The blueprint for the Republic of Korea was drawn up in large part by northern Protestants who moved south following the division of the Korean Peninsula. This paper elucidates the profoundly important role they played in nation-building, highlighting the existence of multiple, functionally distinct Protestantisms. Far from constituting a uniform field, Christianity in Korea was shaped by tensions among three different Protestantisms originating in three different locations: the conservative Protestantism of the Northern Presbyterian Church in the United States, the progressivism of Canadian Protestantism, later nurtured by the Germans, and Japanese Protestantism, which entered Korea in the 1920s and left behind a deep imprint despite its relatively limited reach. While the most recognizable form of Protestantism has become inseparable from America itself, a significantly less conservative Protestantism hailing from Hamgyeong-do province and eastern Manchuria served as the core of anti-government dissidence in the 1960s and 1970s. Yet another Protestantism, concealing the word “Japan” from its genealogy in the charged atmosphere of post-liberation Korean society, survived as a powerful rival to and opponent of conservative American Protestantism in presenting a coherent vision of social reform. The existence of such different Protestantisms also reveals the presence of different modernities in postwar South Korea.
After its liberation, Korea was divided in half—the South controlled by the American military government and the North by the Soviet Red Army. As rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union intensified on the Korean Peninsula, in October 1947, Pope Pius XII made a groundbreaking decision to send Bishop Patrick James Byrne to Seoul as the first apostolic visitor to Korea. His appointment was regarded as the Vatican’s recognition of Korea as an independent nation, even before the formal establishment of the Republic of Korea on August 15, 1948. Thus, the Cold War in Korea came to take on a significant religious dimension. The Cold War in Korea is generally regarded as a proxy war between the United States and the Soviet Union. However, the Holy See had its own agenda for confronting what it viewed as atheistic communists. In this context, this paper sheds light on Pope Pius XII’s papal diplomacy by exploring Bishop Byrne’s mission and the relations between the Korean Catholic Church led by Bishop Ro Kinam, the American military government, and the Vatican, in building an independent state in Korea. This paper also examines how anti-communism served as a driving force in the fight against atheistic Marxists and how religious leaders perceived the Cold War in the process of establishing a new state on the Korean Peninsula.
Protestant missionaries present in Korea during the period of the US military government and the formation of the Republic of Korea (1945–1948) were observers of and, to some extent, participants in the development of an anti-communist state increasingly aligned with Korean Protestantism. Through the cases of Horace and Ethel Underwood, this paper illustrates that the missionary role in the US military government, Korean society, and Korean state formation must be understood from within the complexities of missionary experience under colonialism, approaches to missions and society, and the personal histories of missionaries with Korea. Beginning with conflicts within the Presbyterian missions in Korea and rooted in Horace Underwood’s pre-colonial Korean childhood, both Underwoods became committed to Korean autonomy and sovereignty, a stance which guided their interactions with their mission and with the American military government. In those interactions they displayed confidence in the promise of a liberal democratic society in Korea as they urged their colleagues to seek and to defer to Korean opinion. Wary of both communism and the authoritarianism displayed in the early Syngman Rhee administration, their words and actions demonstrated a strong faith in the potential of Koreans to forge and participate actively in a vibrant, open, liberal society.
This paper examines the ideas and activities of James Earnest Fisher (1886–1989) in Korea. Fisher first came to Korea in 1919 as a missionary of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and taught at Chosen Christian College until 1934. Having published Democracy and Mission Education in Korea (1928), based on his PhD dissertation, Fisher introduced John Dewey’s ideas on democracy and education to colonial Korea and tried to reinterpret the goals of mission education there. He argued for democracy as an educational goal when many Koreans were energized by new trends such as socialism. After Japan’s defeat in 1945 and with Korea under divided occupation, Fisher returned to Korea in 1946 as a USAMGIK official for political education and public relations. He sought to propagate American democracy in southern Korea, participated in the US-USSR Joint Commission talks in 1947, and helped to establish the South Korean government in 1948. Fisher’s ideas and activities show a unique aspect of KoreanAmerican relations in terms of how Christian mission and a certain view of democracy were articulated under Japanese colonial rule, and during the formative period leading to the establishment of the Republic of Korea.
HLKY was the first civilian-owned radio station in South Korea. It started broadcasting in 1954 and served as an important source of information for the South Korean population during the early decades of the new nation. Though it was a Christian station, HLKY’s programming was not limited to religious topics; it devoted airtime to world news, dramas, music, and general educational programing. HLKY occupies an important place in the history of radio broadcasting in South Korea, but its origins and planning are still poorly understood. Drawing on heretofore largely unexamined archival sources, this article details the establishment of HLKY. Particular attention is paid to the missionaries who, under the aegis of the Foreign Missionary Conference of North America (FMCNA), led the planning and early administration of the station. The founding of HLKY reflected both struggles among the major mission societies to maintain ecumenical cooperation in the face of theological fissures and a desire to cultivate a form of Christianity that could address, in a practical manner, the social and economic decay that were pervasive around the globe in the post-World War II period.
Helen Kim (Kim Hwal-lan, 1899–1970) has been well respected as a feminist Christian educator and diplomat: the second Korean woman to receive an American doctoral degree, the first Korean president of Ewha College, a Korean representative to the United Nations and UNESCO, and an evangelist. At the same time, her pro-Japanese activities and support for dictatorship have been roundly criticized. One of her controversial activities involves so-called gisaeng parties, in which Kim mobilized Ewha students and alumni to entertain UN soldiers and officials who were deployed to help the Republic of Korea during the Korean War (1950–1953). Gisaeng is a derogatory term that refers to female entertainers of traditional Korea. These gisaeng parties were connected to Kim’s political activities on behalf of Syngman Rhee (1875–1965), the first president of the Republic of Korea. Rhee often used private connections and settings and women to break through political obstacles, especially in the period leading up to the UN-sponsored elections that established the Republic of Korea in 1948 and during the early years of his rule (1948–1960). Helen Kim, together with a politician and a financier, founded the Emergency Citizens League for Information and Friendly Relations in January 1951 and organized publicity activities, one being gisaeng parties. This paper explores Helen Kim’s publicity campaigns around the Korean War with close attention to female sexuality. How Kim’s Christian and feminist beliefs came into this exploitation of the female body and the feminist understanding of the matter will also be discussed.
