This paper reviews the Western learning the Joseon envoys encountered in Beijing on the basis of their travel records from the first half of the nineteenth century. Contact with Western civilization decreased in the nineteenth century, and the limited contact was caused by the difficult political situation at home and abroad. First, the suppression against Catholicism was severe and the West was considered the supporting force of Catholicism. Second, Western ships frequently anchored off Joseon, arousing a sense of crisis. Third, the declining Qing dynasty prohibited Western religion, which caused many trade conflicts with the West. With such conditions, the only place Joseon envoys could make contact with Western civilization in the first half of the nineteenth century was at the Russian Diplomatic Office in Beijing. This is in contrast with the major route of contact, the Catholic Church, in the eighteenth century. The envoys had a keen interest in the portrait of Jesus Christ on the cross, Russian mirrors, and the camera at the Russian Diplomatic Office. Most of the envoys recorded their shock at the portrait of Jesus Christ on the cross, and Russian mirrors that had been imported to Joseon at that time also attracted interest. In 1863, the Joseon envoys had their pictures taken for the first time at the Russian Diplomatic Office. Lee Hang-eok left a precise record on the process of taking and printing pictures, which was typical merchandise of Western imperialism in the nineteenth century.
This paper surveys the experiences of and attitudes about Western civilization by analyzing the travel records of the Korean embassies dispatched to Western Europe from 1896 to 1902. Since these were important diplomatic missions of the Joseon government, personal expression of emotions was restrained in the travel records and the objective fact-centered description was given a great deal of weight. Nevertheless, there appear some differences in the travel records based upon the writer’s intention of consciousness and descriptive attitude. In Min Yeong-hwan’s Haecheon chubeom (1896), the so-called first record of a round-the-world trip, his admiration and praise of Western urban culture and scientific civilization appear openly. It shows an aspect of Occidentalism because it projected and was selectively composed of the standard of civilization that he had imagined and desired, one which uncivilized Joseon should strive for in the future. In Sagu sokcho (1897), recorded the next year, Min Yeong-hwan shows an interest in the lifestyle of various peoples in the world, the cultural climate, and natural environment using a rather objective viewpoint, but there still exists a dichotomy between civilization and barbarism. Lee Jong-eung’s Seosarok (1902) is a bit freer from such prejudices because it interprets Western civilization based on the classics of the East.
The travel record on Joseon by the British diplomat Charles William Campbell was sent to the British prime minister together with a letter of then British Consul-General Hillier, which was published as a ‘travel report’ and submitted to the British parliament. This paper synthetically analyzes the characteristics of the travelogue and what Campbell felt about Joseon and her people after his travels to the north of Joseon in 1889. Campbell’s travelogue succeeded in the same writing style that was found in the travelogue of the Englishman William Richard Carles who had surveyed the northern area of Joseon some years earlier, and inspired the English captain A. E. Cavendish in his private journey when he visited Joseon two years later. Campbell traveled to both Geumgangsan (Mt. Geumgang) and Baekdusan (Mt. Baekdu) during this journey, a rare case for foreigners at that time. He confirmed that the religious mind of the Joseon people was strongly projected on these two mountains. While Campbell indicated that the conditions for trade with Western countries were not matured yet, he positively evaluated that there was a latent ability for the people of the lower classes to contribute to the vitalization of trade. He also grasped that the underground resources of Joseon were worth being noticed from the viewpoint of British trade. There is no doubt that Campbell’s travelogue was described for the benefit of Great Britain. Nevertheless, he described the then domestic situation of Joseon rather objectively according to what he had seen and felt. His travelogue is of significance as it provides a clue to a synthetic survey on what attitudes the common people of Joseon had during the turbulent period of the latter part of the nineteenth century.
