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Under the Black Umbrella: Voices from…

Under the Black Umbrella: Voices from Colonial Korea, 1910-1945

by Hildi Kang

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This is exactly what you want this type of book to be. Surprising, eye-opening, reliable, well-edited and jaw-dropping. If you are the least bit curious as to why your Korean grandmother hates all things Japanese, pick this book up. If you are in the pursuit of scholarly research and you need some oral history recollections, these are gold. The author has done extremely well in translating, arranging, presenting and setting historical context for each chapter.

Some stories are just a paragraph long while others go one for pages. Despite the sample being taken from elderly Koreans living in the American west coast, the people interviewed are amazing diverse and well-represented. The stories are captivating, earnest and beautifully told. I can't imagine how the stories must have sounded in the original language because the English translation is simply breathtaking.

The reader may find it unusual to hear that many Koreans became civilized or even friends with Japanese living in their towns during this period. The honesty of the interviewees runs counter to the widespread belief that all Japanese were zealous conquerors bent on world domination. Don't misunderstand, some of the stories indeed paint a terrible picture in terms of cultural repression, but as mentioned before, the book is well-balanced.

My only disappointment was the short length of the book. That's it. It's readable by anyone with a passing interest in Japanese colonial history. It's what you want - a collection of stories that completes any academic background you might have read.

Simply a gem. ( )
  matthew254 | Nov 20, 2011 |
An important compilation of narratives from Koreans who speak about the japanese occupation and how it affected their lives. ( )
  sungene | Oct 29, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0801472709, Paperback)

In the rich and varied life stories in Under the Black Umbrella, elderly Koreans recall incidents that illustrate the complexities of Korea during the colonial period. Hildi Kang here reinvigorates a period of Korean history long shrouded in the silence of those who endured under the "black umbrella" of Japanese colonial rule. Existing descriptions of the colonial period tend to focus on extremes: imperial repression and national resistance, Japanese subjugation and Korean suffering, Korean backwardness and Japanese progress. "Most people," Kang says, "have read or heard only the horror stories which, although true, tell only a small segment of colonial life." The varied accounts in Under the Black Umbrella reveal a truth that is both more ambiguous and more human-the small-scale, mundane realities of life in colonial Korea.Accessible and attractive narratives, linked by brief historical overviews, provide a large and fully textured view of Korea under Japanese rule. Looking past racial hatred and repression, Kang reveals small acts of resistance carried out by Koreans, as well as gestures of fairness by Japanese colonizers. Impressive for the history it recovers and preserves, Under the Black Umbrella is a candid, human account of a complicated time in a contested place.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:32 -0400)

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