The Routledge Handbook of Korean Culture and Society 9781138959965, 9781315660486

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The Routledge Handbook of Korean Culture and Society
 9781138959965, 9781315660486

Table of contents :
Korean culture and society: a global approach
PART I Formation of Korea
1 Compressed modernity in South Korea: constitutive dimensions, manifesting units, and historical conditions
2 Militarized modernity and gendered mass mobilization
3 The socioeconomic foundations of South Korea’s democracy movement
4 The seventy-year history of North Korean cultural formation
5 Religion in twenty-first century Korean lives
PART II Transforming Korea
6 The muddled middle class in globalized South Korea
7 South Korean youth across three decades
8 The Korean family in transition
9 Immigrant subempire, migrant labor activism, and multiculturalism in contemporary South Korea
10 North Korea now: turning point for a regime of rightlessness?
PART III Digital Korea
11 How to understand the emergence of digital Korea
12 Modern Korean literature and cultural identity in a pre- and post-colonial digital age
13 South Korean cinema story in the digital age: 21st-century success on a 20th-century medium?
14 Digital media and democratic transition in Korea
15 Digital media and the rise of connected individuals in Korea
PART IV Global Korea
16 Korean diaspora and diasporic nationalism
17 An overview of Korean American women’s writing: “skin upon skin”
18 The Korean Wave: Korean popular culture in a digital cosmopolitan world
19 K-Pop music and transnationalism
20 Transnational sport and expressions of global Koreanness

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The Routledge Handbook of Korean Culture and Society is an accessible and interdisciplinary resource that explores the formation and transformation of Korean culture and society. Each chapter provides a comprehensive and thought-provoking overview on key topics, including compressed modernity, religion, educational migration, social class and inequality, popular culture, digitalization, diasporic cultures and cosmopolitanism. These topics are thoroughly explored by an international team of Korea experts, who provide historical context, examine key issues and debates, and highlight emerging questions in order to set the research agenda for the near future. Providing an interdisciplinary overview of Korean culture and society, this Handbook is an essential read for undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as scholars in Korean Studies, Cultural Studies, Sociology, Anthropology and Asian Studies in general. Youna Kim is Professor of Global Communications at the American University of Paris, France.


Edited by Youna Kim

First published 2017 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2017 selection and editorial matter, Youna Kim; individual chapters, the contributors The right of Youna Kim to be identified as the author of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalog record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Names: Kim, Youna, editor. Title: The Routledge handbook of Korean culture and society / edited by Youna Kim. Description: 1st edition. | New York, NY : Routledge, [2017] | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2016030190 | ISBN 9781138959965 (hardback) | ISBN 9781315660486 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Korea—Civilization—Handbooks, manuals, etc. | Popular culture—Korea—Handbooks, manuals, etc. | Korea—Social life and customs— Handbooks, manuals, etc. Classification: LCC DS904 .R68 2017 | DDC 951.9—dc23 LC record available at ISBN: 9781138959965 (hbk) ISBN: 9781315660486 (ebk) Typeset in Bembo by Apex CoVantage, LLC



Acknowledgements Contributors

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Korean culture and society: a global approach Youna Kim



Formation of Korea


1 Compressed modernity in South Korea: constitutive dimensions, manifesting units, and historical conditions Chang Kyung-Sup 2 Militarized modernity and gendered mass mobilization Seungsook Moon 3 The socioeconomic foundations of South Korea’s democracy movement Joan E. Cho and Paul Y. Chang




4 The seventy-year history of North Korean cultural formation Meredith Shaw and David Kang


5 Religion in twenty-first century Korean lives Don Baker



Contents PART II

Transforming Korea


6 The muddled middle class in globalized South Korea Hagen Koo


7 South Korean youth across three decades Haejoang Cho and Jeffrey Stark


8 The Korean family in transition John Finch and Seung-kyung Kim


9 Immigrant subempire, migrant labor activism, and multiculturalism in contemporary South Korea Jin-kyung Lee 10 North Korea now: turning point for a regime of rightlessness? Morse Tan




Digital Korea


11 How to understand the emergence of digital Korea Dal Yong Jin


12 Modern Korean literature and cultural identity in a pre- and post-colonial digital age Dafna Zur


13 South Korean cinema story in the digital age: 21st-century success on a 20th-century medium? Kyung Hyun Kim


14 Digital media and democratic transition in Korea Ki-Sung Kwak


15 Digital media and the rise of connected individuals in Korea Eun-mee Kim



Global Korea


16 Korean diaspora and diasporic nationalism John Lie




17 An overview of Korean American women’s writing: “skin upon skin” Elaine H. Kim


18 The Korean Wave: Korean popular culture in a digital cosmopolitan world Youna Kim


19 K-Pop music and transnationalism Michael Fuhr


20 Transnational sport and expressions of global Koreanness Rachael Miyung Joo






Back in 2005 in London, when my book Women, Television and Everyday Life in Korea: Journeys of Hope was published by the wonderful support of Routledge, I paid attention to the Western-centric tendency that was reflected in the statement of a leading scholar in the field of Media, Communication and Cultural Studies: “Publishers are very hesitant to publish concrete media cultural studies written about non-central contexts. They are convinced (and horribly, it is largely true) that people in media cultural studies do not read studies from places they do not know or care about.” Ever since Daya Thussu invited me to contribute a chapter on the Korean Wave culture in his well-received volume (Routledge, 2007) Media on the Move: Global Flow and Contra-Flow, I have closely observed the Korean Wave phenomenon in global contexts and interesting dynamics of transnational culture and soft power. In 2013, when Routledge published my volume The Korean Wave: Korean Media Go Global, its surprisingly delightful reception signaled some positive change. Now in 2016 in Paris, this timely interdisciplinary extension Routledge Handbook of Korean Culture and Society seems a meaningful indicator of more positive change in the Western academic world. I want to express my gratitude to Leanne Hinves, Stephanie Rogers, Daya Thussu and Natalie Foster at my publisher Routledge for extending their continual interest, intellectual resources and wonderful support in all possible ways. I am grateful to Anthony Giddens for his valuable advice and friendship, as always. Special thanks to Roger Silverstone (1945–2006) at the London School of Economics and Political Science for initially recommending the publication of my first book on Korea and to James Curran for his gentle conversation and influence on de-Westernization. Kathleen Chevalier, my guardian angel and art history scholar, has shared the delicate beauty of life, the picnic in the Champ de Mars park, the invitation to home-made meals, the optimistic spirit and openness to diverse cultures that make diasporic life conditions more meaningful and enjoyable. I am greatly indebted to her. I am also grateful to Chris Berry, Nick Couldry, Henry Giroux, Koichi Iwabuchi and Christian Joppke for supportive communications, encouraging words and inspiring works. Heartfelt thanks to my dedicated PA and friend Diane Willian for helping me wherever I am. I am deeply appreciative of the contributors in this book for collaborating so willingly and delightfully. Thank you all. Youna Kim Paris, 2016 x


Don Baker is Professor of Korean Civilization in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia. He first fell in love with Korea as a Peace Corps Volunteer English teacher in the southwestern city of Gwang ju from 1971 to 1974. His research and publications focus on the cultural history of Korea since the 16th century, with a special interest in religion, philosophy, traditional science, and the life and thought of Dasan Jeong Yagyong. Chang Kyung-Sup is Professor of Sociology at Seoul National University. He recently authored South Korea under Compressed Modernity: Familial Political Economy in Transition (Routledge, 2010) and edited Contested Citizenship in East Asia: Developmental Politics, National Unity, and Globalization (with Bryan S. Turner, Routledge, 2012), and South Korea in Transition: Politics and Culture of Citizenship (Routledge, 2014). He is currently preparing Developmental Politics in South Korea: From Developmental Liberalism to Neoliberalism and editing The Encyclopedia of Social Theory (with Bryan S. Turner et al.). Paul Y. Chang is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Harvard University. His primary research interest is in South Korean social and political change. He is the author of Protest Dialectics: State Repression and South Korea’s Democracy Movement, 1970–1979 (2015) and co-editor of South Korean Social Movements: From Democracy to Civil Society (Routledge, 2011). His current research project explores the emergence of nontraditional family structures in South Korea, including single-parent households, single-person households, and multicultural families. Haejoang Cho, Professor Emeritus of Yonsei University, is a major South Korean feminist intellectual, co-founder of Another Culture in 1984, and founder of Haja Center in 1999, Korea’s prominent alternative cultural studio for teens. The author of over 10 books, her key works include Reading Texts, Reading Lives in the Postcolonial Era in 3 volumes (1992, 1994); Reflexive Modernity and Feminism (1998); Talking at the Edge: Letters Between Japanese and Korean Feminists (with Ueno Chizuko, 2004); and It’s a Life-Learning Community Again (2007). Joan E. Cho is Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies at Wesleyan University. She received her Ph.D. in political science from the Department of Government at Harvard University. Her primary interests include authoritarian politics, democratization, social movements, and the xi


