Chinese President Xi Jinping may have given President Donald Trump some “alternative facts.” Or maybe Trump just cooked up this controversy all by himself.
Trump was given a 10-minute Chinese-Korean history lesson by the Chinese president during his visit to Mar-a-Lago, but either Xi or Trump got it all mixed up.
"[Xi] then went into the history of China and Korea. Not North Korea, Korea. And you know, you’re talking about thousands of years …and many wars. And Korea actually used to be a part of China," Trump told The Wall Street Journal last week just before he said dealing with North Korea was “not so easy.”
Understandably, the glaring inaccuracy has enraged both North and South Koreans who bristle at the insinuation that they had ever been dependent on China. For centuries, Korea — like other small Asian kingdoms including Thailand and Vietnam — was part of China’s tributary system, paying for protection from its gigantic neighbor, but it was never under its control.
There were two points in history when Korea came very close to being assimilated into China. The first was during the Han Dynasty era during which four “commanderies” were set up in the northern part of Korea.
The second one was during the 13th century A.D., when the Mongol empire’s domination included both China and Korea. After seven sieges to Korea, the Mongols were able to take control of the small country, but even then, they ran China more directly than Korea.
After Trump’s insensitive comments, Korean scholars and leaders have criticized the president’s tactless stereotyping of Korean history and called it an attack on Korean sovereignty, said The Washington Post.
South Korea's Arirang news cited an official on Wednesday who called the allegation that Korea used to be part of China "not worthy of a response."
“It’s a clear fact acknowledged by the international community that, for thousands of years in history, Korea has never been part of China,” foreign ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck said at a briefing in Seoul on Thursday.
“This is clearly a distortion of history and an invasion of the Republic of Korea’s sovereignty,” conservative Liberal Korea Party candidate Hong Joon Pyo said through a spokesman.
“No respectable historian would make such a claim,” said Kyung Moon Hwang, a history professor at the University of Southern California.
Meanwhile, Youn Kwan-suk, the spokesman for the main opposition Democratic Party, did issue a response, saying, “The 50 million South Koreans, as well as many common-sensical people around the world, cannot help but feel embarrassed and shocked.”
OMG we're so getting used to Trump's stupidity that we missed this.— 👩🏻 Vivian Vacca (@ViviVacca) April 20, 2017
The S Koreans are pissed!https://t.co/eN3Bq8DaCL
Trump saying Korea used to be part of China is just about the one thing he could've said to automatically make Koreans hate him wodksjdjss— ❤WELCOME BACK YUNHO❤ (@ulthunhae) April 21, 2017
#maddow S. Korea had to explain to Trump that they have never been part of China? How humiliating for America!— Doreen ❄️❄️ (@reenie62) April 21, 2017
1. Xi Jinping "explains" history of China and Korea to Trump.— Patrick Chovanec (@prchovanec) April 20, 2017
2. Trump tells WSJ that Korea used to be part of China.
Hwang also asserted that President Xi may have put the Chinese nationalist version of the history into the U.S. president’s head.
"It’s possible that Xi said something like this, as such a story has been part of the nationalist history project under the Chinese Communist Party for a couple of decades," he told Quartz, but also admitted Trump may just have misunderstood the delicate nuances in the topic.
It is a well known fact that Trump is not well-versed in Asian history. Just recently, the president confused the Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong-un with not just his father but with his grandfather as well.
So it is quite possible he managed to bungle this instance of history too.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters