East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society

(Jan. 23) Kyu-hyun Jo, “Unitary Socialism and an Intellectual History of the Korean War’s Origins as a Civil War”




“Unitary Socialism and an Intellectual History of the Korean War’s Origins as a Civil War 

Kyu-hyun Jo

UChicago History Alumni


Jan. 23rd, Thu 5:00-6:30 pm (NEW TIME FOR WINTER QUARTER!)

Tea Room, Social Science Research Building (2nd floor).

Refreshments will be provided


In stark contrast to efforts to understand the Korean War as the Cold War’s first international conflict, very little has been discussed about the complexities of Communist activism in southern Korea under the leadership of Pak Hŏn-yŏng and the South Korean Workers’ Party (Nam Jo-suhn Roh-dong Dang), the largest Communist organization in southern Korea before the war. I fill this lacuna on the SKWP by closely examining South and North Korean documents and Record Groups 59, 242, and 554 to assess the party’s role in causing the Korean War.

I adopt a history-of-ideas perspective to examine the flow of post-liberation Korea’s political history through the SKWP’s rhetoric. The SKWP intensely battled against the Rightists to realize Communist political supremacy in southern Korea, and the Korean peninsula. In attempting to thoroughly Communize South Korea, the SKWP was simultaneously responsible for completely eradicating “Unitary Socialism” and the possibility for any peaceful ideological unification to be achieved by combining electoral democracy and economic socialism. The Korean War originated as a southern Communist and anti-Right-wing civil war; the war directly inherited the leitmotif of a Manichean battle between the Left and the Right which the SKWP willingly engaged in to assure Communist supremacy in the south. The Korean War was not originally a North Korean attempt to “liberate” South Korea but a South Korean civil war and the SKWP’s failed quest to lead the southern clash between the Left and the Right to a Communist victory by punishing pro-Japanese collaborators and “American imperialists.”

* Subscribe  to our workshop mailing-list at: https://lists.uchicago.edu/web/info/east-asia

* Abstract or description of each presentation will be posted on our website: http://cas.uchicago.edu/workshops/eastasia

* Questions and comments can be addressed to the student coordinators Yuchen Yang: yucheny@uchicago.edu and Linzhuo Li: linzhuoli@uchicago.edu

*Persons with disabilities who believe they may need assistance please contact the student coordinators in advance.

The East Asia Workshop is sponsored by the Council on Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences.

Kyu-hyun Jo – Unitary Socialism and an Intellectual History of the Korean War’s Origins as a Civil War

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.