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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

From colonial patriots to post-colonial citizens: Neighborhood politics in Korea, 1931-1964
by Kwon, Shinyoung, Ph.D., The University of Chicago, 2013, 416; 3595935
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation explored Korean mass politics through neighborhood associations from the late 1930s to 1960s, defining them as a nationwide organization for state-led mass campaigns. They carried the state-led mass programs with three different names under three different state powers -Patriotic NAs by the colonial government and U.S. occupational government, Citizens NAs under the Rhee regime and Reconstruction NAs under Park Chung Hee. Putting the wartime colonial period, the post liberation period and the growing cold war period up to the early 1960s together into the category of "times of state-led movements," this dissertation argued that the three types of NAs were a nodal point to shape and cement two different images of the Korean state: a political authoritarian regime, although efficient in decision-making processes as well as effective in policy-implementation processes. It also claimed that state-led movements descended into the "New Community Movement" in the 1970s, the most successful economic modernization movements led by the South Korean government.

The beginning of a new type of movement, the state-led movement, arose in the early 1930s when Japan pushed its territorial extension. The colonial government, desperate to reshape Korean society in a way that was proper to the Great East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere and wartime mobilization, revised its mechanism of rule dependent on an alliance with a minority of the dominant class and tried to establish a contact with the Korean masses. Its historical expression was the "social indoctrination movement" and the National Spiritual General Mobilization Movement. Patriotic NAs, a modification of Korean pre-modern practice, were the institutional realization of the new mechanism. To put down diverse tensions within a NA, patriarchal gatherings made up of a male headman and male heads of household were set up.

Central to their campaigns—rice collection, saving, daily use of Japanese at home, the ration programs and demographic survey for military drafts—was the diverse interpretation of family: the actual place for residence and everyday lives, a symbolic place for consumption and private lives, and a gendered place as a domestic female sphere. The weakest links of the imperial patriarchal family ideology were the demands of equal political rights and the growing participation of women. They truly puzzled the colonial government which wanted to keep its autonomy from the Japanese government and to involve Korean women in Patriotic NAs under the patriarchal authority of male headmen.

The drastic demographic move after liberation, when at least two million Korean repatriates who had been displaced by the wartime mobilization and returned from Japan and Manchuria, made both the shortage of rice and inflation worse. It led the U.S. military occupational government not only to give up their free market economy, but also to use Patriotic NAs for economic control—rice rationing and the elimination of "ghost" populations. Although the re-use of NAs reminiscent of previous colonial mobilization efforts brought backlash based on anti-Japanese sentiment, the desperation over rice control brought passive but widespread acceptance amongst Koreans.

Whilst renaming Patriotic NAs as Citizens NA for the post-Korean War recovery projects in the name of "apolitical" national movements and for the assistance of local administration, the South Korean government strove to give it historical legitimacy and to define it as a liberal democratic institution. They identified its historical origins in Korean pre-modern practices to erase colonial traces, and at the same time they claimed that Citizens NAs would enhance communication between local Koreans and the government. After the pitched political battle in the National Congress in 1957, Citizens NAs got legal status in the Local Autonomy Law. The largest vulnerability to Citizens NAs lied in their relation to politics. While leading "apolitical" national movements as well as assisting with local administration tasks, they were misused in elections. Consequently, they were widely viewed as an anti-democratic institution because they violated the freedom of association guaranteed by the Constitution and undermined local autonomous bodies. In the end, they lost their legal status in Local Autonomy Law, with Rhee regime collapsed.

When Park Chung Hee succeeded in his military coup in 1961, he resuscitated NAs in the name of Reconstruction NAs for the "Reconstruction" movement with the priority being placed on economic development. However, civilians were against the re-use of NAs, with the notion that the governments politically abused them. Finally, the arbitrary link between state power and the NAs waned throughout the 1960s, passing its baton to the "New Community Movement" which began in 1971and swept through Korean society until the 1980s. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Cumings, Bruce
Commitee: Burns, Susan, Choi, Kyeong Hee
School: The University of Chicago
Department: History
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 75/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: History, Modern history, Gender studies
Keywords: Citizens reconstruction, Colonialism and post-colonialism, Korean War, Neighborhood association, Patriotic, Politics, State-led movement, World War II
Publication Number: 3595935
ISBN: 978-1-303-42310-9
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