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Saturday,October 24,2020
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Our National Identity Is A Changing Thing

What is your identity? Some of you may have defined yourselves according to a specific religious faith, and this could be linked to nationality, to ethnicity, to personality and to cultural markers. Or you may have felt that your occupational identity (for example, ‘student’ or ‘teacher’) is currently the most significant marker of who you are. On the other hand, you may feel that none of any definitions captures the ‘real you’. You might see yourself as a self detached from society, nation, faith - an individual defined by an inner sense of a unique self that is the true you and that cannot be fitted easily into the external definitions. But however we describe ourselves and however many definitions we draw upon (social, personal, biological, cultural etc.), we cannot describe or identify ourselves.
   What is the national identity of the Republic of Korea? You may try to define or identify the Republic of Korea as political, economic, cultural, historical and constitutional identities. But however we describe the Republic of Korea and however many identities we draw upon, we cannot define the true identity of the Republic of Korea. On the other hand, we can define and identify some persons (for example, ‘Abraham Lincoln’ or ‘Lee Sun-shin’), some states or kingdoms (for example, ‘Koguryeo’ or ‘Shilla’) which are dead or disappeared. And one of problems we cannot define and identify ourselves or the Republic of Korea is that we are now living here and the Republic of Korea is persisting in the world, so that we and the Republic of Korea may have many identities of the unknowing future as a girl becomes a woman, a student becomes a teacher, a Japanese Imperialist colonial Korea becomes an independent Korea and a half Korea becomes an united Korea.
   But we tend and want to believe that there is a ‘real me’ and a ‘real Republic of Korea’ in which resides the essence or core of our nature and the national identity. We want to believe that these ‘real self’ and ‘real Korea’ pre-exist or are independent of the future. The belief that a unique ‘true’ selfhood lies within the psyche of each individual and that each individual has the right to express and protect that uniqueness has provided the basis of humanism which is the human-centered thought and life, the predominant philosophy of the individual over the past two centuries in the Western world. And the belief that a unique ‘true’ nationhood lies within the psyche of each people and that each people has the right to express and protect that national uniqueness has provided the basis of nationalism is the nation-centered thought and life, the predominant philosophy of the nation-states over the past two centuries in the Western world.
   A human of humanism is not a real person but an imagined animal who cannot live in the future but living in the past. A national identity of nationalism is not a real state but an imagined community which cannot make of or create the national future but consisting of the past. As a human is a changing person, a nation or a state is a changing community. When you believe in the true self, a human of humanism, you cannot look at many changes of the future. When you believe in the true national identity, a nation-state of nationalism, you cannot make of or create many beautiful changes of the future. We have to open Korean national identity of the coming future to accomplish Korean people's united nation state.  

 

Chang Si-ki  changsk@dongguk.edu

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