Governmentality in Late Colonial Korea?

Henry Em, Yonsei University

Takashi Fujitani, Race for Empire: Koreans as Japanese and Japanese as Americans during World War II. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011. 520 pp. $65 (cloth).

Jun Uchida, Brokers of Empire: Japanese Settler Colonialism in Korea, 1876-1945. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011. 500 pp. $50 (cloth).

 

Download Review Essay (229.5 KB)
Article Preview

In South Korea, more so than in most other postcolonial countries, the issue of sovereignty and the colonial past remains a central feature of politics. Most recently, during a televised presidential debate on December 4, 2012, Lee Jung-hee of the Unified Progressive Party said something that likely had never been said on South Korean television: “Takaki Masao signed an oath of loyalty [to the Emperor of Japan], in his own blood, to become an officer in the Japanese [Imperial] Army. You know who he is. His Korean name is Park Chung Hee.” Lee Jung-hee then made the connection between that colonial past and the willingness to sell out the nation’s sovereignty in the present. The conservative candidate Park Geun-hye, the daughter of the late President Park Chung Hee who ruled South Korea from 1961 through 1979, and members of Park’s Saenuri Party, remain true to their “roots”: these “descendants of pro-Japanese collaborators and dictators” (again) sold out South Korea’s sovereignty (on November 22, 2011) when they rammed the US-ROK Free Trade Agreement through the National Assembly. . .