UBC Community, Partners, and Alumni Publications

The quest for statehood : Korean Immigrant Nationalism and U.S. Sovereignty, 1905- 1945 : [book review] Kim, Sean C. Sep 1, 2013

Your browser doesn't seem to have a PDF viewer, please download the PDF to view this item.

Item Metadata


52387-86227.pdf [ 62.6kB ]
JSON: 52387-1.0045138.json
JSON-LD: 52387-1.0045138-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): 52387-1.0045138-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: 52387-1.0045138-rdf.json
Turtle: 52387-1.0045138-turtle.txt
N-Triples: 52387-1.0045138-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: 52387-1.0045138-source.json
Full Text

Full Text

415Book Reviewsthe present day. Only on the last page or two of the final chapter does she present her proposals for the future of Japan?s migration policy. As the author points out (245), the current migration control and nationality system is essentially unchanged since the Cold War?and arguably even earlier?and ?resistance to change remains profound? (9). Why is this the case? For a system that has been shown to be so clearly shaped by global forces, why is Japan, as Erin Chung (Immigration and Citizenship in Japan, Cambridge: CUP, 2010) has noted, the only advanced industrial democracy with a fourth-generation immigrant problem? These are the kinds of questions that remain unanswered and leave the reader wishing for an extra chapter or two. With the issue of voting rights for foreign residents having dropped off the political radar and the rise of right-wing groups such as Zaitokukai (an abbreviation of ?Zainichi Tokken o Yurusanai Shimin no Kai,? literally ?Group of Citizens Who Do Not Forgive Special Rights of Foreign Residents?), there is a real worry that the history of foreign residents in Japan?and Korean residents in particular?is being forgotten. ?Without understanding this history,? the author (3) warns, ?it is impossible to understand the issues of migration in modern Japan.? In this regard, Morris-Suzuki?s book should not only be considered required reading for Japanese Studies scholars and students, but for all Japanese who are unaware of the circumstances and sufferings of non-Japanese, the vast majority of whom wanted and continue to want nothing more than to peacefully work and live in?and travel in and out of?a country they have come to call home.Tsuda College, Tokyo, Japan Chris BurgessTHE QUEST FOR STATEHOOD: Korean Immigrant Nationalism and U.S. Sovereignty, 1905-1945. By Richard S. Kim. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. xii, 223 pp. (Figures.) US$21.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-19-537000-3.Nationalism is the most powerful political force in modern Korean history. It has been the catalyst for wars and mass movements, and nationalist narratives have pervaded the social and cultural discourse in North and South Korea. Much ink has been spilled on the subject in historical scholarship, but one area that has not received much attention, especially in English-language publications, is the nationalism of the Korean diaspora. Richard S. Kim?s The Quest for Statehood is one of the first monographs to help fill this lacuna.Kim?s study examines the history of nationalist activities by Korean immigrants in the US during the first half of the twentieth century, when their homeland suffered under the yoke of Japanese colonial rule. Part of a transnational movement, they joined their compatriots in Korea and in other parts of the diaspora, such as Manchuria, Siberia and Mexico, in the Pacific Affairs: Volume 86, No. 2 ? June 2013416struggle to liberate their homeland. The Koreans in the US carried out a wide range of activities, from fund-raising and lobbying to publicizing their cause to the American public. A number of nationalist organizations appeared in Honolulu, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, DC, to spearhead their efforts and to work with the Korean Provisional Government (KPG) in Shanghai. Yet, in spite of the common goal of Korean independence, the different groups did not always get along, and internal divisions afflicted the organizations themselves. Factions coalesced around feuding leaders, and personality conflicts and generational differences produced deep fissures in Korean immigrant nationalism. Ideology also played a role, with some Koreans leaning to the left on the political spectrum and others to the right. This reflected more broadly the bifurcation of Korean nationalism that began in the 1920s with the popularity of socialism and other forms of radical thought. Drawing on a rich trove of US archival sources, Korean and US newspapers, and the personal writings of nationalist leaders, Kim?s work deftly delves into the complicated and contentious politics of Korean immigrant nationalism.The book?s central argument is that the nationalist activities of the Korean immigrants involved participation in the US political system and that, in the process, the Koreans ironically became integrated as an American ethnic group. In other words, assimilation in their adopted land became a by-product