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  • 근대 한・일 관계사 속의 기독교 . Kŭndae Han-Il kwan'gyesa sok ŭi Kidokkyo [Christianity in the History of Modern Korea-Japan Relations]
  • Niwa Izumi, Professor
근대 한・일 관계사 속의 기독교. Kŭndae Han-Il kwan'gyesa sok ŭi Kidokkyo [Christianity in the History of Modern Korea-Japan Relations]. By 양현혜 Hyŏn-hye Yang, Seoul: Ewha Womans University Press, 2009, 479p.

This book may undoubtedly be referred to as one of the best books ever written on the history of modern Korea-Japan relations with a focus on Christianity. Setting her focus on Christianity in Korea-Japan relations, the author succeeds in quite lucidly highlighting the essential characteristics of Japan's Emperor-centred political system from the time of the Meiji Restoration (Meiji Ishin). Above all, her detailed analysis of the socio-political situation in Japan, utilizing ample literature and primary source materials, delves deeply into many historical facts often overlooked by Japanese scholars while also succeeding in convincingly presenting the quite fascinating subject at issue.

The book consists of four parts, namely:

  1. 1. Christianity and the Japanese state under the Emperor system (일본 천황제 국가와 기독교)

  2. 2. Christianity in the history of Korea-Japan relations (한일 관계사 속의 기독교)

  3. 3. Christianity and Korean and Japanese intellectuals in the modern era (근대 한일 지식인과 기독교)

  4. 4. Christianity and present-day Korean society (현대 한국 사회와 기독교)

Paraphrasing the author, this book was written with the objective of analysing what logical structures created in Korea and Japan a historical [End Page 143] consciousness of Christianity, notably examining the role of Christianity in associations with modern Western civilization, modern relations between Korea and Japan, as well as ethnic identity.

The author's answer to this question, if I may summarize it, is as follows: Modernization in Japan constituted, in some ways, an internalization of the logical structure of the strong and capitalistic West under the ideology of the modern Emperor system as a way of countering the West and its influence. Under such circumstances, almost all of the Christian organizations in Japan accepted the ideology of the Emperor system as a "state" ritual - and thus non-religious - and tried to present themselves as leaders in the education of "good Japanese subjects."

On the other hand, Christian organizations in Korea, through an ethos of "inner-worldly asceticism toward the better life" (세속내적 향상주의의 금욕 ), employed logic for the purpose of establishing their ethnic identity; consequently, in Korea was internalized as in Japan the logical structure of the strong and capitalistic West.

The author persuasively delineates these arguments in sections one, two and four. But the author's main concern in this book is to provide portraits of two notable figures, Kim Kyo-sin (김교신 ) and Ham Sŏk-hŏn (함석헌 ). According to the author, these figures are to be considered Korean Christians who demonstrated that historical consciousness of Christianity in Korea which pursues a renewed world in which all of humankind would stand on its own feet without a single subjugated person. This would be accomplished through "creative self-suffering" (창조적 자기 수고 ), non-violence and tolerance, which is an imperative in Korean Christianity today.

This book may be considered a very successful endeavor by the author. More specifically, this reader felt that the viewpoint of the author was accompanied by specific measures of evaluation grounded in critical theory or cultural studies currently prevailing in the field of humanities and social science. In this sense, the author's perspective is quite clear and easy to understand. But at the same time, despite such sharp analytical skills, this approach tends to obscure the author's analysis when she tries to delve into the logic of faith. [End Page 144]

From the perspective of religious studies, the question of how Christian faith can associate with nationalism is quite an intriguing one, especially in the case of the Non-Church Movement 무교회주의, 無教会主義) founded by Uchimura Kanzo (内村鑑三) and his disciples. Kim Kyo-sin, Ham Sŏk-hŏn and Uchimura Kanzo are well-known as ardent Korean and Japanese patriots. What enabled them to keep their close and strong ties, despite the geopolitical realities of the time, was the logic of faith characteristic of the Non-Church Movement. Of course, there were differences in their positions - one was Japanese on the side of a suzerain power while the others were Korean, on the side of the colonized. Thus, between...


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