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Constructing “Korean” Origins

Constructing “Korean” Origins

A Critical Review of Archaeology, Historiography, and Racial Myth in Korean State-Formation Theories

Hyung Il Pai

ISBN 9780674002449

Publication date: 07/01/2000

In this wide-ranging study, Hyung Il Pai examines how archaeological finds from throughout Northeast Asia have been used in Korea to construct a myth of state formation. This myth emphasizes the ancient development of a pure Korean race that created a civilization rivaling those of China and Japan and a unified state controlling a wide area in Asia.

Through a new analysis of the archaeological data, Pai shows that the Korean state was in fact formed much later and that it reflected diverse influences from throughout Northern Asia, particularly the material culture of Han China. Her deconstruction of the uses of the archaeological finds by nationalistic historians reveals how they have been utilized to legitimate Korean nationalism and a particular form of national identity.


  • Pai takes an archeological perspective on how the Korean identity has been destroyed, altered, and rewritten. She explores the need for Koreans to reclaim their racial-national identity. She explores Korea's need for identity through the facts and arguments of social migration, ethnic diffusion, parallel evolution, and cultural trade and theft...This is an interesting book, at times quite provocative...[and] loaded with revealing facts...[Pai] has produced a studied research, a solid reference source that could be used in an activist's argument on Korean issues of identity.

    —Bill Drucker, Korean Quarterly


  • Hyung Il Pai is Associate Professor of Korean History and East Asian Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Book Details

  • 592 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Asia Center