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Imperatives of Culture

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

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.

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Inequality in the Workplace

Labor Market Reform in Japan and Korea

by Jiyeoun Song

The past several decades have seen widespread reform of labor markets across advanced industrial countries, but most of the existing research on job security, wage bargaining, and social protection is based on the experience of the United States and Western Europe. In Inequality in the Workplace, Jiyeoun Song focuses on South Korea and Japan, which have advanced labor market reform and confronted the rapid rise of a split in labor markets between protected regular workers and underprotected and underpaid nonregular workers. The two countries have implemented very different strategies in response to the pressure to increase labor market flexibility during economic downturns. Japanese policy makers, Song finds, have relaxed the rules and regulations governing employment and working conditions for part-time, temporary, and fixed-term contract employees while retaining extensive protections for full-time permanent workers. In Korea, by contrast, politicians have weakened employment protections for all categories of workers.

In her comprehensive survey of the politics of labor market reform in East Asia, Song argues that institutional features of the labor market shape the national trajectory of reform. More specifically, she shows how the institutional characteristics of the employment protection system and industrial relations, including the size and strength of labor unions, determine the choice between liberalization for the nonregular workforce and liberalization for all as well as the degree of labor market inequality in the process of reform.

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Japan's Colonization of Korea

Discourse and Power

Alexis Dudden

From its creation in the early twentieth century, policymakers used the discourse of international law to legitimate Japan’s empire. Although the Japanese state aggrandizers’ reliance on this discourse did not create the imperial nation Japan would become, their fluent use of its terms inscribed Japan’s claims as legal practice within Japan and abroad. Focusing on Japan’s annexation of Korea in 1910, Alexis Dudden gives long-needed attention to the intellectual history of the empire and brings to light presumptions of the twentieth century’s so-called international system by describing its most powerful—and most often overlooked—member’s engagement with that system. Early chapters describe the global atmosphere that declared Japan the legal ruler of Korea and frame the significance of the discourse of early twentieth-century international law and how its terms became Japanese. Dudden then brings together these discussions in her analysis of how Meiji leaders embedded this discourse into legal precedent for Japan, particularly in its relations with Korea. Remaining chapters explore the limits of these ‘universal’ ideas and consider how the international arena measured Japan’s use of its terms. Dudden squares her examination of the legality of Japan’s imperialist designs by discussing the place of colonial policy studies in Japan at the time, demonstrating how this new discipline further created a common sense that Japan’s empire accorded to knowledgeable practice. This landmark study greatly enhances our understanding of the intellectual underpinnings of Japan’s imperial aspirations. In this carefully researched and cogently argued work, Dudden makes clear that, even before Japan annexed Korea, it had embarked on a legal and often legislating mission to make its colonization legitimate in the eyes of the world.

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Korea's Twentieth-Century Odyssey

Michael E. Robinson

For more than half of the twentieth century, the Korean peninsula has been divided between two hostile and competitive nation-states, each claiming to be the sole legitimate expression of the Korean nation. The division remains an unsolved problem dating to the beginnings of the Cold War and now projects the politics of that period into the twenty-first century. Korea’s Twentieth-Century Odyssey is designed to provide readers with the historical essentials upon which to unravel the complex politics and contemporary crises that currently exist in the East Asian region. Beginning with a description of late-nineteenth-century imperialism, Michael Robinson shows how traditional Korean political culture shaped the response of Koreans to multiple threats to their sovereignty after being opened to the world economy by Japan in the 1870s. He locates the origins of both modern nationalism and the economic and cultural modernization of Korea in the twenty years preceding the fall of the traditional state to Japanese colonialism in 1910. Robinson breaks new ground with his analysis of the colonial period, tracing the ideological division of contemporary Korea to the struggle of different actors to mobilize a national independence movement at the time. More importantly, he locates the reason for successful Japanese hegemony in policies that included—and thus implicated—Koreans within the colonial system. He concludes with a discussion of the political and economic evolution of South and North Korea after 1948 that accounts for the valid legitimacy claims of both nation-states on the peninsula.

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The Last Days of Kim Jong-il

The North Korean Threat in a Changing Era

Bechtol, Bruce

North Korea has remained a thorn in the side of the United States ever since its creation in the aftermath of the Korean conflict of 1950û1953. Crafting a foreign policy that effectively deals with North Korea, while still ensuring stability and security on the Korean Peninsula-and in Northeast Asia as a whole-has proved very challenging for successive American administrations. In the wake of ruler Kim Jong-il's death in December 2011, analysts and policymakers continue to speculate about the effect his last years as leader will have on the future of North Korea.

