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Imperatives of Culture: Selected Essays on Korean History, Literature, and Society from the Japanese Colonial Era

From the publisher’s website:

This volume contains translations — many appearing for the first time in the English language — of major literary, critical, and historical essays from the colonial period (1910–1945) in Korea. Considered representative of the debates among and between Korean and Japanese thinkers of the colonial period, these texts shed light on relatively unexplored aspects of intellectual life and take part in current conversations around the nature of the colonial experience and its effects on post-liberation Korean society and culture.

The essays, each preceded by a scholarly introduction giving necessary historical and biographical context, represent a diverse spectrum of ideological positions and showcase the complexity of intellectual life and scholarship in colonial Korea. They allow new perspectives on an important period in Korean history, a period that continues to inform political, social, and cultural life in crucial ways across East Asia. The translations also provide an important counterpoint to the imperial archive from the perspective of the colonized and take part in the ongoing reevaluation of the colonial period and “colonial modernity” in both Western and East Asian scholarship.

Imperatives of Culture is intended in part for the increasing number of undergraduate and graduate students in Korean studies as well as for those engaged in the study of East Asia as a whole and a general, educated audience with interests in modern Korea and East Asia. The essays have been carefully selected and introduced in ways that open up avenues for comparison with analyses of colonial literature and history in other national contexts.


Foreword by John Duncan

1 Yi Kwangsu

  • On National Reconstruction

Introduction and translation by Ellie Choi

2 Sin Paegu

  • Urging the Vanguard of Social Movements to Come Forward

Introduction and translation by Jiyeon Kim

3 Mun Ilp’yŏng

  • The Social Standing of Korean Women

Introduction by Sophia Kim translation by Hijoo Son

4 Ch’oe Namsŏn

  • Images of Korea in Japanese Literature

Introduction and translation by Nayoung Aimee Kwon

5 Chong Inbo

  • Choson’s Five Thousand Years of Ol

Introduction and translation by Seung-Ah Lee

6 Paek Namun

  • The History of Korean Society and Economy
  • A Theory on the Present Stage of the Korean Economy

Introduction and translation by Charles R. Kim

7 Kang Kyŏngae

  • The Path Chosŏn Women Must Tread
  • Two Hundred Yen for My Manuscript
  • On Leaving Kando, a Farewell to Kando

Introduction and translation by Sonja M. Kim

8 Kim Kirim

  • Soliloquies of “Pierrot” — Fragmentary Notions on “Poésie”

Introduction by Mickey Hong and Walter K. Lew; translation by Walter K. Lew

9 Ch’oe Chaesŏ

  • The Expansion and Deepening of Realism: On Scenes by a Stream and “Wings”

Introduction and translation by Christopher P. Hanscom

10 Kim Namch’ŏn

  • The Judas Within and Literature

Introduction and translation by Youngju Ryu

11 Kim Tongni

  • The True Meaning of Pure Literature: A Present Task of National Literature
  • A Personal Opinion on Writing Literature—on the Inclination of My Literary Spirit

Introduction and translation by Chiyoung Kim

12 Son Chint’ae

  • Preface to Introduction to the History of the Korean Nation

Introduction and translation by Mickey Hong

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