Education at the Crossroads of Trans-Pacific US and Japanese Imperialisms: Korean Schooling in Territorial Hawaii, 1906?1940
Jisoo Hyun

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Washington, Seattle

Primary Discipline

U.S. territorial Hawaii (1898?1959) was a highly contested site of engagement for immigrant Koreans. There, they encountered not only White Euro-Americans' colonialist impulse for Americanization and the racial and economic subjugation of "Oriental" immigrants by a powerful and privileged haole (white) class, but also the strong nationalistic desire of Korean expatriates to liberate Korea from Japanese colonial rule. In this context of trans-Pacific U.S./Japanese imperial entanglement, Korean immigrants defied the status quo to develop and practice their own conception of a "proper" education. Drawing upon the cases of the first two Korean private schools in pre-statehood Hawaii and examining the stakeholders therein, my dissertation contextualizes the ways in which such educational institutions, established and run by Korean immigrants whose lives were enmeshed in the US/Japanese imperial projects, functioned as sites of negotiation for the meanings and methods of agency, nationalism, and citizenship. It argues that Korean-immigrant educators offered a distinctive brand of Americanization and civic education?one that emerged from a desire to establish Korean national sovereignty, promote ethnic nationalism, and create cultural differentiation, all while trying to emulate and assimilate into Protestant America. The two Korean schools and their politics of education offer a glimpse of the complex immigrant world that developed in relation to hegemonic forces of imperialism, nationalism, religion, race, and ethnicity, and reveals a novel form of modern subjectivity that was called into existence within this specific historical and regional setting.
About Jisoo Hyun
Ji Soo Hyun is a Ph.D. candidate in the History of Education program at the University of Washington. A native of South Korea, she holds an M.A. in East Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia University and a B.A. in Korean Literature from Sookmyung Women's University in Seoul. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, Ji Soo worked as a researcher at the Institute for Modern Korean Studies in Seoul. There, she encountered the archives of two Korean private schools in Hawaii: the Korean Central School (1906?1919) and the Korean Christian Institute (1915?1940). The stacks of yellowing school records and photos?smiling Korean immigrant kids, Anglo-American and Korean teachers, lush Hawaiian palm trees?fascinated her, and led her to explore further. She found little documentation of the schools in either Korean or American historiographies and ultimately decided to devote her doctoral dissertation to them. Her study focuses on the schooling experience of Korean immigrants in territorial Hawaii (1898?1959) and poses new questions about its substance and significance, not only in relation to the American imperial project but also within the context of the competing imperialisms of the United States and Japan. Informed by the growing body of work on education for imperialism and education for global citizenship, her study aims to enrich our knowledge of the junctures between education and imperial projects.

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