The Race and Racism Discourses in Modern Korea, 1890s-1910s
Abstract

This article deals with the introduction of racial and racist discourses to Korea in the 1890s-1910s. The new, race-based taxonomic system overlapped with the pre-existing models of the worldwide civilizational hierarchy. Thus, the "barbarians" of the Confucian, China-centred world order evolved into the "savages," "aborigines," or "inferior races" essential for the new weltanschauung. Europeans, previously classified as "barbarians," were reclassified as preeminently civilized "White race," while at the same time being often regarded as an existential threat, both to Koreans and other "Yellow"—and generally all the non-White—people. On the other hand, the Japanese, previously seen as a troublesome, alien, and at best semicivilized neighbor, were reclassified as "fellow members of the Yellow race." This classificatory change had huge socio-political and cultural implications, since it appeared to legitimize both modern borrowings from and often even political and military collaboration with East Asia's new imperialist hegemon.


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