland?

While I was studying in the United Sates (1954-61), there were no Korean newspapers available to Korean students. Yet, I was fortunate enough to receive two copies of the Sasangge magazine (from two different sources) every month.

    The editor of this magazine was Chang Chun-Ha. Chang was drafted to the Japanese army while studying in Tokyo, and was sent to China. He was the leader of a group of Koreans who ran away from their Japanese unit to join the Korean provisional government. Upon hearing this news, the United States decided to supply light arms (carbines and hand grenades) to the guerilla unit organized by the provisional government headed by Kim Koo. However, Japan surrendered before they were deployed to Korea.

    After coming back to Korea, he organized a magazine called Sasangge. This magazine served as the forum for the ideas for Korea's form of government. Park Chung-Hee confessed that he was able to formulate his political ideology based on the articles published in this magazine.

    In 1962, Mr. Chang received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts.

  • It was 1959. The magazine printed a short novel written by a Polish writer named Marek Hlasko (pronounced as Huwasko). Its title was "The Eighth Day of the Week." He talks about the environment of Warsaw under the Polish communist regime in the 1950s.

    The theme was very simple. A young man and a young women love each other. They are looking for a place to make an active love. They spend one full week to find a suitable place with privacy, but they fail. By writing this simple story, Hlasko visits every corner of Warsaw, and describes vividly how hopeless things are.

    Hlasko wrote this story in 1957 when he was 23 years old. The story became popular in Poland. It then became the best seller in the Western world. Wladyslaw Gomulka was the boss of the Polish communist party then. Thanks to this best seller, Gomulka thought Poland would earn a respect from from the Western world. He then ordered to make a movie based on this story.

    After seeing the movie, he became angry at the author, and Hlasko lost much of his freedom in Poland. He exiled himself to Paris and died in Germany in 1969. He killed himself.

    This story became very popular in Korea because it tells how unhappy people were in the communist world. But it was more so because the situation in Korea was exactly the same as that no-outlet box in Warsaw so vividly described by Hlasko. I think this story served as a catalyst for the 4.19 revolution in 1960.


  • Even before reading the Hlasko story, I was wondering about Poland from my childhood. The story of Maria Curie was fascinating, and Chopin's piano music is popular among all Koreans. Here is my page for Chopin's graves. His body was buried in Paris, while his heart was entombed on the wall of the Church of Holy Cross in Warsaw.

    After reading Hlasko's story from the Sasangge, I became intensely interested in Poland. Here are some of my findings.

    1. Poland had been occupied by three different foreign powers, namely Russia, Prussia, and Austria. It was a divided country for 125 years until the end of World War I. We all hope that the division of Korea would not last this long.

    2. Koreans talk about Woodrow Wilson in connection with Korea's 3.1 independence movement. In his 14-point plan, Wilson mentioned Poland, but Korea. Why did Wilson support Poland while abandoning Korea?

    3. You all have read a Christian-oriented novel entitled Quo Vadis. If not, you must have seen the movie with the same title. Do you know who wrote the story? It was written by Henryk Sienkiewicz of Poland. For this work, he received the 1905 Nobel prize in literature. Sienkiewicz was a very important person to me and could be to many other Koreans. I therefore constructed a webpage for him. Go to

    4. In 1980, I was invited by two Polish ladies to go to a play at one of the theaters in Washington. The play was about two Polish men who immigrated to Paris and share the same room in Paris. During the play, they constantly argue but find no common grounds on any issues. I found it interesting because they were like Koreans.

      One of the ladies asked me whether I learned anything new about Poland from this play. I told her people are the same everywhere. She said there is something unique about Poland. Poland consists of two different classes of people. She was essentially talking about the Yangban-Sangnom (upper and lower classes) separation in Korea. From what I heard from her, I could say again Korea and Poland are the same country.

  • Now, Korea appears to be ahead of Poland, but Koreans still have many things to learn from that country.

    1. Poland is far ahead of Korea in collecting Nobel prizes. Thus, young Koreans should go to Poland to learn how to get Nobels in the Korean environment similar to that of Poland.

    2. Adam Mickiewicz was a Polish poet and he kept writing his poems to stress that Poland is one nation consisting of one people while Poland was divided into three colonies. There is a university in Poznan named after him, and his statues are everywhere in Poland. Korea still needs a national figure like Adam Mickiewicz.