Bruce Bechtol, Jr. contends that Kim Jong-il's regime (1994-2011) exacerbated the threats that North Korea posed, and still poses, to the world. Bechtol explains how North Korea presents important challenges on five key fronts: its evolving conventional military threat, its strategy in the Northern Limit Line (NLL) area, its nuclear capabilities, its support for terrorism, and its handling of the succession process.

Bechtol's analysis clears up the persistent mystery of how Kim Jong-il's dysfunctional government in its final years was able to persist in power while both presenting a grave danger to its neighbors and setting the stage for the current government. This work addresses issues important for policymakers and academics who must deal with those in power in North Korea.

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Laying Claim to the Memory of May

A Look Back at the 1980 Kwangju Uprising

Linda S. Lewis

The Kwangju Uprising--"Korea's Tiananmen"--is one of the most important political events in late twentieth-century Korean history. What began as a peaceful demonstration against the imposition of military rule in the southwestern city of Kwangju in May 1980 turned into a bloody people's revolt. In the two decades since, memories of the Kwangju Uprising have lived on, assuming symbolic importance in the Korean democracy movement, underlying the rise in anti-American sentiment in South Korea, and shaping the nation's transition to a civil society. Nonetheless it remains a contested event, the subject still of controversy, confusion, international debate, and competing claims. As one of the few Western eyewitnesses to the Uprising, Linda Lewis is uniquely positioned to write about the event. In this innovative work on commemoration politics, social representation, and memory, Lewis draws on her fieldwork notes from May 1980, writings from the 1980s, and ethnographic research she conducted in the late 1990s on the memorialization of Kwangju and its relationship to changes in the national political culture. Throughout, the chronological organization of the text is crisscrossed with commentary that provocatively disrupts the narrative flow and engages the reader in the reflexive process of remembering Kwangju over two decades. Highly original in its method and approach, Laying Claim to the Memory of May situates this seminal event in a broad historical and scholarly context. The result is not only the definitive history of the Kwangju Uprising, but also a sweeping overview of Korean studies over the last few decades.

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The Making of Korean Christianity

Protestant Encounters with Korean Religions, 1876-1915

Sung-Deuk Oak

A major catalyst for the growth of Korean Christianity occurred at the turn of the twentieth century when Western missionaries encountered the religious landscape of Korea. These first-generation missionaries have been framed as destroyers of Korean religion and culture. Yet, as Sung-Deuk Oak shows in The Making of Korean Christianity, existing Korean religious tradition also impacted the growth and character of evangelical Christianity. The melding of indigenous Korean religions and Christianity led to a highly localized Korean Christianity that flourished in the early modern era. The Making of Korean Christianity sorts fact from myth in this exhaustive examination of the local and global forces that shaped Christianity on the Korean Peninsula.

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The Making of the First Korean President

Syngman Rhee's Quest for Independence, 1875-1948

Young Ick Lew

The only full-scale history of Syngman Rhee’s (1875–1965) early career in English was published nearly six decades ago. Now, in The Making of the First Korean President, Young Ick Lew uncovers little-known aspects of Rhee’s leadership roles prior to 1948, when he became the Republic of Korea’s first president. In this richly illustrated volume, Lew delves into Rhee’s background, investigates his abortive diplomatic missions, and explains how and why he was impeached as the head of the Korean Provisional Government in 1925. He analyzes the numerous personal conflicts between Rhee and other prominent Korean leaders, including some close friends and supporters who eventually denounced him as an autocrat.

Rhee is portrayed as a fallible yet charismatic leader who spent his life fighting in the diplomatic and propaganda arena for the independence of his beleaguered nation—a struggle that would have consumed and defeated lesser men. Based on exhaustive research that incorporates archival records as well as secondary sources in Korean, English, and Japanese, The Making of the First Korean President meticulously lays out the key developments of Rhee’s pre-presidential career, including his early schooling in Korea, involvement in the reform movement against the Taehan (“Great Korean”) Empire, and his six-year incarceration in Seoul Prison for a coup attempt on Emperor Kojong. Rhee’s life in the U.S. is also examined in detail: his education at George Washington, Harvard, and Princeton universities; his evangelical work at the Seoul YMCA; his extensive activities in Hawai‘i and attempts to maintain prestige and power among Koreans in the U.S. Lew concludes that, despite the manifold shortcomings in Rhee’s authoritarian leadership, he was undoubtedly best prepared to assume the presidency of South Korea after the onset of the Cold War in the Korean Peninsula.

Essential reading for anyone with an interest in modern Korean history, this work will serve as a lasting portrait of one of the pivotal figures in the evolution of Korea as it journeyed from colonial suppression to freedom and security.

Young Ick Lew is a former Chair Professor of Korean Studies, Graduate School of International Studies, Yonsei University in Seoul. Currently, he is T. H. Elema Chair Professor of Korean history at Handong Global University in P’ohang and a senior counselor to the Syngman Rhee Institute, Yonsei University.

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