legacy of authoritarianism. Her dissertation examined the short- versus long-term effects of socioeconomic development on democratization in South Korea. She is currently writing a book on the rise and consequences of a “democratizing generation” in South Korea. John Finch is Lecturer in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, and Associate Director of the Institute for Korean Studies, Indiana University. Trained as a cultural anthropologist, he specializes in the Asia Pacific region, and his research has focused on family, migration and education; gender, culture and cinema; globalization and inequality; and household and community ethnography. He has published articles in referred journals, including Journal of Migration and Ethnic Studies, Korean Studies, Journal of Political Economy and Good Society, Oceania, Cultural Survival Quarterly, and Oral History. Michael Fuhr is Managing Director of the Center for World Music and Lecturer in Ethnomusicology at the University of Hildesheim, Germany. His research interests include issues of identity and globalization, (Korean) popular music, aesthetics, cultural theory, and the history of ethnomusicology. He is the author of Popular Music and Aesthetics: The Historic-Philosophical Reconstruction of Disdain (2007) in German and Globalization and Popular Music in South Korea: Sounding Out K-Pop (Routledge, 2015), and the co-author of Asian Pop Music in Cosmopolitan Europe: K-Pop Fandom in the Age of Globalisation (with Um and Sung, Routledge, forthcoming). Dal Yong Jin is Associate Professor in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University. His major research interests are on social media and platform technologies, mobile technologies and game studies, media (de-)convergence, globalization and media, transnational cultural studies, and the political economy of media. He is the author of several books including New Korean Wave: Transnational Cultural Power in the Age of Social Media (2016), Digital Platforms, Imperialism and Political Culture (Routledge, 2015), De-convergence of Global Media Industries (Routledge, 2013), and Korea’s Online Gaming Empire (2010). Rachael Miyung Joo is Assistant Professor of American Studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, USA. Her research focuses on sports, nationalism, media, and race in transnational contexts. Her book, Transnational Sport: Gender, Media, and Global Korea (2012), detailed how sports shape ideas of global Koreanness in the United States and South Korea. Her new book project, Reading Nature and Nation through Golf, focuses on the cultural significance of golf courses in South Korean and Korean American communities and the environmental effects of Korean golf. David Kang is Professor of International Relations and Business, USC Dornsife, USA. Kang’s latest book is East Asia before the West: Five Centuries of Trade and Tribute (2010). Kang has published numerous scholarly articles in journals, such as International Organization and International Security, and published opinion pieces in the New York Times, Financial Times, and Washington Post. He regularly appears on media such as NPR, CBS News, CNN, and BBC. Elaine H. Kim is Professor of the Graduate School at the University of California at Berkeley, where she teaches undergraduate courses in Asian and Asian Diaspora Studies and graduate seminars in Comparative Ethnic Studies. She has written, edited, and co-edited 10 books including Fresh Talk/Daring Gazes: Issues in Asian American Visual Art and Dangerous Women: Gender and Korean Nationalism. She is the director, writer, and producer of the video documentary Reloaded: Asian Women in Hollywood and Beyond and the associate director of Slaying the Dragon: Asian Women in U.S. Television and Film. xii


Eun-mee Kim is Professor in the Department of Communication and Associate Dean of the School of Social Science at Seoul National University. Before she joined Seoul National University, she taught at Yonsei University and Kookmin University. She was a visiting senior fellow in the Department of Media and Communication at the London School of Economics and in the School of Journalism at Fudan University in Shanghai. Her research is interdisciplinary, and current research interests include audience behaviors, digital media and youth, and cultural industries. Kyung Hyun Kim is Professor of East Asian Languages and Literature and Visual Studies at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of Virtual Hallyu: Korean Cinema of the Global Era (2011) and The Remasculinization of Korean Cinema (2004), both published by Duke University Press. He also is the author of a Korean-language novel, In Search of Lost G (2014). Seung-kyung Kim is the Korea Foundation Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, and Director of the Institute for Korean Studies, Indiana University. Her scholarship addresses the participation of women in social movements as workers and in relation to the state; the processes of transnational migration in the context of globalization and the experiences of families in that process, especially with regard to education; and feminist theories of social change. She is the author of The Korean Women’s Movement and the State: Bargaining for Change (Routledge, 2014) and the co-editor of Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives (Routledge, 2016/2013/2009/2003). Youna Kim is Professor of Global Communications at the American University of Paris, France, joining from the London School of Economics and Political Science where she had taught since 2004, after completing her Ph.D. at the University of London, Goldsmiths College. Her books are Women, Television and Everyday Life in Korea: Journeys of Hope (Routledge, 2005); Media Consumption and Everyday Life in Asia (Routledge, 2008); Transnational Migration, Media and Identity of Asian Women: Diasporic Daughters (Routledge, 2011), Women and the Media in Asia: The Precarious Self (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), The Korean Wave: Korean Media Go Global (Routledge, 2013), and Global Nannies: Minorities and the Digital Media (in preparation). Hagen Koo is Professor of Sociology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, USA. His books include the award-winning book Korean Workers: The Culture and Politics of Class Formation (2001), State and Society in Contemporary Korea, edited (1993), and Modern Korean Labor: A Sourcebook, co-authored (2015). His most recent article is “The Global Middle Class: How Is It Made, What Does It Represent,” in Globalizations 2016. Ki-Sung Kwak is Associate Professor in Asian Media, School of Languages and Cultures, University of Sydney, Australia. He has published widely on media policy and regulation, and comparative media in East Asia. His works have been published in journals such as Television and New Media, Gazette: International Journal for Communication Studies, Media International Australia, and WPCC. He is the author of Media and Democratic Transition in South Korea (Routledge, 2012). He is currently working on his new book, Television in Transition in East Asia: Comparative Insights (Routledge, forthcoming). Jin-kyung Lee is Associate Professor of Korean and Comparative Literature at University of California, San Diego. She is the author of Service Economies: Militarism, Sex Work and Migrant Labor in South Korea (2010), as well as a co-editor of Rat Fire: Korean Stories from the Japanese xiii


Empire (2013). She also co-guested a special issue of The Review of Korean Studies, titled Korean Literature, Literary Studies and Disciplinary Crossings: A Transpacific Comparative Examination (2013). John Lie teaches Social Theory at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include Han Unbound: The Political Economy of South Korea (1998), Multiethnic Japan (2001), Modern Peoplehood (2004), Zainichi (Koreans in Japan): Diasporic Nationalism and Postcolonial Identity (2008), K-pop (2015), and Korean Diaspora (forthcoming). Seungsook Moon is Professor of Sociology at Vassar College, where she served as Chair of the Sociology Department and Director of the Asian Studies Program. She is the author of Militarized Modernity and Gendered Citizenship in South Korea (2005) and a co-editor of Over There: Living with the U.S. Military Empire from World War II to the Present (2010). She has received prestigious awards and grants, including the inaugural endowed chair visiting professorship at Harvard University and a Fulbright Scholarship. She was Associate Editor and Book Review Editor of the Journal of Asian Studies and a member of the Editorial Board of Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews. Meredith Shaw is a Ph.D. candidate in Politics and International Relations at the University of Southern California. Her research interests involve the comparative politics and international relations of Japan, Korea, China, and Mongolia. Her dissertation focuses on the role of imposed cultural change in driving mass social movements and regime change. She holds B.A. degrees in computer science and East Asian studies from Brown University and an M.A. in international relations from Ritsumeikan University. Jeffrey Stark is a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at the University of Toronto and a Ph.D. student in Sociology at Yonsei University. His research interests include social justice and social exclusion/inclusion. His areas of particular geographic interest are Northeast and Southeast Asia, especially the Koreas and Cambodia. Morse Tan, a Supreme Court Fellowship finalist, worked as a Visiting Scholar and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Texas School of Law and holds the rank of full professor at Northern Illinois University College of Law. He has produced numerous law review articles on North Korea. He published North Korea, International Law and the Dual Crises: Narrative and Constructive Engagement (Routledge, 2015). He has taught a seminar on North Korea and has shared his North Korea expertise in the National Law Journal, UPI, WGN+, Radio Free Asia, and Johns Hopkins University and with prominent leaders. Dafna Zur is Assistant Professor in the East Asian Languages and Cultures Department at Stanford University, where she teaches courses on Korean literature, cinema, and popular culture. Her book manuscript traces the unique textual and visual landscape that was created by children’s literature in colonial and postcolonial Korea. She has published articles on North Korean science fiction, the Korean War in children’s literature of North and South Korea, Korean folk tales, and childhood in cinema. Her translations have been published in, The Columbia Anthology of Modern Korean Short Stories, Azalea, Asia Literary Review, and Waxen Wings.



KOREAN CULTURE AND SOCIETY A global approach Youna Kim

Soft power and the Korean Wave Since the late 1990s, South Korea (hereafter Korea) has emerged as a new center for the production of transnational popular culture referred to as the “Korean Wave” or “Hallyu,” including TV dramas, K-pop music, films, animation, online games, smartphones, fashion, cosmetics, food and lifestyles (for details, see Y. Kim 2013). While its popularity is mainly concentrated in neighboring Asian markets, some of the products reach as far as the USA, Mexico, Egypt, Iraq, and most recently, Europe. This is the first instance of a major global circulation of Korean popular culture in history. In the European imagination, Korea was once thought to be sandwiched between Japan and China and known only for exporting cars and electronics products, but now Korea has made itself known through its culture (Le Monde 2011). In June 2011, Korea’s production company held its first European concert in Paris, singing for fans from France, the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, and so on. The company initially scheduled only one show at Le Zénith de Paris concert hall, which seats about 6,000, but the tickets sold out in 15 minutes, prompting hundreds of fans to organize flash mobs in front of the Louvre museum to demand an extra show (Le Figaro 2011; Le Monde 2011). The company thus decided to arrange a second concert, then again the tickets sold out in minutes. An online-based fan club in the UK organized similar flash mobs in London’s Trafalgar Square to demand shows from K-pop acts (Guardian 2011). In 2012, Korean singer Psy became a global phenomenon with his song Gangnam Style and horse-riding dance move – the most watched video on YouTube. To celebrate the 130th anniversary of Korea–France diplomatic ties, in 2016 the world’s largest K-pop festival was held in Paris with the attendance of Korean President Park Geun-hye, attracting about 13,500 Korean Wave fans and offering exclusive visibility of Korean culture (Le Figaro 2016; Le Monde 2016). The Korean military romance drama Descendants of the Sun has been sold to 27 countries including the UK and translated into 32 different languages, while raising issues of an obsession with Korean TV dramas and the continual influence of the Korean Wave culture (BBC News 2016a; CNBC 2016). One unique feature of this TV drama is its military setting with patriotism, and the military theme has resonated because the armed forces play a significant part in South Korea with the constant looming threat of war with North Korea. The impact of the Korean Wave culture has reached into communist North Korea. In 2005, a 20-year-old North Korean soldier defected across the demilitarized zone and the reason given, according to South Korean military officials, was that the soldier 3

