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Date 2021-03-18


The Censorship System and Print Media in Korea during the Cultural Rule Era by Imperial Japan


Han, Kee-Hyung

Translator: Chen, Yun-Yuan

Professor, Academy of East Asian Studies, Sungkyunkwan University

Translator: Ph.D Student, Graduate Institute of Taiwanese Literature, National Chengchi University


Media liberalization during the Cultural Rule era was primarily due to Samil (March, 1st) Independence Movement, on the other hand, a result from a new policy of Japanese Empire. It was for a breakthrough in the standoff over an assimilative integration and military rule in Korea. The new task—turned from “prohibition” to “control”— was entrusted to censorship system. There was an ideal goal that Korean people would be spontaneously predisposed to internalize the dignity of imperial Japan through a neutral zone—the media— but lack of awareness it needed time and patience. The oppression toward the Korean media throughout the Cultural Rule Era reflects the ruler’s nervous anxiety. The dilemma—managing right function (diffusion of colonial modernity) and adverse effect(self-awareness as modern subjects of Korean) both—was the reason why liberalization and regulation ironically coexisted.

From the first, the censorship system encountered various challenges from Korean media raising a question of its legal legitimacy and the antinomy—media control under liberalization. Before long, this tension led to violent clashes as the cases of SinChŏnji and ShinSaeng’hwal. And a subsequent hard line as prohibition of Kaebyŏk’s publication in August 1926 meant internal crisis of media policy, on the contrary of its original aim—stability of colonial Korea. Above all, the ruler’s political legitimacy and morality were seriously damaged because of its Janus-faced way—a depressor posed as a supporter. Kaebyŏk’’s discontinuance, the most critical case of media suppression during Cultural Rule Era occurred at the moment Japan was just beginning its imperial expansion.

In conclusion, several hypotheses could be suggested here about what end of Cultural Rule with the Kaebyŏk’’s disclosure caused in fate of the Korean media. Firstly, the social leadership of Korean legal media sharply weakened and as a result, social gravity of illegal publication’s importance increased. Secondly, it became obvious that the then media policy was mainly oppression against magazines and appeasement toward newspapers. Thirdly, closure of Kaebyŏk might be a trigger which caused Korean magazines to be divided to three types—ordinariness, practicality, specialty. Afterwards, such integrity and centrality Kaebyŏk had realized were never replaced by any magazine, and its leading role was generally occupied by non-political media. Authorities concentrated their energy on intensifying censorship system for Korean media’s depoliticization and mutual exclusion between its members. That is to say, there needed much more cost in managing them.

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Bulletin of Taiwanese Literature