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The Contested Political Remembrance of the Kwangju Uprising and Presidential Speeches in South Korea

Hannes B. Mosler
S/N Korean Humanities :: Vol.6 No.1 pp.47-92

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This article analyzes commemorative speeches on the May 18 Kwangju Democracy Movement (1980) by South Korean presidents to investigate how the historical events have been interpreted across alternating political camps in power. Among various other issues regarding the interpretation and evaluation of the country’s political history the May 18 Kwangju Democracy Movement is still not fully accounted for its causes and consequences, and remains contested by conservative forces 40 years after the events occurred. While there is a rich body of research on the May 18 Kwangju Democracy Movement including the topic of memory politics, presidential commemorative speeches so far have been neglected despite the fact that they represent an important mode of political communication in modern societies regarding the production of authoritative remembrance narratives. This article contributes to filling this void by examining all past May 18 Memorial Day addresses by presidents between 1993 and 2019, that is a total of 11 speeches. The study finds a clear tendency in conservative presidents’ speeches toward rhetorical tactics that aim to depoliticize still-contested issues surrounding the May 18 Kwangju Democracy Movement with the effect of potentially forestalling critical engagement with its causes and consequences, and thus frustrating reconciliation.

The Suffered, the Un-represented, Yet Still the Protesting: The Cinematic Un-representations of the Bereaved Mothers in post-Kwangju May Uprising Movements

Gooyong Kim
S/N Korean Humanities :: Vol.6 No.1 pp.93-122

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This article examines how feature films represent mothers who became activists after having lost a child during the Kwangju May Uprising. As a means to reconsider how the mass medium helps shape the public’s understanding of various factors in the historic event and its contribution to democratization in Korea, this paper examines whether the popular entertainment genre provides the audience with a sound perspective to learn different human factors in the Uprising as well as post-Uprising social movements. Specifically, this article examines how the film portrays women’s involvement in post-Uprising movement, focusing on the gendered nature of representation, or un-representations of female activists in the movies on the Uprising and other social movements. This paper calls for a more just recognition of various human components that contribute to social transformation, by overcoming the epistemological hegemony of patriarchy.

An Interview with Dr. Kang Man-gil

Interviewee: Kang Man-gil
S/N Korean Humanities :: Vol.6 No.1 pp.175-196

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Cultural Memories of State Violence: A Comparative Study of Kwangju and Hiroshima

Mikyoung Kim
S/N Korean Humanities :: Vol.6 No.1 pp.17-46

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This article compares two sites of state violence in Asia, Japan’s Hiroshima and Korea’s Kwangju, in order to analyze commemoration of state-initiated civilian sufferings. Despite common symptoms of traumatic experiences at individual level, commemorative practices exhibit striking differences at societal level. Hiroshima is still in mourning over its own victimhood, while remaining relatively ambivalent about Japan’s role as the perpetrator of other countries. The controversies surrounding the renovation project of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum from 1985 until 1994 show the city’s willingness to promote its moral authority as the anti-nuclear pacifist leader, whereas the municipal leadership conceded to make political compromises. Kwangju, the place of civilian massacre in May 1980, on the other hand, has undergone dramatic transformation from the site of antigovernment protests to the mecca of Korea’s democratization movement. The trajectory of the May 18 Democracy Cemetery shows Kwangju’s ideational transformation from a victim to the hero of Korean democracy. A cross-cultural comparison of the two commemorative sites of state violence shows the way in which Japanese cultural modes of ambivalence and situational logic permit ambivalence, whereas Korean cultural modes of self-victimization and resistance negate a post-hoc aggrandizement of the tragic past.

Fifield, Anna. The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un. New York: Public Affairs, 2019. 308 pages. ISBN 9781541742482 (hardcover).

John Cussen
S/N Korean Humanities :: Vol.6 No.1 pp.161-172

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Fleeing from the Kantō Massacre and Its Psychological Aftermath

Chong Yongsu
S/N Korean Humanities :: Vol.6 No.1 pp.125-144

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This paper examines the survivors’ and bereaved families' experiences of the Kantō Massacre in September 1923 and seeks to draw a connection between said experiences and their movements after the tragedy, focusing on the fear planted in the ethnic Koreans as psychological damage caused by the massacre. This fear manifested itself in various physical behaviors such as fleeing, hiding, or pretending to be Japanese, which defined the lives of the traumatized ethnic Koreans long after the massacre. Although the facts of the massacre had been disseminated throughout the Korean community by students and workers, what was significant in the memory of the massacre was the repeated issue of rumors about and persecution of Koreans in Japan even after the Great Kantō Earthquake. The situation worsened after Japan’s final defeat in the war and led to the rise of fears among the ethnic Koreans of being massacred, which led to the resurgence of ethnic Koreans fleeing as they had during and immediately following the Kantō Earthquake.

