chapter  1
19 Pages

Nationalism And The Politics Of Visual Comparison: The 1915 Korean Industrial Exposition

In 1915, entering its fifth year of occupation of Korea, the Japanese colonial government, Government General of Korea, held the Korean Industrial Exposition (Chosoˇn mulsan kongjinhoe) at the Kyoˇngbok palace in Seoul, the locus of the subjugated Chosoˇn dynasty. During its opening from September 11 to October 31, the exposition, built to show the colony’s progress to everyone including women and children “at the first sight,” was successful in attracting about 1.2 million visitors.1 As captured in a photographic image, a huge crowd of people were “pouring into the palace, creating waves” to see a spectacle of monumental architecture, commodities, entertainments and night illuminations, all on display to show what the colony would become under colonial rule (Figure 1.1).2 The large number of visitors indicates the measure of success that colonial authorities had achieved in mobilizing the masses. But what happened when the crowd of people became part of the spectacle, visible to themselves, and they became not only an object but also a subject of the spectacle?