[KS] Koreans and Central Europeans: Informal Contacts up to 1950, vol. 1

Schirmer Andreas andreas.schirmer at univie.ac.at
Fri Feb 19 11:50:55 EST 2016

Dear list members,
Let me draw your attention to the first of three volumes of Koreans and Central Europeans: Informal Contacts up to 1950.
This is Frank Hoffmann’s meticulously researched and commendably well illustrated book Berlin Koreans and Pictured Koreans, a text triptych on matters that will interest cultural historians of both Korea and Germany and, especially, scholars interested in Korean colonial modernity. Despite its 2015 print-date, it is available only since a week, and the publisher now offers it also in an eBook (PDF) version.
The book consists of three chapters (and a short introduction by me). Based on a wealth of sources, Frank Hoffmann illuminates, supplements, and challenges our image of Koreans during the first decades of the 20th century, and also, through the two shorter chapters, the image Germans had of Koreans and their take on colonialism during Wilhelmine times. I am confident that this book will make a significant impact.

Frank Hoffmann, Berlin Koreans and Pictured Koreans. Koreans and Central Europeans: Informal Contacts up to 1950, edited by Andreas Schirmer, vol. 1. Vienna: Praesens, 2015. xii, 241 pages, 112 illustrations. €34.90 paper (ca. $38.50), €24.70 PDF (ca. $28).
ISBN: 978-3-7069-0873-3 (print), 978-3-7069-3005-5 (digital edition)
Flyer: https://goo.gl/zATB1i
Online Bookstores: http://bookbutler.com/compare?isbn=9783706908733

In the FIRST, almost book-length chapter, entitled “The Berlin Koreans, 1909–1940s,” Hoffmann looks into the lives of a dozen of the Korean students and professionals living in Berlin during these years. Among those Berlin Koreans are, e.g., a nephew of An Chung-gŭn, a brother of the later ROK head of state Chang Myŏn, the composer of the South Korean national anthem An Ik-t’ae, a dancer, a graphic artist, and, of course, the first ever Korean student in Germany. In amazing and often surprising detail, using European, Korean, and Japanese archival and secondary sources, Hoffmann narrates and discusses their political, academic, and cultural activities in Berlin and also their connections to other Korean groups elsewhere (e.g. in Shanghai). What we conceptualize under the term ‘colonial modernity’ also took place, as Hoffmann’s materials show, outside the confines of the Japanese Empire. While demonstrating how the Berlin Koreans of the 1920s and before were often left-leaning and engaged for Korean independence, Hoffmann exposes the close relationship that Koreans had with both the Japanese and the Nazis and their institutions. In one case this goes even as far as being active in the very core group of Nazi race researchers.
The shorter SECOND and THIRD chapters deal with the German view on colonialism and Korea during the 1900s and 1910s, using one example of ‘popular culture’ (in the chapter “Modular Spectacle: The 1904 Liebig Trading Card Set on Korea”) and one of ‘high culture’ (in the chapter “Ultra-Right Modernism, Colonialism, and a Korean Idol: Nolde’s Missionary”).
All in all, these three chapters unveil a stunning array of previously unknown or unexamined sources and facts along with compelling, persuasive interpretations that often challenge preconceptions of historical truth and expand our conventional understanding. Hoffmann’s use of the visual is, in my opinion, one of the exceptional features of this book. These images are also an essential ingredient of an overall captivating read, a kind of academic writing that never leaves us wanting for a different genre.

I am truly delighted to have served as this book’s editor. It forms part of an even bigger publication project of mine, with two edited volumes, almost completed, to follow later this year. (The first volume already features the lists of contents for these two other, multi-authored, volumes.) One focuses mainly on To Yu-ho and Han Hŭng-su, later pioneering archaeologists of North Korea who spent formative years in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and what is now the Czech Republic; the other volumes comprise historical — often surprising — cases of Central Europeans in Korea. I will be introducing these volumes here on the KS List after they have been published, but if you have any immediate questions in regard to them please feel invited to contact me.

Andreas Schirmer
Department of East Asian Studies
University of Vienna
(andreas.schirmer at univie.ac.at)
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