Of Memories Lost and Found: The May 18 Kwangju Democracy Movement Forty Years Later

Kim Sung-Min
S/N Korean Humanities :: Vol.6 No.1 pp.7-14

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Locating Kŭmo sinhwa within the History of World Literature

Kang Pokshil
S/N Korean Humanities :: Vol.6 No.1 pp.145-158

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This paper examines Kŭmo sinhwa, the collection of stories by the fifteenth-century Chosŏn philosopher and writer Kim Sisŭp (1435–1493) within the history of world literature by focusing on its unique contribution as one of the earliest forms of prose fiction and wider impact on the literary tradition of other countries. Kim’s Kŭmo sinhwa was a work of prose fiction that appeared at a relatively early period in history and an important work that reflects the principles and development of the literary tradition in Chosŏn. The stories in Kŭmo sinhwa, descriptive of the tendencies and aims of its people and filled with trenchant criticisms of social problems, hold their rightful place in the canon of fifteenth-century world literature. Kŭmo sinhwa is also notable in the influence that it has exercised on foreign literary traditions. Kim’s stories attracted a devoted readership in Japan, and they played a pivotal role in the emergence of the Japanese story collection Otogibōko.

‘Two Cultures’ and the Possibility of Integrated Korean Studies: Via ‘Critical Naturalism’ of Marx and Durkheim

Kim Myung-Hee
S/N Korean Humanities :: Vol.2 No.2 pp.87-110

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This paper is an attempt to search for a meta-theoretical foundation to an integrated Korean studies. Without its own target and methodology, it will be difficult for Korean studies to be established as an independent academic discipline. In particular, the antagonism of the ‘Two Cultures,’ referring to the juxtaposition between humanities and the sciences, has been reproduced into a humanities-based ‘National studies’ (‘國學’) and a social science-based ‘Korean studies’ (‘韓國學’), and is acting as a factor preventing a more holistic perspective of Korean society. Such division originated from the modern academic disciplinary structure systemized at the end of the 19th century but was then deepened by the path dependency of the division system and the external dependency of the Korean academia. Under this context, this paper seeks to graft critical naturalism of Marx and Durkheim, who envisioned unified sciences at the end of the 19th century, before separation into modern academic disciplines took place, to the attempts to alleviate the ‘Two Cultures’ and thereby project an integrated Korean studies. Critical naturalism of the two thinkers – in particular, their relational social paradigm and theory of explanatory critique – proposes a third way that resolves the dichotomies between society and people, science and philosophy, nomothetic and idiographic methods, and facts and values, thus positioning itself as a paradigmatic basis for unified knowledge that overcomes the antagonism between hyper-naturalist positivism and anti-naturalist humanities. Moreover, the critical naturalism of the two provides the possibility of depth-explanatory human sciences that integrates the historicity and the scientificity of a divided society as well as abundant philosophy of science resources to promote a more complete Korean studies that encompasses both the South and the North.

An Emotional Relationship: Trust, Admiration, and Fear in North Korea-Zimbabwe Relations, 1976-1988

Benjamin R. Young
S/N Korean Humanities :: Vol.4 No.2 pp.129-149

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Despite being located faraway from one another, North Korean leader Kim Il Sung and Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe formed an unlikely friendship during the late 1970s and 1980s. As guerilla fighters-turned postcolonial leaders, these two autocrats developed close emotional bonds built around admiration, fear, and trust. Using archival sources from the United Kingdom’s National Archives, North Korean press reports, and journalistic accounts, this article emphasizes emotions as a window into examining this Afro-Asian alliance. From wanting to emulate North Korea’s land reform program to sending a group of librarians and academics to the communist state to learn from Pyongyang’s educational system, Mugabe’s government admired the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) as a model of socialist development during the 1980s. Fearing instability at home, Mugabe also sought North Korea military assistance to squash his political rivals. Finally, Mugabe trusted Pyongyang as a “war-time friend” that had always been there for his African state. Thus, Zimbabwe continues to align itself in the post-Cold War era with North Korea while much of the world cuts off ties with the increasingly isolated state.

