Organized Panel Session
Evident in the candlelight protests of South Korea in 2016 and in recent engagement efforts with North Korea is the prevailing assumption of historical continuity in post-1945 Korea. In the former, it is the presumption of the continuing relevance of popular protest in shaping the course of political history; in the latter, it is the enduring ethno-national dream of unification. This panel moves beyond these cornerstones of the dominant discourses in South and North Korea. The four papers proceed from the understanding that historical memory is shaped by global economic crises, state-to-state hostilities, and social change in fragmentary and contingent ways. In Cheehyung Kim’s observation of North Korea’s postwar architecture, the erasure of its transnational history (or para-memory) was a consequence of political consolidation for surplus accumulation and an expression of the international situation of state socialism’s instability. Hunmi Lee’s exploration of the concept of revolution in North Korea reveals the characteristic of anti-memory, which results from the combination of revolution and tradition as a logic of counter-memory to South Korea’s bourgeois revolution. For Charles Kim, contemporary South Korea’s museums and television programs are sources of nostalgic micronarratives that work between the metanarrative of economic development and the counternarrative of political resistance—the two dominant storylines of South Korea. Sun-Chul Kim investigates how memories of the minjung movement serve alternately as an object of nostalgia for former activist-intellectuals and as the inspiration for current activism among the minjung of the present. Discussant Aimee Kwon offers a transnational critique of memory-making.