Tapestry of Modernity: Urban Cultural Landscapes of Colonial Korea, 1920s-1930s An International Interdisciplinary Conference | February 16-17, 2012

Within the conceptual framework of multiple modernities, this conference will explore multi-layered arrays of Korean modernity by looking at different areas in society and culture that went through a metamorphosis as Korea reinvented itself as a modern state-nation during the colonial period. Individual conference papers will explore various forms of selectivity, creativity, inventiveness, imaginary resourcefulness, and visions of Koreans engaged in crafting their own brands of modernity. The focus of the conference will be the cultural modernity projects nurtured and cultivated in the urban setting of Korea in the decades of the 1920s and the 1930s, when such modern transformation was most vigorously pursued and propagated and its achievements most visible and vibrant.

Within this thematic and temporal framework, each paper is dedicated to investigating how colonial Koreans understood modernity, how they expressed such notions in their respective cultural fields, and even how their ingenuity compared with that of Japan, the main conduit through which Western modernity reached Korea. The conference constitutes a concerted attempt to unravel the multidimensionality of core institutional and cultural constellations that emerged as colonial modernity in Korea as truthfully as possible. That is, the conference as a whole is a project to depict a true scroll of Korean modernity that was refracted by the prism of tradition, nationalism, colonialism, nascent capitalistic consumerism and feminism, and anti-Japanese resistance, to name a few. These efforts will collectively contribute to writing-off the invalid and misleading discursive narratives that often label Korean modernity as a less perfect, defective, or even deformed hybrid of Western or Japanese counterparts.

The conference ultimately aims to free studies of Korean modernity from the burden of colonial victim mentality/negativity and from Euro/Western-centric perspectives as well. In its place, this conference, by enlisting multidisciplinary expertise in various Korean cultural fields, points toward generating and authenticating new bodies of critical knowledge, insights, and information on Korean colonial modernity through a fresh, revitalizing, and nuanced reading of its many faces and through revealing its multidimensional and even cosmopolitan achievements.

February 16, 2012 Program

9:00 a.m. Opening Ceremony

  • Yung-Hee Kim, Director, Center for Korean Studies, University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • Reed Dasenbrock, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • Robert Bly-Vroman, Dean, College of Language, Linguistics, and Literature, University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • Edward J. Shultz, Dean, School of Pacific and Asian Studies, University of Hawaii at Manoa

9:30 a.m. Keynote Speech: "Reflections on Colonial Modernity in Korea"

  • Gi-Wook Shin, The Tong Yang, Korea Foundation, and Korea Stanford Alumni (KSA) Chair of Korean Studies and Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University

10:00 a.m. Session 1. Laying the Foundation for Modern Korean Educational Enterprises

  • Kenneth M. Wells. "Who For and Wherefore? Protestant Campaigns for 'New Education' in Modern Korea"
  • Hyaeweol Choi. "In Search of Knowledge and Selfhood: Korean Women Studying Overseas in Colonial Korea"
  • Gilsang Lee. "The Entanglement of Nationalism, Colonialism, and Modernity in School Textbooks: The Case of Home Economics Reader by Lee Man-gyu"

Discussant: Edward J. Shultz

12:00 noon Lunch

1:30 p.m. Session 2. Creation of New Informational Semiotics: Press and Mass Media

  • Chizuko T. Allen. "Ch'oe Nam-sŏn's Modernity: Writings and Publication Projects Up to 1919"
  • Chin Sok Chong. "Development of Mass Media and Modernity in the 1920s"
  • Jae-Kyoung Lee. "The Inverted-Pyramid Style and the Fact-Centered Page Design: The Modernizing Endeavors in the Colonial Newspaper"

Discussant: Young-a Park

3:45 p.m. Break

4:00 p.m. Session 3. Mapping Literary Ventures and Trajectories

  • Seong-Kon Kim. "Love and Death in the Korean Novel: Korean Modernism and Yi Kwang-su's The Heartless"
  • Samuel E. Perry. "Writing Feminism in Red: Reading Contradictions in and around Kang Kyŏng-ae’s In’gan munje (1934)"
  • Kyoung-Hoon Lee. "Modernist Writer Park T'ae-wŏn's Kubo as Non-Identity"

Discussant: Ming-Bao Yue

February 17, 2012 Program

9:00 a.m. Session 4. New Women: Their Visions, Quests, and Accomplishments

  • Jiyoung Suh. "Topography of the Modernity of New Woman in Colonial Korea"
  • Yung-Hee Kim. "Public Authentication of Woman's Voice: Sinyŏja (New Women), the First Feminist Journal in Colonial Korea"
  • So-Hee Lee. "'Korean Kollontai' Heo Jeong-Sook and the Women's Movement in 1920s and 1930s Korea"
  • Judy Van Zile. "Performing Modernity in Korea: The Dance of Ch'oe Sŭng-hŭi"

Discussant: Yun Peng

12:00 noon Lunch

1:30 p.m. Session 5. Popular Culture: Art, Fashion, Cinema, and Department Stores

  • Youngna Kim. "Modernity in Urban Visual Art and Culture"
  • Na Young Hong and Jiyeon Kim. "Fashion and Making Modern Self-Image"
  • Hye Seung Chung. "The Korean Rudolph Valentino: Jin Yan (Kim Yŏm), Colonial Masquerade, and Shanghai Films of the 1930s"
  • Jina E. Kim. "Consuming Seoul: Department Stores and Competing Modernities in Colonial Korea"

Discussant: Christine Yano

4:30 p.m. Concluding Remarks and Round Table Discussion



this conference is funded by

The Center for Korean Studies, University of Hawaii at Manoa
The Northeast Asia Council, Association for Asian Studies
The College of Languages, Linguistics, and Literature, University of Hawaii at Manoa
The School of Pacific and Asian Studies, University of Hawaii at Manoa



Special thanks to Professor Sook Suh of Ewha Womans University for presenting the paper written by Professor Seong-Kon Kim, who was unable to attend the conference.


Conference Organizer

Prof. Yung-Hee Kim
Director, Center for Korean Studies
Professor of Korean Literature
Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures
University of Hawaii at Manoa


Conference Coordinator

Prof. Sang Yee Cheon
Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures
University of Hawaii at Manoa


Center for Korean Studies Administrative Support

Brandie H. Chun
Merclyn K. Labuguen
Kortne Oshiro-Chin
Jinsook Kim
Jonathan Kim
Hye Jeong Kwon
Vicky Park

Korean Language Flagship Center Administrative Support

Lee Anne T. Unciano