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The Identity of a Young Intellectual of Colonial Korea: Focusing on Into the Light by Sa-ryang Kim

Jooyoung Kim


This article explores the theme of diasporic identity as represented in Into the Light (1933), a novel written in the Japanese language by the Korean writer Sa-ryang Kim (1914-1950). The story is set in the days of Japanese imperialism and revolves around the relationship between Minami sensei, a young Korean intellectual studying abroad at the University of Tokyo, and Haruo Yamada, a boy of mixed heritage who was born to a Japanese father and a Korean mother. Like reflections in a mirror, the two figures portray certain contradictions within the empire with their “virtual” identities, which refer to identities borrowed or imagined by the colonized self. While briefly introducing Sa-ryang Kim’s literary achievements, this paper discusses the writings of Koreans during the era of Japanese imperialism. And by delving into the two characters, the paper examines how their identities are defined by Japanese imperialism. Then, as the analysis reveals that the two are complementary figures reflecting each other’s hybrid identity, this study explores how the identity of imperialist diaspora during the colonial period was represented. The protagonist eventually accepts the Korean title Nam sensei together with the Japanese title Minami sensei, and confirms his membership in the colonial diaspora. In contrast, Haruo Yamada identifies his projected self as Japanese, deriding the Korean teacher. This inconsistency is a testament to the wide spectrum of types of identities internalized within the people in “colonial diaspora,” who are, in this case, Koreans who had dispersed outside their colonized homeland and settled in the empire of Japan. The novel demonstrates how the virtual identities held by the members of colonial diaspora are liable to fall apart at any moment.


colonial diaspora; colonized self; diasporic identity; hybrid identity; Japanese imperialism; Korean writers in Japan; virtual identities

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13185/KK2017.02812