Between Nationalism and Internationalism; Yun Ch'I-ho and the YMCA in Colonial Korea
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Studies of the Korean YMCA during the Colonial Period (1903–1938) have revolved around the popular theme of nationalism, solidifying the view that the YMCA was the paragon of a patriotic organization. Research on its first Korean General Secretary as well as longtime President, Yun Ch’i-ho, however, has shown a proclivity to echo the judgment of the Institute for Research in Collaborationist Activities in Korea that Yun collaborated with Japanese colonial schemes. Such studies polarize interpretations of one historical phenomenon by separating the institution and its key player, thereby either promoting or vilifying the two entities. In response, this study investigates the common ground between the two seemingly paradoxical topics, the Korean YMCA and Yun Ch’i-ho. This approach illumines the interplay of mission history and Korean history, giving voice to the YMCA missionaries and to Yun Ch’i-ho, both of whom have often been sidelined by historiographies that emphasize collaboration xi with colonialism. Archival sources reveal that the Christian internationalism of both the YMCA and Yun Ch’i-ho promoted Korea’s national reconstruction, even under Japanese colonialism. In order to understand the development of Yun Ch’i-ho’s Christian internationalism, this study begins by examining his interactions with Christian missionaries and missionary statesmen in China and the U.S. It also details the way in which Yun’s vision of national regeneration was integrated with his newly-absorbed Christian thought. The next chapter examines how Christian internationalism shaped Yun’s national reconstruction enterprises. The dissertation then analyzes the methods, messages, and dilemmas of the Korean YMCA as a Christian missionary organization consistent with Yun’s aspirations for Korean reforms, first manifested in the Kapsin Coup (1884) and then in the Independence Club (1896–1898). The final chapter briefly portrays the paralysis of the YMCA and Yun under a deified Japanese nationalism that ousted the YMCA missionaries from, and dismissed Christian internationalism in colonial Korea. The dissertation demonstrates how Christianity, through the vehicle of the YMCA and Yun Ch’i-ho, mediated both Koreans’ aspiration for national reconstruction and international missionaries’ vision for building the kingdom of God.
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