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In Session: Conflict and Identity in Asia: Studies Within and Across Borders
4: “Home” and “Hope” for a Family in Exile: Practicing Everyday Life through Jesse’s Diary
Thursday, March 25, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
University of Chicago, United States
This paper utilizes Che-si-ŭi ilgi, or Jesse’s Diary, a parenting diary co-written by a Korean Provisional Government (KPG) member Yang U-jo and his wife Ch’oe Sŏn-hwa from 1938 to 1946. Born in P’yŏngyang in 1897, Yang left Korea for the U.S. in 1915 at the age of eighteen, aspiring to study abroad. He returned to Korea in 1928, only to face persecution from the Japanese police, who mistook his investigation of potential sites for a textile mill for an attempt to organize anti-Japanese protests. Met with constant surveillance and restrictions on mobility, Yang decided to join the KPG in China. Ch’oe Sŏn-hwa was born in 1911 and was a “New Woman” by the standards of her time. A senior colleague at the women’s college she was teaching at introduced her to Yang, and following a period of courtship correspondence, Ch’oe moved to China to marry him. The couple was officially married in 1937, and the diary begins in 1938, when their first child Jesse is born.
Jesse’s Diary offers a first-hand account of everyday life in China during the Second Sino-Japanese War from the perspective of Korean intellectuals doubly displaced by colonialism and war. It is also unique in that it is co-written by a married couple about raising children during the war. Through the case of Jesse’s Diary, I demonstrate how the act of co-writing a parenting diary provided a sense of “home” as well as “hope” for the diasporic family amidst continuous displacement.