From a humanistic mobility studies perspective, this essay looks at Saryang Kim’s work, “Mulori Island,” in the context of the Pacific War, and explores the “island” produced by a ship’s mobility as it crosses temporal-spatial borders in the story. During the Pacific War, Japanese geopolitical ideology was shaped by the spatialization of time and geographical determinism, found in the propagandized ideas of “Greater East Asia” and “Overcoming the Modern.” Kim’s work is a critical response to this imperialistic ideology in two ways. First, his story critically represents the geographical confirmation of the Japanese Empire as the devastation of a colony through the protagonist’s catastrophic life marked by the death of his wife and the devastation of Mulori Island. Second, Kim structurally counters the aforementioned ideology by signifying Mulori Island as an ambiguous zone of multiple temporalities and spatialities. In the text itself, Rang’s narration disturbs the Japanese Empire’s geopolitical ideologies around the Pacific War, significantly transforming the devastated island into a terra incognita where the specter of Sunee, Mireuk’s dead wife, resides. “Mulori Island,” therefore, can be understood in terms of the politics of contretemps, denying the imperialistic conception of time-space emblematic of the construed superiority of the present to the past in terms of perfected world history; instead, the text engenders the temporalization of space and the historicization of geography. Given the difficulty in envisaging any alternative form of time-space, decentralizing and multiplying the present time-space might be the only way for a colonial writer to resist the final materialization of imperialistic geopolitical ideology.


Saryang Kim, “Mulori Island”, Pacific War, the Japanese Empire, politics of contretemps, terra incognita

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

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Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
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Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
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Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
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Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
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Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
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University of Cape Town (South Africa)
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University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

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University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
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University of the Philippines

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Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
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Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
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Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
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Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)