Organized Panel Session
Ch’oe Nam-sŏn’s 1927 essay “A Theory of Purham Culture” was an attempt to explain Asian culture focused on Korea and Tan'gun, the mythical founder of Korea. Ch'oe, who had published the magazine Sonyŏn and Ch'ŏngch'un before the colonial annexation, continued publishing and contributing to the studies of Korea and Tan’gun even after serving a prison sentence for his role in drafting the “Proclamation of Korean Independence” in 1919, and “A Theory of Purham Culture” was a culmination of Ch'oe’s Korean studies in the 1920s. The Japanese-language essay was also a suggestion and question posed to Japanese orientalists by a colonial Korean orientalist.
This presentation examines Ch'oe Nam-sŏn’s perspective on Asia, especially Northeastern Asia including China and Manchuria. By considering his essays and travel writings produced from the late 1920s up to 1945, the period of Japanese Empire’s expansion then military aggression, this paper poses two central questions. How did Ch'oe Nam-sŏn’s view of universality and Asian culture focused on Korean culture and history in the late of 1920s, relate to or compete with the purported universality of Japanese Asianism? How was the particularity of Koreanness located between these two universal ideas? By answering these questions, this presentation suggests how the colonial intellectuals’ political imagination set up a relation between the Japanese Empire and Colonial Korea as problem of universality and particularity in the view of Asia.