SOAS University of London

Centre of Korean Studies

Dr Youngchan Oh

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Youngchan Oh
Centre of Korean Studies

Visiting Scholar, Centre of Korean Studies

Dr Youngchan Oh
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Youngchan Oh is an Associate Professor in the Department of Social Studies Education, Ewha Womans University. He received B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees from Seoul National University, and worked as a curator at the National Museum of Korea in 1997-2012, a visiting curator at the British Museum in 2009-2010. In addition to his primary research in Korea’s ancient history focusing Lelang commandery, he has also been interested in the history education utilizing the cultural heritage and the museum. Among his many publications are A Study of Lelang Commandery (Seoul: Sagyejeol, 2006), and in English, “William Gowland’s Korean Collection at the British Museum,” Orientations 41, no.8(2010).


Ewha Womans University


Hidden European Connections with a Colonial Museum: The Foreign Cultural Policy of the Japanese Government-General Museum in Korea

In December 1915, the Japanese Government-General Museum in Korea (hereafter JGGM) was established in Gyeongseong as the first and central colonial museum for cultural properties and archaeology. The Japanese Government-General of Korea strategically used this institution to justify their colonial rule and strengthen their colonial policies. Through the JGGM, the Japanese colonial authorities endeavored to collect archaeological artifacts and manage cultural properties in Korea. Based on the display and preservation of these materials, this museum was deeply engaged in constructing a colonial view of Korean history and promoting their new historical narratives to the public. The JGGM became one of the representative and influential institutions that controlled all administrations and policy-making processes relating to cultural properties of Korea. 

Paying particular attention to both the European influence on Japanese colonialism and the JGGM's significant role in the Japanese colonial policy, this research project aims to investigate how the archaeological plans and museum works of the JGGM was developed from the 1910s to the 1930s, shedding light on the international connections between Imperial Japan and Imperial European countries. In order to examine the European influences on the formation of Japanese cultural policy through the archaeology and the museum, this will explore three particular aspects: 1) Japanese scholars' learning from European countries, 2) the exchange of knowledge and information between Japan and European countries, and 3) financial support by the U.K.

This research sets the policy of the museum and archaeology in the broader context of the formation of Japanese colonial system, considering the European influence in Imperial Japan. Despite the significance of the European impact in Japanese colonial rule, this topic has little studied due to the lack of existing academic networks between Korea and Europe. This research contributes to not only providing a new perspective on the close interaction between the political power and the Japanese cultural policy but also enhancing the Korean and European academic connections.