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  • P-ISSN1229-0076
  • E-ISSN2773-9351

Oriental World and the Time of “Joseon” (Korea)

The Review of Korean Studies, (P)1229-0076; (E)2773-9351
2005, v.8 no.2, pp.13-44
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Abstract

The goal of this study is to review how “things Korean” (Joseonjeogin geot)became important when the significant, the “Orient,” was connected with anew signifié by emphasizing a traditional literary magazine, Munjang(Literature), published in the late Japanese colonial period. Munjang, published under the influence of “the movement for Koreanstudies” that tried to newly find and emphasize the cultural tradition ofJoseon, was often evaluated as a typical example of preserving the culturalidentity of Joseon in the history of Korean literature during the late period ofJapanese colonial rule. But the period between February 1939 and April 1941when Munjang was published was also the time a narrative about the collapseof the Occidental and the rise of the Orient was very popular in public culturaldiscourse. Of course, this narrative was closely connected with the politicalideology of Japanese imperialism that tried to justify rule over East Asia,rejecting the Occident and emphasizing “the sameness of the Orient.”However, without doubt “the inversion of modern values” and “the rise ofOriental values” resulting from this narrative placed the inquiry and revival of“things Korean” in a different context from erstwhile ones. The leaders of Munjang, Lee Byung-gi, Chung Ji-yong, and Lee Tae-joonmade it a traditional magazine, putting “things Korean” on an equal semanticvalue to “things of the past” and “typical natural things.” They not only took atraditional attitude to “things Korean = the past = nature,” but raised the attitudeup to the creative mind. The difference of how to revive “things Korean= the past = nature” was basically related to their differences of time consciousness. This study shows that their differences of time consciousness andrevival are classified by “the epiphany” and “the nostalgia.” While “theepiphany” tries to realize the potentiality of forgotten and extinct things of thepast by repeating past lives, “the nostalgia” tries to stand aloof from moderndaily lives, participating in the aesthetic aura through an irresistible yearningfor the past. But in the attitude of Munjang toward “things Korean = the past =nature,” there appears in particular an ironical inversion to substitute superiorityfor incompetence. Not to speak of “the nostalgia” coming from the completionof ruling over nature, even “the epiphany” that the oppressed pastintrudes upon the present can result in enlarging the scope of its identity incase it repeats in defense mechanism provided by self-duplication. Thus, suchan enlargement of identity will serve as momentum to integrate “thingsKorean” into a larger scope, “Oriental culture.”

keywords
Peculiarity time consciousness the epiphany the nostalgia traditionalism irony the inversion of modern values

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The Review of Korean Studies