우물 안 개구리


Thinking about the Japanese woman in Korean-Japanese (内鮮一体) couples

Filed under: — Sayaka Chatani @ 7:39 am Print

When I was preparing for my oral exams last semester, the professors who do not work on East Asia (I had a European historian and a Latin American historian in my committee) were always fascinated by the nature of “inter-racial marriage” in the Japanese empire. Both in the history of childhood and youth and the history of modern empire, the most complex and flexible interpretations of “race” happened on the ground where colonial societies had no choice but face the existence of inter-racial sexuality and mixed children. In the Japanese empire, inter-racial marriage was not problematized in the same way as it was in European empires. For example, in two articles of roundtable discussion on marriage (結婚改善座談会) published in Korean Social Work (朝鮮社会事業 – yes I still love this journal) in May and June 1935, the participants, mostly Japanese bureaucrats and educators in Seoul, never discuss problems of inter-marriage. The central problem was rather an increasing number of old single women in Korea. Their presentation of statistics of the marriage success rate among graduates of the elementary school bears much resemblance to today’s discussion of unemployment rates. They agree this is a problem that “kyoka dantai (moral suasion groups)” should become involved in. Another major issue brought up during this roundtable is, of course, the ways in which people conduct wedding ceremonies. For the participants, excessively luxurious wedding ceremonies often exhaust village economies. The venue of wedding ceremonies was also discussed — e.g. whether it was appropriate to imitate Taisho Emperor and to use the Chōsen Shrine for ordinary people’s wedding.

The lack of discussion on inter-racial marriage by contemporary experts is not the only interesting feature to note. “It is an open secret among Korean scholars,” one professor of modern Korean history said to me the other day, “that there were a significant number of married couples between Korean men and Japanese women but there is so little study on it.” This is another surprise to non-East Asian historians. In other places it is men from the colonizing countries and women from colonized societies that married, and this feminization of colonies is often regarded as an aspect of Orientalism. There were, of course, married couples between Korean women and Japanese men, but as Oguma Eiji has already pointed out, the Government-General in Korea encouraged Japanese women to marry Korean men because, they thought, Japanese mothers were supposed to build the foundations of Japanese culture in the home.

How do you define “coloniality” in this relationship represented by couples of Korean men and Japanese women? To offer my half-baked thought first, we really need to re-think how the ‘Japanese woman’ was interpreted in relation to modernity. I cannot easily connect this to the discussion of coloniality — or assure that it is a useful concept here.

One chapter in Nam Pujin (南富鎭)’s book 文学の植民地主義 (Colonialism in Literature) deals with the issue of colonialism in love and marriage affairs. He introduces a number of Korean writers who wrote stories in which a Korean man dreamed of marrying a Japanese woman, a Korean couple who pretended as if they had been a Korean-Japanese couple, a Japanese woman who marries a Korean man, and mixed children who grew up hating their Korean origins owing to the social discriminations they received, and so on. Nam recognizes some “coloniality” in that it is usually Koreans who have to “confess” their origin, and will come to be “understood” by their Japanese partners even in recent love stories. His discussion of the novels from the 20s and 30s is more thought-provoking. Nam points out that “Naisen kekkon (Korean-Japanese marriage) was consistently the most trendy topic for literature, and despite its political nature, it was the most popular fantasy and hope to overcome obstacles that the state and ethnicity impose on one’s love and marriage” (27). We cannot say that Naisen kekkon was as prevalent among Korean masses as Korean writers and intellectuals experienced, but it seems to me that discussion of such marriages could appear fresh and even rebellious in a way that was not necessarily directed against the Japanese colonial government, but against older generations or elite Korean families.

Nam Pujin also presents a convincing argument that Japanese women represented ‘modernity’ in the eyes of Korean masses. This itself is an interesting and anomalous case from a comparative perspective. But at the same time, the story is not simply a reverse sexual representation of imperial modernity. Japanese women represented much more than that. What caught my attention was Nam’s description of a novel called 処女の倫理 (Ethics of the Virgin) written by a well-known Korean writer Chang Hyakchu 張 赫宙 in 1939. In this novel, an independent-minded Japanese woman fell in love with and married a Korean man, but was betrayed by him because he had an official Korean wife, and was discriminated against within Korean society. According to Nam, “double marriage” was quite common since many Korean intellectuals either abandoned or ignored their official wives whom they were forced to marry at younger age, and had love affairs with Japanese women. However strongly Korean men desired a Japanese woman as if it would symbolize an achievement of modernity, this particular novel depicted very unstable power relationships that could be caused as a consequence of such a phenomenon.

