Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Chelsea Zi Wang

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

2019 Annie J Park


This thesis is motivated by a lack of studies on the history of mental illness in South Korea. It builds upon existing studies by historians Theodore Yoo and Bang Hyun Lee, who have also used newspapers to analyze the discourse surrounding mental illness during Colonial Korea (1910-1945). Specifically, I analyze newspapers in the decades following this period to revisit three themes that both Yoo and Lee noted about the colonial period: (1) the religious practice of hitting individuals with mental illnesses, (2) the strong support for the sterilization of people with mental illnesses, and (3) the association between crime and mental illness. Because the colonial period was when people with mental illnesses were increasingly treated as social outcasts, comparing shifts or continuances from the colonial period was useful in exploring the stigma attached to mental illness in Korea.

The articles surrounding the first theme revealed that despite the stigma attached to Shamanistic practices of beating during the colonial period due to a growing biomedical understanding of mental illness, they surprisingly persisted. There were also new developments, in which people with mental illnesses were beaten, chained, and isolated in “treatment” institutions across the nation for no particular reason. Articles surrounding the second theme showed that though inflamed rhetoric surrounding sterilization operations were not found post-1950, rhetoric with eugenics undertones lingered. Newspapers reported on these inhumane practices until as late as 1999. For the third theme, this study finds that the press continued to strongly associate mental illness with crime. These associations that effectively equated individuals with mental illnesses to criminals still frequently occur in newspapers today, particularly with what the media calls “Don’t Ask” crimes. Based on these findings, this study discovers that the negative treatment and perception of people with mental illnesses persisted long beyond Colonial Korea. It also stresses the importance of examining the role the press plays in contributing to the stigma attached to mental illness and shaping the way mental illness is understood.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.