Abstract

This study examines a home economics textbook (Kajŏng tokpon) written by Lee Man-gyu, an educator of the colonial period, highly respected in both South and North Korea and occupying a prominent place in the history of Korean education. The study focuses on how nationalism and progressiveness, the two main qualities that make up his reputation, express themselves in a school textbook written for girls. The examination of the textbook showed that his views were not always nationalist or progressive. I argue that the reasons for such ambivalence are his partial acceptance of values promoted by the colonial power or compromise with colonialism, on the one hand, and his rigid and reactionary views on gender roles, on the other. This article attempts to bring to light the limitations in existing ways of understanding the colonial history of Korea, dominated by binary thinking, whether it is imperialist oppression vs. resistance, colonial exploitation vs. traditional native culture. On the other hand, it also points to the validity of new approaches proposed in recent years, such as multiple modernities, varieties of modernity, or modernity as change. There is no way to paint a portrait of colonial Korea—a period during which colonialism, modernity, nationalism, Western influence, and traditionalism came together, at times clashing, at other times, intermingling with one another—in black and white. Lee Man-gyu’s Kajŏng tokpon is precisely a book born out of such a dynamically evolving period, torn between manifold impulses and influences.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1529
Print ISSN
0145-840X
Pages
pp. 79-98
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-17
Open Access
No
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