Shin Chaeho

Shin Chaeho

Sin Chae-ho
Born (1880-11-07)November 7, 1880
Chungcheong, Sannaeri, Great Korean Empire (Joseon Dynasty)
Died February 21, 1936(1936-02-21) (aged 55)
Port Arthur, Empire of Japan
Other names Dansaeng (단생)
Danjae (단재)
Alma mater
  • National Confucian Academy (Seonggyungwan)
Religion ConfucianismAtheism
Awards Presidential Order of Merit for National Foundation (1962) (PH)[1]
Era 19th- / 20th-century philosophy
Region Eastern Philosophy
Main interests
Notable ideas
Shin Chaeho
Hangul 신채호
Hanja 申采浩
Revised Romanization Sin Chae-ho
McCune–Reischauer Sin Ch'aeho, Shin Ch'aeho
Pen name
Hangul 단재
Hanja 丹齋
Revised Romanization Danjae
McCune–Reischauer Tanjae
Shin Chae-ho

(1880–1936) was a Korean independence activist, historian, anarchist, nationalist, and a founder of Korean ethnic nationalist historiography (민족 사학, minjok sahak; sometimes shortened to minjok).[2]:7[3]:27[4]:52 He is held in high esteem in both North[5]:112–3 and South Korea.[6]:26–7 Two of his works, A New Reading of History (Doksa Sillon), written in 1908, and The Early History of Joseon (Joseon Sanggosa), published in 1931, are considered key works of nationalist historiography in modern Korea.[7]:445 He argued that modern Koreans and the people of Manchuria were of a single race which has an ancestral claim to both Korea and Manchuria,[6]:26[8]:3 Shin also studied Korean mythology.[4]:53 During his exile in China, Shin joined the Eastern Anarchist Association and wrote anti-imperialist and pro-independence articles in various outlets; his anarchist activities lead to his arrest and subsequent death in prison, February 21, 1936.[7]:447[9]:128

Statue of Sin Chae-Ho in Seoul's Grand Park.


  • Biography 1
    • Early years 1.1
    • Abroad 1.2
    • Arrest and death 1.3
  • Thought 2
    • The Minjok and Korean Ethnic Nationalism 2.1
      • Social Darwinism 2.1.1
      • Juche 2.1.2
    • Anarchism 2.2
    • Legacy 2.3
  • Criticism 3
    • Standards of education 3.1
    • Concerns with Minjok thought 3.2
    • Dream Sky borrowed from Dante's Divine Comedy 3.3
  • Bibliography 4
    • Bibliographical notes 4.1
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Early years

Shin was born on November 7, 1880. His grandfather was an official in the royal advisory department. His pen name was "Dansaeng", which he later changed to "Danjae". Shin was taught various Neo-Confucian books and concepts by his grandfather, and later enrolled in the Confucian academy Seonggyungwan,[7]:441–2 receiving a doctoral degree in 1905.[10] Shin, to a limited capacity, read Italian literature and history and published some Italian-related works; There is some speculation that Dante might be an influence on Shin Chae-ho's work, in particular Dream Sky (1916).[11]:313

Shin went on to work for the editorial boards for two newspapers, the Hwangseong Shinmun (Hangul: 황성신문; Hanja: 皇城新聞) and the Daehan Maeil Shinbo (대한매일신보; 大韓每日新報), and became the leader of the underground "patriotic enlightenment" group, the Sinminhoe.[7]:443 His group would later migrate to Manchuria in 1910[8]:3 and attract such radicals as Yi Tong-hwi, a Korean Bolshevik who participated in "The Conspiracy case of 1911,"[12]:6–7 which was an effort to assassinate Japanese Governor-General Terauchi, leading to the arrests of several Sinminhoe members and eventually the dissolution of the Sinminhoe.[13]:46


