Dr. Ellie Choi - Postdoctoral Associate, Council on East Asian Studies
The project is an intellectual history of Korean nationalist (民族, minjok, or minzoku) identity formation, inspired by historical memories linked to famous physical locales within the larger Japanese empire. While the capitalist development and modernity as a spatial veil sweeping across undeveloped parts of the globe in the 1910s and 20s, this project inquires how the travels of key nationalist Yi Kwangsu (1892-1950) through the Japanese empire (in travelogues like “Short Letters from Tokyo,” “Record of Travels in the Diamond Mountains,” and “From Manchuria”) as both a colonized intellectual and imperial subject functioned in attempting to stem this tide of change. The lecture examines four specific physical sites which Yi traveled to and wrote about in his efforts to educate the colonial Korean public about their own “national” heritage – Tokyo during the 1910s, the Diamond Mountains (Kŭmgangsan), the southern Korean seacoast where the Imjin Wars (Hideyoshi Invasions, 1592-8) were fought, and 1930s Manchuria. In addition to political treatises and fiction set in the urban landscape, Yi wrote commentaries on illustrious historical figures and travelogues through which he attempted to forge a national topography for an “absent” nation which had lost its physical land. This lecture will focus on the reinvention of Yi Sunsin, the Imjin War (Hideyoshi Invasions) hero, as a nationalist trope.