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The Location of “Korean” Culture: Ch'oe Chaesŏ and Korean Literature in a Time of Transition

Abstract

This essay focuses on Ch'oe Chaesŏ, a leading Korean intellectual, active translator of English literary criticism, and editor in chief of Kokumin Bungaku (National Literature), a prominent Japanese-language journal published in colonial Korea. Ch'oe asserted that the unfolding of history in the twentieth century demanded a paradigmatic transition from liberalism to state-centered nationalism in culture. He also privileged everyday life as allowing people to live as members of communities that ultimately are integrated into the state. By positioning Koreans firmly as subjects of the Japanese state, his argument implied that the colonized should be treated on a par with the colonizers. Further, Ch'oe advocated Koreans' cultural autonomy as an ethnic group within the Japanese empire. Tracing Ch'oe's early life and examining his critical essays on nation, culture, and state, the author discusses how his endeavors to establish an autonomous space for Korean culture simultaneously legitimized Japanese colonial control.

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The Journal of Asian Studies
  • ISSN: 0021-9118
  • EISSN: 1752-0401
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-asian-studies
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