Shin went into voluntary exile in 1910 when Japan declared its annexation of Korea; he then traveled to March First Independence Movement, in 1919, which spurred him to join the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai.[7]:445 Shin quickly became frustrated with the Provisional Government,[9]:123–4 culminating in a clash with interim leader Syngman Rhee (I Seung-man) and Shin leaving to embrace anarchism[14]:34 and draft the "Declaration of Korean Revolution" for the Righteous Brotherhood (Uiyeoldan) in 1923.[7]:445 Shin went on to join the Eastern Anarchist Association (동방 무정부주의 연맹; 東方無政府主義聯盟) in 1926.[7]:446

Arrest and death

Shin was arrested by the Japanese Military Police in Taiwan in May 1928 for the attempted smuggling of 12,000 [7]:446 He was sentenced to a 10-year prison term by the Dalian District Court to be served in Lüshun Prison.[15] Shin died while in solitary confinement at Lüshun Prison of a brain hemorrhage on the 21st of February, 1936.[15][16]:156[7]:447 The Republic of Korea posthumously awarded Shin with the "Presidential Order of Merit for National Foundation" in 1962 and citizenship on April 13, 2013.[1]


The Minjok and Korean Ethnic Nationalism

Shin Chae-ho wrote extensively on a theory of ethnic history which sought to challenge traditional border concepts in Korea and encourage Korean nationalism. This theory is broadly referred to as the Korean minjok (민족; 民族);[17]:188 An early form of the minjok is found in his article "New History Reader."[18]:6–7 Shin's minjok works contested the traditional conception of Korea as a geographically defined "peninsular nation" (반도 국; pandoguk), which was born out of politics associated with the Mandate of Heaven in classical Chinese political philosophy.[6]:29 This Chinese hegemony was interpreted as Sinocentric by Shin, and others, as it placed border control in the hands of the Chinese Court.[3]:27[6]:29–30

Shin's minjok historiographical work traced a nation's history by its racial genealogy and lineage, relying on heritable race and culture.[19]:16 The minjok was defined by the terms of its history, and history was shaped by the minjok, hence these two concepts were reciprocal and inseparable. For Shin, "if one dismisses the minjok, there is no history"; to ignore or to down-play the minjok was to devitalize history itself.[6]:32

Within the greater minjok history of a nation there was a host race, the chujok (주족); the identification of the chujok was necessary for tracing the authentic history of a nation, and solidified an ethnocentric national history. For Korea, the chujok was the ancient Korean-Manchurian Kingdom of the Buyeo (부여; 夫餘),[6]:32 which, by Shin's estimate, began 5,000 years ago with the birth of Dangun, the legendary son of a bear who was transformed into a human by the god Whanin.[19]:16 By combining mythology and genealogy, a common ancestry of Koreans and Manchurians was traced, effectively making them family.[6]:33 Shin thereby attempted to erase the geographical border between Korea and Manchuria in favour of ethnic re-unification.[17]:231

Distinct from the minjok was the state, the gukga (국가; 國家; or kukka). The minjok as a more basal concept than the gukga and did not substantially change between generations, whereas the gukga could change between kingdoms, government, and rules.[6]:40

By defining the minjok as a rich and powerful ethnic history, Shin constructed an anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism social defence. Largely, the goal was rejection of both Chinese and Japanese governmental oversight and influence.[6]:42 Contemporaneous Japanese historians also argued that Koreans and Manchurians were the same group, but their efforts were to prove Korea was historically indistinct from other nations and thus mitigate Korea's importance.[6]:30

Social Darwinism

Shin is sometimes called a social Darwinist, a popular concept in the early 20th century. Within Shin's work, the Manchurian-Korean Buyeo minjok is interpreted as the standard of measure for historical progress in Korea.[6]:34 Shin described a racial history of conflict between the various races of East Asia, as well as a political history. Towards this progress, Shin's minjok project was laid out in terms of racial victories: specifically for the Buyeo, victory would be complete reunification of the race and then-on defending against cultural assimilation and imperialism.[6]:35

This "Darwinian-Spencerian" framework, which prized ethnic nationalism and purity, allowed Shin to write a race-centred history of Korea that attempted to shut down the Japanese colonial justifications by conjoining ethnic history and progress, necessarily making harmful the adulteration of Korean society with Japanese culture, not a progressive one.[17]:34–5 This is somewhat analogous to Nordicism, or progressivist ethnography, but from a Korean-centric perspective.