This article examines the ways in which contemporary South Korean literature negotiates new forms of transnational identity by way of post-Cold War representations of “North Korea” and “North Koreans.” Focusing on recent bestselling works by the contemporary writers Kim Yeong-ha, Hwang Seokyeong, and Kim Hyeon-jeong’s 2003 film Double Agent, this article shows how the figure of the “North Korean” no longer points to communist threat or anticapitalist, revolutionary potential, but to a generalized separating out of people from place. If the ethnonational/developmental coincidence performed daily in 1970s/1980s South Korea has been replaced by a certain cynicism/critical distance that informs the position of the neoliberal subject of globalization, the seamless movement of the “North Korean” into this regime in Kim Yeongha’s Empire of Lights (2006) demonstrates its powers of assimilation. In Hwang Seok-yeong’s Princess Bari (2007) and Kim Hyeon-jeong’s Double Agent, it is the very impoverishment of “North Korea” and its failure as a state that enables a reworking of a minjung subject in the form of a linkage with a transnational working class, an alliance that the text cannot locate in the now prosperous, technologized South. The adaptable, mobile figure of the “North Korean” thus becomes a contemporary site for the postnational, posthuman rearticulation of the grand recits of the 1970s and 1980s, developmentalism and anti-authoritarian resistance.
Korean novels on the Vietnam War attempt to heal the wounds of Korean soldiers while omitting the life and wounds of the Vietnamese. The reason why they fail to reveal the true nature of the Vietnam War or avoid doing so is because the nation forced them to do so and also because the mechanism of self-censorship was too strong. Against the collective memory that was distorted and controlled by the state, Hwang Suk-young revives the hidden memory of the war and reveals the fact that the Korean Army was dispatched to Vietnam so that Korea would receive economic aid from the United States of America. The literary achievement of The Shadow of the Arms is that it locates the Vietnamese in the place of the subject by recording their lives of fighting for survival during the war. In contrast, he places the Korean Army as the other and highlights the immorality of participating in the Vietnam War. When we disclose the fact that ‘Liberty’s Crusade’ was a fraud, then we can dream about the possibility of reconciling with the Vietnamese.
This article critically examines the ambivalent representations of nationalism and/or regionalism embedded in early modern Korean art and its implicit and insidious connection to Japanese colonialism. Under Japanese colonial rule (1910-1945), Korean artists started to study and practice Western-style modern art. Using Japanized Western art, a mixture of European Academic art and Impressionist style, early modern Korean artists often portrayed motifs connected with Korean cultural legacy or regional characteristics (hyangtosaek), and suggested an idealistic and conservative notion of nationalism (minjokjuui). In this de-historicized space of modern art, an idealized Korean national identity seamlessly linked itself to a desire for modernization (gundaehwa) or a modernized future symbolized by Western art. In this way, colonial reality was completely absent from early modern Korean art. The idealized nationalism or regionalism disguised the one-directional flow of power from the colonizer to the colonized, and essentially paralleled the colonial government’s cultural policy.
Trust is now considered an important basis for democratization and social and economic development, and the basis of social capital. However, southern Italy and Korea are classified as low trust societies, due to social problems such as organized crime, nepotism, and lack of cooperation. How can we explain the low trust in southern Italy and Korea? We find some similarities in colonial domination Spanish rule in southern Italy and Japanese rule in Korea. As the Hapsburgs and the Bourbons promoted mutual distrust in the south of Italy, Japanese colonial domination resulted in malicious distrust in Korean society. The “divide and rule” policy of the Spanish autocracy was not different from that of the Japanese colonial government. The Confucian tradition of trust was marred by Japanese colonial policy that was based on the oppression and exploitation of the Korean people. After Korea became a colony of Japan, the Korean tradition of community was intentionally destroyed by the Japanese colonial government. After liberation Korea experienced continuous social turmoil such as the migration of farmers to urban areas, the emergence of industrial workers, and rapid urbanization. The military coup of 1961 and the military rule that ensued imply a continuation of a hierarchical society based on public demonstrations of violence. When the violence of Japanese colonial rule disappeared, a new violent military rule surged in its place. However, when we explain the problem of distrust in the south of Italy with the tradition of the Norman dynasty’s authoritarian state and the Spanish autocracy, we have to figure out how medieval traditions influence the realities of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It can be a dangerous historical leap. It is difficult to refer all kinds of social problems to the colonial experience of Japanese imperialism. It is also not proper to conclude that trust is the source of all kinds of virtues and distrust all kinds of social diseases. We need to draw cautious conclusions on the colonial experience as the origin of the lack of trust in the societies of southern Italy and Korea.