This article aims at interpreting the change of material culture in the Korean Bronze Age with regard to symbolic structure. For this work, first of all, it has been pointed out that the existing research paradigms based on culture-historical and processual approaches fail to interpret the process and the reason of that change at a deeper level. Instead, as an alternative, a synthetic view, in which settlement (for every day life) and burial (for mortuary practice) and their reciprocal relationship are taken into account in social and symbolic structure, has been suggested. In order to substantiate this approach, the analysis on spatial structure has been conceived and carried out under the premise that space or place is a field in which temporal sequence and power relation is marked, and is meaningfully constructed or even thrown to us. As a result, a conclusion has been drawn that communality and the role of a common origin within a community is emphasised in the middle phase. By contrast, the growth of individuals and individual expression is observed in the late phase. This change does mean a fundamental change in the ways of symbolic structure, power execution and further, a formation of community and individual identity.
This paper endeavors to analyze A Forbidden Land: Voyages to the Corea (1880), a text written by a Jewish-Prussian by the name of Ernst J. Oppert. I focus on Oppert’s representation of Korea mirrored by China and Japan because his discovery of Korea was mediated by that of the other two empires. In the first place, I argue that the biography of Oppert, merely known as a “traveler” or “ethnographer” (or merchant), should be taken into re-consideration as an author and must be more complexly reevaluated in light of the nineteenth century European colonial projects in Asian countries that he actively participated in during his stay in Shanghai. The text, in this sense, must be positioned as one of the early Westerners’ writings on Korea in which discourses on the “forbidden land” were being constructed in comparison with China and Japan whose doors were already open. While the text, according to the author, was intended to attract the Western public’s attention and subsequently to commence with trade and commerce, it in fact reflected Oppert’s “colonial” desire to open a “sealed book” (Oppert 1880:3). The text can be divided into two parts. The first contains chapters one to six that introduce almost all aspects of Korea but rely on European research achievements and their translations of Chinese and Japanese historical sources. The second part, chapters seven to nine, cover Oppert’s three voyages allegedly designed to arrange trade partnerships with the Joseon government, yet which I posit into “encounters” between the two heterogeneous worlds. In this part, different worldviews between Oppert and the native officials were dramatically expressed in relation to the then priority of the “pening of the ports.” By perceiving the “hermit kingdom” mainly in the dialogues with and references to China and Japan who opened their doors earlier, Korea was represented as “in-between” and “uncivilized.”
Up to the present, the writings of Shin Chae-ho (1880-1936) have been evaluated by dualism. His historical writings, often recognized as the symbol of national identity and the spirit of independence, have been hailed for their contribution to the anti-Japanese movement during the colonial period (1910- 1945), whereas his literary works received aesthetically low appreciation due to their political aspects, that is, their use of narrative as a tool for promoting national identity. This dualism, however, provides an important reason for revisiting Shin’s literary writings; they contain important clues to understanding his historical perspectives, which are singular in the formation of religious and spiritual nationalism before and during the colonial period. Beyond a dichotomy of literature and history, this paper aims to examine the comprehensive structure between narrative and ideology where the discourse of the people forms that of national characteristics. Through a close reading of Shin’s fiction, “The Dream Heaven” (Kkum Haneul), I will explore the images of national heroes in their connection with the historical formation of the concept of new people in the discourse of the invented tradition.