Cultural hybridity and "Mimic Men" in colonial Korea: The case of Yu Chin-O (1906-1987)

Sang Ho Ro

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This paper examines how a new nation-wide school system implemented in 1910 created the Korean student population of that time and the three decades that followed. Moreover, it shows the effects of the colonial examination system imposed by the Japanese government. My argument is that the new educational system engendered "cultural hybridity" in Korean students who successfully passed examinations in their attempt to climb the ladder of success. A remarkable consequence of receiving an education and being subjected to the examinations was that successful candidates took advantage of their literacy in order to pursue learning beyond the official curriculum. Although elite students were more assimilated into the Japanese system than were their less favored contemporaries in the colonial society, this assimilation could have the paradoxical effect of destabilizing the regime rather than reinforcing it. As "mimic men," therefore, elite Korean students can illuminate the complex trajectory of Korean cultural history under Japanese rule. I make this argument by analyzing the 1927 diary and short story Kim Kangsa wa T Kyosu (Lecturer Kim and Professor T) of Yu Chin-o, a graduate of Keijō Imperial University, thereby shedding new light on the daily politics and multiplicity of Korean identities under Japanese colonial rule.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-209
Number of pages17
JournalSungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • Cultural hybridity
  • Keijō imperial university
  • Kim Kangsa wa T Kyosu (Lecturer Kim and Professor T)
  • School examinations
  • Yu Chin-O


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