Shin did not describe Korea as the "victor" of these racial battles. Shin described a slow fall of the minjok, primarily attributing a high point to King Muyeol of Silla, and then descent through the fall of Barhae and slow fracturing of Korean social unity through politics and war. Shin praised the Koryeo and Choseon dynasties, but insisted that the successes that they brought were only partial, lamenting that if scholars "are searching for a full unification, it cannot be found after Tangun."[6]:35–6


Shin Chae-ho is often credited as the primary source in the Juche (주체; 主體; meaning Self-reliance or Autonomy; sometimes spelt Chuch'e) political ideology. Juche aspires towards a country's complete autonomy, both in a national sense and in an historical sense.[19]:5 However, it is not clear whether the North Korean Juche is modelled upon or is merely similar to Shin's Juche.[17]:270–2 Scholars such as Sheila Jager have written that strong references about the history of North Korean ideology are uncommon, but similarities in language, symbolism, and the concepts make Shin Chae-ho a good candidate as an influence on Kim Il Sung and his own Juche state ideology.[19]:5 Shin's Juche concept is also specifically Korean; However it bears a likeness to Japanese Kokutai (국체; Kukche).[20]:135


Shin Chae-ho's anarchist philosophy is largely ignored by contemporary Korean scholars.[17]:272 One of his later works, The Dream Sky, is considered one of these anarchist-themed works, and explores themes of "clear understanding," an individual's "own way", and praises "human struggle" as a righteous path. The book also challenged literary standards by ending on an ellipsis and breaking historical continuity by borrowing characters from Korean history.[11]:324–5


In South Korea, after the emancipation from Japan, Shin was not considered an important author. The term minjok was decried as politically unacceptable by Shin's old acquaintance from the Provisional Government, and now the first president of South Korea, Syngman Rhee. The new South Korean government favoured the term kukka, which implied loyalty to the Republic of Korea, over Shin's minjok. In the 1960's, Rhee's political regime ended and anti-imperialism sentiments redoubled, followed by scholars pursuing a new autonomous history of Korea, and revived the term minjok. By 1908, Shin Chae-ho had become a powerful figure in Korean historiography, but concepts like minjok, among others, are interpreted in ways that favour the South Korean Government over the North's.[6]:40–1

The Park military regime in South Korea pushed for capitalist economic development, noting that dismantling the North Korean communist state would do the minjok saengjon good. Following nationalist trends, some South Korean Minjung movements made appeals to national self-reliance (minjok juchesung).[21]:442–3

North Korea also sponsored re-reading Shin, among other Korean authors. In the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Kim Il Sung is said to be the leader of the minjok, and follows similar genealogical tracings of Koreans into ancient Korean-Manchuria.[6]:39–40[17]:271

Shin Chae-ho is held in high esteem by North Korea[5]:112–3 and made a lasting impact on the Korean perception of Japan and imperialism generally.[3]:27 Two of his works, Doksa Sillon ("A New Reading of History"), written in 1908, and Joseon Sanggosa ("The Early History of Joseon"), published in 1931, are particularly important in the nationalist historiography of modern Korea.[7]:446[8]:3

A consequence of Shin's nationalistic thought might be the discouragement of the Korean diaspora – the closer a Korean was to Korean soil the closer they were to their cultural "space." For Shin, space, culture, and patriotism became inseparable.[17]:239 A worry of some Koreans is their ethno-cultural continuation, and the loss of "Korean-ness" as Koreans either travel abroad or adopt foreign customs.[22]