Youna Kim

had grown to admire and yearn for South Korea after watching its TV dramas which had been smuggled across the border of China (New York Times 2005). Similar cases have continued to arise, while the means of access to the Korean Wave culture has expanded through the use of the Internet and cellular phones among North Koreans (Daily NK 2011; New York Times 2016). In the past, national images of Korean society were negatively associated with, and limited to, the demilitarized zone, division and political disturbances, but now such images are gradually giving way to the vitality of trendy, transnational entertainers and cutting-edge technology in a digital, cosmopolitan world. The success of Korean popular culture overseas is drawing an unfamiliar spotlight on a culture that was once colonized or overshadowed for centuries by powerful countries and has long been under the influence of Western and Japanese cultural products. The sudden attraction of the Korean Wave culture has presented a surprise. The growing interest in the Korean Wave has triggered a drastic increase in foreign tourists wishing to know and experience Korea; each year, about 13 million foreign tourists visit Korea, and two-thirds of the visitors are influenced by the Korean Wave (Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism 2016). It has further prompted an interest in learning the Korean language, culture and society; each year, about 100,000 international students come to Korea, and a significant motive is their sudden interest in, and imagination about, Korea generated by the Korean Wave culture (Yonhap News 2013; Korean Ministry of Education 2016). The Korean government sees this phenomenon as a way to sell a dynamic image of the nation through “soft power” (Nye 2004), the ability to attract and influence international audiences without coercion. The culture industry has taken a center stage in Korea, with an increased recognition that the export of media cultural products not only boosts the economy but also strengthens the nation’s image and soft power (Y. Kim 2013). The Korean Wave is not just a cultural phenomenon but fundamentally about the creation of soft power, nation branding and sustainable development, albeit with its limits, through transnational meaning-making processes. The nation can be reinvented as a more favourable and lasting brand by the government’s cultural policy that global circulations of media cultural products promote the construction of soft power, an attractive image of the nation as a whole. Digital mobile generations today look for diverse sources of entertainment, culture and identity, not necessarily American or European. The Korean Wave has become a cultural resource for the growing mass-mediated popular imagination, which is situated within a broader process of global consumerism and a new sphere of digital culture. In a sense, the phenomenon of the Korean Wave is one of imagined cosmopolitanism in the realm of global consumer culture. Importantly, the primary site for the development and proliferation of shared global consciousness is located in the mundane, representational domain of the mass media and information and communication technologies, intersected with global interdependencies of transnational migration and digital diaspora today. Thanks to the Korean Wave popular culture, the awareness and image of Korea has perhaps changed in the popular mind abroad, yet this awareness does not necessarily lead to an increase in understanding of Korean culture and society in any depth. A country’s image, as sources of soft power, can be both very powerful and very constraining. The global audiences may expect certain conformity with the very partial, or extremely polished, image in the popular cultural forms of K-pop music, dramas and films, without further developing an ability to understand the country’s actual conditions and sociopolitical issues. The relatively happy, fun, trouble-free, cosmopolitan consumption of popular cultural forms does not always translate into an in-depth understanding of the history, culture and society within which the popular cultural forms are embedded and produced. At this fascinating historical moment of Korea in a digitally connected global era, Routledge Handbook of Korean Culture and Society aims to be a timely resource for international readers who 4

Korean culture and society

wish to understand Korean culture and society and gain useful insights. This volume is intended as an accessible and interdisciplinary resource that explores the for mation and transformation of Korean culture and society and major social phenomena and cultural trends in contemporary Korea, ranging from compressed modernity, democratization, social class and inequality, gender and family change and youth culture to popular culture, digital Korea, Korean diasporic culture, nationalism and cosmopolitanism. Each chapter is intended as a thought-provoking piece on a specific subject, providing its historical context, critical issues, complexities and paradoxes, or emerging questions in order to set the research agenda for the near future.

Formation of Korea Korea was so little understood that when it appeared at all in Western textbooks, it was often restricted to issues related to the Korean War and the Cold War; however, in recent years the neglect of Korean history has been replaced by a developing interest by Western academics partly due to Korea’s emergence as a major economic, cultural and political presence in the world (Seth 2016). Although some brands such as Samsung and LG have been fixtures in Western households, few consumers know that these products are from Korean companies, and the majority of students entering college are unable to find Korea on a map of the world (Shin 2014). In Western consciousness, many are familiar with China and Japan, yet have little knowledge of the Korean peninsula with its distinctive long tradition that lies between them. After the relatively under-recorded ancient times (before 1400) and the well-recorded period of the Chosun dynasty (1392–1910), Korea faced Japanese colonialism (1910–45), the arbitrary national division by the United States and the Soviet Union into opposed states, North and South (1948), the Korean War (1950–53), and the military rule and successive authoritarian regimes (1961–93) with dual processes of modernization and democratization that have involved sociopolitical turmoil, infringements of freedom and inequalities in all spheres of life. In both the South and the North, Koreans are fully aware that they are the products of their past; while always a point of contention, the historical consciousness of Koreans is key to understanding Korea today (Hwang 2010). Due to the history of oppression and marginalization by foreign powers, Koreans can emotively identify themselves with han (the deep feeling of an internalized anger) as a key cultural concept of Korean narrative representing the nation’s collective emotion (Park 2008). Modern Korean historiography remains highly politicized, passionate and emotive. The history of modern Korea, whether written by traditionalists, nationalists, revisionists or Marxists, remains contentious, tendentious and as confused and complex as the Korean response to modernity itself, both the robust “economic miracle” rhetoric and the darker side of Korea’s performance as residues of military authoritarianism (Buzo 2002). Korea presents the Westerner not with a smooth narrative of progress towards industrial mastery, but with a fractured, shattered twentieth century history (Cumings 2005). The top-down industrialization and modernization through the Park Chung Hee (1961–79) state’s guided economy, known as the “Miracle on the Han River,” shifted from a predominantly rural, underdeveloped agricultural economy to a capitalist, industrialized, high-income economy with highly developed heavy industry and manpower planning (Kim and Sorensen 2011). Few periods have changed Korean history more than Park’s developmental era that remained authoritarian throughout his 18 years of political regime; economically Korea grew out of poverty into an industrial powerhouse, albeit with political, social and economic costs in terms of democratization, justice and equality (Kim and Vogel 2011). The state with its rigid centralization combined with a competent technocracy played a dominant role as a direct economic agent and regulator in industrialization, and the Korean case serves as a prototype for the Asian 5

Youna Kim

developmental model. Studies on Korean development assign the highest importance to the central role of its developmental state for Korea’s economic success. Although it is true that all modern societies intervene in their economies one way or another, the Korean state stands out in terms of the depth of such intervention and its ability to discipline the business sector while maintaining control over labour organizations (Koo 1993). Korea’s rapid economic development was enabled by a tight alliance formed between the strong, developmental state and the big business chaebol (family-owned and family-managed business groups), by repressing labour and excluding it from the benefits of economic growth (E. M. Kim 1997). Economic modernization was seen as an essential trajectory of nation building and state formation as a key modern project in the divided nation with a colonial legacy (K. J. Kim 2006). Nationalism plays a decisive role in the whole processes of state formation and modernization. The modernization process of Korea has been rapid and condensed – a compressed modernity that has taken place in a short period of time and mainly in the urban centers anchored on familialism (Chang Kyung-Sup, Chapter 1 in this volume). If measured in terms of the “speed of catching up with Western societies,” Koreans’ pursuit of economic, sociocultural and political modernization is considered to be unprecedentedly successful and complex, with the unique tendency of perpetually reinforcing a family-centered social order that has been regarded as evidence of deficient modernity or has been deliberately ignored (Chang 2010). On one hand, Korea has achieved incomparably fast capitalist industrialization, social structural change and political democratization, and on the other hand, has sustained a particularly strong family-centrism, an overwhelming influence of family on social order as well as private life. Men’s military mobilization and economic mobilization were intimately intertwined, and this combination contributed to the consolidation of the modern gender hierarchy, organized around the family and the division of labour between man as provider and woman as housewife (Seungsook Moon, Chapter 2 in this volume). The notion of militarized modernity reflects the peculiar historical circumstances under which modernity has been pursued in Korean society – such as the national division, the prolonged military confrontation between the two Koreas, and the sense of urgency about catching up with advanced countries (Moon 2005). Gender shaped the process of mass mobilization of Koreans, whom the modernizing state constructed as a unified people and dutiful nationals in its pursuit of modernity, and in turn the gendered paths of mobilization shaped the ways in which women and men obtained new subjectivity as citizens in the process of modern nation building. The unifying impulse of the masculine nationalist discourse homogenizes the nation and normalizes women and women’s chastity so that they properly belong to the patriarchal order; women who brave conflicting forces are endangered by, and dangerous to, the integrity of the masculinist discourse of nationalism (Kim and Choi 1998). Studies on modern East Asia including Korea importantly recognize issues of gender and nationalism, the role of the state in gender construction, gender performance and sexuality (Molony et al. 2016). The emergence of the nation, linked to the rise of the modern capitalist system, and the power of nationalism produced gendered subjectivities and transformed the ways in which Koreans perceived themselves as gendered beings (Jager 2003). In Korea, no less than anywhere else, modernity is gendered innately and consequently varies with the multiplicity of diversity of women’s and men’s relations to historical processes (Kendall 2002). In the profoundly conservative society in which there was little collective mobilization of women, democratization has provided the political space to advance gender equality and contributed to shifts in broader cultural attitudes towards gender relations in post-authoritarian Korea, although effective gender equality, both legal and quotidian, is still far from realized (Jones 2006). 6

