Korean nationalism

political ideology

Korean nationalism refers to nationalism among the Korean people.


  • By 1910 Korea was fully annexed to Japan, as an integral part of its empire. The Japanese administration did its best to stamp out Korean identity. The royal palace in Seoul was demolished and Japanese became the medium of instruction for all higher education. Tokyo even tried to force Koreans to wear Japanese dress and assimilate in social codes and family life. But at the same time, just like in the European empires that the Japanese admired and feared in equal amounts, there was widespread segregation of colonizers and colonized. Most Koreans understood that they could never become full members of the Japanese Empire, even if they had wanted to. From the beginning, the occupation of Korea gave rise to nationalist resistance. For many young Koreans, the real insult of the Japanese takeover was that it came just as they were formulating their own views of their country’s future. Some of them went into exile, and the nationalisms they conceived there were intense and uncompromising, as ideal views of one’s own country formed abroad often are. Korean nationalists wedded themselves not only to defeating Japan and liberating their country but also to building a future, unified Korea that was modern, centralized, powerful, and virtuous. Korea, they believed, could not only produce its own liberation but would stand as an example for other downtrodden peoples.