Daily Archives: 16 September 2004

Review of Living Dangerously in Korea

Korean Studies Review has posted online a review by Don Baker of Donald Clark’s book Living Dangerously in Korea: The Western Experience 1900-1950 (Eastbridge, 2003), portions of which were excerpted on this blog back in June. Excerpts from the review follow.

In his title, Don Clark advertises this book as an account of the Western missionary experience in Korea over the first half of the twentieth century. He is too modest. This book is much more than that. Because he writes about how the missionaries responded to the various situations they found themselves witnessing, and sometimes caught up in, he has actually provided a history of Korea from 1900-1950, albeit one filtered through the eyes of Western residents….

Since Western missionaries, including Charlie Clark, remained in Korea after the annexation of 1910, Clark is able to provide a different view of Japanese rule than is usually found in Korean accounts. First of all, he points out that most of the missionaries (with the conspicuous exceptions of Hulbert and Allen) were at first ambivalent about the Japanese takeover, hoping that a colonial government more modern than the Confucian government it replaced would open up more space for missionary activity. However, they soon found out that the Japanese were not enthusiastic about the spread of Christianity in Korea and in fact raised barriers to it….

A more serious problem for the missionaries in the 1920s was the rise of resentment by some Korean Christians of the missionary domination of Korean Christianity. Koreans wanted control of Christian schools such as the Chosen Christian College (now Yonsei University) to be turned over to them faster than the missionaries wanted to relinquish control. Clark tells us that such prominent Korean Christians as Paek Nakchun and Yun Ch’iho resented what they considered “missionary paternalism” in this and other matters. However, such disputes paled in comparison with the issue that confronted both the missionaries and Korean Christians in the 1930s. When the Japanese demanded that Christian schools permit their students to participate in Shinto rituals, both the missionary community and the Korean Christian community were split over how to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s while remaining faithful to the laws of God. The issue was soon rendered moot for the missionaries by the rise of tension between the US and Japan which led to the expulsion of most of the missionaries in 1940. Korean Christians were left behind to resolve that moral dilemma for themselves.

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Phillip Knightley’s "Interesting if True"

Granta 53 (1996), entitled News: Scoops, Lies and Videotape offers online an extract of the lead contribution, “Interesting if True” by veteran journalist Phillip Knightley. Here’s the tail end of it.

The most glamorous round [= beat] at the [Melbourne] Herald was of course the police one. The chief police roundsman [= beat reporter] was Alan Dower, a tall, distinguished man with a military moustache and bearing, whose act at parties was to borrow a broomstick, pretend he was on the parade ground and carry out drill as ordered by an imaginary sergeant major. His deputy was Lionel Hogg, who could well have been a detective himself had he not opted for journalism. It was Hogg’s job to give an occasional lecture to the cadets on the mysteries of reporting. One sticks in my mind. ‘A little twist to the most mundane of stories can turn it into a front page lead,’ Hogg began. ‘Now take what happened to me last week. The police got a call to a restaurant where the chef had just beaten off an armed robber. I interviewed him and asked him how he had done it. He said he chucked a plate of food in the man’s face and the guy ran away. That’s a pretty boring story. But I noticed that the restaurant was a Hungarian one. So I asked the chef what the plate of food had been. He said that in the excitement he hadn’t noticed. So I wrote a lead that said the chef of a Hungarian restaurant had foiled an armed robber by chucking a plate of Hungarian goulash in his face. It made page one.’ We thought about it for a second or two; then one of the cadets said, ‘But, Lionel, that wasn’t true.’ Hogg laughed. ‘No,’ he said, ‘but it should have been.’

Hogg arranged for each cadet to accompany a night police patrol car crewed by three detectives so we would get a feel for police work. On my night we crawled around the darkened inner suburbs of Melbourne hoping that the radio would crackle to life with some exciting crime in our area, but the only message we got was an order to check out a man sleeping on a bench in a park near the state parliament building. He did not speak English, and the detectives were losing their patience with him, so I felt justified in intervening and with some schoolboy French discovered he was a crew member of a ship in harbour and had missed the last bus back to the docks. Instead of being grateful, the police became wary of me. Squashed between two of them in the back seat of the squad car, we maintained an uneasy silence until they spotted an old drunk urinating against a tree in St Kilda Road.

‘Dirty bastard,’ the driver said. ‘Teach him a lesson.’ The two detectives in the back of the car jumped out. One grabbed the old man’s hat and flung it far into park. The other began methodically kicking him in the backside as the old man staggered away mumbling protests and then fell over. The detective gave him one final kick and came back to the car. The exercise must have made them hungry because we headed off to the city centre and stopped at a late-night restaurant. The proprietor, a Greek, came hurrying up. ‘Oyster soup and steaks, Tony,’ one of the detectives said, ‘and put some bloody oysters in the soup.’ When we were leaving, I made an effort to pay for my share. ‘Put it away,’ one of the detectives ordered. ‘It’s on the house. We look after Tony, he looks after us.’

Did I write any of this? Did I tell the Herald readers that their police were less than perfect? I did not. Hogg had made it clear that we were guests in the squad car and that anything that happened had to remain confidential, otherwise the cosy relationship between the police and the Herald police roundsmen would be endangered.

Thanks to Rainy Day for the lead. I don’t believe that the standards of either politics or journalism have declined so much as the public trust in both has plummeted while public demand for transparency has risen.

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