Largely governed by Jean-Paul Sartre’s postwar discourse on why some French intellectuals were eager to work with the German occupation, collaboration has read as a personality flaw that resided outside of history and remained inside the realm of pathology. More recently, work on collaboration in East Asia with the Japanese empire has sought to insert this phenomenon into history and the exigencies of daily life under a colonial regime.
My approach is different still. I will discuss the decisions made by Korean intellectuals to serve the Japanese from the point of view of ethical philosophy, reviewing the arguments about collaboration made by such Western intellectuals as Hannah Arendt and Bernard Williams in light of the apologies made by Koreans after 1945. My principal case study will be Yi Kwangsu, Korea’s most famous collaborator as well as its most distinguished modern writer.
John TREAT is a professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at Yale University, where he teaches modern Japanese and Korean fiction. He is the author of Writing Ground Zero: Japanese Literature and the Atomic Bomb. His next project is entitled “The Rise and Fall of Modern Japanese Literature.”