Rethinking a key epoch in East Asian history, Hyun Ok Park formulates a new understanding of early-twentieth-century Manchuria. Most studies of the history of modern Manchuria examine the turbulent relations of the Chinese state and imperialist Japan in political, military, and economic terms. Park presents a compelling analysis of the constitutive effects of capitalist expansion on the social practices of Korean migrants in the region.
Drawing on a rich archive of Korean, Japanese, and Chinese sources, Park describes how Koreans negotiated the contradictory demands of national and colonial powers. She demonstrates that the dynamics of global capitalism led the Chinese and Japanese to pursue capitalist expansion while competing for sovereignty. Decentering the nation-state as the primary analytic rubric, her emphasis on the role of global capitalism is a major innovation for understanding nationalism, colonialism, and their immanent links in social space.
Through a regional and temporal comparison of Manchuria from the late nineteenth century until 1945, Park details how national and colonial powers enacted their claims to sovereignty through the regulation of access to land, work, and loans. She shows that among Korean migrants, the complex connections among Chinese laws, Japanese colonial policies, and Korean social practices gave rise to a form of nationalism in tension with global revolution—a nationalism that laid the foundation for what came to be regarded as North Korea’s isolationist politics.