Recently, in Korea, many people realize the importance of history. It may be caused by the problem of the government-designated text book or the big event that will go down in history. Then, what is history? First, history is the facts that occurred in the past. However, all fact is not said to history, such as the lunch that you ate yesterday. History is those facts that are considered important among facts that happened in the past. Then, who determines the importance of the facts? That is a historian. Therefore, history is affected by the historian’s subjectivity. That is why we have to be cautious when we study history.
Let’s think about the case of Koryosa. Koryosa is a history book about Koryo Dynasty, but it was compiled in the Joseon Dynasty. Most of the dynasty that was set up by a coup usually compiles a history book about the previous dynasty to justify their act. The Joseon Dynasty was founded by a coup. People who founded the Joseon Dynasty used history for their justification. They implied the reason that Koryo had to end and why they had to found a new nation in the Koryosa. The main content is that the kings were villainous and people were suffering. Therefore, it was necessary that a new power save them.
Besides that, there were many cases in which politicians used history to justify themselves. They eliminated political opponents as the traitors and recorded in history they were rebels even if they were not. You can find the records which are similar to this in many historical texts. The typical example is the Event of Chung Yeo-rip’s Conspiracy. Chung Yeo-rip was a scholar and politician in the Joseon Dynasty, under King Seonjo. According to the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty, the proof of the event is the words with the intention of treason that Chung Yeo-rip said. Actually, the words were not aimed at the nation. He just mentioned the problem of Zhu Xi, who was a Confucian scholar in the Song Dynasty. However, because of this, he was killed by political opponents. History is the winner’s record. Therefore, history is written by people who win in the struggle for political power and take power at the time. They describe history in their view and include some of their intentions.
Likewise, history has a historian’s thought, which sometimes may distort affairs or not tell about all the facts. Therefore, we have to read any history book with a critical eye. This is related to the problem of the government-designated text book. History looked on from one side has many problems. To study history more correctly, we have to compare various historical records and have a critical eye. If you have blind faith in historical records and history books, it will be a shortcut to make a fool of yourself.