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In Session: Japan, Parasitology, and Framing Developmental Ambitions
3: Parasitology as Developmental Metric: Malaria from the late Colonial to Post-Colonial South Korea (1959-early 1970s)
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
John P. DiMoia
Seoul National University, Republic of Korea
Studies of parasites native to the Korean peninsula began under Japanese colonialism (1910-1945), especially via major figures such as Kobayashi Harujiro at Keijo Imperial University in the 1920s. By the late 1950s, parasitology was seen as critically important to national development, and was used as a developmental metric, a means of reassuring external partners; and equally, a convincing form of evidence to a domestic audience. The process by which this happened began to extend Korean researchers and their work to reach out to neighbouring countries such as South Vietnam
This paper examines the processes through which particular parasitic objects (mosquitoes) became central to formative South Korean developmentalism, thereby linking the colonial (Japan) with the post-colonial, in this case, the Walter Reed Institute of Army Research (WRAIR) and the WHO. Exploring the core of South Korea’s nascent public health, along with malaria and its interaction with the environment, the paper seeks to track how these conjoined foci became a major part of the national “success” story.
More importantly, the paper examines how this process influenced relationships with the ROK’s new partners, such as South Vietnam, and later, other SEA partner nations, during the Vietnam War and following. Militarized landscapes from the DMZ to Vietnam worked with some of the same approaches to vector control, linking otherwise distinct actors and forms of medical pedagogy.