Korean culture and society

Social movement groups including workers and students struggled to achieve the status of a democracy from the 1960s to the 1980s – the same period as the development of the national economy – culminating in the 1987 People’s Resistance Movement against the authoritarian developmentalist state (Han 2014). The Korean case is unique for its simultaneous economic development and democratization, contradicting the widely accepted Western model of economic development preceding that of democracy. Korea’s path to modernity and democracy shows that the structural foundations of industrialization did have a stabilizing effect on authoritarian rule initially, but these same modernization structures also laid the social foundations for the emergence of a successful democracy movement (Joan E. Cho and Paul Y. Chang, Chapter 3 in this volume). Relatively less-known democracy events in the 1960s and the 1970s, an authoritarian period considered by many to be the dark age for democracy in Korea, laid the groundwork for the culmination of the democracy movement in the 1980s (Chang 2015). Today, democratic politics and civil society activism remain both vibrant and contested, each influencing the other dialectically (Armstrong 2007). The contesting dual movements from above and below reposition not just the functional roles of the state and civil society but also their relative political power (H. Kim 2013). The Korean social system is rooted in Confucianism, with a hierarchical political and social structure that made obedience to higher authority and the state power paramount (Heo and Roehrig 2010). Issues constraining democratic consolidation include traditional Confucian cultures and internal clashes over inherited values and acquired norms (e.g. Asian values versus the Western notion of transparency) as manifested by the practice of crony capitalism and corruption involving politicians (Kihl 2005). Koreans are significantly more distrusting of their representative institutions, their parliament and political parties, than are their peers in Latin American democracies; the levels of trust that Koreans register for these institutions are among the lowest of any established democracies (Diamond and Shin 2014). There is little faith and trust in political leaders, whose identity is often perceived of as neither qualified nor honest (Helgesen 1998). Both in Korea and in Europe, the rise of new social movements is correlated with greater economic prosperity, suggesting that issues of identity and quality of life become important once a certain level of economic and political development is reached (Shin and Chang 2011). The concept of equity, with the heightened desire for economic equality along with political liberty, becomes increasingly important in Korea, where rapid growth seems to be concentrated in narrow sectors of the economy and much of the spectacularly visible wealth produced by that growth is perceived to be monopolized by a relatively small number of individuals or by largely family-owned business chaebol (J. Oh 1999). New forms of contentious activism have emerged to overcome deeply entrenched divides in South Korean society, appeal to universal and depoliticized values of human rights concerning North Korea, and build bridges between ideologically opposed political adversaries to enhance inter-Korean relations (Chubb 2014). In North Korea, there is no sign of overt, organized, oppositional movement against the extremely powerful authoritarian regime. The continued existence of an unreformed North Korea today suggests that North Korea’s historical trajectory is distinctive, following its own path of self-reliance, and that the homogenizing forces of globalization and the reach of American power have their limits (Armstrong 2013). The governing principle of juche (self-reliance ideology, subjecthood or being a master of one’s own fate) is a product of North Koreans’ experiences with colonialism, the Korean War and economic development, and juche has become the central institution around which the North Korean society operates (Suh 2013). Juche was historically composed of postcolonial, politically Marxist and culturally indigenous Korean factors, in addition to a divine religious aspect (Song 2011). North Korea during its revolution from 1945 to 1950 embarked on an alternative path to modernity, opposing both colonial and capitalist 7

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modernity (S. Kim 2013). Since its founding in 1948, the North Korean state has been ruled exclusively by the Kim family, and the regime’s unifying principle is not nationalism but loyalty to the Kim family. There are cult phenomena in every society, but the degree and scope of the cults of the North Korean leaders are too extreme and too pervasive to be compared with the cults that have existed in other societies (Lim 2015). The puzzle of the North Korean political system is not the practice of the extraordinary cult of personality, but the extraordinary continuity of this practice and the fact that this particular mode of rule has shown a remarkable resilience, defying the contrary historical trend found in most other revolutionary societies (Kwon and Chung 2012). Although the leader Kim may be seen by the West to be the only important nod in North Korean politics, the leader cannot rule by fiat, but individuals and institutions below him matter; at the very least, they inform and execute strategic-level decisions and make operational decisions based on their understanding of the leader’s wishes (McEachern 2010). North Korea is neither irrational nor undeterrable; because they are not irrational, there is a basis for diplomacy and some form of conditional engagement with North Korea that empowers itself militarily with nuclear ambitions but starves its citizens at home (Cha and Kang 2003). North Korea’s society and culture have changed significantly since the end of the Cold War and especially by three major intertwined events of the 1990s – the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the death of Kim Il Sung in 1994, and the onset of a bleak period of famine – even though it did not undergo political regime change (Meredith Shaw and David Kang, Chapter 4 in this volume). One conventional assumption about North Korea is that because the political regime has not changed since the creation of the state, then North Korea must be a static society that does not change or in which sociocultural change is insignificant. In North Korea, where people experienced cataclysmic social upheaval during and after the famine of the mid-1990s, the assumption of a static society is especially untenable; North Koreans are the agents of change (Smith 2015). The political system became delegitimized as the government continually failed to deliver on its promises and as people of North Korea became aware of the fact that they were poor and their neighbours prosperous. Since the mid-1990s, when the famine took approximately one million North Korean lives, escalating numbers of people have crossed the Tumen river into China in search of food resources, job opportunities and refuge, risking their lives to make their way to South Korea. A startling 80%–90% of North Korean migrants identified themselves as Christian when they arrived in South Korea, and around 70% continued to rely on church services by replacing juche religiosity with Christianity (Jung 2015) or leaving “the loving care of the fatherly leader” (Martin 2004). In North Korea, most formal religious activity has been suppressed, and expressions of religiosity are found through the concept of juche, which has spiritual dimensions no less than political and moral ones; on the contrary, South Korea offers its people a great variety of religious, philosophical and spiritual beliefs and practices (Baker 2008). Although South Korea is largely ethnically homogeneous, in its widely varied spirituality it resembles highly multicultural societies such as the USA and Canada, with the significant difference that in South Korea there is no single dominant religion that can claim the allegiance of more than a quarter of the population. Korean spirituality shows an unusual degree of diversity and complexity, moving from folk religion through Buddhism and Neo-Confucianism to Christianity and newer religions (Don Baker, Chapter 5 in this volume). Korean Buddhism and Confucianism have played significant parts in the development of Korean culture, and shamanism has greatly influenced all forms of religion in all periods of Korean history, including Christianity in modern times (Grayson 2002). Even though shamanism is widely stigmatized and despised as superstition today, shamanism remains a cultural practice in which people make use of shamanic ritual to deal with their experience of misfortune (C. Kim 2003). Occupying a contradictory position within the Korean cultural 8

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system, shamanism has survived as a cultural domain of misfortune in a highly industrial and precarious society. In the process of industrialization and modernization, Buddhism as being part of traditional Korea might be considered as having nothing to offer in the nation’s path to a modern and advanced society. On the other hand, if one considers the philosophy and spirit of modernity that has been characterized as the individual’s search for self, freedom and equality, it can be argued that Buddhism or a vision of Buddhist modernity has much to offer in the shaping of modernity in Korea (Park 2010). With mostly middle- and upper-class adherents, Korean Christianity plays an increasingly prominent role in the social and political events of Korea, while emerging with its wealth and extensive diaspora as a major player in the global church (Kim and Kim 2015). Korea presents a rare case in which a substantial proportion of the population has converted to Christianity in a country where other religions are already established, and it is necessary to recognize the degree of the interaction of religions within the religious plurality of contemporary Korea. Indeed, an overwhelming majority of Korean Buddhists and Christians continue to identify their convictions and practices as characteristically Confucian; since Confucianism is not a religion with an organized membership, it is compatible with and complementary to religions that are not strictly exclusionist (Tu 1996). The core of Korean societal culture revolves around the rigid hierarchy that originates from the structure of a family system rooted in Confucianism, and the deeply male-centered Confucian influence on women’s position is represented with three forms of obedience – to the power of the father, the husband and the son. In modern times, the apparent waning of Confucianism as an official ideology and as an educational institution does not undermine its presence as a civil religion of Korean society, as a code of ethics in government, school and family. Although Korea has established capitalism and democracy as norms, Confucianism as a cultural grammar continues to regulate the customs and the consciousness of the Koreans, who find themselves negotiating between Confucianism and capitalism, hierarchy-conscious societal culture and equality, and collectivism and individualism (Chang and Kalmanson 2010). Education fever in Korea is the product of the diffusion of traditional Confucian values and attitudes towards learning and status, and the concern for educational attainment is not confined to the urban middle-class of the capital but is an all-pervasive feature of Korean society (Seth 2002). Korea has the highest rate (70%) of participation in tertiary education of any OECD country (OECD 2009). The rapid and sustained economic growth since the 1960s can partly be attributed to knowledge accumulation through long-term heavy investments in education. Korea has competitively achieved a knowledge economy, an economy that uses knowledge as the key engine of growth (Suh and Chen 2007). While being humble, understated and respectful is an important attitude in the cultures of East Asia including Korea, the education systems encourage competition and ranking of ability at a very early stage (Hsieh 2013). A notable feature of Korea is the widespread participation in supplementary education to gain a head start for competitive examinations, which can facilitate admission to top universities and improve life prospects (OECD 2014a). In Korea, nearly 90% of primary school students receive some sort of private supplementary tutoring known as shadow education, and education in this society does not always play a positive role in reducing inequality and preparing citizens for inclusive economic growth (Asian Development Bank 2012). Rich families are clearly able to pay for greater quantities and better quality of private tutoring and schooling, at home and abroad, than can lowerincome and poor families. In the 1970s and the 1980s, most Koreans who left the country were of the lower middle class and working class seeking to improve their economic status, whereas since the 1990s there has been a strong tendency among upper- and middle-class Koreans to leave the country. Korean migration has changed in character by the educational exodus of upper- and middle-class younger generations yearning for a differentiation of lifestyle and the power of social 9

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and cultural capital through education abroad (Y. Kim 2011). Educational migration is now a widespread and almost normal middle-class phenomenon, including short-term frequent travel and study abroad sojourning, not only by university students but also by pre-university students for “early study abroad” (Lo et al. 2015; M. Lee 2016), which is driven in part by the practical and symbolic value of the English language as a marketable commodity and upward occupational mobility. English is a language of inequality, supporting and renewing relations of power, including the capitalist relations of oppression (Park and Wee 2012). Unequal access to opportunities, resources and social capital in the global chain of connections constitutes a critical social divide (Tsai 2016). Class-specific educational disparities and subsequent consequences continue to reinforce socioeconomic inequality and undermine social cohesion in transforming Korea.