  • You are invited to visit my Poland page.



Korea surrounded by Big Powers

1. Koreans and Mohicans

written (1992.11.30), converted to webpage (2012.3.1)

In 1992, American movie theaters showed film entitled "The Last of the Mohicans." The movie was about the American Indians trapped between the English and French armies in 1757. England and France staged a seven-year war to control the American continent. There are earlier versions of this film, and the earliest version was made in 1936.

    I watched the 1936 edition of this film (in Korea) in July of 1946 and its new version in 1992. In 1946, I was too young to understand where Korea was standing in this world. This time, I learned that we used to be and may still be the Mohicans. Here is the "show" staged in the Korean peninsula during during the period 1945-50.

  • On May 1, 1946, I watched the first Mayday celebration in the Korean peninsula in North Korea twelve days before crossing the 38th parallel to the South. Koreans in the North did not understand the meaning of this noisy political holiday of foreign origin. To make things worse, those fresh communists in the North did not have time to compose their Mayday song, and used the tune of a Japanese military song:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LU1JQsMsP9o

    Most of them thought it was a celebration of (Japanese) Emperor Showa's birthday (April 29), because they were so used to this holiday (called Dentsio Setz) under the Japanese colonial rule.



  • On March 1, 1947, I had to run for cover when the communists in Seoul started shooting at the crowd demonstrating against the Shintak Tongchi and demanding immediate independence (perhaps I was the youngest member of this group). The communists were shooting from their party headquarters near Namdaemoon with Arisaka-38 (called 38-shik by Koreans) Japanese infantry rifles.

    The leader of this 1947 demonstration was young college student named Lee Chul Seung. I met him in 2000 while he was visiting Washington, DC. He became happy when I told I participated in his 1947 demonstration. He said he included the story of this demonstration in his memoir published in 1998.

  • On August 15, 1948, General Douglas MacArthur visited Seoul to participate in the ceremony marking the beginning of the Republic of Korea. While the ceremony was going on, the Korean army and navy units lined up on the street from Namdaemoon to Yongsan waiting for the military parade. This was their first occasion to present themselves as the armed forces of an independent nation.

    During this period, the American MPs (military police) were in charge of MacArthur's safety, and they thought the Korean units on the streets might block MacArthur's motorcade to the airport. The MPs could have asked the Korean commanders for cooperation, but they did not. Instead, they were pushing the soldiers as if they were handling a riot-crowd before the eyes of thousands of Seoul citizens. I was one of those who watched this ugly scene. This incident was not reported in the newspaper.

    Soviet-bulit Yak-9 fighter of
    North Korea (top),
    F-80 jet fighter of the US Airforce.
    I also watched General MacArthur passing by. Unlike those MPs, he was showing a very kind face to the Korean troops who were showing their respect to him by lifting up their US-made M1 rifles in a highly disciplined manner (Japanese influence).

  • MacArthur came back to Korea on June 30, 1950 and took control over the troops he met in 1948. I watched the North Korean fighter planes attempting to attack MacArthur's plane while it was landing at the Suwon airport. The North Korean fighters (Soviet-made YAK 9) were driven away by the F-80 jet fighters of the U.S. Air Force [This incident was not reported until 1900]. MacArthur was kind to us, but we are still debating about who should have the operational control over our armed forces.

  • On June 26, 1949, Patriot Kim Koo was assassinated by an artillery officer named "Ahn Doo-Hee." We are still debating about who was behind the plot, but it is quite clear that he had to face this fate because he did not have any backing from foreign powers.

  • Then June 25, 1950. You know the story, and the Korean version of the Mohicans continues. However, we have been resilient and resourceful enough to overcome this hardship. We are being praised by the people of the world for constructing a shiny nation from the ashes in one generation.

    On the other hand, while our future depends on our scientists, I sense an alarming trend among our young scientists. They seem to seek easy life and quick fame. The average research life of our PhDs does not exceed three years. If this trend continues, we will become like Mohicans. If this really happens, we cannot blame anyone except ourselves.


How is this man entangled
with Einstein?

    copyright@2013 by Y. S. Kim.
    Unless otherwise specified, all photos are from the public domain, the Wikipedia fair-use domain, the North Korean propaganda literature, or from my personal collection.
    Here is my home page.