There is another piece of evidence on the complexity of the issue that I found in the roundtable article mentioned above. Mōri (a commissioner to the Government-General in Korea) says, “Ladies who were raised in Korea face difficulty in finding a marriage partner.” It soon becomes clear that he is referring to Japanese women who grew up in Korea. The first reason he gives is “women who grew up in Korea are too used to luxury and cannot even sew a Kimono. Those who grew up in Japanese (naichi) rural areas are pretty good at this.” According to Mōri, Japanese men preferred naichi women who were not as “modernized” as those who grew up in Korea. It makes sense that Japanese officials and business people who were dispatched to Korea received extra salaries and benefits, and their children regarded themselves as upper-class in comparison to both the average Japanese and Korean families. Does this mean what “the real Japanese woman” represented differed significantly for Korean writers and for Japanese men?

Given the resulting mess, I cannot pin down who colonized whom or even how we could know of it in this issue of Korean-Japanese marriage.


Non-Orientalizing Colonial Ethnography

Filed under: — Sayaka Chatani @ 11:32 pm Print

I am re-visiting reprints of a journal called Korean Social Work (『朝鮮社会事業』), which colonial bureaucrats and social reformers in Korea published nearly every month between 1923 and 1944. The articles were written mostly in Japanese, and many of the authors (both Korean and Japanese) expressed, just like the social bureaucrats in the Home Ministry in the metropole, a combination of reform-minded, progressive ideas and a colonizer’s mindset that could be characterized as a ‘civilizing mission.’

I would like to introduce here an article that I encountered in vol. 5 no. 10 October 1926 issue entitled “Sociology of Korea That Appears in Folklore”(「民間伝承に現はれた朝鮮の社会相」). The author used an alias of 青丘同人, under which he introduced a Korean folk story in almost every issue around these years. In this particular issue, however, he gave a more detailed analysis of the characteristics of Korean folklore. I cannot tell if he was ethnically Korean or Japanese (although he calls Japan “our country”), but he was obviously a very dedicated ethnographer of Korea, was trained in Western theories, and operated professionally in the Japanese language.

The first thing that one notices in his article is a heavy emphasis on ordinary people’s history. The author criticized the official historical records for being too aristocracy-centered, and argued that in order to understand Korean society we need to turn to folklore — “the shapeless art of the languages of the masses.” Considering that folk studies were growing in Japan and everywhere else in the world, this itself is not quite unique. In fact, this global ethnographical turn in the 1920s led to a big wave of Orientalist colonial knowledge in most of the empires. We are also familiar with many accounts of Japanese ethnographers Orientalizing the colonial Other.

The rest of this article, however, turned out to be a lot different from the “Other”-ing that I expected to find. His analysis develops rather in an unexpected direction. One unusual aspect of his article is that he uses Marxist class struggle to analyze Korean sayings and popular jokes. Many of the social reform bureaucrats who were publishing this journal were overtly anti-Marxists, and they regarded social work as a necessity to prevent the spread of Marxism and Communism. Despite that, 青丘同人 fearlessly demonstrates “social revolutionary elements” hidden in Korean sayings. According to him, “the origin of social revolutions is embedded in the moment where ordinary people’s social conditions have totally changed and the old system no longer works. It must be clear that when ordinary people’s knowledge recognizes the ignorance of the ruler, they resort to action.” Popular jokes and sayings capture this exact moment. For example, the following joke shows how ordinary people mocked the way in which the privileged class would collapse from within:

A younger brother said, “No matter how arrogantly you behave, I am superior to you when it comes to our social statuses.” His older brother asked, “Why?” He answered, “Because when you were born, our father was just an ordinary official, but when I was born, he was already an emperor-appointed one.”