Transforming Korea The Korean development experience has been dependent on historically specific conditions, the powerful developmentalist state, capitalist economic growth, education fever and widening socioeconomic inequality, leading to the perceptions of deteriorating living and working conditions for the majority of Koreans, and thus calling for a new, more responsive political economy (Hart-Landsberg et al. 2007). As reflected in education and consumption, a major social concern in Korea today is with growing inequality and the shrinking middle class in neoliberal globalization; the Korean middle class is not simply shrinking in size but is also becoming internally divided and fractured between a small minority of affluent privileged people and a large majority suffering from job market insecurity and declining income, rendering the middle-class identity increasingly muddled in its social meaning (Hagen Koo, Chapter 6 in this volume). Historically, Korean workers have developed a distinctive class consciousness, with an intense feeling of grievance and resentment against the industrial system, and this class consciousness has been expressed in diverse forms of cultural, organizational and institutional activities to resist the dominant structure of social control and inequality (Koo 2001). At the same time, the history of labour and class in industrial society has always been entangled with the development of modern expressions of gender. The notion of “sexing class” suggests how biological sex, and the constructions of gender that emerge along with it, contribute in fundamental ways to the production of class, worker identities, new stratification and relative deprivation (Barraclough and Faison 2009). Korea has experienced a rise in relative poverty and income inequality since the 1997 Asian financial crisis, a major turning point in the economy and income distribution patterns. Korea’s relative poverty rate is now the 8th highest in the OECD, and in addition, Korea ranks visibly lower than the OECD average in 6 of the 11 categories of the OECD’s well-being index (OECD 2014b). Demands to resolve many of the emergent domestic problems associated with inequality and social exclusion have arisen. Shifting away from Korea’s traditional economic “catch-up” strategy, a crucial part of its after-development strategy is to address welfare and income distribution gaps and deal with rising inequality in uncertain times of the new economy (D’Costa 2015). The future of youth in Korea becomes much less certain in terms of life-making, or investments in the self to ensure one’s forward career progression as embodied human capital, in the uncertain times of economic globalization and neoliberal restructuring (Anagnost et al. 2013). Not only are the forms of life inhabited by their parents in terms of relatively secure employment and benefits no longer available to them, but also they seem no longer desirable in the transfigured imaginings of what it means to make a life. Student and youth groups have grown increasingly frustrated and angry at their precarious reality and bleak future of low wages, high unemployment, insecure employment situations, inequality and scarce opportunities for advancement (Haejoang Cho and Jeffrey Stark, Chapter 7 in this volume). The value of attaining the highest 10

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educational achievements accompanied by the strong social norm of fulfilling family expectations has conditioned and dominated the life experiences of youth in East Asia, generating distinctive developmental issues of psychological well-being and multiple sources of tensions (Yi 2013). Korea has the highest suicide rate (29.1 per 100,000 persons) among the OECD countries, outpacing Hungary and Japan, and this rate is more than twice the OECD average of 12.5 per 100,000 persons (OECD 2016). Because of the stigma and negative perceptions of mental illness, Koreans have largely resisted Western psychotherapy for their growing anxieties and depression; this strong resistance to Western medicalized approaches to mental illness and preference for traditional folk interpretations is embedded in a long history that is intertwined with the legacy of Japanese colonialism and Korea’s dramatic encounter with modernity (Yoo 2016). The sudden rise of suicides since the late 1990s is viewed as a by-product of Korea’s rapid industrialization, educational competition, and familial expectations and social pressures to succeed in this hypercompetitive society. Youth employment rate (for those aged 15–24) in Korea is one of the lowest among the OECD countries because, with the university enrolment rate high and job preferences concentrated on a limited range of jobs, young people spend too much time acquiring irrelevant or unnecessary academic credentials and qualifications and delay their entry into the labour market (Korean Ministry of Employment and Labour 2015). A unique concern within Korea is to address “a crisis of over-education,” in a way that does not reduce young people’s opportunities to undertake tertiary study, and improve the connections between tertiary education and the labour market (OECD 2009). The labour market remains under considerable stress, with a large share of workers in non-standard or non-regular jobs, and a developing mismatch between the non-regular jobs on offer in the service sector and the increasingly university-educated younger entrants to the job market with skills beyond those used in traditional services (Cho et al. 2012). Wages and working conditions of non-regular workers and in small- and medium-sized enterprises are mostly left to the whim of the market mechanism, as implemented in reaction to the 1997 Asian financial crisis and again to the 2008 global economic crisis (Bae 2014). The increasing unevenness in the distribution of life chances in the new economy makes all the difference between success and failure, and raises a question of to what extent the new regime of capitalist accumulation relies on the energy of youth and its optimism and resilience in the face of life’s challenges (Anagnost et al. 2013). Korea’s dualistic labour market, with non-regular workers accounting for a third of employment, and the underemployment in some segments of the population, notably youth and women, remain important labour market challenges (Dao et al. 2014). The low female employment rate (53.5%, the 10th lowest in the OECD) in contrast to women’s high level of tertiary education (64%, the 2nd highest in the OECD), and the gender gap in female earnings (64%, the largest gap in the OECD) reflect Korea’s underutilization of its human capital, the high share of women in non-regular jobs (OECD 2014b), and the far lower share of women in management leadership positions (less than 5% of the total managers in Korea) compared to 20% to 50% in other industrialized countries (Renshaw 2011). From the 1980s onward, women in Korea have gained higher levels of education, and the commensurate expectations have become a driving motor in women’s aspirations for work, economic power, independence, freedom and self-fulfillment. However, women often experience gendered labor market inequity setting limits on patterns of participation, reinforcing women’s socioeconomic position on the margins of work systems, and thus revealing the illusion of the language of choice that the new capacities of education appear to promise. The enlargement of choice can be particularly illusory for women in contemporary Korea, where gendered socioeconomic and cultural conditions persist and continue to structure labour market outcomes and lifestyles (Y. Kim 2012). Educated women have a strong interest in the idea of individualization, autonomous choice and the aspiration for self-actualization; 11

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however, the interest in individualization is a growing response not to the successful actualization of that aspiration, but to the frustrated desire for subjective autonomy that is increasingly felt in the “no choice” situation. The increasing delay of marriage or non-marriage is one of the most prominent features of family change in Korea today. The comparative analysis of Eastern and Western societies (e.g. Korea, Japan, and the USA) finds similar economic and social forces at work, but the impact of these on family life reflects differences in cultural history and social context (Tsuya and Bumpass 2004). Family is at once central to society and the crucible of social change. The transformation of this fundamental institution – late marriage, rising divorce, the increasing number of single-person households, an aging society and the declining birth rate – is among the most profound changes of contemporary times (John Finch and Seung-kyung Kim, Chapter 8 in this volume). Korea and Japan are the two OECD countries where childbirth remains strongly associated with marriage; by contrast, over half of births are outside marriage in France and Sweden (OECD 2011). The postponement of, and subsequent decline in, marriage in Korea has been the main determinant of the lowest fertility rate (less than 1.2 children per woman) among OECD countries. Reform of public family benefits is not sufficient; it is essential for a “work and family policy” to recognize that workplace practices should give men and women an equal opportunity in fulfilling their labour market aspirations, as women are often expected to discontinue their career on childbirth and find it difficult to combine family care and work (OECD 2007). Historically, patriarchal gender ideology has its most direct effect on women factory workers by defining women primarily in terms of their roles in families – as dutiful daughters towards their families, their employers and the state (S. K. Kim 1997). The core identity for women of Asia is constructed by the “intimate work” and feminine roles expected of them within their own families in their own society (Emiko and Kaoru 2014). The concern about ultra-low fertility has multiple grounds, including nationalism (nationalistic pride in having a growing population), military concerns (sufficient number of able-bodied young people to maintain the size of its armed forces) and economic concerns (correlation between the declining number of consumers and the declining economy) (Rindfuss and Choe 2015). The implications of the 1997 Asian economic crisis are not just confined to the economic sphere, but it has also created social pressures to change the pattern of family composition and consumption, which has had a direct bearing on fertility (Jones et al. 2009). In response to such shifting demographics today, multiculturalism has become a central part of Korea’s public discourse on its critical shortage of marriageable women and an extraordinary rise in the number of foreign brides and workers entering the country. Amid predictions that households with migrant women will comprise 20% of the total number of Korean households by the year 2020, the notion of “multicultural family” or “multicultural society” among Koreans presents a surprise at the possibility of such a social transformation. Some migrant women arrange a paper marriage to Korean men to circumvent Korea’s restrictive immigration laws and acquire lifelong access to Korea’s labour market (Freeman 2011). Global householding strategies are sustained via practices of work and marriage migration, and the household itself is coming to be recognized as a site for ongoing processes of marketization and neoliberal reform (Elias and Gunawardana 2013). Economic factors, familial obligations, cultural fantasies and imaginings, and personal motives come into play in the varied and uneven processes of cross-border marriages, generating new forms of empowerment and also disempowerment for women (Constable 2005). Major ethnic and linguistic minorities include North Koreans, Korean Chinese, and migrants from Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand and Mongolia. Multicultural education for these minorities and their children has been a key policy agenda since 2008 (Kang 2015). The Korean government deploys multiculturalist and multiethnic subimperialist nationalism in domesticating Korea’s new transnational labour – proletarian and marginal, productive and 12

