The Korea Problem?
The history of the modern and westernized Japan has been written, revised and re-written for many years. In the early 1980s, Mark Peattie and Ramon Myers edited a volume by William Beasley dedicated to examining the Japanese colonial empire. Andre Schmid wrote a review article on the historiography of modern Japan in his work “Colonialism and the ‘Korea Problem’ in the Historiography of Modern Japan: A Review Article”. In this work, Schmid “asks whether the history of modern Japan, especially the Meiji period, can be rightly isolated as ‘island history’ or whether it should be contextualized within Japan’s deepening colonial engagements”. Schmid points out that older scholarship, like Peattie’s Introduction, approached the study of Japan as an imperial power in a very metro-centered manner, as it completely ignored its relations to Korea and only narrates through the perspective of Japan. This paper will explore Schmid’s points of contention, how Peattie and Myers respond to his criticisms, whether or not there are methodological or theoretical differences in approach between the historians, and if there is a fundamental difference in approach. Schmid expressed his contention with the many fallacies he found in this nation-centered history. He believes that this kind of history splits the narrative of modern Japan into two—a domestic history untainted by interactions with the continent and a history of the colonies penetrated by the forces of Japan. In other words, he believes that it is impossible to write a story of the modernization of Japan without also talking about what was going on in Korea as well as how the ideas, practices, news and the like of the expanding empire became a part of the modern scene. There was no middle ground used to connect the fact that both countries were mutually constitutive, as nation-making and empire-building were happening. Schmid believes that in order for the writings of history to be most accurate,...
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