Korean books at SOAS 1: 'Aeguk tae yonsŏl chip'
This is the first of what will probably be a series of irregular posts on some interesting old Korean books I've come across in the library at SOAS. By way of explanation, for the last few months I've been toiling away for a few hours a week in a tiny book-filled room in the library trying to get lots of old Korean books onto the computer catalogue. Inevitably a few gems have revealed themselves (at least they're gems to me anyway) and I thought it might be worth blogging them for posterity. I might even expand some of these into slightly longer articles if I feel inclined.
My first choice is probably the most intriguing: a book of speeches published in Keijo (colonial Seoul) in 1940 called Aeguk tae yŏnsŏlchip (愛國大演說集), translating roughly as 'Collection of Great Patriotic Speeches'. The time and place of publication should be a hint that this is no treatise on Korean nationalism. In fact it's a collection of stirring pro-Japanese, pro-war speeches given by (apparently) prominent Korean writers. The editor is Kim Tong-hwan, who appears to have later become an important figure in the North Korean literary scene - a peculiar, but perhaps not completely unique path for a 20th century Korean intellectual.
As you can see from the picture below, much of the front cover has been ripped away, possibly before it came into the posession of SOAS. One can only guess that this was done by an angry Korean reader.
From a glance at the preface and contents (pictures below), some of the main themes appear to be support for the Japanese empire's 'sacred war' (聖戰) in Asia; the idea of Korea and Japan behaving as one body (called naesŏn ilch'e 內鮮一體); and lots of the usual talk about 'our' duty to serve the country etc.