青丘同人 gives a number of examples in which ordinary people ridiculed the incompetence of the ruler and the old aristocratic system. He argues, “… people in Korea who did not prefer overt conflicts [with upper classes] turned to the mocking (笑殺) to comfort themselves. The only way of revenge for the weak was to passively laugh out the despotic behaviors of the stronger.” Doesn’t this line of argument sound familiar to us?

Another unique part is his attempt to deconstruct the stereotypes of the status of women in traditional Korea. He challenges the stereotypical understanding that Korean women had been oppressed by men, locked in the home and deprived of any freedom. He first explains that the structure of the inner house (内房) where women mainly stayed was so complicated because men needed to protect women from outsiders in the face of foreign invasions. What is interesting is that he quickly dismisses the importance of this original reason, and points out that this system of locking up women in the house lasted only because it worked for women too (“it was based on love”), and because women reigned over their own kingdoms in their inner houses. “Otherwise women would not stay inside more than three days.” 青丘同人 also disputes the alleged wickedness of the custom in which women were forced to wash clothes all day everyday so that they would not have energy or time for adultery. He regards washing clothes as more about providing appropriate exercise for women. “Compared to bodily disciplining like chastity belts in the West, foot-binding in China, and blackening teeth in Japan,” chastity control in Korea in the inner house was far more aesthetic (趣きのある).

The issue I want to raise is not about whether we agree or disagree with his analysis. As far as I can tell, he was an ethnographer who did not try to Orientalize Korea. In fact, many of the points he made are a precursor to what scholars in the 1980s and 90s (i.e. supposedly the Said-ian self-reflective age) attempted to argue. I always found it sad that, whenever we discuss colonial ethnographers, we inevitably find Orientalizing, Other-ing operations. I think this article by 青丘同人, someone I do not know who really was, is giving us an opportunity to think about ethnography as a more diverse field than we usually think.

UPDATE: I just found 青丘同人’s real name in volume 5 no.7. It is 清水兵三 (he started to use  “青丘 清水兵三”) . I might be able to track him down, now!


Lee hang-bok’s Travel – 무술조천록(戊戌朝天錄)

Filed under: — yuna @ 10:05 am Print

이항복(李恒福 1556~1618)은 조선 중기의 인물로, 군사상, 정치상으로 상당히 활약을 했지만, 오히려 어린 시절의 그를 소재로 한 민담이 더 유명한 인물입니다. 이 자리를 빌어 학술적이라고 하긴 어렵지만 재미있는 이야기를 하나 소개해볼까 합니다.

임진왜란이 거의 끝나갈 즈음인 무술년(1598)에 정응태(丁應泰)의 무고 사건이 있었다. 일전 명나라의 찬획 정응태가 양호(楊鎬)를 탄핵했을 때, 조선은 그를 변호하는 글을 올려 양호를 유임시켰는데, 이 일로 유감을 품은 정응태는 조선을 무함하는 상주를 올렸던 것이다. 조선왕조실록(朝鮮王朝實錄)에 정응태가 올렸다는 상주문의 일부가 남아있다.

“조선에서는 대대로 일본인이 사는 집을 지어놓고, 여러 섬의 왜노(倭奴)를 불러다가 전쟁을 일으켜서 중국을 침범하여, 요하(遼河)의 동쪽을 빼앗아 옛땅을 찾으려고 한다.”

여기에서 말하는 일본인이 사는 집이란 일본 사신이나 상인들이 머무르는 왜관을 뜻하며, 옛땅이란 말은 원문에는 고토(古土)라 되어있다. 또 하나 문제가 된 것은 세종(世宗) 때의 신숙주(申叔舟)가 저술한 《해동제국기(海東諸國記)》였다. 일본이나 기타 나라들의 사정과 풍습을 기록한 일종의 지리지였는데, 일본 사신을 접대한 내용 역시 문제가 되었다. 이같은 정응태의 상주문은 당시 중국 내의 정치적 상황 때문이었지만, 아무튼 조선으로서는 곤란한 지경에 놓였고, 이에 사정을 해명하고 입장을 표명하기 위해 사신을 파견했다. 이 때 사신으로는 처음 유성룡이 내정되었다가 파직되었고, 이항복이 대신 사신으로 파견되었다. 이정구(李廷龜)와 황여일(黃汝一)이 동행했고, 정사(正使)는 이항복이었고, 부사(副使)는 이정구였다.


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