Standards of education

Shin Chae-ho's high standards of education and early enrollment of children in school (at age 4) were criticized as excessive. He responded that some four-year-olds already knew the first one thousand characters in Chinese and that some had already begun the Children's First Learning Programme (Dongmong seonseup). He also argued that historical standards of education were steeper than the contemporary standards.[7]:453 All the while, Shin believed all Korean citizens should learn both Hangeul and Hanja to aid in preserving Korean identity, rather than subject themselves to the Chinese language system, and to study Korean patriotic literature.[7]:458–9

Concerns with Minjok thought

As part of the minjok historiography, Shin rebuked some scholars for focusing too much on geography and borders rather than minjok ethnic boundaries; he called these scholars "territorial historians". However, his own works consistently employed territorial terms, boundaries, borders that only differ by how Shin justified them by a very ancient Korea, while the "territorial historians'" terms are usually traced to younger Chinese courts. This is aggravated by the fact that Shin had few, if any, compelling references for his historical claims, making his boundaries largely arbitrary or folk-history based.[6]:31

Dream Sky borrowed from Dante's Divine Comedy

Shin Chae-ho's Dream Sky at times resembles Dante's Divine Comedy. If Shin had knowingly presented a Korean-ized Divine Comedy as an authentic work of Korean fiction, it would be an adulteration of the minjok historiography project by Shin's own standards of ethno-cultural autonomy. Whether or not Shin even read Dante's Divine Comedy is purely speculative.[11]:313


Shin Chae-ho wrote at least 12 novels and 28 poems (17 Chinese, 3 Sijo style); he also wrote essays on literary criticism, articles published in news papers and journals, historical books, and a translation of Three Great Founders of Italy from Chinese into Korean.

