A New Modern History of Women in Korea: A Transnational Approach

A New Modern History of Women in Korea

Principal Investigator: Hyaeweol Choi (ANU, Department of Korean Studies and the Korea Institute)

This research team seeks to investigate the ways in which Korea’s interactions with the West and Japan transformed gender images and bodily practices from 1876 to the end of Korea’s colonization by Japan in 1945. Much of the previous research on the history of women in Korea during this period has centered on the category of nationstate and has been framed by the grand narratives of nationalism, colonialism and modernity. This project re-examines that modern history from a transnational perspective by focusing on the dynamic flow of ideas, images, and people that enabled different groups to envision new modern selves based on local particularities and global trends. More specifically, during the duration of the AKS grant, we have identified one key site of investigation to understand the transnational nature of gendered modernity in Korea within a broader Asian and global context. We will explore the locus of American Protestant missionary women in the history of modern womanhood in Korea, China, Japan and the Pacific. One of the key linkages that explains gendered modernity within a transnational context is the role that Western women missionaries played in challenging, reinforcing or transforming gender practices in Asia and the Pacific. While there have been significant research studies focusing on individual countries, very little research has systematically examined the complex relationship between Western missionary women and women in Asia and the Pacific. Our team will bring together scholars of Asian and Pacific Studies to conduct a comparative investigation with focus on some key concepts, such as domesticity, motherhood and selfhood as analytical nodes, teasing out both the shared and the distinctive experiences Asian and Western women had in their interactions within their particular context of local and global circumstances.

Some of the research questions center on:

  1. the legacy of mission schools in the history of modern womanhood
  2. tensions between colonial powers and missionary forces in their vision of the new ideal woman
  3. evolution of the idea of domesticity.

Updated:  17 February 2016/Responsible Officer:  Director, Korea Institute/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team