Nationalist movements before 1945

Authored by: Franklin Rausch

Routledge Handbook of Modern Korean History

Print publication date:  January  2016
Online publication date:  January  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415739313
eBook ISBN: 9781315816722
Adobe ISBN: 9781317811497


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Nationalism is one of the most significant ideological forces on the Korean peninsula today in both the north and the south. In fact, a substantial portion of the tension in the region is connected to the failure to establish a unified state for the Korean nation. Moreover, of the factors making unification and an easing of tensions difficult, one of the most important is the very different forms of nationalism followed by the north and south. While it is common to place the origins of the division of the peninsula in post–World War II superpower politics, its roots can also be found in the different way Koreans responded to imperialism, particularly that of Japan, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the colonial period of 1910–1945, when Korea was under direct Japanese rule. This chapter will therefore explore Korean nationalism, first by briefly considering pre-modern Korean identity, and then examining the development of nationalist thought from 1875, the year of the Kanghwa Forts Incident, in which Japan forced Korea to “open” to the modern world, to 1945, when Korea was liberated from Japanese rule. In particular, it will focus on how Korean nationalists adapted other ideologies, such as liberalism or Communism, in hopes that they would help them build a strong and independent nationstate, and on how the colonial experience shaped Korean nationalism.

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