S-Space Graduate School of International Studies (국제대학원) Institute for Japanese Studies(일본연구소) Seoul Journal of Japanese Studies (SJJS) Seoul Journal of Japanese Studies vol.7 no.1(2021)
Competition and Cooperation between the Japanese Government-General of Korea and Korean Society over the Issue of Vagrant Lepers
- Kim, Jae-Hyung
- Issue Date
- Seoul Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol.7 No.1, pp. 197-234
- Japanese Government-General of Korea; colonial Korean society; leprosy control; vagrant lepers; stigmatization/discrimination; mandatory quarantine
- Research on vagrant groups in colonial Korea has focused on the agency of the Japanese Government-General of Korea. Koreans as the ruled subjects have been objects of study, but they have primarily been portrayed within the simple scheme of Koreans as exploited and the Japanese as oppressors, or within a unidirectional frame of Korean victims being mobilized within the project of Japanese modernity, with the Japanese discourse of imperialism and modernization expanded to cover Korea. However, if we situate Korean society as a passive actor, we risk overlooking the dynamic relationship that existed between colonial Korean society and the GovernmentGeneral. While there was certainly antipathy towards Japan within Korean society, there was also active acceptance of Japanese development, and its basis in modern systems of knowledge. Ideas regarding the contagiousness of leprosy based on the theory of germs spread especially quickly and resulted in the emergence of a new phenomenon in colonial Korea. Following the decision of the Government-General to initiate a policy of mandatory quarantine for vagrant lepers and the establishment of the Sorok Island Jahye Hospital, the number of leprosy patients in cities in southern Korea actually increased and the disease began spreading throughout the country. This new scientific knowledge and the prevalence of encounters with lepers in daily life led to increasing stigmatization and discrimination towards lepers, and consensus emerged within Korean society that the only solution to the problem of vagrant lepers was mandatory quarantine. As a result, Korean society strongly demanded the Government-General, which had been rather passive due to budget considerations, resolve the leprosy problem and even organized their own active responses, such as establishing private groups to deal with vagrant lepers, when the Government-General was slow to respond. To keep pace with the demands of Korean society, the Government-General expanded the facilities for quarantining lepers. Although the Government-General and Korean society perceived the urgency of the problem differently, they shared the same prejudiced perception of vagrant lepers. This study thus emphasizes the dynamic relationship between the Government-General and Korean society related to the issue of vagrant lepers in Korea and argues that the stigmatization and discrimination experienced by vagrants and lepers were not unilaterally imposed by the state but were the product of cooperation between the state and Korean society.