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Characterization and Periodization of the ‘Modern Age’ of General Korean Histories from Liberation to the Early 1970s

  • Journal of Humanities, Seoul National University
  • 2018, 75(1), pp.13-46
  • DOI : 10.17326/jhsnu.75.1.201802.13
  • Publisher : Institute of Humanities, Seoul National University
  • Research Area : Humanities > Other Humanities
  • Received : January 11, 2018
  • Accepted : February 1, 2018
  • Published : February 28, 2018

Ryu, Kee-Hyun 1

1서울대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This article examines how the ‘modern age (近代)’ was characterized in general Korean histories published from liberation in 1945 to the early 1970s. Generally, the Korean modern age is considered to have started in the late 19th century and ended in 1945. This kind of periodization on the Korean modern age had been constructed through the development of Korean historical scholarship and Korea’s political and social changes. The ‘modern age’ was absent in general history writings appearing from liberation to the early 1950s. General histories of this time describe Korean history as being consistently ‘stagnated’. Analyzing history from the late Chosun period, new general histories published from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s applied the concepts of ‘modern age’ and ‘modernization’ for the first time. The narrative focuing on ‘stagnation’ of Korean history partially persisted, but general histories of this period tried to describe Korean history from the viewpoint of development, defining some historical events including the Gapoh Reformation (甲午改革) as a starting point of the Korean modern age. General histories published from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s stress the socioeconomic dynamics of Korean history. They emphasize that the Korean society of the late Chosun period had the potential to independently achieve modernization. This kind of argument could come out as a result of the nationwide spread of moderniztion theory and the introduction of the ‘internal development theory’. General histories after the mid-1960s tried to depict the 18th-19th centuries Korea in the modern transition period as an active player prepared to respond to political and social challenges, and not just a passive one.

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