Korean Studies, vol. 37 (2013): Urban Cultural Landscapes of Colonial Korea, 1920s–1930s


Guest Editor: Yung-Hee Kim

Guest Editor’s Introduction
Yung-Hee Kim, 1

This special issue of Korean Studies includes selected articles originally presented as papers at the ‘‘Tapestry of Modernity: Urban Cultural Landscapes of Colonial Korea, 1920s–1930s: An International Interdisciplinary Conference’’ held at the Center for Korean Studies, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, February 16–17, 2012. The conference was part of the Center’s project to commemorate its fortieth anniversary.

The ‘‘New Woman’’ and the Topography of Modernity in Colonial Korea
Jiyoung Suh, 11

This article intends to illustrate gender roles as related to modernity in colonial Korea by focusing on the birth of the ‘‘New Woman’’ and its historical location. The New Woman appeared as a new female icon all over the world in the early twentieth century and implanted a new female identity produced by the introduction of modern, Western ideas in Korea. However, the embodiment of the New Woman in Korea shows historical variation from the prototype of a more global New Woman. Furthermore, in colonial Korea New Women did not present a singular, fixed collective identity but included diverse layers of female subjectivities. Specifically, with the flow of time, the representation of New Women shows the process of refraction and implosion of ‘‘New Woman’’ images, each having different connotations. This article traces the discursive transformation of the ‘‘New Woman’’ in mass media (mainly newspapers and magazines) from the 1900s to the 1940s, and its significant associations with the relationship of gender and modernity in colonial Korea. It also elucidates what it meant to be a New Woman historically in Korea.

In Quest of Modern Womanhood: Sinyŏja, a Feminist Journal in Colonial Korea
Yung-Hee Kim, 44

This article appraises the impact and significance of Sinyŏja (New Woman; 1920), the first feminist journal published in Korea after the March 1, 1919, movement, in the development of discourses on the ‘‘Woman Question’’ in colonial Korea. Created and managed by women—with the pioneering feminist writer Kim Wo˘n-ju (1896–1971) as its editor and centrifugal force—the journal provided a public platform exclusively for women, who publicized feminist ideas, criticism, and visions. The journal’s major goals included: women’s awakening, empowerment, and self-realization through education; stimulation of women’s socio-cultural and historical consciousness; reform of oppressive Confucian patriarchal familial and marital institutions; and, ultimately, gender equality. This study traces the journal’s trajectories, focusing on its prime movers, editorials, articles, and short stories. In the end, this article sheds light on Sinyŏja’s contribution to authenticating modern Korean women’s mass media engagement as well as legitimizing their feminist aspirations for socio-cultural intervention and subversion, which was rarely duplicated in colonial Korean journalistic history.

School Textbooks: An Instance of Modernity Refracted by Colonialism and Tradition
Gilsang Lee, 79

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.

The Context and Contradictions of Kang Kyŏng-ae’s Novel In’gan munje
Samuel Perry, 99

Kang Kyŏng-ae’s canonical novel In’gan munje (1934) is often celebrated as an extraordinary work of feminist writing from colonial Korea that offered a radical critique of patriarchal and bourgeois culture in the Japanese colony. This essay seeks to unsettle several historiographical assumptions often made about Kang’s novel by digging deeper into the set of historical pressures and limits within which Kang was writing in the colonial period, and by examining how she responded to these conditions by challenging and reshaping the aesthetic category of the novel. Demonstrating how Kang’s work is a far more complex and contradictory text than is often acknowledged with regard to questions of gender and class, I shed new light on Kang’s novel in two different but complementary ways, historicizing it within the material context of its serialization, on the one hand, and reading it within the framework of the Western Bildungsroman on the other.

