Making Korea Distinct: George M. McCune and His Korean Studies Scholars on Korean-American relations have primarily focused on political and economical dimensions rather than cultural aspects. In this sense, we need more works on cultural studies in this field. The primary purpose of this paper is to contribute to this neglected area. My assumption is that the Korean Studies in the U.S. shows a part of the cultural aspects of Korean-American relations. George M. McCune was one of the finest scholars on Korean Studies at that time. He became a first full time faculty member majoring in Korean Studies at the University of California at Berkeley after the Pacific War. McCune's case shows well that missionary backgrounds were very productive in founding area studies in the U.S. around the Pacific War though he himself was not a missionary. He was born to a famous missionary family in P'y ngyang, Korea, the city at the time called the “Jerusalem of the Orient.” Father McCune was known as a champion of Korean Nationalist Movements such as the Korean Conspiracy of Governor-General assassination and March First Movement in 1919. His father's involvement in Korean education and politics seems to have influenced McCune's affection for the Korean people. Considering McCune's family residence, P'y ngyang, his idea is not without Northwest elites in Korea. The Northwest has a strong locality in Korean history. The area was famous in terms of Christianity and commercialism during the colonial period. During the Chosen Dynasty, the region was marginalized, so the local elites were quite confident to deny the previous dynasty and Korean tradition. Many Christians tended to stress democracy and freedom, concepts which were heavily promoted by American missionaries. Though McCune had much affection for Korean history and Korea per se, we can easily find his criticism about the previous regime in terms of democracy. Therefore, his criticism pointed to the authoritarian regime, first the Colonial government and then South and North Korea. His book Korea Today was one of few scholarly works on Korea until 1960s. So we can surmise that his idea shows one of aspects of the U.S. perception of Korea.

“Making Korea Distinct: George M. McCune and His Korean Studies.”

Jongchol An
2004

Abstract

Making Korea Distinct: George M. McCune and His Korean Studies Scholars on Korean-American relations have primarily focused on political and economical dimensions rather than cultural aspects. In this sense, we need more works on cultural studies in this field. The primary purpose of this paper is to contribute to this neglected area. My assumption is that the Korean Studies in the U.S. shows a part of the cultural aspects of Korean-American relations. George M. McCune was one of the finest scholars on Korean Studies at that time. He became a first full time faculty member majoring in Korean Studies at the University of California at Berkeley after the Pacific War. McCune's case shows well that missionary backgrounds were very productive in founding area studies in the U.S. around the Pacific War though he himself was not a missionary. He was born to a famous missionary family in P'y ngyang, Korea, the city at the time called the “Jerusalem of the Orient.” Father McCune was known as a champion of Korean Nationalist Movements such as the Korean Conspiracy of Governor-General assassination and March First Movement in 1919. His father's involvement in Korean education and politics seems to have influenced McCune's affection for the Korean people. Considering McCune's family residence, P'y ngyang, his idea is not without Northwest elites in Korea. The Northwest has a strong locality in Korean history. The area was famous in terms of Christianity and commercialism during the colonial period. During the Chosen Dynasty, the region was marginalized, so the local elites were quite confident to deny the previous dynasty and Korean tradition. Many Christians tended to stress democracy and freedom, concepts which were heavily promoted by American missionaries. Though McCune had much affection for Korean history and Korea per se, we can easily find his criticism about the previous regime in terms of democracy. Therefore, his criticism pointed to the authoritarian regime, first the Colonial government and then South and North Korea. His book Korea Today was one of few scholarly works on Korea until 1960s. So we can surmise that his idea shows one of aspects of the U.S. perception of Korea.
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