Sinographic Nationalism: Cho So-ang’s Sino-Korean Writing in Republican China

Songyeol Han, Ph. D. Candidate
Department of East Asian Studies, Princeton University

This paper looks at how the nation was contested and negotiated in Sino-Korean writings on Korean history. I focus on Cho So-ang’s (1887–1958) writings in Chinese in the 1930s to see how Cho negotiated the legitimacy of Korea’s anticolonial struggle.

The Korean nationalist movement faced new challenges in the 1930s. In addition to the nationalists’ ideological struggle against socialism, Japan’s expansion in Manchuria and the establishment of Manchukuo seriously questioned the political position of Korean residents in China as well as Korean nationalism. Confronted with the crisis of Korean nationalism, Cho So-ang transformed textual authenticity to textual legitimacy in his book Korean Literary World (hanguo wenyuan, 1932). As diplomat of the Korean exile government and ideologue of the Korean independence party, Cho relied on the authenticity of Korea’s past distilled through the evidential studies in the 18th century in order to find evidence of Korea’s true national identity to reclaim Korea’s rightful place in the modern colonizing world. While the textual criticism enabled Cho to create an anthology of Korea’s genuine voice from the past, the Sino-centric worldview embedded in the source troubled 20th-century nationalists.

The third part examines Cho’s Sino-Korean nationalism in the book and Chinese reception to it. By excavating and refining the genealogy of Sino-Korean relations, Cho constructed a history of Sino-Korean alliance and converted it into political legitimacy of anti-imperialistic struggle on the eve of the second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). A Chinese local newspaper resonated Cho’s effort to transform Korean history with an anti-colonial war. Arranging the review with the Korean anthology alongside memorial poems of the recent Hongkew Bombing Incident by Korean patriot Yun Pong-gil, Dagong bao, echoed Cho’s historico-political writing.

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