Nation in Crisis and Empire-Building in Northeast Asia

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Nation in Crisis and Empire-Building in Northeast Asia
Stream: History
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Song Yeol Han, Dickinson College, United States (organizer, presenter)
Loughlin Sweeney, Edinburgh University, United Kingdom (chair)
Mayuko Mori, Tokyo Christian Women’s University, Japan (presenter)
Seung Beom Kye, Sogang University, South Korea (presenter)
Thomas Quartermain, Yonsei University, South Korea (co-organizer, discussant, presenter)


The purpose of the panel is to survey the two most important periods of conflict and transformation that affected Chosŏn Korea before the modern-era: The Imjin-Manchu Wars of the 16th and 17th Centuries, and the informal imperialism in late 19th Century Korea. These two distinct, yet interrelated eras, are of great interest to global historians and illustrate the workings of a China-centric international order that has the potential to redevelop in contemporary East Asia. Korea was, and remains, the lynchpin for empire systems in NE Asia as a game-changing variable but also as an imagery and material site of imperial desires. Based on recent scholarship and hereto inaccessible documents, this panel surveys the effects of national crises and their effects on the perceptions of empire construction, hierarchy and rebuilding. This is done in order to better understand a world-order often characterized by a false narrative of “undisturbed harmony and peace” that was, in reality, in near constant conflict and seldom monolithic during these pivotal decades when the international system saw successes, re-appropriation, and then complete dissolution. The five papers on the panel explore the myriad of viewpoints and influences, including broad topics such as Chinese culture, the Chunghwa ‘world’-order, alongside specific analyses of individual opinions of the eras and European observations of regional change. By presenting a number of variegated perspectives from these transformative periods, we seek to open up the veiled past, bring clarity and add continuity to an otherwise buried and disconnected era that may soon impact the entire region.