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Nam Center Colloquium Series: Korean-Japanese Marriages in Colonial Korea

Monday, March 31, 2014
12:00 AM
International Institute - Room 1636

As is well known, the strict administrative control over the sexual mixing of the colonizers and colonized always constituted an important element in the European colonial policies. In Korea, colonized by Japanese in 1910, the situation was somewhat different. Not unlike the European colonies in Asia, the administration of the colonial Korea was predicated on the ethno-racial hierarchy in the relationship between “natives” and Japanese settlers. However, in the perspective the Koreans were supposed to be assimilated into the ranks of full-blown “Imperial subjects”, and intermarriage, seen as a strong assimilation tool, was seen by the colonial administrators in a positive light. The renewed emphasis was placed on the Korean-Japanese marriages in the end of the 1930s, as Korea’s resources were to be fully used in the all-out war-time mobilization. By the end of 1941, 5,747 registered mixed couples resided in Korea only; significant number of such marriages, not reflected in the colonial statistics, also took place in Japan proper.

The present talk will focus on how such marriages were perceived by the Japanese settler society and the colonized. On the Japanese administration’s side, the expectation was that “blood ties” between the two ethnic groups would bring a “union of emotions” between them dispelling the anti-colonial nationalist sentiments of the colonized and curbing down the anti-Korean colonial racism of the Japanese settlers. The literary works by the Korean authors dealing with the issues of mixed Korean-Japanese marriage and mixed offspring, which I will analyze in this presentation, show, however, that the reality was completely different. Ethnic discrimination often overlapped with the patterns of class-based exclusion and was complexly entangled with the patriarchal customs and legal practices. We will also see that it was sometimes the anti-systemic, “subversive” ideology and practice, rather than “blood ties” per se that could bring the Japanese and Koreans together, to experience solidarity in the ways the colonial administrators disapproved of.

Vladimir Tikhonov

Born in Leningrad (St-Petersburg) in the former USSR (1973) and educated at St-Petersburg State University (MA:1994) and Moscow State University (Ph.D. in ancient Korean history, 1996). Vladimir Tikhonov (Korean name – Pak Noja) has worked for Russian State University of Humanities (1996), KyungHee University (1997-2000) and for Oslo University as associate professor (2000-2006) and as a full professor (from 2006). His main field is the history of ideas in early modern Korea, particularly Social Darwinist influences in the formative period of Korean nationalism in the 1880s-1910s. Another major area of Tikhonov’s research is the history of Korean Buddhism in modern times, particularly in connection with nationalism and militarist violence. His book, Usung yolp’ae ui sinhwa (The Myth of the Survival of the Fittest, 2005) is one of the first monographic studies of Social Darwinism in modern Korea and its relations to Korean nationalism. The same topic has been dealt with in English in his Social Darwinism and Nationalism in Korea: The Beginnings (1880s-1910s) (Brill, 2010). Recently, he edited, together with Torkel Brekke, a book on the connections between Buddhism and militarism in Asia: Buddhism and Violence: Militarism and Buddhism in Modern Asia (Routledge, 2012). He also regularly contributes to South Korea’s liberal and progressive media, including socialist website

Vladimir Tikhonov, Professor, University of Oslo, Norway