M.A. - East Asian Languages and Literatures (Korean)

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    Dis/locating an intellectual in colonial Korea : the case of Yi In-hwa in Mansejŏn (1924)
    ( 2005) Choi, Min Koo
    My thesis is an examination of the ways in which Korean intellectuals, who were caught between tradition and modernity, and between familial obligation and individualism under the oppression of Japanese colonial rule, are represented in the modern Korean novel during the Japanese colonial period (1910-1945). Yom Sang-sop (1897-1963) demonstrates one prototype of the Korean intellectuals as spectator in his novel, Mansejon. Yi In-hwa, the protagonist of the novel, faces two problems, which are the oppression of Japanese colonial rule and of the traditional family. First of all, In-hwa is oppressed by familial obligation that he cannot reconcile with his Western individualism. His negative perspective on the traditional family extends to his criticism of the backwardness and the impracticality of Korean tradition. Yi In-hwa also recognizes that the Japanese colonial rule reshapes Korean society into an effective colony, but does not bring the progress and development of modernity. During his time in both countries, he criticizes Korean people's victimization and their subjection by the Japanese colonial rule in the process of colonial modernity. Moreover, this colonial reconstruction of Korean society destroys Korean indigenous cultures and depicts them as inferior and uncivilized, in order to seize cultural hegemony. However, In-hwa's recognition does not lead to confrontation with the inequity of Japanese colonial rule or with the backwardness of Korean tradition. He turns away from the Korean intellectual's obligation to make a mission of the search for the paths to Korean modernity. He escapes into the little freedoms and privileges of an intellectual, which include an indulgence in decadent cafe culture and free love relationships allowed by the Japanese colonial rule.