LKL book database logo

New God, New Nation: Protestants and Self-Reconstruction Nationalism in Korea 1896-1937

Publisher: , 2017.
Link to online store *

From the publisher’s website:

The history of modern Korea reveals a search for cultural identity through nationalism. At the close of the 19th century, the kingdom of Korea became a battleground between China, Japan and Russia. While Korean traditionalists and modernist factions vied for power, the country increasingly fell prey to Japanese colonial designs, culminating in its official incorporation into the Japanese empire in 1910. In the context of this loss of political and cultural autonomy, some Koreans turned to Protestantism, and to the associated ideas of the nation-state as a source and model for a new Korea. Previous studies of nationalism in Korea have tended to cast their analyses in terms of the polemics of Korean nationalists, distinguishing nationalist factions through the lenses of resistance and collaboration. Elucidating the crucial linkage between Protestantism and nationalism, this book instead sets the introduction of new religious ideas firmly within the wider cultural struggle of the time, exploring their function as both a means of counteracting imperialism and as the framework for a new national ideal. The book shows how Korean Protestant nationalists based an idealist model of cultural transformation on their central thesis of the ethico-spiritual origins of nationhood. Drawing on a range of materials in Korean, Sino-Korean, Japanese and English, and on his expertise in the areas of nationalism, socialism and Christian theology, Professor Wells provides the serious reader with an intriguing account of the involvement of Protestants in the burning issues of modern Korea. His thorough and sensitive handling of the complexities of Korea’s search for national identity challenges many common assumptions and opens new paths for future studies. This book is intended for students and researchers in Asian studies and sociology of religion. “Professor Ken Wells is currently teaching in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Indiana University in the USA.”. This book is intended for students and researchers in Asian studies and sociology of religion.

Kenneth Wells is currently a Research Fellow at the New Zealand Asia Institute and an Adjunct Professor of history at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. He received a Ph.D in Korean history at the Australian National University in 1995. He has taught at Indiana University in Bloomington and at the Australian National University, where he was appointed the Korea Foundation Professor of Korean history in 2003. He founded the ANU Centre for Korean Studies in 1994 and the Korean Studies Association of Australasia in 1995. Between 2009 and 2011 he taught in history at the University of California at Berkeley.

(This is the second edition of a book originally published by Allen & Unwin and University of Hawai’i Press in 1990)


The introduction of Protestantism
The ethical foundations of self-reconstruction nationalism
The Dark Ages 1910-1919
The reconstructive community 1910-1919
Cultural reconstruction and the separation of nation and state 1920-1925
National repentance and civilization 1925-1937
The ideal on trial

* Where the book is available from a number of sources, they are prioritised as follows: (1) Amazon UK site, or for the more recent uploads (2) Amazon US site (3) Other sites in US or Europe, including second-hand outlets (4) LTI Korea, where the title is advertised as available from there (5) Onlines stores in Korea. Links to and Amazon UK site contain an affiliate code which, should you make a purchase, gives a small commission to LKL at no additional cost to you.