of the movement for homeland independence. The Korean struggle took inspiration in the US model of an independent and democratic nation-state. And although Koreans were denied citizenship in the US, they embraced its values and ideals, asserted their rights and liberties guaranteed under the law, and set about establishing organizations to represent their interests. By doing so, they claimed an American identity?the voice of an ethnic group seeking official and public acceptance and recognition.The early decades of the twentieth century marked the emergence of the US as a global power. Aware of its increasing prominence on the international stage, the Korean immigrants sought assistance from US state power in achieving homeland independence. They realized that in the world of big-power politics, the Koreans could not succeed on their own but would require powerful backing. The Koreans in the US thus came to occupy a privileged position in the independence movement.The main strength of Kim?s monograph lies in the detailed, in-depth discussion of the politics of Korean immigrant nationalism. It clearly shows that there was more to the independence movement in the US than just the activities of Philip Jaisohn and Syngman Rhee, which tend to dominate conventional Korean historiography. But in attempting to correct the oversight, the book goes to the other extreme at certain points. Kil Soo Haan, relatively unknown outside the US context, is accorded an entire chapter (with a mostly hagiographic portrait that makes no mention of the 417Book Reviewscontroversy his leftist orientation generated), while Syngman Rhee receives no comparable sustained treatment. The book seems to assume that the readers should already be informed of Rhee?s background and career, and it also perpetuates the rather simplistic view of him as little more than a self-aggrandizing bully.In general, the work is much stronger on the US side of the history than the Korean. For example, to raise a couple of minor quibbles, it places the Manchu invasions in the sixteenth rather than seventeenth century (16) and uses the outdated and politically incorrect term ?Yi? instead of ?Chos?n? to refer to the last Korean dynasty (1392-1910)?the former being the name of the ruling family, and the latter, the name the Koreans themselves used at the time to refer to the dynasty (168). There are interpretive problems as well. The book uncritically accepts the Korean nationalist view of the Japanese systematically confiscating land from the Koreans during the colonial period (168), when, in fact, Korean ownership of land also increased. Elsewhere, it sets up a false polarity between a ?self-reliant? North Korea and a ?neo-colonial? South Korea (159-161); such reductionist labels hardly match the historical experience of the two nations. The book ends with an enigmatic statement that for Korea, ?the quest for sovereign statehood will remain unfulfilled for another generation? (163). Are the North and South Koreans aware that their current governments are not sovereign states? The Quest for Statehood attempts to serve as a bridge between Korean studies and Korean American studies. In spite of the formidable challenges of integrating the two fields, it is largely successful. Kim?s work on the crucial US scene contributes to a fuller portrait of the Korean nationalist movement. Combining exhaustive research with incisive analysis, it sets a model for further studies on nationalism in other areas of the Korean diaspora.University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg, USA Sean C. KimBEYOND NORTH KOREA: Future Challenges to South Korea?s Security. Edited by Byung Kwan Kim, Gi-Wook Shin and David Straub. Stanford, CA: The Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, 2011. xiii, 281 pp. (Tables, figures). US$28.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-931368-19-3.The main title of this book has been chosen very smartly. But as the subtitle shows, this is essentially a book about South Korea, a country that to its frustration often finds all its achievements overshadowed by the actions of its northern neighbour. These achievements include the peaceful transition from military dictatorship to one of East Asia?s most vibrant democracies, and an economic growth story that has made the country a model for scholars and practitioners. Ironically, starvation, bizarre leadership cults and military saber rattling seem to attract more attention than stability, democracy, economic growth and being a good ally. 


Citation Scheme:


Citations by CSL (citeproc-js)

Usage Statistics



Customize your widget with the following options, then copy and paste the code below into the HTML of your page to embed this item in your website.
                            <div id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidgetDisplay">
                            <script id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidget"
                            async >
IIIF logo Our image viewer uses the IIIF 2.0 standard. To load this item in other compatible viewers, use this url:


Related Items