Title Romanization Publisher Date
Liang Qichao (梁啓超), Story of Three Heroes in Building Italy, or Three Great Founders of Italy (意大利建國三傑傳) (trans. Chinese to Korean) Yìdàlì jiànguó sān jié chuán (Pinyin) Kwanghak Sǒp'o 1907
Relationship Between History and Patriotism Taehan Association Monthly Magazine 1908
Two Principles of History Taehan Maeil Shinbo 1908
The Hero Yi Sun-sin Taehan Maeil Shinbo 1908
New History Reader[a 1] Doksa Sinron, or Doksa Sillon Taehan Maeil Shinbo
Four Thousand Year History of the Great East Taedong Sach'ǒnnyǒn Sa 1908
General Ǔlchi Mundǒk Kwanghak Sǒp'o 1908
The Tale of the Chivalrous Ch'oe Tot'ong of the Eastern State, or The Biography of Choe Do-tong, Giant in the Eastern Country Tongguk Kǒgǒl Ch'oe Tot'ong Chǒn 1909
The Oriental Italy Taehan Maeil Shinbo 1909
Questions Regarding the History of Korea Non Ryǒsa Mup'il Taehan Maeil Shinbo 1909
Historical Anecdotes Kuksa-ǔi Ilsa Taehan Maeil Shinbo 1909
A Study of the Ancient Sǒnkyo Religion of the Eastern State Tongguk Kodae Sǒnkyo Ko Taehan Maeil Shinbo 1910
A Brief History of Korean Autonomy 1910
The Introduction to Ancient History of Tan'gun Tangi Kosa Chungka Sǒ 1912
Ancient History of Korea Chosǒn Sanggo Sa Unpublished (draft) 1915
Dream Heaven, Heaven seen in a Dream, or The Dream Sky Kkum hanǔl Unpublished[a 2] 1915
History of Korea Chosǒn Sa 1918
A Compendium of Korean History Chosǒn Sa T'ongron Unpublished 1919-1922 (est)
Culture Munhwa P'yǒn Unpublished 1919-1922 (est)
Ideological Changes Sasang Pyǒnch'ǒn P'yǒn Unpublished 1919-1922 (est)
A Study of Geography Kwangyǒk Ko Unpublished 1919-1922 (est)
Declaration of Korean Revolution Chosǒn Hyǒkmyǒng Sǒnǒn Unpublished 1923
Changes in Korea's Ancient Literature and Poetry 1924
On the Method of Interpreting Nouns Described by the Idu System 1924
Idu-mun Myǒngsa Haesǒk-pǒp Idu-mun Myǒngsa Haesǒk-pǒp Dong-A Ilbo 1925
New Year's Free Notes by a Wanderer 1925
Comparative Study of East and West in the “Historical Records of the Three Kingdoms Samkuk Saki Chung Tongsǒ Yangja Sanghwan Kojǔng Dong-A Ilbo 1925
An Amendment to the Story of Tong'i in Samkikchi Samkukchi Tong'ijǒ Kyojǒng Unpublished 1925
A Study of P'yǒngyang's River Water, or An Inquiry into the River Paesu in Pyeongyang Pyǒngyang P'aesu Ko Dong-A Ilbo 1925
A Study of the Three Hans in Sequence, or An Inquiry into the Former and Latter Three Han States Chǒnhu Samhan Ko Dong-A Ilbo 1924-1925 (est)
The Biggest Incident in One Thousand Years in Korean History Chosǒn Yǒksasang Ilch'ǒnnyǒnnae Cheil Taesakǒn Dong-A Ilbo 1925
King Chatae Who Held Hist Father Under Detention Purǔl Suhan Ch'adaewang Sidae Ilbo 1926
On the Chronology of Koguryǒ and Silla Kokuryǒ-wa Silla Kǒnguk Yǒndae-e Taehayǒ Sidae Ilbo 1926
Taekaya Ch'ǒn'guk Ko Taekaya Ch'ǒn'guk Ko Unpublished 1927
Chǒng In-hong kong Yakchǒn Chǒng In-hong kong Yakchǒn Unpublished 1927
Legends of Ancient Korea Chǒson-ǔi Kodae Sinhwa Unpublished 1927
The Great Battle of Two Dragons, or The War of the Dragons Yong kwa yong ǔi taegyǒkchǒn 1928
Exploratory Studies in Korean History Joseonsa yongu cho 1930
The History of Korea[a 3] Chosun Ilbo 1931-1932 (SP)
Cultural History of Ancient Korea Chosun Ilbo 1931
To Whom the Great Wall of China Belongs Chosun Ilbo 1932
A Study of the History of Tan'gun
Best Years of the Korean People Chosun Ilbo 1932
The Year of the Death of General Yǒn'gae Somun
Some Questions Regarding the History of Korea Chosǒn-sa Chǒngni-e Taehun Saǔi 1920-1929 (est)
The Vicissitudes of the Dae Gaya Unpublished
A Brief Biography of Jeong In-hong Unpublished
An appeal to Chosun cultural history or Myth of the Tangun Chosǒn sango munhwasa
Collected works of Sin Ch'aeho, or The Complete Works of Sin "Tanje" Ch'ae-ho, in 3 Volumes Tanje Sin Ch'ae-ho chǒnjip, 3 gwon Ulsa Munhwasa 1978 (PPH)

