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Proud to Be Korean?Patriotism in the twenty-first century
Jee You-seon  |
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승인 2013.10.09  15:54:00
트위터 페이스북 구글 카카오스토리

HOW MUCH do you love your country? The love one feels for his or her mother country is called patriotism. Patriotism does not hold the same value for everyone. Also, as the world changes throughout the decades, the concept of patriotism has changed as well. In Korea during the Japanese colonization, the most desperate forms of patriotism led people to fight for independence. Today, globalization is blurring the territorial boundaries between the countries. Then, in this globalizing society, does patriotism no longer exist?

Formation of patriotism


In the 21st century Politics Dictionary, it is mentioned that patriotism develops as naturally as a child’s love for his or her parent. However, only 1.5% of Yonseians agreed to this notion. The vast majority, 86.9% of the total respondents, thought that patriotism was a result of socialization, a process where an individual inherits the customs and norms of the society through interaction with the community members. Though humans are not born with a patriotic sentiment, the love for their country develops as they live and interact in it.
In the 19th century, patriotic sentiments were formed on the basis of ethnic nationalism, a nationalism that defines “nation” as a group of people holding the same heritage. Ethnic nationalism could also be found in Korea during the patriotic enlightenment period. In his thesis, “Democratic Civic Education for Cultivating Democratic Patriotism,” Sim Seong-bo stated that ae-kook, or love for one’s country did not exist before the Japanese colonial era. Only after the Japanese invasion did the Korean people develop patriotic sentiments through nationalistic resistance against Japan. They identified the Japanese invaders as a different ethnic group who tried to destroy the Korean national spirit, so Koreans united together to fight against the Japanese.
On the contrary, the majority of Yonseians now think that patriotism should be felt toward a country that guarantees political freedom (49.4%). A professor from Political Science and International Studies department, who chose to remain anonymous, said that this result indicated that Yonseians were developing a sense of patriotism in civic terms, where patriotism develops from the love toward the country’s political system. Known as civic patriotism, it is often contrasted to nationalism or ethnocentrism in that the people of different bloodlines and ethnicities are tied together through common political values. According to the professor, Koreans may feel a sense of attachment and affection toward the country’s liberal democratic system that was achieved from the people’s participation.

Yonseians’ thoughts on patriotism

The first major strength Yonseians saw in patriotism was that it allows the citizens to unite for the good of the country (47.7%). According to Hans Schattle (Prof., Dept. of Political Science & International Studies, Yonsei Univ.), patriotism is often important for the public good. A shared national identity and a sense of belonging to a bounded democratic community can motivate the citizens to be responsible stake holders in the decisions that their political communities make. A sense of patriotism can also help citizens accept long-term goals and make personal sacrifices for the good of their countries. One good example would be how Koreans donated their gold during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis to save the country from the economic crisis.
Another positive aspect of patriotism that Yonseians saw is that it helps individuals form a strong personal identity (33.6%). Personal identity is formed by loving oneself and loving the community he or she belongs to. According to Yang Seung-tae(Prof., Dept. of Political Science and Diplomacy, Ewha Womans Univ.), sharing the same value that arises from historical experiences allows the citizens of the country to develop love and a sense of belonging towards the country. This love and the sense of belonging form a strong national identity, which function as a solid basis in creating a strong personal identity.
On the contrary, patriotism is also full of danger. The biggest problem Yonseians saw in patriotism was that it may lead to ethnocentrism (44.4%). Hong Ye-won (Soph., UIC, Dept. of Comparative Lit. & Culture) held as an example the blood spilled in World War II which was caused by the ethnocentric values Japan and Nazi Germany held. In “Patriotism-A Contradiction, a Possibility or an Empirical Reality,” Thomas Blank, Peter Schmidt and Bettina Westle writes that nationalism is different from patriotism because nationalism typically places an overemphasis on national affiliation, feeling national superiority, and defining one’s own group by the ethnic background. Thus, an excessive form of patriotism that accompanies national or ethnic superiority needs to be watched. The fact that 77.9% of Yonseians indicated the need for nationalism to be distinguished from patriotism shows that Yonseians are fully aware of the dangers of ethnocentrism.
Yonseians also pointed to patriotism being utilized as a political tool by the governments as another negative aspect of patriotism (43.7%). During the military authoritative regime in the 1970s and 1980s, patriotism was used as a tool to control the public. For instance, Park Chung-hee incorporated chauvinism with anti-communism to control the citizens easier. The National Intelligent Service, under President Park Chung-hee created a terrifying environment where no one was allowed to express opposition towards the government. Those who opposed the government were regarded as a communist and a traitor, facing violent suppression from the state.

