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Imperialist Encounters in the Asian World: An Alternative to the Western Narrative

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A presentation given at NCHE's 2015 Annual Conference in St. Augustine, FL:
The study of the Age of Imperialism typically focuses on the motives of Western nations, with colonized societies being unwitting pawns in the global scramble for empire. Yet at the heart of this story is a complex and dynamic encounter between two civilizations, with groups and individuals on both sides who are driven by a variety of interests. Using Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910-1945 as a case study, and drawing upon literature and primary sources, participants will explore ways to bring a richer and more nuanced portrayal of encounter between two cultures in the context of the colonial experience.

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Imperialist Encounters in the Asian World: An Alternative to the Western Narrative

  1. 1. Jeannie Logan / New Trier High School / loganj@nths.net
  2. 2.  “Age of Western Dominance” Concerns Complicate the master narrative Imperialism Narrative
  3. 3.  Korea Unified, autonomous nation since 668 CE 3 Dynasties: Silla (668- 936) Koryo (936-1392) Choson (1392-1910)
  4. 4.  The End of Japanese Isolation
  5. 5. Why Empire? Why Korea?
  6. 6.  Treaty of Kanghwa 1876 Opened up 3 ports to Japan Gave Japan exemption from tariffs Recognized Japanese currency at ports of trade Japanese legation set up in Seoul Granted Japanese extraterritoriality
  7. 7.  Tonghak movement (1860s) By 1894, major crisis Korea seeks assistance from China Japan also sends troops Japan gains Taiwan Korea dislodged as China’s tributary state Sino-Japanese War 1894-1895
  8. 8.  Russia & Japan now jockey for preeminence on the peninsula Stunning defeat Korea: Japanese Protectorate Russo-Japanese War 1904-1905
  9. 9.  1910: Annexation
  10. 10.  “For those of us who live in the Orient, unless we want to prevent the coming of Western civilization with a firm resolve, it is best that we cast our lot with them.” Fukuzawa Yukichi (1885)
  11. 11. “From the perspectives of civilized Westerners, they may see what is happening in China and Korea and judge Japan accordingly, because of the three countries’ geographical proximity. The governments of China and Korea still retain their autocratic manners and do not abide by the rule of law. Westerners many consider Japan likewise a lawless society. Natives of China and Korea are deep in their hocus pocus of nonscientific behavior. Western scholars may think that Japan still remains a country dedicated to the yin and yang and five elements. Chinese are mean- spirited and shameless, and the chivalry of the Japanese people is lost to the Westerners… How unfortunate it is for Japan.”
  12. 12. “It is stated in two famous Chinese histories… that Korea is bounded on the east and west by sea and borders Japan on the south. If Japanese territory had not extended to the Korean peninsula over the sea in those days, such record would never have been written; but the sea would have been represented as circumscribing Korea not only on the east and west but also on the south. It is thus reasonable to infer that Japanese domination extended to the Korean peninsula beyond the sea…” Komatsu Midori (1910)
  13. 13. “Judging from the facts so far pointed out in general outline it is not unreasonable to conclude that the Japanese and Korean peoples formed for a long time one and the same nation. The recent annexation of Korea by Japan is therefore not the incorporation of two different countries inhabited by different races, but, it may rather be said to be the reunion of two sections of the one and same nation after a long period of separation. Indeed it is nothing more nor less than the old state of things restored…”
  14. 14.  Colonial Administration: 3 Phases 1910-1919: Military Rule 1920-1930: Cultural Rule 1930s: Naisen Ittai (Korea and Japan are one)
  15. 15.  Colonial Impact and Responses
  16. 16.  We hereby declare that Korea is an independent state and that Koreans are a self-governing people. We proclaim it to the nations of the world in affirmation of the principle of the equality of all nations… We make this declaration on the strength of five thousand years of history as an expression of the devotion and loyalty of 20 million people. We claim independence in the interest of the eternal and free development of our people and in accordance with the great movement for world reform based on the awakening conscience of mankind. Declaration of Independence March 1, 1919
  17. 17.   For the first time in several thousand years, we have suffered the agony of alien suppression for a decade, becoming victim of the policies of aggression and coercion, which are relics from a bygone era…  Japan’s scholars and officials, indulging in a conqueror’s exuberance, have denigrated the accomplishments of our ancestors and treated our civilized people like barbarians…  From the outset the union of the two countries did not emanate from the wishes of the people, and its outcome has been oppressive coercion, discriminatory injustice, fabrication of statistical data, thereby deepening the eternally irreconcilable chasm of ill will between the two nations. Declaration of Independence March 1, 1919
  18. 18.   First 3 years (1920-1923): ~7000 new Korean communications organizations were created  Most widely read Korean daily newspaper had 37,000 subscribers  Official government gazette had circulation of 23,000  By 1929 total subscriptions to 4 major newspapers reached 100,000 Easing of Restrictions
  19. 19.
  20. 20.
  21. 21.
  22. 22.   Korean language newspapers shut down  All instruction in schools in Japanese, Korean banned  Shinto shrines built throughout the country  Schoolchildren required to show ritual deference to Japanese emperor  Decree “encouraging” Koreans to adopt Japanese names (1939) 1930s: Aggressive Assimilation
  23. 23.   1925: Japanese established a committee to rewrite Korea’s history  Japanese relocated tens of thousands of cultural artifacts to Japan  Many public monuments and buildings were altered Cultural Destruction
  24. 24.   Pak Songp’il: Describes his struggle over changing his name  Chong Chansu: Drafted to work in shipyards, describes conditions  Kang Pyongju: College educated, describes the disparity in treatment between Koreans and Japanese Oral Histories
  25. 25.  Lost Names, Richard Kim  Born 1932, Grew up in northern Korea during Japanese occupation  Series of stories about his childhood up until Korea’s liberation from Japanese rule
  26. 26. Then the teacher gestures abruptly, as if to touch my face. “I am sorry,” he says. My father gives him a slight bow of his head. “Even the British wouldn’t have thought of doing this sort of primitive thing in India,” says the Japanese. I am at a loss, trying to comprehend what he says and means. “…inflicting on you this humiliation…” he is saying, “…unthinkable for one Asian people to another Asian people, especially we Asians who should have greater respect for our ancestors…” “The whole world is going mad, sir,” says my father quietly, “going back into another dark age. Japan is no exception.” My teacher nods. “As one Asian to another, sir, I am deeply ashamed.” “I am ashamed, too, sir,” says my father, “perhaps for a reason different from yours.” My teacher, without a word, bows to my father, turns round, and disappears into the blinding snow. “It is a small beginning,” says my father…
  27. 27. President Barack Obama watches as South Korean President Park Geun-hye, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, leave their seats, March 25, 2014, during the start of their trilateral meeting at the US Ambassador's Residence in the Hague, Netherlands. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
  28. 28. Jeannie Logan New Trier High School loganj@nths.net