Das geteilte Land - KOREA

2012: Nationalism in Modern Korea

The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 10, Issue 7 No 3, February 13, 2012.

Transcending Boundaries, Embracing Others:
Nationalism and Transnationalism in Modern and Contemporary Korea

Vladimir Tikhonov

"... If we wish to define Korea’s twentieth century in a word, “the century of nationalism” would be the most plausible definition.2 From the perspective of Korea’s internal socio-political situation, nationalism, as Andre Schmid aptly observed, from the very beginning provided the legitimising framework for the modern concept of equal, universal citizenship. Former slaves, members of discriminated hereditary professional groups (butchers etc.), women – all were to be accepted as equal “nationals” since national salvation, prosperity and eventual greatness required national cohesion and everyone’s contribution to the national cause.3 Ethnic nationalism is hardly a popular concept now anywhere, including South Korea (which, at least in theory, switched from the early 2000s to multiculturalism, and strives now to integrate its ethnic minority populations), but, as Henry Em argues, the concept of Korea’s ethnic nation (minjok) did possess democratic meaning in the early twentieth-century context . The historiography which focused on the progressive development of the ethnic nation was able to do away with traditional patterns of dynastic history.4 In a word, nationalism was the main discursive force behind the creation of an allinclusive democratic vision of modern “Koreanness”. From the very beginning of the modern age, defining all Koreans as first and foremost Koreans became possible precisely in the nationalist context. ..."

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