The impact of globalization

As the world unites under globalization, the emphasis on cosmopolitanism is increasing. Cosmopolitanism, a view that sees all human beings belonging to one community, disregards nationality and ethnicity. In the cosmopolitan world, everyone is a world citizen working to improve the world. Martha C. Nussbaum, a scholar who emphasized the need for cosmopolitan education, expressed deep disapproval toward patriotism because it makes people neglect moral values for humanity as a whole. To her, global citizenship needed to replace the love for a single country because it allowed people to learn about not only themselves but also the value of human rights outside the territorial boundaries of their countries.
Though cosmopolitanism can be regarded to be an opposite concept of patriotism as Nussbaum once thought, most Yonseians thought otherwise, as only 6% said that globalization meant patriotism was no longer needed. 14.4% thought that patriotism was even more necessary than before in this globalizing world. Lee Han-seul (Soph., Dept. of Korean Language & Lit.) said that individuals need patriotism and a sense of national identity in order to protect their nation from outside threats. Moreover, 67.2% of Yonseians answered that both cosmopolitanism and patriotism were needed, a notion shared by a considerable number of scholars. Kwame Anthony Appiah was one of the critics to Nussbaum’s ideas. According to Appiah in “Cosmopolitan Patriots,” it is possible to withhold patriotic emotions while seeking worldwide democratic values. Also, cosmopolitan citizens should also relate to their native culture and politics because the cosmopolitan world lacks an institute that imposes moral values upon the citizens.
Future of patriotism
To the majority of Yonseians, patriotism is a necessary value. When asked if patriotism needs to be uplifted, 71.3% Yonseians answered yes. 16% of those who said yes noted advertisements and campaigns as a means of raising patriotism. Advertisements made by KOBACO (Korea Broadcast Advertisement Corp.) are examples of such advertisements made by the government to endorse patriotism. The advertisement, “Loving country: the time,” pointed out how Koreans held a false sense of patriotism that is only seen briefly when they hang the Korean flag on Korean Independence Day or during the 90 minutes they watch a football match. This advertisement brought discomfort to some people because the government seemed to enforce patriotism to the citizens, but it did bring the attention of the public towards the significance of patriotism, and made the public think about what patriotism is.
On the other hand, Yang emphasized the role of education as a more fundamental approach to promoting patriotism. First of all, teaching history is important because shared values and historical consciousness is what forms national identity and thus patriotism. Of the 71.3% Yonseians who thought patriotism needs to be increased, 64.1% said that endorsing history education will help achieve the goal. As Park Geun-hye administration realized the importance of history education, it added history as a required subject for the scholastic aptitude test, since students did not study Korean history unless it was required. However, history education is not the only kind of education in need. Yang emphasized that higher education as training of the ability of autonomous thinking is essential in creating a competent leader. The leader that has the capability to lead, not force the citizens to feel patriotic, can only be created by educating the youngsters to think for themselves, and acquire knowledge and a solid sense of judgment.

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Throughout the article, the concept of patriotism has been explored. However, people should take a moment to think about which form of patriotism should be sought, as blind patriotism may bring forth disastrous effects. Schattle expressed that an essential form of patriotism is “critical patriotism,” which involves holding the government accountable and questioning any possible wrongdoing. Along with refraining from feeling superior over other nations or ethnicities, this critical form of patriotism will help bring the best sides of patriotism.


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