우물 안 개구리


Online Registration For the Korean National Archives

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 10:05 am Print

I reported in my recent posting on the Korean National Archives that online registration for the site is broken for all non-Koreans.

This is unfortunate since the National Archives advertises that it is for “everyone” to use. Registration online is required for many of the services provided, including the printing of online documents (which in any case, seems to be broken), and the online requesting of materials and reservations for visits (not necessary, you can go directly there, but this feature was also broken when I tried it with Windows and Internet Explorer).

After reporting this problem to archivists at both the Daejeon and Seoul offices of the National Archives, they appear to have made it possible for foreigners to register. The original English language page (broken) that I reported on seems to have disappeared. Here’s how to register if you are not Korean:

1. Go to the new membership registration page here. You can also reach the page by going to the homepage for the Korean National Archives and pressing 회원가입 in the navigation bar.

2. Press 동의 for the licensing agreement

3. Next you will be presented with a screen that asks you to enter the citizen registration number that Koreans have but foreigners don’t. While there is nothing on this page that suggests this is possible, you do not have to enter anything into the fields for the name or registration number. Simply press the 다음에하기 button and fill out the form on the next page with you personal information and press 확인 when you are done.

Upcoming Asian History Carnival

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:43 am Print

Jeremiah Jenne over at Jottings from the Granite Studio1 will be hosting an Asian history carnival sometime during the week of May 5th. If you have postings you would like to nominate for the carnival, please send them directly to Jeremiah. You can reach him at jgjenne at ucdavis.edu. Another way to submit nominations is to tag it on del.icio.us with the tags ahcarnival for regular blog postings or ahresources for Asian history related online resources.

  1. The site is currently down, but Jeremiah will work to get it back up for next week []


Martial Arts and the Korean Colonial Police in 1938

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 4:35 am Print

The relationship between Korean martial arts and Japanese martial arts is usually a touchy one. This is because, like the history of so many other things in modern Korea, it is susceptible to what I like to call the “Colonial Death Touch.”

The Colonial Death Touch works like this. Any practice which can be demonstrated to have its origins in the Japanese colonial period, was reborn during the colonial period partly out of inspiration or imitation of some Japanese practice, or was significantly influenced by similar Japanese practices is ruled to be inauthentic. Inauthentic things, of course, cannot be authentically Korean, and thus risk, at the very least, losing its place in the national cultural or historical repository. At most, it can destroy any popularity such practices might enjoy.

The Colonial Death Touch is sometimes delivered by, for example, Japanese nationalists who want to anger their Korean neighbors. However, it is also often used domestically. For example, practitioners of Korean martial art X might claim that they are superior to martial art Y because they are “pure” Korean while martial art Y is soiled by its evil Japanese roots. I’m sure many readers familiar with Korean martial arts can think of some examples of this.

These sorts of exchanges, whoever their participants might be, are silly childish games of nationalist mudslinging. They depend on a simplistic idea of authenticity, a laughable faith in cultural uniqueness, and a conception of the colonial period as cultural and economic black hole out of which only the bright shining light of Korean national resistance can possibly shine.

One martial art that became popular during the colonial period which remained popular in the postwar period is 검도(劍道, J: Kendō) or swordsmanship. In recent years, perhaps partly due to the ever present threat of the colonial death touch, the martial art has undergone some degree of “Koreanization” while other innovations in technique, uniforms, etc. probably are more simply attributable to the evolution of all such arts across time.

Reaching back to the time of liberation in 1945, however, I did find it remarkable that 검도 seemed to remain particularly popular among the Korean police. Like the popularity of Kendo among the Japanese police down to this present day, Korean police publications from the late 1940s and 1950s show pictures of 검도 practitioners gathered in huge numbers. This is somewhat surprising since the sword of the police in the colonial period was one extremely hated symbol that often gets mentioned in anti-police newspaper articles. The post-Liberation police stopped carrying the sword after a reform of November 8, 1945 and replaced it with a police stick. Admittedly, one could argue that the symbolic weight of a sword carried is different from that of the bamboo 죽도(竹刀 J: Shinai) used by 검도 practitioners, but I find the resilience of 검도 to be impressive and admirable all the same. Others, however, might point to this as yet another expression of the “pro-Japanese” tendencies of the police.

It is not surprising to learn that many Korean police during the colonial period were also working hard at various martial arts. In a 1938 Japanese imperial government report on the colonial police, there is an interesting table listing the number of Japanese and Korean police holding various degrees of skill in three martial arts: Judo (유도), Kendo (검도), and Kyudo (궁도, Japanese archery).1 The degrees are listed by dan beginning with shodan (in some martial arts this is often now called the first degree “black belt”). Below are the number of police holding first degree or higher in the three martial arts for 1938:

  1. 日帝下 戰時體制期 政策史料叢書 第67卷 警察과 思想統制 4(昭和13年 警務要覽 外) p.45 (40 in original report) []


The Korean National Archives

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:06 am Print

I just came back from a day at the Korean National Archives headquarters in Taejŏn (Daejeon) and thought I would share some details of the experience in case someone comes across this posting who will be making the trip down there at some point in the future. I also plan to get around to making a detailed entry on the East Asian Libraries and Archives wiki. Read on for the meat.


Colonial Period School Architectural Archive

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 5:46 am Print

Thanks to a posting at The Marmot’s Hole I learned about a project being undertaken by the National Archives to display a variety of information, archival documents, and media about school architecture during the colonial period. The project home page can be found here:

일제시기 학교건축도면 컬렉션

You can also read more about the 3D materials being put up related to Keijo Imperial University (경성제국대학). Whether in movies like “Radio Days,” commercials with people in colonial-period attire, or projects like this, I think there is a healthy trend of starting to reclaim the colonial period as part of Korean history rather than simply a black hole from which it emerged reborn.

On the technical side it was remarkable to discover that the whole site seems to work fine on non-IE browsers and on a Mac. I can only hope this is also a new trend since full operability with non-IE browsers is almost non-existant in Korea. In fact, one can see the Macintosh imprint on the website itself. Someone who has more time on their hands than I might want to send the project an email and let them know their web designers engaged in a little bit of artistic theft as they nabbed three Macintosh OS icons for their buttons:


Here you can see the icons for three Apple applications that come with every new computer: iMovie, iChat, and iPhoto. As Mac users may recognize, the designers decided to make a few changes to the iPhoto icon, perhaps because the palm tree in the background didn’t fit the website’s theme. Compare to the original here:


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