- Note from the Editor
This issue includes six research articles, four on the history of pre-modern Korea, one on post-liberation south Korea, and one on transnational Korea. There is also one article that translates and contextualizes a source text, and three book notes.
The first article, by King Kwong Wong, attempts to propose a solution to a problem that has long plagued scholars of the Mongol period in Korean history: What exactly was the status of the Goryeo kingdom within the Mongol Empire? The author focuses on the operation of the Branch Secretariat for the Eastern Campaign to show how the issue of sovereignty was fluid and contested: Though nominally an instrument of Mongol control over Goryeo, the Branch Secretariat also provided an avenue for Goryeo officials to enter the Yuan civil service administration. This gave Goryeo officials a voice at the Yuan court, and they could and did use this platform to defend Goryeo’s autonomy.
The next article, by Michael C. E. Finch, takes us to the Imjin War. Thanks to the Swaemirok, a diary kept by O Huimun, we can discover how an ordinary scholar managed to keep his family together during this period of turmoil. The article focuses on O’s recourse to divination and his interactions with a divination official. This reveals O Huimun’s anxieties over family matters, notably the health of his daughter. It also sheds light on an elite scholar’s layered attitude towards divination and diviners.
The third article also deals with the Joseon period. In it, Hyun Soon Park seeks to answer the question why the so-called state celebration examination (gyeonggwa) became so popular in late Joseon Korea. Besides the regular triennial examination, additional examinations were sometimes held to mark special occasions; usually they were tied to important court celebrations and rituals, the legitimacy of which was enhanced by the presence of many scholars. Examinations held after these ritual celebrations were an incentive to secure the scholars’ goodwill towards the court. Given their focus on literary composition, an interesting bifurcation developed, in which provincial scholars preferred the [End Page v] triennial celebration (which focused on rote memorization), while capital scholars predominantly participated in the state celebration examinations.
In the third and final article on Joseon history, Kyusik Sim looks at a type of source that has received almost no exposure in Korean Studies: stone monuments that commemorate the construction of bridges. One of the reasons for their neglect is that they do not fit into any of the traditional categories of literary composition. However, as the author shows, this also gave the authors of such inscriptions leeway for experimentation. The author has unearthed a fascinating text by the exiled scholar Sim Yeolji for a bridge in Gijang County, near Busan. Although the text was never carved on stone, the author shows how it still left its mark on the community, and thus allows us to gauge how exiles contributed to and interacted with the local community.
In “The ‘Bunce Plan’ and the Aborted Land Reform of 1946” Il-Young Jung presents his findings on an important precursor to land reform in post-liberation South Korea. Although the Bunce Plan, named after the State Department official Arthur C. Bunce who was dispatched to Korea in 1946, was never implemented, it nevertheless constituted an important blueprint for the reforms eventually implemented in 1948. The article reveals that it was not only opposition by Koreans that doomed the plan, but also opposition on the part of the USAMGIK military who were governing the southern part of the peninsula until 1948.
In the final research article of this issue, Wonjung Min investigates how Chilean K-pop fans perceive their idols. Specifically, her research ascertains what ideal of masculinity the fans identify with. In contrast to the hegemonic ideal of masculinity dominant in mainstream Chilean culture, K-pop offers flexible, hybrid models of masculinity that fans like to identify with.
Besides the regular articles this issue also contains a section on “materials in translation.” Hui Zou and Myengsoo Seo introduce and translate Seo Yugu’s Jangchwiwon, an essay about an imaginary garden. Famous as the author of...