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reproductive labour (J. Lee 2010). While state policies simultaneously assimilate and racialize migrants, the meaning of Koreanness must now be defined as a socioeconomic, cultural and political identity to include subjects of multiple ethnicities and move beyond the exclusive association with a single ethnicity (Jin-kyung Lee, Chapter 9 in this volume). Koreans tend to use the term “multiculturalism” to describe an increasingly diverse Korea as the antithesis or counterconcept of ethnic nationalism, a single ethnic group of “pure-blood” that is descended from a common ancestor (C. S. Kim 2011). The strong sense of unity and national pride displayed by Koreans arises in large part from an identity based on a common bloodline, and the deep-rooted sense of ethnic unity has served Koreans in a variety of ways from being an ideology of anti-colonialism to that of national unification (Shin 2006). Migrants’ experiences of discrimination and racism are revealing in a multicultural Korea, where common discourse about race surrounds issues of Korean homogeneity and pure-blood nationalism (Han 2016). The great challenges of integration as well as unification require self-understanding, raising questions of culture and history in modern times (Lewis and Sesay 2002). Over 27,000 North Koreans have settled in South Korea, and 70% of the defectors are young people in their teens, 20s and 30s who may be subjected to and traumatized further by prejudice and discrimination in a new, competitive society (A. Lee 2016). Conditions under the current North Korean ruler have taken a turn for the worse, with tighter border control (that tells border guards to shoot defectors), arbitrary executions and persistent violations of human rights of its own citizens (Tan 2015). This most unjust regime has precipitated the worst combined human rights and security crises in the world, resulting now in an unprecedented concentration of responses in the global community and a historical inflection point that can lead to major changes in North Korea (Morse Tan, Chapter 10 in this volume). North Korea has to operate in a highly, and increasingly, unfavourable environment, although regional dynamics and perceptions on what North Korea means for the regional order reveal a far more complex picture, contrary to the seemingly unified global concern about the problem of nuclear proliferation (Cho 2016). There may be no alternative to the current North Korean policies if judged from the prospects of the regime’s survival, which is the supreme goal of North Korean policy makers (Lankov 2013). It is a failed state not primarily because it is run by a leadership obsessed with the cult of personality or because it is a one-party state entirely devoid of democracy, but because it subscribes to the failed concept of the Soviet-inspired socialist command economy that insists on a centrally planned system (French 2007). Therefore, North Korea is liable to become unstable. Instability of power worsens human rights violations due to political necessity, as indicated by North Korean refugees (Korean Institute for National Unification 2014). According to refugee insights into North Korea, citizens are not quiescent; disaffection may be channelled into private actions that, while not overtly political, may nonetheless have longer-run implications for the stability of state socialism (Haggard and Noland 2011). One notable example of such action is the willingness of citizens to engage in private market (technically illegal) economic activities and access alternative sources of information and media entertainment that are likely to conflict with official ideology. Most young people in Pyongyang possess cell phones, rich and poor alike enjoy listening to South Korean pop music, and North Koreans are becoming addicted to South Korean TV dramas developing new trends in clothing, hair, cosmetics, beauty standards and cosmetic surgery in North Korea (Tudor and Pearson 2015). People are becoming more individualistic in their appearance and lifestyle. This changing phenomenon can be seen as a kind of socioeconomic and cultural guerrilla warfare of the politically powerless masses against a ruling political class (Hassig and Oh 2015). Despite tight controls set by the regime’s authority, consumption of the South Korean media provides a new framework for making sense of the world, with a possibility of a multitude of meanings to emerge and circulate in North Korea (Y. Kim 2013). 13

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Global media culture helps to create an important condition for the practice of reflexivity, by opening up a rare space where people can make sense of their life conditions in highly critical ways and can imagine new possibilities of freedom, social mobility and individualization within the multiple constraints of their social context (Y. Kim 2005). The media cannot be left out of the meaning of contemporary everyday experience, since the media mediate that experience as cultural tools and integrated resources (Y. Kim 2008). Therefore, it is important to recognize the specific ways in which the cultural experience of the media impinges upon, and becomes integrated into, the changing lives of people in contemporary Korea. Media cultural consumption and technological change are socially constructed and do not emerge without the involvement of the users who have to accept them as relevant in everyday life. In South Korea, nearly everyone takes some pride in the national accomplishments of the past, and yet many worry that these achievements will transform the nation into something hardly recognizable as “Korean”; one of the principal ways through which they attempt to understand the meaning of these transformations is by considering the material changes, mundane material culture and consumer practices in South Korean daily life (Nelson 2000). South Korea is a very status-conscious society, and the assertion of status has become an important element in the definition of its urban middle class (Lett 1998), releasing energies not only for employment but also consumption of status, or positional, goods, such as imported fashion and foreign education for their children (Chua 2000). Popular media culture has historically played a key role in negotiating the ongoing and changing internal tensions of gender and modernity, not only for the nation-state but above all for the everyday lives of people, especially women, as cultural participants (Driscoll and Morris 2014). Transformations of the nation, class, gender, modernity and identity are fundamentally intertwined with the media and consumption. The media’s complicity is extensive, promoting modern consumer culture and influencing matters of societal configuration, social processes and identity construction (Holden and Scrase 2006). The expansion, connectivity, hybridization and plurality of cultures is acknowledged more than ever in today’s digitally connected world (Fitzsimmons and Lent 2013). Transnational television drama, for instance, is an important factor in considering the ways in which the cross-border media impact upon a transcultural understanding of the self and identity moving beyond national boundaries (J. Kim 2014). Culture and especially the cultural or creative industries have risen to a place of primacy in the construction and mobilization of East Asia as a regional identity and affiliation (Berry et al. 2009). Culture is constituted in complex, powerful, and not always obvious political ways that may both undermine and stimulate the nation’s stability and understanding of identity. Changes and transformations at the micro and macro levels are increasingly related to digital media technologies, popular cultural markets, the digital generation and mobile cultures.

Digital Korea The demographic and cultural realities of East Asia – including mass urbanization, commuting lifestyles, small home living, young and techno-conscious consumers, and the willingness of governments to lead technological and economic change – create excellent conditions for digital development and consumer acceptance (Holroyd and Coates 2012). The foundation for Korea’s remarkable digital development was laid in the 1980s. Since then, the Internet has grown rapidly, with broadband Internet subscribers reaching over 40 million out of the 50 million population, and Korea now strives to become the “smartest country” in the world (Korean Internet & Security Agency 2015). Given Korea’s mountainous terrain and its relative lack of national resources, digital development as the country’s destiny has been at the core of national competitiveness strategies (Oh and Larson 2011). After the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Korea identified 14

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information and communication technology (ICT) as a competitive path to economic recovery, and the distinctive Korean cultural characteristic that expedited the growth of high-speed Internet was a demand for quick change – moving from a calm and patient Confucian characteristic to a desire for quick communication, quick contact and quick results (Jin 2010). Digital Korea is not only about the growth of digital technologies but also digital culture and eventually the convergence of technology and culture; therefore, digital Korea should be understood by the sociocultural specificity of the country’s digital technology and culture as a whole (Dal Yong Jin, Chapter 11 in this volume). The rapid development of digital technologies has been enabled by the Korean government’s favorable ICT policies in the midst of neoliberal globalization, severe competition among ICT corporations and enthusiastic digital consumers. In the era of neoliberal globalization, characterized by market deregulation and reduced state intervention in economic and cultural affairs, the Korean government has pursued a proactive, not passive, digital cultural policy. The traditional catching-up growth model has to be modified to allow for innovation and technological change at the frontier of global knowledge and to consolidate its status as a newly advanced knowledge-based economy (Mahlich and Pascha 2016). Family-controlled conglomerates run multiple media businesses in cable television, print, film, games, computer-mediated communications and the digital convergence media. The power and permeability of digital technologies and digital culture in all spheres makes the distinction between online and offline life increasingly difficult to observe, and important practice and thought including religion has, in a sense, become humdrum in the age of the ubiquitous media of storytelling (Han and Nasir 2016). Transformations in the age-old practices of storytelling have become possible with digital media technologies, with the proliferating digital storytelling and self-representational stories on social networking sites. Increased access to and use of the Internet has influenced the production and reception of new narratives, alternative voices and various literary perspectives on narration in a digitally connected world. Breaking national boundaries and language barriers, Korean literature has made steady efforts to reach out and touch the mainstream of world literature since 1980s (Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism 2012). Korean literature was long relegated to the global periphery, a consequence of language barriers. The literati and readers of Europe, France and Germany in particular, were quicker than the English-speaking world to recognize Korean literature, despite being relatively unknown in Europe compared to works from China and Japan. In 2016, Korean author Han Kang’s The Vegetarian, a novel about a woman who wants to reject human brutality and give up eating meat, has won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize. The book was translated by Deborah Smith in the UK, who only started teaching herself the Korean language in 2010 and decided to become a translator having noticed the lack of English–Korean translators (BBC News 2016b). Modern Korean novels, short stories, poems, as well as plays depicting the record of the nation’s life including the darker side of Korean education and the marginalization of people, have been translated into different languages, but time constraints, publication costs, and most crucially the availability of interested and capable translators are limiting factors (Nichols 2009). Modern Korean literature, or Korean masculine projects identified with the nation itself, deals with the struggles of the nation in crisis, colonialism and the postcolonial culture of division, authoritarianism and developmentalism (Hughes 2012); crisis of gender and modernity (Jeong 2011); and factory girl literature representing the sexual and class violence of industrial life (Barraclough 2012). Korean literature may serve as historical social documents, playing an important role in its portrayal of the relations between society and individual people and emphasizing a social function of literature (Chung 1995). One of the crucial concerns of modern East Asian literature is precisely the definition of literature itself and of the role of art in society, leading to the debates over pure literature versus the literature of social 15

