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  • P-ISSN0023-3900
  • E-ISSN2733-9343

Imperial Nationalism Represented in 1940 Colonial Manchuria: An Examination of Kim Yeong-pal’s Play, Kim Dong-han

Korea Journal, (P)0023-3900; (E)2733-9343
2011, v.51 no.4, pp.162-180
https://doi.org/10.25024/kj.2011.51.4.162

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Abstract

This paper analyzes the pro-Japanese discourse represented in the play Kim Dong-han written by Kim Yeong-pal, who was a member of the Korean Artist Proletariat Federation (KAPF), a socialistic artists group. The historical figure Kim Dong-han (1893-1937) had been a prominent pro-Japanese and anticommunist political figure in colonial Manchuria, though he had spent years as a communist in the Soviet Union. An examination of the dialogue in the play reveals that the arguments for socialism and imperialism share nationalism as a common ground. In Act I, the playwright employs the discourse of nationalism to create a binary in which Joseon is conflated with Japan, while the anticolonial guerrillas represent Soviet Russia. Though first developed in the early twentieth century as part of intellectuals’ efforts to preserve Korean independence, within four decades, the concept of nationhood had been largely coopted by Imperial Japan. In Act II, the protagonist Kim Dong-han persuades the communist leader Bi-su with “civilizational” discourse. On the one side is the abundance represented by Kim Dong-han and Manchuria, which is aligned against the poverty embodied by Bi-su and communist Russia. Such rhetoric espousing greater civilization has commonly been used by empires as ethical and universal justifications for invasion. Japan also sought to place all nations of East Asia in this mold, thus assembling an imperial nationalism.

keywords
Manchuria pro-Japanese anticommunism appropriation national discourse civilizational discourse imperial nationalism

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