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Rationalizing Korea

The Rise of the Modern State, 1894–1945

Kyung Moon Hwang (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 416 pages
ISBN: 9780520288324
December 2015
$34.95, £28.00
Other Formats Available:
The first book to explore the institutional, ideological, and conceptual development of the modern state on the peninsula, Rationalizing Korea analyzes the state’s relationship to five social sectors, each through a distinctive interpretive theme: economy (developmentalism), religion (secularization), education (public schooling), population (registration), and public health (disease control). Kyung Moon Hwang argues that while this formative process resulted in a more commanding and systematic state, it was also highly fragmented, socially embedded, and driven by competing, often conflicting rationalizations, including those of Confucian statecraft and legitimation. Such outcomes reflected the acute experience of imperialism, nationalism, colonialism, and other sweeping forces of the era.
List of Illustrations
Note on Romanization and Translations



1 • State Making under Imperialism: Fragmentation and Consolidation in the Central State
2 • Th e Centrality of the Periphery: Developing the Provincial and Local State
3 • Constructing Legitimacy: Symbolic Authority and Ideological Engineering


4 • State and Economy: Developmentalism
5 • State and Religion: Secularization and Pluralism
6 • Public Schooling: Cultivating Citizenship Education
7 • Population Management: Registration, Classification, and the Remaking of Society
8 • Public Health and Biopolitics: Discipliningthrough Disease Control

Kyung Moon Hwang is a professor of history and East Asian languages and cultures at the University of Southern California. He is the author of A History of Korea: An Episodic Narrative and Beyond Birth: Social Status in the Emergence of Modern Korea and coeditor of Contentious Kwangju: The May 18 Uprising in Korea’s Past and Present.
"[Breaks] new ground... [Hwang has] offered readers an ambitious challenge: one directed to Korean studies, but also one also carrying its implications far beyond."—Cross-Currents
"Kyung Moon Hwang has given us a model of the disciplined historian’s view, a work that goes beyond the idea that Korean modernization was a sudden result of pressures from Japan and the West. Rather, by connecting the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, he demonstrates that its seeds are to be found in habits of mind and social life under Korea’s traditional bureaucratic state."—Donald N. Clark, Trinity University

"In this provocative book, Kyung Moon Hwang digs deep into the sediment of the last two centuries of Korean history to fashion a revisionist narrative of modern statecraft. Refusing to credit or blame any single regime, his judicious account makes a compelling case for the gradual but contested rationalization of governmental practices that touched the lives of the peninsula’s inhabitants in a myriad of ways. In doing so, Hwang provides a fuller understanding of how authorities in both North and South Korea continue to target their respective populations in the pursuit of modernizing goals." - Todd A. Henry, Associate Professor of History, Director of Transnational Korean Studies, University of California, San Diego.

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