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The Struggle for Literacy in Korea: An examination of literacy and the power of language in Korea, 1392-1945

Cadavid, Francisco

Traditional narratives tend to break Korean history into two periods: the pre-modern and the modern. In addition, each scholar has his or her own temporal dividing line separating these two periods, whether it be a specific year, or a range of years. Regardless of differing opinions and different markers for what determines "modernity," all of these historical narratives have one thing in common: they split Korean history in two. Despite this artificial split created by many an academic work, several aspects of Korea's long history can serve as a continuous link between the pre-modern and modern periods as a way to challenge the notion of forcing the need to create a definite dividing line between two historical periods. This paper will examine one such of those aspects. I will argue that Korean history, from the ChosÇ’n period through the colonial period, has been marked by a societal struggle for literacy. In other words, literacy, at various stages in Korean history, has served as the locus of power that has manifested itself in a myriad of forms. Furthermore, I will examine literacy as a vehicle for linking such disparate members of society as Neo-Confucian literati during the Imjin War and Korean independence activists of the early 20th century.

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Academic Units
East Asian Regional Studies
Thesis Advisors
Cho, Hwisang
Degree
M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
June 21, 2012
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