Performing Modernity in Korea: The Dance of Ch’oe Sŭng-hŭi
Judy Van Zile, 124

Rooted in British sociologist Anthony Giddens’s description of modernity as a historical and cultural space that is ‘‘in various key respects discontinuous with the gamut of premodern cultures and ways of life,’’ this study seeks to contextualize Ch’oe Sŭng-hŭi’s life and legacy in relation to evolving ideas of modernity. Here I continue my concern with Ch’oe’s actual dancing. I first lay a foundation for moving forward by summarizing related previous findings. I then look at Ch’oe’s emerging aesthetic philosophy and artistic development in relation to modernity as it was becoming defined in dance in Japan, Korea, and elsewhere. I conclude that it was the diverse philosophies underlying the kinds of dance with which Ch’oe became engaged that in effect gave her permission to develop artistically in the way she did, and that allowed for her changing embodiment of Korean modernity during the 1920s and 1930s.


The Korean Valentino: Jin Yan (Kim Yŏm), Sino-Korean Unity, and Shanghai Films of the 1930s
Hye Seung Chung, 150

This essay examines the involvement of Korean-born ethnic star Kim Yŏm (Chinese name: Jin Yan) in Shanghai’s left-wing, resistance film movement during the 1930s. In addition to reading Kim’s persona as an ideal screen embodiment of ‘‘athletic, modern youth,’’ which was being promoted by the official screen policy during the Nanjing decade (1927–1937), the author offers a close analytical interpretation of director Sun Yu’s masterpiece The Big Road (Da Lu, 1934). In this film, Kim plays a revolutionary martyr who leads a group of construction workers building new roads for the Chinese army resisting the invasion of Japanese imperialists. Employing a transnational star studies paradigm, the author interprets The Big Road as an allegory of Sino-Korean unity, one that was founded upon a common resistance against the Japanese Empire at the time of the film’s release.

Astronomical Records in the Samguk Sagi during the Three Kingdoms Period: Earliest Times to A.D. 668
F. Richard Stephenson, 171

This article presents a comprehensive investigation of the accuracy and reliability of the astronomical records in the Samguk sagi during the Three Kingdoms period (c. first century B.C. to A.D. 668). Comparison of these records with the results of modern computation is undertaken wherever possible (that is, in the case of eclipses and lunar and planetary movements) and also with analogous reports in the annals of Chinese dynastic histories.

Identifying the Early-Period T’aengniji Manuscripts
Inshil Choe Yoon, 225

This article aims to identify the ‘‘early-period’’ T’aengniji 擇里誌 manuscripts through a series of processes starting from the selection of potential early hand written copies from ninety-four T’aengniji manuscripts held in libraries in Korea and abroad. I define the ‘‘early period’’ as stretching from the completion of the T’aengniji in 1751 to the early part of the nineteenth century. After this period, the story of Pak Sun 朴淳, an agent to Hamhŭng, was added and the following statement emerged in the ‘‘Geomancy’’ section: ‘‘This is not discussed here in detail because there are geomancers’ books on the subject.’’ The early-period manuscripts are ‘‘Tongguk p’aryŏkchi’’ 東國八域志, ‘‘Tongguk chirihae’’ 東國地理解, ‘‘T’aengniji’’ 擇里誌 (Dongguk University), and ‘‘T’aengniji’’ 擇里誌 (Korea University, Sinam). The sequence of their texts mirrors the Kosŏganhaenghoe and the Kwangmunhoe editions, printed in 1910 and 1912 respectively. The findings illuminate that, from as early as the eighteenth century, the T’aengniji was also regarded internationally as a valuable treatise as it performed a role in cultural communication between the scholars of Chosŏn and the Ching dynasty.


Nathan Hesselink, SamulNori: Contemporary Korean Drumming and the Rebirth of Itinerant Performance Culture
reviewed by Sunhee Koo, 250

Kyung Hyun Kim, Virtual Hallyu: Korean Cinema of the Global Era
reviewed by Sang Yee Cheon, 253

Patrick McEachern, Inside the Red Box: North Korea’s Post-Totalitarian Politics
reviewed by Balázs Szalontai, 256

Contributors, 260