Studying the history of Japanese colonialism in Korea is a challenging exercise because it has traditionally fallen along two lines of inquiry: colonialism as a form of exploitation or modernization. As a new paradigm to study the period, colonial modernity carefully distinguishes the many layers of life that emerged from diverse forms of behavior, practice, and thought to develop multifaceted and nuanced conceptions of reality that complicate the dichotomous modes of analysis of modernization versus exploitation. However, because studies of colonial modernity have configured modernity only as a linear form of development that emphasizes the secular, bourgeois / proletariat, urban spaces, and industrial capitalism, any movements that do not fit this definition of modernity have been labeled anti-modern, such as the YMCA, Presbyterian, and Ch’ŏndogyo rural movements. Overcoming the mischaracterization of certain movements as anti-modern requires a careful reconceptualization of modernity by studying the YMCA, Presbyterian, and Ch’ŏndogyo rural movements’ emphasis of the present as a key component of being modern.
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