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  • 植民地朝鮮と宗教:帝国史, 国家神道,固有信仰. Shokuminchi Chōsen to shūkyō: Teikoku shi, kokka shintō, koyū shinkō [Colonial Korea and religion: imperial history, state Shinto, and indigenous beliefs] ed. by 磯前順一Isomae Jun’ichi, 尹海東Yun Haedong
  • Izumi Niwa
    Translated by Kim Hwansoo
植民地朝鮮と宗教:帝国史, 国家神道,固有信仰. Shokuminchi Chōsen to shūkyō: Teikoku shi, kokka shintō, koyū shinkō [Colonial Korea and religion: imperial history, state Shinto, and indigenous beliefs]. Edited by 磯前順一Isomae Jun’ichi and 尹海東Yun Haedong. Tōkyō: Sangensha, 2013, 369p.

In February 2012, Korean and Japanese scholars gathered at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies to attend a symposium on “Colonial Korea and Religion: Toward a New Narrative of Transnational Imperial History.” The book under review here is the result of the collaborative research presented at that conference.

Edited by Isomae Jun’ichi and Yun Haedong, the book is a collection of eleven articles by Japanese and Korean scholars from such fields as religion, history, literature, and anthropology. The articles are grouped into five sections: “The Concept of Religion and Imperial History,” “The Propagation of Religion in Everyday Life,” “State Shinto and Theory of Pseudo-Religions,” “State Shinto and Theory of Indigenous Religions,” and “Korean Folklore Studies and Indigenous Beliefs.”

The viewpoint that underlies all these themes is, as indicated by the subtitle of the symposium, an attempt at “A New Narrative of Transnational Imperial History.” By focusing on colonial Korea with religion as a medium, one can discover a space where the lives of Japanese and Koreans intertwined—a space that the narrative based on a single national history differentiating the two peoples fails to identify. This book pays attention to these aspects and tries to [End Page 203] present a concept of “Imperial Japan” that treats the establishment of religion in East Asia from the perspective of a shared East Asian history.

The concept of shūkyō was introduced to Japan in the late nineteenth century as a translation of the word “religion.” However, it later settled as a terminology that was the opposite of morality, which belonged to the public, non-religious domain. This framework paralleled the ways in which tennōsei ideology came to take hold in the public domain in a way that was closely tied to state rites and that differentiated itself from religion in the private domain. Furthermore, this notion of shūkyō developed the binary, opposing category called “pseudoreligion” identified with evil worship or superstition.

The interesting points presented in this book are summarized by the following assertions. The concept of religion in colonial Korea was mixed with non- Western pseudo-religions, native beliefs, and shamanism. Moreover, in this mixture, the Japanese imperial government, in the process of imposing tennōsei ideology upon colonial Korea, used Korean intellectuals, such as Ch’oe Namsŏn and Yi Nŭnghwa, as vehicles, and generated the discourse of linking Shinto with Korean folk religions. Therefore, this book proposes that “even though conceiving the danger of assimilation, this discourse entered deeply into the interior of Japanese imperial ideology and completely altered its own logic of legitimacy. At the same time, it not only elevated the status of Koreans, but also included the possibility of resistance that could degenerate the discourses about tennōsei ideology and Shinto” (p. 202).

Finally, religious policy in colonial Korea and its development are examined in detail, ranging from the perspective of Japanese and Korean scholars of the period to the dimension of people’s daily lives. The product of this effort is a comprehensive and thorough collaborative work by Japanese and Korean scholars. Thus, Colonial Korea and Religion is a laudable book that demonstrates the current status of post-colonial studies in Japan and Korea. (Translated by Hwansoo Kim) [End Page 204]

Izumi Niwa
Professor, East Asian Studies
Tokyo University of Foreign Studies