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Newspapers Philosophy Under Japan

Posted December. 20, 2006 03:02,   


“A nation without independence also lost its capacity to choose among historical trends. If this state is continued, history and the nation will be ruled by foreign forces in control. A new world should be opened up to our nation in order for our nation to rise up again.”

These spirited sentences, which remind us of 18th Century German philosopher Fichte’s “To the German Nation,” are part of a series of columns by Philosopher Lee Kwan-yong (1891-1933) published on the first page of Dong-A Ilbo in October of 1922.

Korean philosophers such as Lee in the Japanese Imperial Forcible Occupation Period took active part in activities outside of classroom in their search of alternatives to the colonial system. The newspaper was a medium they used to convey their thoughts to the people.

Yeungnam University Korean Modern Thoughts Studies published the first draft of their study titled “Korean Philosophical Ideas in Newspaper Columns in the Japanese Imperial Period” on December 19. In their study, they analyzed philosophy-related news articles on eighteen newspapers at that time, including Dong-A Ilbo, Chosun Ilbo, Chosun Jungang Ilbo, and Maeil Sinbo.

The group will present papers and data in a symposium based on their research in Yeungnam University on December 22.

The total number of philosophy-related articles they studied was 3,178. The number of articles on Dong-A Ilbo was the most as 1,616, followed by 645 articles on Chosun Ilbo and 937 on the others.

The studies, composed of about ten philosophers, checked every philosophy-related article meticulously on newspapers available in archives such as National History Compilation Committee’s. They had to use a magnifying glass to read the prints because of their poor quality.

The articles include reports of philosophers’ activities, short articles, long-term series, and debates.

Yeungnam University Oriental Philosophy professor Choi Jae-mok, 46, head of the group, said, “The Japanese Imperial Forcible Occupation Period is often described as a dark age, but newspapers provided media through which our modern philosophers were able to publish their ideas and struggles to find alternatives to the colonial system. We need to make more efforts to rediscover their activities through basic research.”

One of noticeable achievements made by the study is a rediscovery of Lee and Kim Jung-se (1882-1946?), two forgotten philosophers.

Lee, born in Jongno, Seoul, graduated from Kyeongseong High School and studied in Oxford University. Then, he received a doctor’s degree with “A Study of Will as the Basis of Consciousness” in Zurich University.

He participated in Paris Peace Conference as a student at the time of the 1919 Independence Movement of Korea, became a professor in Yonhee Specialty College and worked for Dong-A Ilbo and Chosun Ilbo as a journalist. In February of 1925, he was dispatched to Moscow as a special correspondent for Dong-A Ilbo.

In his article, “Social Pathological Phenomena,” on Dong-A Ilbo, Lee introduced the trends of Western intellectual ideas at that time and presented his view of Korean social reality under the Japanese colonial rule.

He organized Korea’s first philosophical organization in 1933 and created “Philosophy,” a journal of philosophical studies. In August of the same year, he was drowned in Cheongjin Beach.

Newspapers published articles mourning over his death and commemorating his life achievements.

Daegu Oriental Medical University Cultural Science School Dean, Park Hong-sik, 52, said, “A series of articles titled ‘A Study of Yeoyudang’s Complete Collection’ by Choi Ik-han (1848-?) in 1938 are still very sophisticated. Philosophers at that time made a close relationship with newspapers because they put stress on the humanities’ need to communicate with the general public above all.”