This paper seeks to understand how the diverse historical views on Wiman Joseon were formed and evolved, as well as what caused these changes in perspective. In particular, it focuses on how conceptions of Wiman Joseon influenced research and the interpretation of archeological materials following the establishment of modern historical studies. The traditional understanding of Wiman Joseon in early Korean history changed with the emergence of the modern Korean nation from the late nineteenth century, while the modern concept of colony was applied to Wiman Joseon by Japanese scholars starting from the Japanese colonial period (1910–1945). The understanding of the archeological culture of Wiman Joseon was not established independently, but was a by-product of research on the Lelang Commandery. Based on such research, the governing structure of Lelang Commandery was interpreted as a so-called “dualistic ethnic governance structure.” It is important to reflect on whether the modern attempt to establish the state character of Wiman Joseon through the analysis of the ethnicity of Wiman and Wiman Joseon’s ruling class has still failed to emerge from out the shadow of nationalistic and colonialist perceptions.
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