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Imperatives of Culture

edited by Christopher P. Hanscom, Walter K. Lew, and Youngju Ryu

Publication Year: 2013

Imperatives of Culture is a landmark in bringing important Korean texts from the colonial period into the English-speaking world. Intellectuals and writers who were central to debates over Korean identity and culture—which in the 1930s and 1940s the Japanese were trying to eradicate—illumine with insight and often brilliance the dilemmas of an ancient nation captured by a curiously ‘late’ (or late-coming) twentieth-century imperialism. These essays also cast their reflection down to the present, as divided Korea enters its seventh decade. This book rewards multiple readings and will be most useful in the classroom.” —Bruce Cumings, Chair, Department of History, University of Chicago

“Here, finally, for the first time in English we have in one volume the signature voices of many of Korea’s pioneering modernists of the colonial era in their own words and in all their stunning diversity and complexity. Together with the excellent introductions that accompany the original essays, these translations are a gift to all seeking to understand Korea in the larger context of twentieth-century modernity.” —Carter J. Eckert, Yoon Se Young Professor of Korean History, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University

This volume contains translations—many appearing for the first time in the English language—of major literary, critical, and historical essays from the colonial period (1910–1945) in Korea. Considered representative of the debates among Korean and between Korean and Japanese intellectuals of the colonial period, these texts shed light on relatively unexplored aspects of colonial intellectual life and take part in current conversations around the nature of the colonial experience and its effects on post-liberation Korean society and culture.

The essays, each preceded by a scholarly introduction giving necessary historical and biographical context, represent a diverse spectrum of ideological positions and showcase the complexity of intellectual life and scholarship in colonial Korea. They allow new perspectives on an important period in Korean history, a period that continues to inform political, social, and cultural life in crucial ways across East Asia. The translations also provide an important counterpoint to the imperial archive from the perspective of the colonized and take part in the ongoing reevaluation of the colonial period and “colonial modernity” in both Western and East Asian scholarship.

Imperatives of Culture is intended in part for the increasing number of undergraduate and graduate students in Korean studies as well as for those engaged in the study of East Asia as a whole and a general, educated audience with interests in modern Korea and East Asia. The essays have been carefully selected and introduced in ways that open up avenues for comparison with analyses of colonial literature and history in other national contexts.

Christopher P. Hanscom is an assistant professor in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Los Angeles. Walter K. Lew is the author of Treadwinds: Poems and Intermedia Texts and a study on the work of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. Youngju Ryu is an assistant professor in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan.

Published by: University of Hawai'i 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-viii

It is hard to find the words to express my delight that this important anthology is finally going to press. Some years back, Christopher Hanscom, then a PhD student in Korean literature at the University of California, Los Angeles, approached me with an idea about a project that would have our graduate students translate a number of essays by major Korean thinkers of the colonial period. ...

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pp. ix-x

We would like to extend our gratitude first to John Duncan, who has been a tireless supporter of this project from its inception. The many hours that he put into this volume are representative of both his consistent encouragement of young scholars and his ongoing efforts to build the field of Korean studies. ...

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pp. xi-xxii

The colonial era (1910–1945) was a difficult time in Korean history. As national sovereignty was lost the imperative to clarify cultural identity became ever more important. The translations collected in this volume span a wide range of topics, disciplines, and ideological positions, a diversity that reflects the thought and expression characteristic of the period. ...

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Chapter 1. On National Reconstruction

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pp. 1-28

It is with great hope and a burning heart that I dedicate this essay to my brothers and sisters who are also concerned with the future of the Korean people and the problem of how this nation (minjok) is to overcome the present decay and enter into a happy, prosperous future. ...

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Chapter 2. Urging the Vanguard of Social Movements to Come Forward

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pp. 29-41

“Urging the Vanguard of Social Movements to Come Forward” was published in the first and second issues of the magazine New Life (Sin saenghwal). New Life was one of several leftist journals launched in the early 1920s, when, in the aftermath of the March First Movement, the Japanese colonial government established its “cultural policy” ...

