Aimee Kwon - Duke University
Spring 1938. As Japan was expanding into China, imperial policies in colonial Korea were fluctuating from that of differentiation/assimilation to imperialization. A catchy official slogan Naisen ittai (One Body of Japan and Korea) promised equality for the colonized in exchange for support in the wartime empire. Not unrelated to this political climate, a metropolitan consumer trend of the “Korea Boom” highlighted exotica from the colony throughout the empire. Responding to such consuming desires, a highly anticipated Japanese-language theatrical adaptation of Ch’unhyang chŏn (The tale of Ch’unhyang), a Korean folktale of oral “tradition” opened to rave reviews in Japan. The popularity of the performance ignited an encore run later the same year throughout colonial Korea. The demand for Ch’unhyang was insatiable, with the tale being told and retold in literature, drama, and film throughout the era. This talk examines the implications of the emergence of Japanese-language “co-productions” of this popular tale in order to reconsider the logic of assimilation and “collaboration” between the colonized and the colonizer in the Japanese empire. Nayoung Aimee Kwon is Assistant Professor of Korean Cultural Studies at Duke University’s Department of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies. She is currently working on her book manuscript Translated Encounters and Empire: Colonial Korea and the Literature of Exile which examines the legacies of bilingual writers and translators in the Japanese empire and its aftermath. Before coming to Duke, she taught at UCLA and at Arizona State University.