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Censors in Modern Korea and Their Colonial Making

Kyeong-Hee Choi, University of Chicago
Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 3:30pm
Thomson Hall 317

This study departs from the following observations on censorship in modern Korea: Japanese censorship was operating in Korea before the Protectorate Treaty in 1905; all major censorship laws governing the field of publication in the decades following were promulgated prior to territorial annexation in 1910; and modern Korean literature, which by its very definition came into being under Japanese censorship, persisted as arguably the most elastic and self-contained institution among the colonial-era publications to survive censorship. Before elaborating on the subtle dynamic between the literary publication industry and its colonial censors, however, it is a foundational task to first understand the identity, backgrounds, and distinctively colonial making of the censors themselves. Drawing on a group of Japanese and Korean individuals behind routine operations of censoring and guiding high-profile Korean-language publications, the paper traces their professional trajectories, especially in terms of their origin, education, bilingual proficiency, and ideological allegiance.

Kyeong-Hee Choi is the Korea Foundation Associate Professor of Modern Korean Literature at the University of Chicago. Her research and teaching interests revolve around literary and cinematic representations of gender, modernity, colonialism, censorship, and democratization. She has published Korean and English language articles on the topics of New Womanhood, colonial modernity, autobiographical writings, impairment, and “pro-Japanese” discourse. Her recent publications include “The Establishment of the Book Department and Systematization of Japanese Colonial Publication Police, 1926-1929” (2006) and “Issues and Challenges for Post-liberation Censorship Studies” (2011), both co-authored with Keun-sik Jung. Her forth- coming book, entitled Beneath the Vermilion Ink, deals with the impact of Japanese colonial censorship on the making of modern Korean literature.

This event is sponsored by the UW Center for Korea Studies. For more information, please call 206-543-4873 or email