When did Korea modernize? For many, the answer lies in the colonial era. While broadly accepted, this view is not without flaws or opponents. One of these critics, Professor Kyung Moon Hwang, offers an alternative perspective. He argues that Korea’s modernization is not just a result of Japanese influence. It was a rational process already started in the 19th century during the Joseon dynasty by the government.
To learn more about the modernization of the Korean peninsula, we met with Professor Hwang. He told us about the role the Joseon administration played in this process, the pivotal nature of the Gabo reforms, as well as the different rationalities that directed the development of the Korean peninsula before and during the colonial era.
Kyung Moon Hwang is Professor of History and East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Southern California. He obtained his Bachelor in History from Oberlin College before pursuing graduate studies at Harvard University, where he received his PhD in East Asian Languages and Civilizations. He is the author of Rationalizing Korea – The Rise of the Modern State, 1894-1945 (University of California Press) and of A History of Korea – An Episodic Narrative (Palgrave Macmillan).
So what I found […] is that – while the processes of the modern era began far before the colonial period – it came to be that in the scholarship the colonial period itself was given much more credit and the earlier period and the earlier processes were, in that sense, overshadowed.
The interview was recorded on June 23rd, 2016 in Seoul.