Occidentalism – Images of the West and Western Civilisation in Korea

The perceptions of the West in non-Western countries are influenced by all sorts of domestic circumstances. Therefore the political significance of representations of the West varies with time and place. In one and the same country even different and competing views of the West may co-exist. These perceptions may have a deep impact on domestic affairs. In this respect Korea is no exception. However, Korean perceptions of the West between 1860 and 1940 are somewhat special, because they were blended with Japan’s process of modernization and Westernisation. Still, domestic circumstances played a decisive role in the construction of images of the West. This is illustrated with certain historical episodes, among them the “short-hair edict”. One conclusion is that East Asian “Occidentalism” cannot be squeezed into a single ideological frame.

Eun-Jeung Lee (Freie Universität)