Foreigners who visit Korea today usually associate Korea with traditional Korean clothing (hanbok), and with all the colors usually featured in that clothing. Koreans in general want foreigners to associate all those beautiful and gorgeous colors with Korea, and the power of mass media have been employed toward that end. Yet only a century ago, most Koreans living in colonized Joseon wore nothing but “white hanbok.” Remarks made by visitors from foreign countries confirm this fact. Then, the Japanese colonial authorities promoted a policy that banned the wearing of all white clothing and encouraged (and enforced) the wearing of “colored clothes.” The justification behind this campaign can be seen from all the press materials released at the time, containing many comments that cast “white” as a “weak” and “helpless” color. This so-called “Colored Clothes Campaign” became quite oppressive and violent beginning in 1932 and encountered significant resistance by the Korean people. The Japanese authorities promoted this policy based on the notion that white clothes were not “economic” and therefore had to be transformed through a process of “modernization.” Yet in retrospect, it is clear that this notion was intended to aid the Japanese themselves and Japan’s war efforts. Colonial authorities debased white as a color, and cast it as a symbol of “weak Korea,” then forced Koreans to wear “dyed attire” made from “artificial fiber,” while extracting all the cotton produced in on the peninsula for use in making Japanese army uniforms. The campaign itself is detailed in a novel entitled Deep in the Bush, by a Korean writer named Kim Sa-ryang. This novel not only portrays the campaign with great details, but also shows us the plight of the Joseon people who were coerced and forced to abandon their existing way of life. And quite ironically, the novel also portrays a situation in which the Koreans were harassed by a false cult that exploited the people’s very resentment toward the campaign. Kim not only criticized the reality of a colonized society, but also depicted how a mere image could be turned into a deadly weapon.
The official state ideology of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910) was Confucianism. But many Joseon kings who held convictions about Confucian values as precepts for state management also held personal Buddhist beliefs. The Joseon kings’ Buddhist beliefs and practices were strongly criticized by the Confucian scholar-officials as undesirable behaviors for leaders of a Confucian state. Despite of these criticisms, the Joseon kings did not give up their Buddhist beliefs. My paper consists of three parts. First, I explain the Joseon kings’ theoretical defense of Buddhism and the cases of Joseon kings’ personal Buddhist beliefs and practices. Second, I focus on the sources of the Joseon kings’ political authority and Buddhism as a source of legitimacy. Third, I explain the flexible and realistic policies on Buddhism, the Kings’ amicable response to Buddhism, and the efficiency of kingship through the political use of Buddhism. Confucianism was regarded as the only source of a king’s political authority in a Confucian state. But the fact that many Joseon people believed in Buddhism could not be ignored. Buddhism also could be a useful element to increase the people’s religious and political ties to kings who believed in Buddhism. I think that the Joseon kings knew this fact and used it politically. Confucianism was the dominant element of the kings’ political authority and the sources of the legitimacy of Joseon Dynasty. But the kings’ Buddhist beliefs and amicable policies to Buddhism have political significance in that they contributed to the formation of people’ s friendly feelings toward the kings and the integration of national unity.
From the traditional times to the present, education has long been considered paramount in Korean society. During the Joseon era, competition to pass the civil service examination was fierce among the members of yangban class. With the downfall of the traditional status system, the Korean society during the Japanese colonial period displayed a society-wide drive for elevation of status through education. “Education fever,” a neologism referring to the fierce competition for prestigious degrees, has continued to be an important topic for public discourse ever since. Korea began to experience the effects of neo-liberalism in the 1990s, and educational institutions and policies were not exception. While “education fever” has long existed in Korea, today’s realization of it is heavily influenced by neo-liberalism. In the relationship between education and family, not only does the family background influence children’s achievements in education, the rigors and demands of the children’s education also significantly influence their families’ economic lives and patterns of livelihood. Despite the hardships, many Korean families continue supporting their children’s education so that their children can have the chance to prosper in the ultra-competitive Korean society.
This article explores the nature of the difficulties young North Korean migrants experience in South Korea, the ways in which they negotiate these constraints, and in turn how this negotiation shapes their sense of belonging. The wane of the Cold War facilitated globalization, but there are still many things on the ground that remake internal ideological/cultural/political boundaries that mediate against full citizenship. I argue that while young North Korean migrants also are products of the demise of the Cold War, Korean national division and the persistent cold war culture that the division has produced contribute to both their nearly automatic gain of legal membership and their difficulties in achieving full membership. In particular, I examine education as a key context in which these young people experience these regimes of dis/incorporation. Constructed as an ambivalent “other” at schools by peers and teachers based on their stereotypes of North Korea and the transference of these stereotypes to North Korean migrants, these young migrants are struggling to have a sense of belonging by developing various strategies. I suggest considering the disruptions of boundaries and multiple affiliations of these migrants not as signs of disloyalty and threats to social cohesion, but as a source for new visions of identity and belonging that are required to pursue national unification in this multicultural and globalized world.