Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Some Good Books in Asian Legal History (II): Dudden, Japan's Colonization of Korea

“In the summer of 1907, the world declared Korea illegal.” That’s a great first sentence for any book, but for Alexis Dudden, the fact many American readers (and few Korean ones) find the statement startling is precisely what needs explaining. Japan’s Colonization of Korea: Discourse and Power traces the ways that the Meiji government used the discourse of international law “so that Japan would make new international sense, at a time when not making sense in this manner rendered a national ripe for colonization.”

The book draws on legal treatises and political documents to show how Japanese political thinkers used the discourse of international law to frame a precedent for the 1910 annexation of Korea, an event widely recognized as legitimate by the international community. For me, the book was a reminder that the recent upsurge of research on law and empire has not fully included or sensibly theorized Japan’s imperial history; for any legal historian, it's a wonderful history of the political consequences of legal thought.

To be continued ...