Japan’s conquests in Asia during the late 19th and early 20th century had very material objectives: to secure resources and extend Japan’s power and influence. There is no denying Japanese imperialism inflicted great hardship upon its victims, and Korea in particular. Japan took great care however in justifying its actions from a legal and normative perspective. The goal was to convince the western “Great Powers” of the time that Japan was a civilized nation, one of “them”, and should be treated accordingly – it was no longer a land to conquer but a fellow colonial power. From a social darwinist perspective, Japan’s decision to engage in colonization was a deliberate strategy to avoid the fate of countless other nations that had fallen under Western imperialism and in a single word: survive.
Professor Alexis Dudden from the University of Connecticut is our guest for this episode. She wrote extensively about the discourses and legal rationales that Japanese scholars and government officials relied on to justify the takeover and subsequent colonization of its neighboring countries, with a focus of course on Korea. She published two seminal books: Japan’s Colonization of Korea: Discourse and Power (University of Hawai’i Press, 2005), which provided the groundwork for this interview, and more recently Troubled Apologies Among Korea, Japan and the United States (Columbia University Press, 2008). She is currently working on her third book, Islands, Empire, Nation: A History of Modern Japan, under contract with Oxford University Press.
Professor Dudden received her BA from Columbia University and her PhD in history from the University of Chicago. She has published in various academic journals and news outlets, including the Journal of Asian Studies, Dissent and the New York Times.
It was part of Japanese officials’ determination to refashion their country into a modern nation that would make sense in the so-called « Great Powers » of the day, and it’s really through […] Japan’s swift eradication of Korea as a separate place and its incorporation of it into the Japanese Empire made the West stand up and take notice — on top of their defeat of Russia.
The interview was conducted on June 23rd in Seoul.