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Chapter 3. The Social Standing of Korean Women

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pp. 42-63

According to sociologists, human society evolved from the female-centered organization of the past to the male-centered organization of today and will evolve again from its present form to one where the two sexes will attain equality. Modern society is in the process of this very transition, and the women’s issues and struggles ...

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Chapter 4. Images of Korea in Japanese Literature

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pp. 64-87

Autumn with its trilling insects and winter with its chilly winds are commonly considered lonely and desolate seasons. But the truth is, as long as reading remains a most enjoyable pastime, exhilarating days like these with lingering nights are perfect for “intimacy with a reading lantern.” ...

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Chapter 5. Chosŏn’s Five Thousand Years of Ŏl

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pp. 88-103

A man’s body is seven ch’ŏk.21 When we consider the enormity of time and the vastness of space, we realize that one man is merely a grain of millet in the vast sea. There is, however, something that cannot be confined to those seven ch’ŏk. The “ŏl”23of the “self-as-self” is one with the nation, on the one hand, ...

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Chapter 6. The History of Korean Society and Economy, A Theory on the Present Stage of the Korean Economy

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pp. 104-131

In the study of Korean history, we must take as our task both the concrete and true-to-life elucidation of the processes of change in historical and social development and the theorization of these changes’ practical thrust. The task can only be accomplished using historical dialectics ...

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Chapter 7. The Path Chosŏn Women Must Tread, Two Hundred Yen for My Manuscript, On Leaving Kando, a Farewell to Kando

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pp. 132-153

What is the socially beneficial path that we, the women of Chosŏn, must tread as either individual parts or an integrated whole as we head toward a united purpose, all the while remaining aware of the limitations of the present environment? I will write down some of my views in order to pose this question to my Chosŏn sisters who are of the same mind. ...

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Chapter 8. Soliloquies of “Pierrot”—Fragmentary Notions on “Poésie”

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pp. 154-164

The secondary (hidden) meaning of a word and the secondary (hidden) relations between words, the new, previously unconceived-of relations between one word and another: Doesn’t the sacred realm awaiting the poet in that regard lie before one like a virgin forest? ...

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Chapter 9. The Expansion and Deepening of Realism: On Scenes by a Stream and “Wings”

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pp. 165-180

Pak T’aewŏn’s novel Scenes by a Stream was serialized in the August, September, and October issues of Morning Light,20 and Yi Sang’s short story “Wings” was published in the September issue of Morning Light. Unlike many of the works that we typically see today, these two were not extemporaneous creations. ...

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Chapter 10. The Judas Within and Literature

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pp. 181-196

To a non-Christian like myself, the New Testament does not contain many scenes capable of completely enthralling me. But when, after riffling through one book after another, the restless heart turns to the Bible, it usually opens to a few places: Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, and John 13. ...

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Chapter 11. The True Meaning of Pure Literature: A Present Task of National Literature, A Personal Opinion on Writing Literature—on the Inclination of My Literary Spirit

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pp. 197-208

Among some literary groups and within general society there is a growing tendency of late to consider pure literature only in its passive aspect and see it merely as academic or as an aesthetic literature. By revealing the true meaning of pure literature, I hope to correct this misconception. ...

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Chapter 12. Preface to Introduction to the History of the Korean Nation

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pp. 209-220

There is no need to dwell on the fact that our history has been entirely monarch-centered in the past. This is clear from observing the chronicle form of our historiographical writing: records describing what happened in a certain month of the year of a certain king. ...

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pp. 221-224

Ellie Choi, an assistant professor in the Department of Asian Studies at Cornell University, is an intellectual historian of modern Korea during the Japanese empire. Her dissertation (PhD, Harvard University, 2009), “Space and National Identity: Yi Kwangsu’s Vision of Korea during the Japanese Empire,” ...


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pp. 225-230

E-ISBN-13: 9780824839048
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824838218

Publication Year: 2013