Moral Development and the March First Movement

Hope Elizabeth May
S/N Korean Humanities :: Vol.5 No.1 pp.15-46

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This paper offers a discussion of the March First Movement of 1919 (MFM) through the lens of moral development. Central to the discussion is the moral development of the most well-known personality associated with the MFM, Yu Kwan-sun (1902-1920). After discussing Yu’s own moral development, I connect this discussion to another important but less well-known figure associated with the MFM, Lee Sŭnghun (1864-1930). As a chief organizer of the MFM, Lee Sŭnghun made it possible for Yu Kwan-sun to both display and further develop her virtues and moral energies during the MFM. A discussion of Lee Sŭnghun also enables us to appreciate the thread of moral energy that was spinning prior the MFM, and which blossomed into the MFM in large part due to his efforts. I close by briefly discussing another participant in the MFM, Louise Yim (Im Yŏngsin) (1899-1977). Like Yu Kwan-sun, Yim was imprisoned and tortured for her participation in the MFM. Unlike Yu, however, Yim survived and dedicated her adult life to the independence of her country and the education of its citizens. A deeper consideration of the individuals involved in the MFM can connect us in the present to their virtues and moral energies. To know these individuals is to be inspired and moved by them. Thus the stories of the individual participants in the MFM remain an important resource for international ethics.

Development of Korean Communities in Northern Jiāndǎo in the 1910s and the March First Movement: Centered on the March Thirteenth Independence Demonstrations in the Lóngjǐng Region

Li Yongzhi
S/N Korean Humanities :: Vol.5 No.1 pp.57-80

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The peninsula-wide March First Movement in 1919 demonstrated the cohesiveness of the Korean people and served as the opening chapter to a new history; the entire peninsula was flooded with protests for independence, and shocked by their intensity, the Japanese colonial government engaged in indiscriminate suppression. The March First Movement propelled demonstrations to be held as well in Northern Jiāndǎo (“Puk-kando”), situated north of the Tumen River.Thousands of demonstrators gathered on March 13 in Lóngjǐng to read the Declaration of Independence as part of the demonstration. Although dozens of people were injured due to the suppression by the Chinese armed forces (seventeen were killed), numerous demonstrations (currently known are fifty-eight) took place throughout Northern Jiāndǎo. A frontier region, Northern Jiāndǎo was a unique cultural space wherein Koreans who crossed into this borderland formed their own communities; with active ethno-nationalist education and religious propaganda, the region served as a nexus of ethno-national and anti-Japanese consciousness. In addition, due to the frequent exchanges between the Korean peninsula and the Maritime Province, Lóngjǐng in particular served as the cradle of ethno-national independence movements.

The Conflict between Progressive and Reactionary Literature on the March First People’s Uprising

Sŏk Kŭmch’ŏl
S/N Korean Humanities :: Vol.5 No.1 pp.81-100

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After the March First People’s Uprising, writers that included progressive patriots, independence activists and the broader masses created progressive literature that reflected the heights of the Korean people’s patriotic fervor and the national anti-Japanese struggle. In contrast, bourgeois writers went down the path of becoming reactionaries as their disappointment, sense of failure, weariness and despair led them to a literary world that was at once both empty and degenerate. Unlike the progressive works that flow with our people’s strong will and invincible spirit that refused to surrender in the face of guns and knives and gave them the strong resolve to achieve independence for their country, these corrupted literary works were reactionary in the sense that they emphasized feelings of depression, despair and pessimism in their portrayal of human beings faced with misfortune. These works, which reflect historical fact but are in sharp contrast to the Chuch’e ideological direction, portrayal of art and characters, and description of life in both content and convention, show how sharp and complicated the confrontation between progressive and reactionary literature was in our country’s modern literary world in the time leading up to and following the March First People’s Uprising.

The Relation between the United States and the Countries of the Korean Peninsula in the 1970s: A Survey of the Chinese Academic Literature

Yan Jin
S/N Korean Humanities :: Vol.4 No.1 pp.99-125

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In recent years, the relations between the United States (US) and the countries of the Korean Peninsula began to play a more important role for China. With the improvement of the level of Chinese scholarship, as well as the rapid declassification of the archival material on pre-1980 Cold War history, there emerged a lot of academic publications in China on the 1970s history of US relations with the two Koreas. Although Chinese scholars took different perspectives on this subject, the mainstream view maintains that with the ease of the Cold War tensions in the Northeast Asia, the relations between the United States and the countries on the Peninsula changed in the varying degrees in the 1970s: on the one hand, although the United States and South Korea still maintained their alliance, their relationship was characterized by friction and contradictions, as the issue of the withdrawal of the US troops and the human rights debates had vividly demonstrated; on the other hand, US-North Korean relations were marked by the rapid process of bilateral relaxation. In general, Chinese academic literature on US-South Korean relations is much more profound compared to the scholarly work on American relations with North Korea. And while in recent years remarkable progress has been made by Chinese scholars, there is still plenty of room for improvement, especially in terms of broadening interdisciplinary studies and theory, utilizing multi-archival material, conducting in-depth research of the political systems, the decision-making processes in the relevant countries, as well as the politics within the lower levels of government, etc.

