Cultural Nationalism: Modern Korea and China in the Early 20th Century

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Comparison on Cultural Nationalism between Modern Korea and China in the Early 20th Century

Over the confronted, yet shared borderline, Korea and China have actively been engaged with each other in various fields of life ever since the dawn of the nations. Such frequent and constant interactions had undoubtedly brought about the civil similitude between them until nowadays. Amongst numerous cultural resemblances of Korea and China from the history, this paper focuses on how their unique, yet similar-to-each-other culture had developed particularly during the early 20th century. Both Korean and Chinese culture prospered in the process of fighting against the Japanese colonialism in 1920’s and 1930’s, and the notable sentiment underlying such cultural movements was nationalism. For the cultural nationalism during this period had lot contributed in advancing the modernization of both countries, I found it worthwhile to study further on this phenomenon of respective countries and then pinpoint similarities, as well as differences between them. As far as I have researched on this topic from the given text materials of “East Asian History and Civilization” class, the comparison could be narrowed down onto the criteria of political backgrounds that had initiated the cultural nationalism, features of the changes in educational, communicational, and consumer-habit culture of Korea and China.

To start with, it is crucial to analyze the main reason why the cultural nationalism had emerged particularly in Korea and China among East Asian countries, during those specific years, from the first place. With regard to the political stimulations for the cultural mutation, both of Korean and Chinese cultural nationalism were invoked by student-led political movements, the 1919 March First and the 1919 May Fourth, respectively. However, it is important to note that Korea and China were in completely different political status, with Korea being a colony of Japan and China an independent state that fights against Japan. Accordingly, the actual spread of cultural nationalism throughout these countries differs from one another. In case of Korea, since it was colonized by Japan, there were strict restrictions and censorships posed by Japan, and there “remained for Korean leadership elements to unite behind a general program that could enlist mass participation.” As for Korea, “March First only suggested the potential of a nationalism fully supported by the mass of the Korean people” In case of China, however, had better infrastructure for expanding cultural nationalism for the people, during and after the May Fourth, were able to freely exhibit their nationalism without the restrictions being posed by the central government, to which they severely opposed and were not willing to be bound by. The second most outstanding parallel between Korean and Chinese cultural nationalism would be the fact that the phenomenon was modeled after Western and modern culture with new and highly fashionable thoughts. Such ideas like democracy, freedom, and equality were widely pursued in two countries, the values that seemed to have been internationally guaranteed with the declaration of Woodro Wilson in Versailles Peace Conference of 1918, and people believed that such notions, as well as corresponding customs and practices would strengthen and develop their own country, powerful enough to fight against the imperialism of Japan – though, in the end, the conference was found out to have secretly conferred legitimacy upon Japanese imperialism rather than rescuing victimized Korea and China. In the process of adjusting the dominant Western values into the actual life of people, there followed evolutions in mass communication and education. As for the following paragraphs will be sub-analyses of this paragraph that attempts to compare respective Korean and Chinese way of development in communication, education, as well as consuming pattern based on cultural...
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