Korea and its Others: from the 1890s until today (completed)

The project deals with Korean perceptions of diverse foreign lands, from the 1890s until our days.

Twelve men sitting in a row. Photo.

The first-ever Korean embassy to the USA, 1882,

About the project

The project deals with the images of foreign lands in Korea, from the 1890s until modern days. The project deals with the Korean perceptions of Korea's neighbors (Japan, China, Russia/USSR), as well as the faraway countries which could serve as models of modern success and prosperity (Scandinavian states) or inspiring examples of the anti-colonial struggle (India).The main aim of this project is to show that Korea's modern nationalism - as is typical for most nationalisms - was and remains very internationalist in its orientation. The vision of Korea's ideal place in the world or brighter national future, as well as anxiety over Korea's fate, were always linked to the examples (positive and negative), threats (perceived and real) and allies abroad. It includes both the countries, the relationship of which with Korea are relatively well researched upon in the Anglophone scholarship (USA and Japan), as well as the countries significance of which for Korea's modern intellectual history still has to be amply shown to the Anglophone public (Poland, India, Irland, Denmark etc.). The project generally aims at proving the importance of the international knowledge and experience for the formation of the Korean nationalist paradigms in the twentieth century, in pre-colonial and colonial Korea, as well as in South and North Korea after 1945.

It will significantly nuance the existing picture of the international connections and environment of the Korean national movements. For example, it will be shown that the picture of Japan inside the anti-Japanese independence movement of the 1910-1945 was much more complicated then simple anti-colonial hatred of the invaders: while the mode of hating and despising "uncivilized" Japan was largely inherited from the Confucian patriotism of the late nineteenth-early twentieth century (with its understanding of Japan as essentially peripheral to the Sinocentric world), modern achievements of Meiji and post-Meiji Japan were also admired, as a possible example for Korea's own "modernization". The project will also show the extent to which Chinese and Soviet revolutions, as well as anti-colonial struggles in places like India and Vietnam, influenced the thinking of modern Korean intellectuals.


The project aims at elaborating on the international context of Korea's modern nationalism and radicalism. It will result in an academic monograph in English, which I plan to submit for editorial review to a publisher ca. in 2013 or 2014.

Published Nov. 23, 2012 1:11 PM - Last modified Apr. 6, 2020 12:45 PM