Current Institutional Affiliation
CLASS Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2015
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Literature, University of Pittsburgh
Korean Englishes, Uneven Asias, and Global Circulation, 1895-1945

My dissertation investigates the role of English as a global mediatory language for cosmopolitan Korean writers during the Japanese colonization of Korea from 1895 to 1945. Anglophone print culture emerged in Korea right after the Sino-Japanese War (1895) and flourished until Japanese annexation (1910). 1986 saw the advent of the English edition of Korean newspaper The Independent indicating that English was a political and cultural alternative for the Korean intellectuals between a newly-emerging Japanese imperialism and the traditional Sino-centric system. Korean cosmopolitan writers, such as Younghill Kang and Jaepil Seo, migrated to the U.S. in order to avoid colonial censorship and then published anti-colonial magazines in English. As the cases of Kang and Seo demonstrate, the U.S. became a central place for the production of Korean English writing post-annexation. By examining the use of English in colonial-era literary texts, produced both inside and outside of Korea, I analyze the language's cultural and political implications both in global and local contexts, and complicate the idea of English, as a global language that could be understood in imperialist terms. Looking at the non-linear, asymmetrical reception and production of modernity in Korea, I demonstrate that English and the imagined West complicated inter-Asian relationships. Colonial Korea was thus the site of conflicting languages (namely English, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) under a local colonialism that operated within a system global imperialism. As a result, colonial Korea was not one nation-state but a symbolic translingual zone. Korean literary history, then, is a translingual practice of global literary circulation. Consequently, I argue that the colonial period, often called "the dark age of Korean literature" due to its absence of the National language, was actually the most experimental period, proving how one marginalized place manifests the hidden travel routes of global modernity.