The Empire of Crime: Criminalistic Fantasy of Modernity in Detective Fiction in Colonial Korea

Seminar by Dr. Jooyeon Rhee, Senior Lecturer and Head of Korean Studies Program, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem 
"In this seminar, I will examine the development of detective fiction in colonial Korea by focusing on the ways in which the Western literary genre was “translated” in local contexts. The genre reached readers in East Asia in early twentieth-century and it became one of the most popular literary genres by the mid-1930s in colonial Korea. Although Korean readers were first exposed to Western detective fiction, notably British and French detective fiction, through translations in the early 1910s, a number of native writers as well as Japanese residents in colonial Korea began to produce creative detective fictions from the late 1920s.

Mainly marginalized in the discussion of modern Korean literature, the genre has been understudied so far. However, I argue that this genre requires serious scholarly attention since it directs us to see how the ambiguity of colonial capitalism was manifested in the fantasy of crime, a fantasy that reflects the society’s fear and anxiety over its repressive reality; and how it complicates the relationship between the colonized and the colonizer, Japanese and Koreans, the original and mimicry, and so on. This seminar provides an overview of the development of the genre and discusses some characteristics of Korean detectives and criminals in urban settings, with an emphasis on economic and geographical mobility, the gendered imagination of crimes, and the nuanced criticism of Japanese imperialism in fictions that were produced between the mid-1930s and the mid-1940s".

/Dr. Jooyeon Rhee