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BOOK REVIEW Park Myoung-kyu and Seo Ho-chul: Colonial Authority and Statistics: the Statistics System of the Chosŏn Government-General and its Censuses (식민권력과 통계: 조선총독부의통계체계와 센서스 Singmin Kwŏllyŏk kwa T’onggye: Chosŏn Ch’ongdokpu ŭi T’onggye ch’egye wa Sensŏsŭ) Seoul, Korea: Seoul National University Press, 2003. pp. 144 Young-Gyung Paik Received: 2 October 2006 /Accepted: 12 October 2006 / Published online: 22 November 2007 # National Science Council, Taiwan 2007 Statistical practices have often been assumed as routine and prosaic, if not entirely value-neutral, activities of the modern state, and as more or less universal in nature across European and non-European countries. Yet, the recent STS literature reveals that the very content and exercise of these practices are deeply political, and that their evolution has taken different paths in different historical, political, and cultural settings. Colonial Authority and Statistics, a painstaking study of the statistical systems and censuses of the Government-General of Chosŏn (Korea) during the Japanese colonial period (1910–1945), is most welcome since it represents one of the first and few empirical studies touching upon this interesting nexus between statistical practices and politics/power in a Korean context. After an introduction, the book begins with a chapter reviewing the development of modern statistical systems and practices in Japan since the Meiji Restoration. Ever since the terms and concepts of statistics and census were introduced from Europe in the 1860s, the use of statistical practices was perceived as an essential part of Japan’s civilizing project, the most important example being the national census that began to be systematically conducted in 1920. But while the term statistics was by and large translated into tokei (統計)—meaning total sum—how to translate the term census turned out to be more controversial. Initially, behind the drive to replace the method of “inquiries per household (戶口調査)” by that of census must have been the need to establish a realistic estimate of population, whose mobility was being significantly affected by industrialization and urbanization. According to the authors Pak and Seo, however, there was also a political dimension. As the eventually East Asian Science, Technology and Society: an International Journal (2007) 1:139–141 DOI 10.1007/s12280-007-9009-2 Y.-G. Paik (*) Department of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA e-mail: accepted translation of census—kokuseichōsa (國勢調査), meaning a survey of national wealth or national prosperity (國勢)—implies, the shift to census reflected not only Japanese pride as a prosperous empire but also militaristic nationalism of the day (p. 30). The next chapter provides a general discussion of modern, centralized statistical systems adopted by the Government-General of Chosŏn. While some scholars trace Korea’s modern statistical systems to the second Kabo Reform period in 1895, Pak and Seo point out that such an effort would be futile since pre-colonial systems were already modeled after those of Meiji Japan (p. 42). The authors argue that the Meiji style of statistical practices, which gave precedence to the compilation of statistics for administrative use over field survey and research, persisted in colonial Chosŏn. For instance, the Government-General tended to gather data mainly from police or other official reportings, and did not establish a separate apparatus devoted to statistical data collection (pp. 45–46). Although the year-end count (每年末戶口) of household surveys was published annually, possibly as a consequence of this prekokuseich ōsa style, a large portion of the collected data remained classified. It presents a very different picture from what Hacking has called “an avalanche of printed numbers,” referring to social statistics in nineteenth-century Europe. Finally, in Chapter IV, Park and Seo turn to the implementation of kokuseichōsa in colonial Chosŏn, the main focus of their study. Japan’s first attempt to introduce kokuseichōsa to Chosŏn in 1905 was thwarted by the Russo-Japanese War. In 1920, Japan once again planned an empire-wide census. Through this initiative, by placing each member of population within the grids of abstract modern time and space, Japan sought to demonstrate the power of its modernity and to achieve the integration of colonial subjects into the empire (pp. 63...


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pp. 139-141
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Archived 2021
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