Empires, missions, and education: mission schools and resistance movements in Modern Korea, 1885-1919
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This thesis discusses the emergence of anti-Japanese resistance movements based on mission schools in Seoul and Pyongyang established by American Northern Presbyterian missionaries in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Korea. It examines how Korean elites from the schools, despite Japanese surveillance, took part in national independence activities by orchestrating diverse systematic anti-Japanese organizations at home and abroad. It is also explored how educational missionaries influenced the formation and development of Koreans’ national consciousness and anticolonial activism, thereby unveiling missionary attitudes toward Korean independence and the Japanese colonial regime. This thesis broadly explores three key issues. Firstly, this research demonstrates the subtle interplay between mission education and socio-political dimensions of Korea in the imperialist milieu of East Asia. This issue pays particular attention to hegemonic contest between American missionaries and Japanese colonialists over mission schools, emerged in the imperialist landscape of Western powers. This study traces how the unique but mutually incompatible projects of evangelization and colonization pursued by missionaries and colonialists respectively encountered in a site of mission education. It is also important to note the clash between American democratic ideas and Japanese values, each in their own way trying to civilize the Koreans. Secondly, this study illuminates the connection between Koreans’ expectation of mission education amidst foreign imperialist threats to Korea and their collective vision of making a sovereign nation. Especially, pro-Protestant Korean reformers attributed Korea’s inability to check the imperialist intrusion to Confucian civilization and sinocentrism deeply rooted in Korea. Therefore, under an epoch-making slogan of ‘civilization and enlightenment’, the reformers sought modern Western elements derived from mission education in order to protect Korea from imperialism and simultaneously to develop it into a strong ‘civilized’ nation. For them, mission schools were not simply religious institutions for evangelism, but incubators to produce national leaders for Korean independence and restoration of sovereignty by diffusing liberating knowledge and patriotic sentiment throughout Korea. Mission education thus had multiple objectives and roles in a particular historical condition of Korea. Lastly, this thesis considers the anticolonial discourse and praxis of mission-educated Koreans during Japan’s early colonial era of Korea. The modernizing vision of Korean reformers flowed into the curricula and contents of mission education, Korean students imbibing Western concepts such as democracy, equality, and freedom related to Korean nationalism. This intellectual interaction imbued the students with critical consciousness reflecting their colonial reality, leading them to form anti-Japanese organizations intended to subvert the colonial regime. The anticolonial activism of Korean students reinforced the tense interaction between missionaries and colonialists. The principle of political non-interventionism taken by the missionaries crumbled away when the students engaged in anti-Japanese movements, and the missionary involvement in colonial politics resulted in the colonialists’ policies to eliminate missionary power in mission education. Observing the advent of anticolonial activism in mission schools, this research elucidates the unintended missionary links with Korean resistance movements against Japanese colonialism and for Korean independence.