다음은 ‘고조선 논쟁’으로 유명한 석학 유정희(남, 37, 역사학자: 18세기 프랑스 지식인이 쓴 고조선, 고구려의 역사, 하왕조 신화의 장막을 걷고 역사의 무대로, 드래곤볼 일본 제국주의를 말하다 등 저) 선생이 직접 쓴 영어 기고문이다.
Old Joseon (古朝鮮) was introduced as the first state in Korean history, whose historical veracity repeatedly permeates through the minds of every middle and high school student in South Korea. Yet, very few words sum up its significance, and the lack of primary sources explains this brevity. With this lack of primary sources, which is a commonality in the study of ancient history, research endeavors concerned with Old Joseon suffer when compared to what has been uncovered regarding Chinese history.
If one were to bring pre-Qin China into consideration, a substantial amount of records exits. Tracing further back in time to the Three Dynasties (Xia-Shang-Zhou), an abundance of oracle bones and bronze inscriptions from the Shang period, if not the Xia, lures historians. Surprisingly, ancient secondary sources remain beyond our expectation. The archeological findings look even more astonishing; the Erlitou culture, the supposed later capital of the Xia, renders evidence that ancient Chinese culture had formed the beginnings of state-level societies—a high-quality research accomplishment compared to what has been achieved in South Korea.
Rather than the Three Kingdoms period, which Smaguk sagi (三國史記) and Samguk yusa (三國遺事) already offer substantial amounts of sources, Old Joseon requires our attention, for its lack of sources has undoubtedly reached the point of scarcity which may severely harm our understanding of early Korean history. Cross examination bears critical importance here. Several times, I have discovered designations that presumably refer to Old Joseon while researching ancient China. I either took notes, or simply skipped over them since those references were not personally essential at the time.
Last year, I eventually interpreted Jean-Baptiste Régis’s Historical Records on Old Joseon (RHROJ) and cross-examined them with publications of early nationalist writers (Shindanminsa and Shindansilgi). In a newspaper column, I complemented them with sources from the History of the Later Han (後漢書). My accomplishments and compliments from many readers encouraged me to continue this inspiring yet onerous journey to restore the history of Old Joseon (古朝鮮史).
A lot more work, however, needs to be done. A long-term effort to compare all historical records on the Eastern Yi (東夷), for example, must be carefully taken into consideration. Despite dedicating my career to studying the ancient history of China, I fortunately am familiar with historical references in relation to Old Joseon. Another task will be putting scholarly pieces together—combining academic accomplishments made by a group of reputable trailblazers in the study of early Chinese history such as Kwang-chih Chang (中國考古學), Herrlee G. Creel (西周史), Feng Li (西周史), David Noel Keightley (甲骨文), Edward L. Shaughnessy (西周史), and Mark E. Byington (扶餘史). Among these figures, Creel’s work deserves special recognition and merit. In the greater scheme of restoring the history of Old Joseon, his idea of Western Zhou Empire (西周帝國論), I expect, will gain more recognition from western researchers.