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engagement (Mostow 2003). The continued production of a literature of engagement and relevance attests to the resilience and strength of Korean writers. Literature cannot be divorced from history. The influence of the Confucian political, historiographic and moral tradition on Korean literature was pervasive, and in such Confucian-inspired works, the distinction between history and literature is often vague (P. Lee 2003). By affirming the connection between the texts they create and the world they inhabit, Korean writers have endeavoured to conceive an identity that can encompass not only the terrible cost but also the genuine possibility of human freedom (P. Lee 1990). Similar to other literary genres capturing complex realities, today’s digital storytelling including Webtoons or the Internet comics can also be read as windows into Korean culture and society in an environment of ubiquitous connectivity and competition for attention (Dafna Zur, Chapter 12 in this volume). Traditional, material-based texts now compete with multiple visual narratives, digital online culture with its unique deployment of literary narrative techniques and cinematic devices. Digital media technologies reconfigure the creation and consumption of film as a dominant mode of popular culture through a convergence of the film and tourism industries. Korean popular cinema and consumption practices such as travel – links between filmic form and transnational commerce – come to reformulate aesthetic concepts and shared affects with deep roots in the nation’s history, generating the complexities of a new East Asian affective economy today (Choe 2016). Korean cinema, once a local cinema on the verge of collapse, has emerged as an international economic and cultural powerhouse, becoming the most dominant cinema in Asia (Gateward 2007). The Golden Age of Korean cinema of the 1960s arose in the traumatic historical circumstances brought about by the Korean War, and seemed uniquely suited to rendering the nation’s dramatic history and compressed modernity (McHugh and Abelmann 2005). The Korean national cinema by Im Kwon-Taek, for instance, engaged with sensitive historical issues and the subtlety of human emotions and investigated the reasons behind historical crimes and human obsessions (James and Kim 2002). Increased censorship, fuelled by heightened Cold War ideology and the authoritarian regimes, made it difficult for filmmakers to exercise creative freedom. The New Korean Cinema of the 1990s was distinct, as filmmakers finally escaped their confinement from the authoritarian regimes and became free to realize a politically and socially informed cinema, but also to look beyond this to a new era when films were no longer obligated to speak for their nation or people (Shin and Stringer 2005; Paquet 2009). In a digital era, Korea has a vibrant film industry that has challenged the dominant position of Hollywood films in the local market. The dominance of Korean film in its own domestic market is an extraordinary cultural triumph, one shared with few other national cinemas, notably India, China and France. Yet, at the same time, many Korean filmmakers have blended Hollywood styles and genres with characteristically Korean stories and themes, such as the division of the nation, the Korean War, Confucian values and the struggles of people in the modernizing nation, which uniquely appeal to international audiences and critics on the global visual scene. Cinema’s modernist ambitions have played a subconscious, if not unconscious, role in the proliferation of Korean popular culture in a global era (K. H. Kim 2011). Challenging the Western assumption that the end of cinema is near because of the popularity of the Internet, Korean cinema presents a possibility for a national cinema to be both productive and complementary to the emergent digital media – an interesting and dynamic national cinema that is not an anachronistic medium straddling reluctantly in the new digital era but mutually strengthens the Internet and mobile technologies (Kyung Hyun Kim, Chapter 13 in this volume). Korean cinema is one of the most successful commercial cinemas operating right now outside Hollywood, yet censorship and the lack of complete freedom of speech and mature democracy still remain as issues in Korea with its long history with authoritarian dictatorship that lasted three decades. 16

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Digital media technologies affect the degree of media freedom, democratization and the complex mode of the state–media relationship in Korea that has fully embraced the Internet in the realm of politics. The emergence of the digital media transforms not only the means of political communication but also the dynamics of power, thereby potentially influencing the relationship between the state and the media (Kwak 2012). As Korean democracy has developed, so also have debates about the democratic role of the Korean media, the Internet and online media forms, alternative journalistic practices and new political development. The Internet and social media sites have affected each of the three contending forces and domains – political parties, the media and civil society – through which the public opinions of people are formed and transmitted (Ki-Sung Kwak, Chapter 14 in this volume). Democracy refers to the capacity of citizens and organizations in the public sphere to gather information about conditions that impact upon their existence and to reach judgements on how to respond individually and collectively to such conditions. Commonly, key issues of journalism and democracy in Asia include the power of governments versus that of citizens and civil society organizations to affect public judgements and policies; how effectively news organizations function in providing the public with information that allows them to act as competent citizens; and the absences and silences in the news relating to issues of concern to rural citizens, women, homosexuals and other minorities (Romano and Bromley 2005). Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, appear to be the pronounced latest wave of innovation in political communication and campaigning around the globe, although with varying levels of market penetration amongst different user demographics against the backdrop of specific national contexts (Bruns et al. 2016). Everywhere in the world, the advent of the Internet has been seen, and sometimes uncritically celebrated, as a new catalyst for political freedom and democracy and as an insurmountable threat to authoritarian regimes. A critical assessment of the veracity of these claims in the Asian context questions the level of the expansion of the public sphere for a more vibrant political environment, and specifically initiatives of NGOs and state governments in utilizing the Internet to facilitate or hinder political participation (Banerjee 2003). There are gaps between the rhetoric and the reality surrounding the supposedly transformative potential of the Internet for democracy. Korean society is characterized as having relatively very low trust in political institutions and large business corporations. In the context of the public crisis of trust, central questions of democracy and “the digital media as tactics” (Bolder 2008) are whether and how diverse types of media interventions challenge dominant power and the dominant media, and what new forms tactical interventions should take. The combination of declining trust in governmental institutions and rise in demand for solutions to complex problems today puts a strain on citizens, politics and governments, and recognizes the role of citizens in the reconfiguration of political responsibility. Political consumerism in industrialized and stable democracies emphasizes the role that the market, corporations and family life can and perhaps should play in politics (Stolle and Micheletti 2013). The Internet’s development is intricately connected to the political economy’s development, the importance of capitalism and capitalist consumerism in shaping and domesticating the Internet. Now that capitalism is in the midst of a global crisis with no apparent end, it is necessary to take a more critical look at the relationship of the Internet to capitalism and both of them to democracy (McChesney 2013). Much of the present excitement about the Internet, particularly the high hopes that are pinned on it in terms of opening up closed societies, stems from cyber-utopianism – a populist, consumerismfriendly, naïve belief in the emancipatory nature of online communication that rests on a stubborn refusal to acknowledge its downside, particularly among young people (Morozov 2011). Young people are often at the forefront of the digital world of consumer culture, and thus are seen to be agents of social change and transformation. Amidst youth consumer culture, media 17

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education in Asia including Korea first started as an inoculative approach against the negative influence of the media (e.g. high exposure and addiction to the Internet), but later on underwent a gradual paradigm shift towards empowerment and cultural criticism (Cheung 2009). The use of the Internet and mobile connections in everyday life triggers people to demand political and social reforms, to imagine a totally different sociality, and to rehearse connected individualism which is the opposite of hierarchical and collectivist communication order in Korean society (Eun-mee Kim, Chapter 15 in this volume). Under social controls that deny women the ability to act on their own, the chances for individualization become smaller, and individualization can be sought in ever-greater participation in media cultural consumption (Y. Kim 2012). Media globalization needs to be recognized as a proliferating, indispensable, yet highly complex and contradictory resource for the construction of identity within the lived experience of everyday life (Y. Kim 2008). Digital technologies have ensured that media content is transnationally shared and discussed in online spaces, resulting in unpredictable patterns of identification and reflexive learning of the self at individual, national, regional and global levels. The potential of the mobile digital media develops along with the competency of users; the social circulations of the young describe the worlds created by former generations which they inhabit and through which they negotiate the shape of their present and future (Donald et al. 2010). Digital media use has become another element of social distinction, a search for a different future by younger generations, who are typically under age 30, culturally cosmopolitan and technologically literate, urban-middle and rural-rich classes, linked to global economic and cultural circuits as a result of digital communication networks, travel or overseas education. Apparently in Korea, Japan and China, widespread and mundane experiences of cultural cosmopolitanism exist as new forms of consumer subjectivity, cultural disposition and practices and cultural transformations invoked by the global forces of the media and networks transcending national boundaries (Y. Kim 2011). It is a world of media use, mediated experience and media talk that generates imagined cultural cosmopolitanism and its multiple articulations as a contested characterization of social reality in question. Media cultural discourses informed by the identification of a vaguely cosmopolitan stance create a multimodal realization of the world, which may allow a particular kind of agency aligned with the world to signify power and competency, a differentiating marker of identity and social mobility in a global order. These extended cultural resources and frameworks of non-local mediated knowledge in the urban consumer culture can alter the conditions for the construction of social identity and engage young people to have the capacity to move away from a singular location of the homeland. The digital media can be understood as a key cultural mechanism creating the emergence of individualized identities, both imagined and enacted, in the process of migration in a digitally connected global era.

Global Korea Transformations brought about by the digital media, technological and communication developments are linked to the increase and extensive reach of global migration and diaspora today. The number of Koreans living abroad is estimated at about 7 million, approximately 10% of the population of the Korean peninsula (Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2016). The Korean diaspora is distinctive for both its relative size and the fact that it is almost entirely a twentieth-century phenomenon. Until the twentieth century, the first stage of the Korean diaspora – affliction-driven and confined mostly to Russia, China, Japan and the USA – had passed into history, leaving very little record of its traumas. The Korean diaspora has experienced centuries of mass migrations from the indentured laborers in the sugar plantations of Hawaii in 1903 to the affluent and highly educated professionals of today (Bergsten and Choi 2003). Each wave of Korean migration has 18