Bibliographical notes

  1. ^ Reprinted in “Youth” magazine in 1910 under the title Kuksa Saron (An Unofficial View of Korean History).
  2. ^ Published posthumously by The Club of Commemoration for Tanjae Sin Ch’ae-ho (ed.) in Series of Sin Ch'ae-ho (Seoul: Hyungseol, 1995).
  3. ^ Reprinted in 1948 under the title “The Ancient History of Korea”.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Bae, Ji-sook. "Independence Fighter to Get Family Register". Korea Times. Archived from the original on 25 June 2014. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  2. ^ Ch'oe, Yŏng-ho (1980). "An outline history of Korean historiography". Korean Studies 4: 1–27. 
  3. ^ a b c Park, So-yang (Jan 2012). "Speaking with the Colonial Ghosts and Pungsu Rumour in Contemporary South Korea (1990-2006): The Pungsu (Feng Shui) Invasion Story Surrounding the Demolition of the Former Japanese Colonial-General Builsing and Iron Spikes". Journal for Cultural Research 16 (1): 21–42. 
  4. ^ a b Robinson, Michael (1986). "Nationalism and the Korean Tradition, 1896-1920: Iconoclasm, Reform, and National Identity". Korean Studies 10: 35–53. 
  5. ^ a b David-West, Alzo (2011). "Between Confucianism and Marxism-Leninism: Juche and the Case of Chǒng Tasan". Korean Studies 35: 93–121. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Schmid, Andre (Feb 1997). "Rediscovering Manchuria: Sin Ch'aeho and the Politics of Territorial History in Korea". The Journal of Asian Studies 56 (1): 26–46. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Shin, Yong-ha (2004). "The philosophical world of Sin Chae-ho". In Lee, Seung-Hwan; Korean National Commission for UNESCO. Korean Philosophy: Its Tradition and Modern Transformation. Seoul, South Korea: Elizabeth, NJ - Hollym. pp. 441–461.  
  8. ^ a b c Armstrong, Charles (1995). "Centering the Periphery: Manchurian Exile(s) and the North Korean State". Korean Studies 19: 1–16. 
  9. ^ a b Robinson, Michael (1984). "National Identity and the Thought of Sin Ch'aeho: Sadaejuǔi and Chuch'e in History and Politics". Journal of Korean Studies 5: 121–142. 
  10. ^ Kuiwon. "Shin Chaeho - On the road to mount Baekdu". Koreabridge. 
  11. ^ a b c Park, Sang-jin (Dec 2012). "The literary value of Sin Ch'ae-ho's Dream Sky: A marginal alteration of Dante's Comedy". Acta Koreana 15 (2): 311–340. 
  12. ^ Suh, Dae-sook (1967). The Korean Communist Movement 1918-1948. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. 
  13. ^ Tikhonov, Vladimir (2012). "The Race and Racism Discourses in Modern Korea 1890s-1910s". Korean Studies 36: 31–57. 
  14. ^ Tikhonov, Vladimir (2007). "Masculinizing the nation: Gender ideologies in traditional Korea and in the 1890s-1900s Korean elightenment discourse". The Journal of Asian Studies 66 (4): 1029–1065. 
  15. ^ a b "Historical Figures 중구청 사이트". Daejeon Jung-gu. Archived from the original on 20 April 2015. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  16. ^ Korea Times, Dec. 3, 1994. Cited by Bruce Cumings (2005), Korea's Place in the Sun (updated edition), New York and London: W. W. Norton.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g Schmid, Andre (2002). Korea Between Empires, 1895-1919. New York: Columbia University Press. 
  18. ^ Lee, Ki-Baĭk (September 1979). "Nationalism in Tanjae's Historical Study". Korea Journal 19 (9): 4–10. 
  19. ^ a b c d Jager, Sheila Miyoshi (Feb 1996). "Women, resistance, and the divided nation: The romantic rhetoric of Korean reunification". The Joural of Asian Studies 55 (1): 3–21. 
  20. ^ Robinson, Michael (1984). "National identity and thought of Sin Ch'aeho: Sadaejuŭi and Chuch'e in history and politics". Journal of Korean Studies 5: 121–142. 
  21. ^ Sung, Min-kyu (2009). "The 'truth politics' of anti-North Koreanism: the post-ideological cultural representation of North Korea and the cultural criticisms of Korean nationalism". Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 10 (3): 439–459. 
  22. ^ Burgess, Chris (2007). Loss' and 'Recovery' of Voice amongst Korean International Marriage Migrants: Discourses of Korean-ness in Contemporary Japan"'". Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies 7. Retrieved 24 July 2015. 

External links

  • (Korean)
  • The Online Encyclopaedia of Korean Culture (Korean)