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The Modern Transformation of Korean Identity: Enlightenment and Orientalism

Korea Journal / Korea Journal, (P)0023-3900; (E)2733-9343
2006, v.46 no.1, pp.109-138

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The self-image of Koreans was formed through complex relationships with modernity, colonialism, and nationalism. It was shaped through a modernization process in which traditional identity was changed or redefined. This was first led by a change in the notion of civilization due to the transformation of international society and thereafter was affected by the trauma of Japanese colonization. Through the process of transition from a traditional Confucian notion of civilization to a Western notion of acceptance and resistance, Koreans shaped their civilization as well as their notions of the racial, cultural, and individual modern self. Western Orientalism, in particular, accompanied the introduction of the Western notion of civilization, which served as the background for forming the self-identity of Koreans. Furthermore, the fact that the Japanese version of Orientalism developed in the midst of the relationship between the two countries also played a critical role in shaping the self-identity of Koreans. Consequently, Korea still maintains an inferiority complex toward Western culture, ambivalent feelings toward Japanese culture, and biased positive or negativeviews of their own cultural traditions. The roots of this condition possibly developed from an extreme focus on the Western notion of civilization and the perpetuation of such a paradigm. This study will demonstrate how modernization and colonization can shape and impact the formation or distortion of self-consciousness of non-Western peoples.

modern self, Korean identity, enlightenment, Orientalism, colonialismForeword Self-identity is not formed entirely alone, but through a persons reflection in relation to others. The self aims for assimilation and differentiation within the social cl, modern self, Korean identity, enlightenment, Orientalism, colonialismForeword Self-identity is not formed entirely alone, but through a persons reflection in relation to others. The self aims for assimilation and differentiation within the social cl



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