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The Politics of Gender in Colonial Korea

The Politics of Gender in Colonial Korea: Education, Labor, and Health, 1910–1945

Theodore Jun Yoo
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Pages: 330
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  • Book Info
    The Politics of Gender in Colonial Korea
    Book Description:

    This study examines how the concept of "Korean woman" underwent a radical transformation in Korea's public discourse during the years of Japanese colonialism. Theodore Jun Yoo shows that as women moved out of traditional spheres to occupy new positions outside the home, they encountered the pervasive control of the colonial state, which sought to impose modernity on them. While some Korean women conformed to the dictates of colonial hegemony, others took deliberate pains to distinguish between what was "modern" (e.g., Western outfits) and thus legitimate, and what was "Japanese," and thus illegitimate. Yoo argues that what made the experience of these women unique was the dual confrontation with modernity itself and with Japan as a colonial power.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93415-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    On 5 August 1926, theTonga ilboreported a double suicide on theTokuju Maru, a daily liner that ferried students, honeymooners, immigrants, workers, and raw materials from Shimonoseki to Pusan. Eyewitnesses claimed that a “middle-aged man” and his female companion, both clad in Western clothing, embraced each other and plunged into the choppy waters as the ferry approached the Taema (Tsushima) Islands. They had officially registered as Kim Su-san and Yun Su-sŏn for the trip, but the public would soon learn their true identities. The former was an aspiring playwright, Kim U-jin (1897–1926), who had graduated with an...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Women in Chosŏn Korea
    (pp. 15-57)

    In his 1895 memoir, Henry Savage-Landor describes his first encounters with Korean women upon his arrival in the capital: “I remember how astonished I was during the first few days that I was in Seoul, at the fact that every woman I came across in the streets was just on the point of opening a door and entering a house. … The idea suddenly dawned upon me that it was only a trick on their part to evade being seen.”¹

    Under the leadership of Yi Sŏng-gye (1335–1408), the founders of the Chosŏn dynasty (1392–1910) had launched a series...

  7. CHAPTER TWO The “New Woman” and the Politics of Love, Marriage, and Divorce in Colonial Korea
    (pp. 58-94)

    On 24 June 1922, the dailyTonga ilboran a sensational story about a young woman who had attempted to disguise herself as a man to attend the Chŏngch’ǔk Training School in Sŏdaemun. The reporter suggested that her “bobbed hair” and brazen transgression of male public space were the main sources of the controversy.¹ The woman behind this affront to popular sentiments was Kang Hyang-nan, a formerkisaeng(female entertainer) from Seoul. A tumultuous love affair with a young scholar had convinced her to leave her old profession and to pursue an education at Paehwa haktang. When her lover abruptly...

  8. CHAPTER THREE The Female Worker: From Home to the Factory
    (pp. 95-126)

    Two years before her untimely death from pulmonary tuberculosis, Song Kye-wŏl (1910–33), a reporter forSin yŏsŏng(The new woman), penned a short story that foreshadowed her demise.¹ “News from a Factory” is one of the few works to address the plight of female workers in colonial Korea through the eyes of a displaced peasant worker.² The main character, Kim Ok-pun, in a final letter to her sister, describes the miseries of tuberculosis, which she contracted while working at a silk-reeling factory: “The clotting of blood in my mouth and the spitting up of rotten phlegm [signal that] my...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Discoursing in Numbers: The Female Worker and the Politics of Gender
    (pp. 127-160)

    On 29 May 1931, as the sun slowly began to rise east of the Taedong River, morning commuters noticed the silhouette of a woman standing on top of the octagonal roof of the Ǔlmildae. The famous pavilion in P’yŏngyang was visible for miles because of its strategic location on the cliffs of the Ǔlmil-i Hill on Moran Peak. As people gathered around the pavilion, the woman began to voice her grievances against the P’yŏngwŏn Rubber Factory. For nine hours before her arrest, she denounced the abysmal working conditions and the plans for steep wage decreases that threatened her and her...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE The Colonized Body: Korean Women’s Sexuality and Health
    (pp. 161-192)

    On 8 April 1931, approximately two kilometers from the Yŏngdǔngp’o station, two young women committed suicide by hurling themselves in front of an outbound Kyŏngin line train from Keijō (Seoul). Hong Og-im was a twenty-one-year-old student from Ewha yŏja chŏnmun hakkyo, the daughter of a prominent doctor and professor at Severance Medical Special School. Her companion, nineteen-year-old Kim Yong-ju, also hailed from a privileged background; she was the daughter of the owner of Tŏkhǔng Bookstore and the wife of Sim Chong-il, the eldest son of a wealthy family in Tongmak.¹ In the suicide letter, Hong asked her father to forgive...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 193-206)

    A storm of criticism broke out prior to the release of the filmBlue Swallow(2005), a fictionalized biography of Pak Kyŏng-wŏn (1901–33), one of the first Korean female aviators during the colonial period. The public was outraged that a “pro-Japanese traitor” who had flown promotional flights on behalf of the empire had been given a sympathetic movie about her life. Not only had she offered her services to the colonial powers but she had allegedly carried on a scandalous affair with Koizumi Matajiro, the minister of posts and telecommunications and grandfather of Koizumi Jun’ichiro, a former prime minister...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 207-260)
    (pp. 261-270)
    (pp. 271-302)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 303-316)