Luis Botella (Malaga)

17 April 2020


The Korean peninsula was colonized by the Japanese Empire, leaving a large shadow over Koreans. In addition, the decolonization of the peninsula happed in the rarified environment of the incipient Cold War, resulting in the division of Koreans in two political entities. These two aspects have joined to define in a great degree the postcolonial reality of South Korea, where the questions of how to consider and measure the colonial legacy have clear implications even for current political affairs. As an example, debates about collaborationism or the inclusion/exclusion of colonial buildings as part of national heritage have been quite alive all the way up to 21st century.

Many of these debates have been fueled by the idea that colonialism was not just a political period, but also a system that imposed cultural and intellectual categories that would reinforce such colonial control. From that perspective, the continuation of colonial categories would be an important aspect in the decolonization, and for the coining of the term ‘postcolonial’. One of the academic disciplines involved in the configuration of such system was archaeology. Korean archaeology started under the colonial period, being instrumental in the articulation of justification for the colonial rule over the peninsula. Thus, one of the tasks of Korean intellectuals after the Liberation focused on the decolonization of such discipline.

This lecture will look at some of the attempts at decolonizing Korean archaeology in South Korea after 1945. In order to do so, the lecture will look at the transition of the National Museum of Korea and its role in Korean archaeology from its earlier life as colonial museum to its new life as national museum.



Luis BOTELLA received his PhD from the University of Malaga, Spain. His interest in Modern Korean history and historiography focuses on the social and intellectual history of archaeology in South Korea, and how this can inform us about the complex of process of Korean decolonization and the relationship between the state and intellectuals. His recent research projects are related to the historiographical relationship between ancient Korean history and Korean archaeology and the configuration of a historical region in the larger area of Northeast Asia during the Iron Age and the Three Kingdoms Period.