New Goddesses at Paektu Mountain: Two Contemporary Korean Myths

Robert Winstanley-Chesters,Victoria Ten
S/N Korean Humanities :: Vol.2 No.1 pp.151-179

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Mountain worship and sanshin (mountain gods) legends are intrinsic to Korean culture. Central for narratives of anti-colonial struggle and contemporary policy of North Korea, Mt. Paektu also became a symbol of Korean national identity in South Korean popular culture. This paper engages two legends sited there, suggesting that their main protagonists represent contemporary sanshin. Firstly we consider the image of Kim Chŏng-suk of North Korea, and those narratives addressing her husband, Kim Il-sŏng’s guerrilla resistance in terrains surrounding Paektu. As a bodyguard of Kim Il-sŏng and a champion of revolutionary struggle, Kim Chŏng-suk transcends her human nature, and embodies female presence on Mt. Paektu. Secondly the paper investigates narrative from contemporary South Korean practice GiCheon (氣天 Kich’ŏn), intended for physical and moral cultivation of a person, reinvented in modernity on the basis of ancient East-Asian traditions. It recounts a mythic meeting of Bodhidharma with the Immortal Woman of Heaven (天仙女 Ch’ŏnsŏnyŏ) dwelling at Mt. Paektu. The Woman of Heaven overpowers Bodhidharma in battle, challenging patriarchal gender conceptions and contesting Chinese cultural superiority. Examined together, these two narratives demonstrate common cultural background. Ancient tradition, passed down from past to present, continuously accumulates and transforms, acquiring new forms in South and North Korean contexts.

Yang Yoon Sun, From Domestic Women to Sensitive Young Men: Translating the Individual in Early Colonial Korea. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017. 187 pages. ISBN: 9780674976979.

Michael Buckalew
S/N Korean Humanities :: Vol.5 No.1 pp.165-175

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Zhihua Shen and Yafeng Xia, A Misunderstood Friendship: Mao Zedong, Kim Il-sung, and Sino-North Korean Relations, 1949-1976. New York: Columbia University Press, 2018. 376 pages. ISBN: 9780231188265.

Robert Lauler
S/N Korean Humanities :: Vol.5 No.2 pp.115-124

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A Research on North Korea’s Modern Way of Accepting the Tale Chinegaksi (Centipede maiden)

Kim Jong-Kun, Feng Ying-Dun
S/N Korean Humanities :: Vol.2 No.2 pp.17-36

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North Korean tale Ch’ŏngryongŭi poŭnn which was covered in this article is a representative folktale which was modified based on Juche Ideology. It is identical with Chinegaksi which is a representative folktale in the Korean penisula except for the ending part. The difference in the ending is whether the fortune given to the male protagonist is individual or collective in its nature. This difference seems to be due to modification with the influence of collective morality and Juche ideology of North Korea. To assess the literary value of the modified narrative, this article learned about the identity and value of this tale based on the pre-division era records. And by comparing how modern tales in South and North Korea from a similar period and status accept archetype of this tale, this article aimed to analyze the narrative value of this tale. North Korean tale Ch’ŏngryongŭi poŭnn will be regarded as an important material to understand the social culture of North Korea and an old story with the message of social integration in the future society of the unified Korean peninsula. This tale is a story about two different beings trusting each other and working toward a better future. In other words, it is a story about the value of “symbiosis” being realized in the dimension of “group.” Despite the modification intention behind this literature which is based on the North Korean view of history, this tale is an important literary work that shows what kind of life “we” as a group should pursue in a modern society filled with suspicion and fear.

The Meaning of Historical Deaths as Seen through the Novella Sun-i amch’on and Mourning as Politics of Human Rights

Kim, Jong-Gon
S/N Korean Humanities :: Vol.1 No.2 pp.61-76

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The aim of this article is to shed light on the meaning of historical deaths, nowadays being mummified, memorialized or even denied, and to discuss what kind of mourning is needed for such deaths. To this end, the novella Sun-i Samch’on is used as a text, to analyze the meaning of historical deaths as depicted in the story from the viewpoint of the responsibility and commitment of those living, and also to see what possibilities there are in healing those who are in pain because of a tragic history. The article then goes onto pointing out, through the novella, a problematic way of approaching historical deaths and their mourning. Mourning for certain deaths is still impossible even though certain amount of historical justice have been attained and truths about historical deaths revealed, thanks to democratization - an important landmark in Korean modern history. The reason behind this impossibility is ‘selective mourning’, and the article proposes, as a way to overcome this problem, mourning as politics of human rights.

Publishing the Second Issue of S/N Humanities Volume One

Kim, Sung-Min
S/N Korean Humanities :: Vol.1 No.2 pp.7-13

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