Student Work


Jaehyun Kim

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Jaehyun Kim’s thesis, “Korean Newspapers and the ‘Irish Problem’: Japanese Censorship in Colonial Korea, 1920-1930,” touches upon a subject that scholars of colonial Korea have given insufficient attention to. Kim asks why there featured so many colonial Korean run newspaper articles on the Irish Independent movement in the 1920s and 1930s when the Japanese colonial government actively censored Korean newspapers. Indeed, in the wake of the March First Independent Movement, the colonial authorities shifted its harsh military rule to a more conciliatory cultural policy, allowing Koreans to vent their nationalistic sentiments within the confines of state control. However, the level of potentially instigating reports palpable in Korean newspapers prompted Kim to delve into figuring out what was going on on the ground. The result of his year-long research is eye-opening.

The colonial government struggled to sensor sensitive contents in regard to the Irish Independent movement due to a number of reasons, including the time-crunch of issuing daily newspapers, even twice a day, lost in translation, and the competition of readership among Korean newspapers. Additional insights Kim brings forth are the colonial government’s approach to dealing with the Korean newspapers were not outright oppressive but employed constant negotiations with editors and publishers of the Korean newspapers to control and mollify nationalist sentiments brewing among Koreans who were empathetic with the Irish people. He also highlights the endemic limitations of the colonial government to accomplish the two tricky goals, namely allowing voices of the Korean people while preventing strengthening nationalism among the colonized. Most importantly, he brings to light the agency of Koreans who did not remain powerless bystanders but fully engaged in the colonial government to maximize their personal, commercial, and national interests.

The level of insights that Kim provides is truly remarkable and his work makes an important contribution to the existing scholarship.