Christian Culture and the First Decade of Japan's Colonial Rule in Korea: Yoshino Sakuzō and the Korean Students in Imperial Tokyo, 1910-19

Fri, November 4, 2011 | Meyerson Conference Room, WCH 4.118

3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Of the many understudied moments from Japan’s first decade of colonial rule in Korea (1910-19), the friendship between the Korean university students in Tokyo and Yoshino Sakuzō, imperial Japan’s foremost theorist of democracy, stands out as particularly conspicuous. Indeed, this interesting connection seems unlikely not only in light of the colonial context in which it developed, but also because Yoshino was neither an anti-imperialist nor an advocate of immediate Korean independence. Nevertheless, out of a wide range of Japanese intellectuals, Yoshino alone was able to develop a relationship with the Korean student movement in Tokyo as a whole.  In a nutshell, then, this talk poses the question: So, why Yoshino? That is, why was he the lone Japanese scholar that Korean students gravitated toward as a group?

To answer, we must view Yoshino’s connection to the Korean students in Tokyo not only from inside the Japan-Korea colonial relationship, but also from within the global culture of lay Christian evangelism then centering on the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). Viewed from within this broader perspective, the congruities shared between Yoshino, a lay Christian and lifelong YMCA member, and the Korean student movement, who relied on the Tokyo YMCA as a uniquely autonomous meeting space within empire, are apparent. Yet the liaison between Yoshino and the Korean students in Tokyo was never merely an institutional one. This talk will conclude by suggesting that the notion of Christian individualism—particularly as reflected in the keyword “personal character” (jinkaku/ingyŏk)—provides a crucial mediating link between Yoshino’s political criticism and Korean student cultural nationalism.

Talk by Michael Shapiro, visiting lecturer from University of California, San Diego.

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Sponsored by: Center for East Asian Studies

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