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Populist Collaborators

The Ilchinhoe and the Japanese Colonization of Korea, 1896–1910

by Yumi Moon

Publication Year: 2013

An empire invites local collaborators in the making and sustenance of its colonies. Between 1896 and 1910, Japan's project to colonize Korea was deeply intertwined with the movements of reform-minded Koreans to solve the crisis of the Choson dynasty (1392-1910). Among those reformers, it was the Ilchinhoe (Advance in Unity Society)-a unique group of reformers from various social origins-that most ardently embraced Japan's discourse of "civilizing Korea" and saw Japan's colonization as an opportunity to advance its own "populist agendas." The Ilchinhoe members called themselves "representatives of the people" and mobilized vibrant popular movements that claimed to protect the people's freedom, property, and lives. Neither modernist nor traditionalist, they were willing to sacrifice the sovereignty of the Korean monarchy if that would ensure the rights and equality of the people.

Both the Japanese colonizers and the Korean elites disliked the Ilchinhoe for its aggressive activism, which sought to control local tax administration and reverse the existing power relations between the people and government officials. Ultimately, the Ilchinhoe members faced visceral moral condemnation from their fellow Koreans when their language and actions resulted in nothing but assist the emergence of the Japanese colonial empire in Korea. In Populist Collaborators, Yumi Moon examines the vexed position of these Korean reformers in the final years of the Choson dynasty, and highlights the global significance of their case for revisiting the politics of local collaboration in the history of a colonial empire.

Published by: Cornell University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

A few choices, made without imagining their long-term results, have shaped my life. I wrote this book with deep sympathy for people who tried hard to change their lives but became bewildered by the progress of history. Luckily, many good people have helped me survive the results of my choices, whether made from innocence or from ignorance. ...


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pp. xi-xii

Author’s Note

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pp. xiii-xiv

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pp. 1-21

In March 2004, almost sixty years after the nation’s liberation in 1945, the South Korean national assembly passed a law, in the name of “purification of the nation’s history” (kwagosa ch’ŏngsan), for the purpose of “investigating pro-Japanese acts” during colonial rule.1 Unexpectedly, the act provoked a series of scandals that shattered the political prospects of prominent ruling party leaders. ...

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1. The Korean Reformers and the Late Chosŏn State

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pp. 22-45

The Chosŏn dynasty (1392– 1910) was long and stable. Major popular rebellions did not occur before its final century. The dynasty suddenly encountered a series of popular rebellions, the coup of elite officials, a palace mutiny, and successive foreign invasions in the nineteenth century. ...

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2. People and Foreigners: The Northwestern Provinces, 1896– 1904

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pp. 46-80

An Chung-gǔn (1879– 1910), a Catholic Korean youth, assassinated Itō Hirobumi (1841– 1909) in 1909 and became an icon of Korean patriotism and nationalism. He wrote in his memoir that he had killed Ito for the peace of East Asia (tongyang p’yǒnghwa,) because Itō had broken his “promise” to protect Korean independence when Japan waged war against Russia. ...

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3. Sensational Campaigns: The Russo-Japanese War and the Ilchinhoe’s Rise, 1904–1905

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pp. 81-116

When Japan launched the Russo-Japanese War in February 1904, Korean reformists observed the military campaigns with wonder and suspicion. Yun Ch’i-ho, the leader of the Independence Club, was one of the reformers who oscillated between these two feelings. After Japan declared victory in the war, Yun wrote in his diary: “I am glad Japan has beaten Russia. ...

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4. Freedom and the New Look: The Culture and Rhetoric of the Ilchinhoe Movement

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pp. 117-161

In February 1905, Yi Min-hwa, a major in the Wŏnju defense army, was called into the military court of Wŏnju for a face-to-face examination with sixty members of the Ilchinhoe. The major had filed a case against the organization, charging that it had violated Korean imperial authority at one of its assemblies. ...

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5. The Populist Contest: The Ilchinhoe’s Tax Resistance, 1904– 1907

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pp. 162-193

The elite records of protectorate Korea, whether written in Korean or Japanese, depict the Ilchinhoe’s movement with scorn, abhorrence, and anxiety. It is hard to grasp how the Ilchinhoe emerged as a strong popular organization in a short period of time if we reference the portraits of the group in the records of the Korean court, the media of the elite reformers, ...

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6. Subverting Local Society: Ilchinhoe Legal Disputes, 1904– 1907

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pp. 194-240

Landownership and its reform in agrarian society were burning issues that changed Korea’s historical course in the twentieth century. The cadastral survey of the Kwangmu government moved in the direction of clarifying the private ownership of landowners and streamlined complicated property rights in the lands affiliated with government agencies. ...

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7. The Authoritarian Resolution: The Ilchinhoe and the Japanese, 1904– 1910

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pp. 241-279

Historians of the Japanese empire have long debated what exactly Japan intended when it installed protectorate rule in Korea and how and why it reached its final decision to annex Korea. The crux of this debate is based on understanding the characteristics of the Japanese protectorate as a form of government ...

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pp. 280-288

Kim Myŏng-jun, once an Ilchinhoe member, said at one of Taehan Hyŏphoe’s assemblies that “the civilization of our generation is not other than that the rights of the people are consolidated, their freedoms are articulated in law, and they live life in comfort. The people in Korea do not have the freedom—even if they wish ...


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pp. 289-296

E-ISBN-13: 9780801467950
E-ISBN-10: 0801467950
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801450419
Print-ISBN-10: 0801450411

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1