Korean American Books

Summaries and reviews of fiction and nonfiction books by Korean American authors,
books about Korean Americans and Korea, and Korean literature in English translation,
including some academic works and a sampling on the Korean War

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Burton Holmes Travel Stories: Japan, Korea and Formosa, by Eunice Tietjens

The 16 pages about Korea in this book is of interest to me. This 1920s series of travel books were targeted to upper elementary grades to "furnish interesting silent-reading material of informational value...devoted to the most interesting and important countries of the world. Korea was an acknowledge colony of Japan by this time, and the chapter on Korea, titled "Korea—The Land of Hats" reflects the racist attitude of its Japanese master. Korean people are labeled "childlike" and "unwashed" who live in "filth." The writer, however, admits that "Japan has made a number of mistakes in governing Korea. She has done harsh things and unnecessary things. I suppose something like that was sure to hapen, for nobody does everything exactly right in this world; and nations make more mistakes even than ordinary folks, because their problems are bigger and harder to manage. But I think it is already quite plain that in the end Korea will be much better off for having been under the Japanese rule." In the foreword, the publisher claims "unusual accuracy for the information in these books. Many adult readers will find that several long-cherished conceptions of other nations are really mis-conceptions." I admire the intent, but sadly, the accuracy is wanting, though they are an accurate portrayal of the Western attitudes of the time, and there is value in that. The photographs are a prize, though, as so little remains from the occupation years.

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