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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Dissensus: Korean Workers' Movements in Wŏnsan, 1895–1929
by Hyun, Myung Ho, Ph.D., New York University, 2020, 290; 27666121
Abstract (Summary)

My dissertation addresses the emergence of political people in modern Korea, focusing on the collective actions of Korean manual workers in the northeastern port city of Wonsan under Japanese colonialism. My research goes beyond the national boundary by situating the Korean working population within the Northeast Asian regional economy, shaped and transformed by the development of the Russian Far East, infrastructural investment by the Japanese empire, the transnational migration of Chinese and Korean workers, and the post-WWI changes in global capitalism. In the dissertation, I redefine the colonial rule by viewing it not as an intense form of capitalist exploitation but normal social compositions brought by that exploitation. My findings show that the Korean workers’ struggle went through three heterogeneous phases, where they formed a newcomers’ community that did not belong to the Japanese Settlement and the native Korean town in the port city at the turn of the twentieth century, participated in the labor union movement while maintaining a critical distance from the union leadership in the 1920s, and created a context for mass movement during their 75-day Wonsan General Strike of 1929, the longest labor dispute in Japanese colonies. In each of the historical phases, I argue, the direct actions of the Korean workers opened the gaps not contained in the standard social compositions. In this light, the dissertation suggests an alternative way of understanding the workers’ movements, not as labor movement but people's demonstration of new social possibilities. To illuminate the obscurity of the local working people from various angles, I conduct archival research on diverse genres, including reportages, travelogues, flyers, photographs, and maps published by Korean vernacular periodicals, the Japanese colonial government, and western officials and visitors.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Looser, Thomas
Commitee: Karl, Rebecca, Shimabuku, Annmaria, Oh, Yoon Jeong, Kim, Monica
School: New York University
Department: East Asian Studies
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 81/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Asian Studies, Asian History, Modern history
Keywords: East Asian treaty ports, Economic history of Korea, Korean mass movement, Labor history of Korea, Modern Korea, Wŏnsan General Strike
Publication Number: 27666121
ISBN: 9798607310998
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