In the wake of the March First Independence Movement of 1919, expatriate Koreans in the United States, as part of a global campaign, carried on the peaceful struggle for the liberation of Korea. This essay analyzes the public relations campaign in the United States from March 1919 to February 1922 between Koreans who advocated for national independence and Japanese who defended colonial rule. Koreans presented the colonial regime in Korea as illegitimate and brutal, they cautioned Americans that Japan’s territorial ambitions threatened the balance of power in Asia, and they criticized the colonial regime’s mistreatment of Christians. The Korean media efforts won support from average Americans who joined the League of the Friends of Korea, churches that condemned the persecution of Christians, and congressmen who voiced concern over Japanese aggression in Asia. However, the Japanese state responded with a propaganda effort that maintained Japan had acted legally to colonize Korea, portrayed Koreans as incapable of self-rule, and asserted that Koreans were content with colonial governance. Despite the failure of the March First Movement to secure recognition from the United States, it succeeded in solidifying the identity of Koreans in America and improving American public opinion of Koreans.
This paper examines the distinction between forms of participation for high school and university yeohaksaeng (female students) in the April 19 Revolution. Most yeogosaeng (female high school students) were enrolled in all girl high schools. Yeogosaeng entered scenes of protest via the Hakdo hogukdan (National Student Defense Corps) that were established in every school by the Korean government. The purpose of the Hakdo hogukdan was to regulate and mobilize students into government-sponsored demonstrations. Ironically, this organization actually worked to give high school students political experience. The government sponsored district events for the Hakdo hogukdan from various schools, during which student representatives of the forged personal networks with other students. On the other hand, participation in the April 19 Revolution by yeodaesaeng (female university students) differed from that of yeogosaeng. Ewha and Sookmyung Women’s University yeodaesaeng did not participate in the demonstrations. The absence of these yeodaesaeng cast a negative light on the general yeodaesaeng image, and, in turn, consolidated a namhaksaeng (male student)-centric episteme for the April 19 Revolution. However, this paper argues that this androcentric view of the Revolution, and the namhaksaeng-centric networks that were essential to it, effectively marginalized the yeodaesaeng from participation.
This paper reimagines cosmopolitanism in postwar South Korea by understanding Ri Yeong-hui (1929–2010) and Choe In-hun (1936–2018) as cosmopolitan readers. A cosmopolitan reader refers to an individual who tenaciously intermingles personal history and human history, and national issues and transnational issues in her imagination while reading. Ri, widely known as a dissident intellectual, repeatedly undermined the power of anticommunism and the logic of the Cold War through his lifelong project of reading. In his last published interview, Daehwa (Conversations, 2005), Ri exemplifies a cosmopolitanism of dissent by invoking the transnational nature of national issues in the Third World. The renowned novelist Choe In-hun shares critical characteristics with Ri as a cosmopolitan reader. The narrator of his autobiographical novel Hwadu (The Keyword, 1994) emerges as a novelist whose literary imagination is not bound by national borders. The two figures’ performative acts of cosmopolitan reading suggest that cosmopolitanism is an ongoing process in which the reader seeks a revolutionary change in the understanding of self, nation, and literature. By shifting the focus from text to reading, and from ideology to praxis, this paper reconfigurates the very notion of cosmopolitanism by problematizing certain premises that shape its understanding in western academia.
Before we can fully appreciate how Catholicism came to be established in Korea, we need to describe the socio-religious context of the late Joseon period. It was in the later Joseon period that Joseon society became increasingly Confucianized, yet despite this transformation Buddhism maintained its authority over issues of the afterlife. Among indicators of this, the popularity of the Buddhist Pure Land tradition can be particularly noted, among others. It was within this socio-religious context that was widely grounded in Pure Land practices and its thinking that Catholicism arrived on the Korean Peninsula offering new notions of religious practices and religiosity. In the initial stages, Catholicism was noted to be uncannily similar to Buddhism. The newly arrived Catholicism followed a similar pattern of thought regarding the afterlife that had long been sketched by Buddhism. However, unique differences were perhaps the reason for the final success of Catholicism, characteristics such as monotheism and personal devotion have come to be accepted as characteristics of what it means to be a religious tradition, facets that other religions in Korea have come to adopt.
Modern law treats land as real estate, subject to rights of ownership. Land must be immobile and clearly partitioned. Pieces of land are described on cadastral maps, with a link to a unique and permanent location. Yet, before the advent of modern law, how did people recognize each piece of land? The Joseon dynasty made numerous maps and conducted various land surveys. However, there was no sense that land should be divided by drawing lines on paper. Beyond a mere object of ownership, land was considered a basis for feeding the people. Hence, conceptions of land existed in by-play with human activity. Boundaries could not be drawn without consideration of local conditions such as the current status of cultivation. This paper will demonstrate Korean indigenous senses of boundary in the 19th century. The Gwangmu Land Register will be compared with land registers and cadastral maps from the Japanese colonial period to reveal key characteristics of late Joseon conceptions of land demarcation. I will show how boundaries shifted between humans and land, among plots, and within Korean society. Moreover, I highlight how new types of land demarcations in turn separated humans from their environment and reconceived land as immovable (real) estate.