A Conceptual History Approach to ‘Collective Subjects’ during the Colonial Period in Korea

This article offers a quantitative analysis of four concepts of “collective subjects” used in the Japanese colonial period newspaper Donga Ilbo. It is shown that “nation” ⬚⬚⬚⬚⬚⬚⬚⬚ appeared 757 times, “minjung” ⬚⬚⬚⬚⬚⬚⬚⬚ 554 times, “the masses” ⬚⬚⬚⬚⬚⬚⬚⬚ 341 times, and “people” ⬚⬚⬚⬚⬚⬚⬚⬚ 146 times, with “minjung” mainly being used in the 1920s, while the usage of “nation” experienced a steep rise from the 1930s on. “People” was used widely in the early 1920s yet almost completely disappeared after the mid-1920s, whereas usage of the concept of “mass(es)” peaked in the 1930s. Qualitative analysis reveals that the use of “nation” was bipolarized in the context of domination and resistance, while “minjung” was often associated with domestic social movements, such as the Enlightenment Movement and the Independence Movement. “The masses” was primarily related to daily life of urban dwellers and the socialist movement, whereas the concept of “people” was rarely employed in the context of social movements. While the four concepts each showed distinctive characteristics, both “the masses” and “minjung” revealed the common feature of being used in reference to subjects of social movements, and therefore competed for prevalence in regard to contemporary issues concerned with social enlightenment. Keywords: collective subjects, nation, minjung, mass(es), people, quantitative analysis, qualitative analysis, usage
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