Professor earns fellowship
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Marie Kim’s book on Korean legal history will fill a gap on library shelves throughout the English-speaking world.
That’s why the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded the history professor a $50,400 research fellowship to complete the manuscript. She is one of the 110 academics nationwide who received a 2010-11 NEH fellowship.
The book, tentatively titled Law and Custom in Korea, will be the first English-language treatment of Korean colonial civil law written outside the nationalistic viewpoint that holds sway in the existing literature, according to Kim.
“The law was an aspect of colonial domination” rooted in 40 years of Japanese domination and colonization, said Kim.
During the last half of the 19th century, Japan willingly adopted European civil law traditions in what is known as a receptive transplant process.
Korea did not have it so easy.
From 1905 to 1945, a modern, industrialized Japan forced civil law traditions on Korea. Japan also destroyed cultural artifacts, suppressed the Korean language and exploited hundreds of thousands of Koreans in forced-labor systems.
The prevailing scholarly perspective on Korean colonial law is often skewed by intense nationalism that is a by-product of the colonial period, according to Kim.
Kim’s book will offer a more detached view of how civil law evolved and how it served Korea, she said.
Postcolonial codification of rights and relationships among individuals and organizations, which are key elements of civil law, paved the way for the emergence of South Korea as an “Asian tiger,” an international economic power.
With the development of multinational corporations such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai, a historical study of Korean civil law and legal culture is long overdue, said Kim.
Kim, whose Korean first name is Seong-Hak, was born and reared in Seoul.
Her other area of expertise is early modern European history, particularly 16th century French history. Her 1997 book on a pragmatic French chancellor of that period is available from Truman State University Press.
Kim began teaching at St. Cloud State in 2000. Her book project evolved during a 2004-05 Fulbright grant that funded research and lecturing in South Korea.
She is also a licensed attorney at law in Minnesota.