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been shaped by different historical factors, and the motivations and characteristics of Korean migrants in each period are substantially different. In the post-Korean War era of the 1950s, war orphans moved to the USA for adoption; although Korea was not the first country from which international adoption took place, it was the place where organized, systematic international adoption began (A. Oh 2015). In the early 1960s, the Korean government established an active emigration policy as a means of controlling the domestic population and alleviating unemployment, resulting in many Koreans leaving for industrialized Western countries. Migration decisions are typically complex, but it is also very rare for a migration to be undertaken that is not, to some degree, intended to advance the material welfare of oneself or one’s family (Fielding 2016). A new wave of migratory movement has emerged since the government’s liberalization of overseas trip regulations in the late 1980s, while emphasizing core economic actors and leadership in the global community. Koreans have been social-scientifically constructed as one of the most successful immigrant groups in the USA, one whose measurable success has eclipsed the effects of trauma of the Korean War as a site of transgenerational haunting (Cho 2008). Historiography and cultural traditions are not forgotten and are revisited and passed on to the next generation. Daily struggles with the realities of being immigrants, including racism and discrimination, affect not only the immigrant parents but also the children who act as their intercessors in the language of host society (Yoo and Kim 2014). Some live with a continual struggle for reconciliation of identity and a fight for recognition as full citizens (Chapman 2008), or such a condition leads to repeated manifestations of Korean resistance and diasporic nationalism (Lie 2008). Korean diasporic communities are separated by history, language, culture and citizenship status; Korean diasporic nationalism exists as a potential identity and does not imply the existence of unified Korean diasporic nationalism or consciousness (John Lie, Chapter 16 in this volume). The stereotyped image of a Korean diasporic community as a center of entrepreneurship, ethnic solidarity and hard-working model minorities fails to capture the internal complexities of the population that has been pluralized by class polarization, residential dispersal, intergenerational fragmentation (Chung 2007), religion and spirituality (Yoo and Chung 2008). The diversity and persistent class divisions – income, educational, or status inequality – and structural obstacles to minority advancement remain a conspicuous feature among Korean immigrants (Abelmann and Lie 1995). Social class mobility is not a determinant of immigrants’ increased equality. No matter their command of the language of host society, high rates of female intermarriage with White men, Harvard degrees, and Beverly Hills homes, Koreans in diaspora still encounter institutionalized and everyday racial barriers and are treated as forever foreigners (N. Kim 2008). The diverse history, traumas, struggles, quotidian lives and subjectivity underlie many of Korean diasporic cultural expressions, for instance, Korean American women’s writing in shifting contexts (Elaine H. Kim, Chapter 17 in this volume). Diasporic writing gives an important insight into the wide and diverse terrains that immigrant writers have been traversing in historical specificity, and how the larger contextual questions have been shifting in literary production. The literature elucidates the social history of immigrants, their shared experience of racism and their situated self-images as they have evolved in response to changing social contexts (E. H. Kim 1982). In order to counteract an essentializing force, it is necessary to recognize and include marginalized voices that complicate and call attention to ruptures within their historical contexts (Kwon 1999). For individuals and groups on the cultural margins, transnational media forms legitimate and link diasporic members to their perceived homelands, providing symbolic raw materials to be able to construct identities in ways that potentially resist dominant cultural marginalization (D. Oh 2015). Today’s diasporic communities ritualistically appropriate their own ethnic media and digital communication networks to maintain strong ties back to their 19

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homelands, while engaging in complex cultural exchanges and negotiations in host societies (Y. Kim 2011). Creating distinctive forms of social capital among participating members, online ethnic networks can serve as important channels to improve knowledge about the rules of the host country’s social institutions (J. H. Oh 2016). The possible technophilic relation of Asian diasporas to online space has significant implications in terms of how to think about the variegated intersection of race and technology and about the heterogeneity of racial tactics (Lee and Wong 2003). Digital technologies, the Internet in particular, are not mere free-standing tools for either enhancing sociality or reducing human life to a monitored existence, but they are historically specific inventions dependent upon uneven power relations between the West and the “Rest.” Until major shifts in the dominant structure of cultural production occur, the residual effects of the racialized historical representations of Asians and Asian diasporas will continue to the future, and in this context it is equally important to recognize the alternative, independent ethnic media (Ono and Pham 2009). The Korean Wave media culture may allow fans to reflexively imagine new identities and practices at the heart of their social realities, hierarchies and inequalities (Youna Kim, Chapter 18 in this volume). As an important interface between the dominant macro and micro forces, digital fan communities can be seen as alternative spaces of identity in which a different voice can be raised and a self can be expressed, contested, rearticulated or reaffirmed in relation to global cultural Others. The pop cultural circulation across national, cultural and geopolitical boundaries generates effects on the imagination, meaning-making and meaning-changing and negotiation of difference (Chua and Iwabuchi 2008). The multi-directional flows of the Korean Wave media culture and digitally networked communications give rise to the deterritorialization of culture and identity politics transcending national boundaries and engaging with power, cultural difference and diversity in an unpredictable way (Y. Kim 2013). The cosmopolitanism of popular media culture is not necessarily about the erosion of racial or national difference. Critically, not all differences have the same value in the global structure of power and hierarchy. In celebrating the supposedly inclusive cosmopolitan consciousness, cultural difference and human pluralism, some forms of cultural difference are seen more desirable and more valued than are others. The hierarchical emphasis on difference and diversity in Europe generates a growing ethnic consciousness and a contradictory force for the reinforcing of nationalism within the uneven and highly contested transnational social field (Y. Kim 2011). In Europe, East Asian migrants find it difficult to integrate themselves into their host society in the face of social exclusion and banal racism that does not respect cultural diversity. Transnational mobility itself, whether physical or symbolic, is not a sign of the decline of the nation and national identity or a loosening of national identifications in shaping and directing transnational experiences, both lived and mediated. Moving beyond national boundaries and moving freely into other cultures and societies can reveal a sense of contradictions and limitations. In today’s digital world, the abstract and decontextualized yet sometimes uncritically celebrated form of the cultural cosmopolitan as mediated by global consumption practices, such as the Korean Wave, may not necessarily move beyond the conspicuous consumer agency and consumer power or cosmopolitan choice as a sign of multicultural eclecticism and imagined empowerment confined within the global cultural marketplace. Cosmopolitanism in this digital age may be limited within the cosmopolitan world of consumption, particularly the space of global media culture and hyper-connectivity that has nevertheless generated global consciousness and the current phenomenon of intensely mobile lives – physical, symbolic and virtual. K-pop music, in particular, is a hybridized cosmopolitan consumerist form of the Korean Wave, a total entertainment or a futuristic pastiche that sounds like a utopian blending of all contemporary musical genres. It is not just a random response to neoliberal globalization, but also 20

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a systematically planned, monitored, manifestation of entrepreneurial self. K-pop and its fandom among digitally connected consumers can be a statement about their dispositions, dis/likings and aspirations, not just reflective of the actual, present self but also formative of the desired, future self (Choi and Maliangkay 2015). Most fans in Europe, South America and the Middle East, unlike their East Asian counterparts, have little direct access to the Korean Wave culture via mainstream televisions and music stores, but appropriate the proliferation of the Korean Wave contents through the digital social media. K-pop in Europe is an Internet phenomenon, and the activities of its fans bring new attention to the symbolic notions of Korea as a cultural nation (Fuhr 2016). Fan culture exhibits a distinctive cultural terrain in its own right and imagination, which appears relatively autonomous from the original K-pop products, despite the influence of Korean entertainment companies and state-led national branding strategies in the global community. K-pop’s development into a globally recognized culture owes much to the specific historical, geographic and cultural contexts from which it emerged, and K-pop idols are not simply copycats of Euro-American or Japanese pop stars (Michael Fuhr, Chapter 19 in this volume). K-pop is characterized by the transcultural hybridity of popular culture, which is not only influenced by odourless global elements but also by traditional national elements (Jung 2011). The reasons behind K-pop’s global popularity have relatively little to do with the aesthetic and cultural values that can be identified as typically Korean, although K-pop’s representative idols and the Korean Wave culture are treasured national sources of soft power promoted by the nation and cultural nationalism in a digital global era. A systematic political infrastructure set by the Korean government and institutional strategies developed by the culture industry have combined to produce the pretext to the rise and transnational circulation of the Korean Wave. Not only in Korea but also in many parts of Asia, today there is a general shift in official thinking towards the role of popular media culture in the political life of states brought about by the massive transnational circulation of media cultural commodities and the possibilities for attaining soft power (Otmazgin and Ben-Ari 2012). Transnational sport, as another facet of the Korean Wave soft power, can be understood as one of the most nationalist and commercialized media events producing the meanings of global Koreanness (Rachael Miyung Joo, Chapter 20 in this volume). The embodied participation generated through sporting events and representational images contributes to the making of the emotional intensity of national belonging and of the hegemonic ideas of identity as interwoven with the histories, political ideologies, economic circumstances, social realities and everyday lives of Koreans at home and in diaspora (Joo 2012). The transnational media assemblage of televisual, print, advertising and digital media forms shapes a powerfully affective connection among Koreans and furthers a notion of an essential Koreanness that transcends borders and resides in a mystical sense of blood connection. Transnational sport, such as the World Cup, is a public display of national achievements and a charismatic spectacle, while serving as a functional social ritual and a product of rational calculation by political actors for their specific purposes (Horne and Manzenreiter 2002). The marriage between sport and nationalism, entertainment and patriotism, culture and passion is a global obsession embracing all aspects of contemporary life in a global village sharing the English language, technology and sport, despite noble ideals that sport stands above politics, religion, class, gender and ideology in all its forms (Majumdar and Hong 2007). The dynamic economies and the rising political power of East Asia have discovered sport as a new cultural force for nationalism and global assertion, the global geopolitics of sport (Kelly and Mangan 2014; Hong and Lu 2015). Globalization and its associated digital technologies have made possible new forms of global nationalism which spread far beyond the borders of traditional nation states (Starrs 2013), and it is essential not to underestimate the power of the historical traumas of the past which animate global nationalism today (Kingston 2016). Globalized Korean 21

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cultural phenomena such as the Korean Wave are strongly shaped and animated by the workings of the nation state, nationalistic ideology, nation branding and soft power. Popular culture can be an effective instrument of soft power, yet the very idea of Koreanness is a floating signifier whose meaning is contingent upon the appropriation and negotiation by global forces and people, with intended or unintended consequences. What Koreanness signifies or what meanings are represented in the Korean Wave, and how far these representations map on to established and dominant cultural formations, have to be decided by the indeterminacy and fluidity of meaning-making by people in various contexts in the processes of global cultural change (Y. Kim 2013).

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Korean culture and society Choe, Y. (2016) Tourist Distractions: Travelling and Feeling in Transnational Hallyu Cinema, Durham: Duke University Press. Choi, J. and Maliangkay, R. (2015) K-Pop: The International Rise of the Korean Music Industry, London: Routledge. Chua, B. (2000) Consumption in Asia: Lifestyles and Identities, London: Routledge. Chua, B. and Iwabuchi, K. (2008) East Asian Pop Culture: Analysing the Korean Wave, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. Chubb, D. (2014) Contentious Activism and Inter-Korean Relations, New York: Columbia University Press. Chung, A. (2007) Legacies of Struggle: Conflict and Cooperation in Korean American Politics, Stanford: Stanford University Press. Chung, C. (1995) Modern Korean Literature: An Anthology 1908–65, London: Routledge. CNBC (2016) “Descendants of the Sun Smash Hit Prompts Beijing to Warn on South Korean Dramas,” 16 March. Constable, N. (2005) Cross-Border Marriages: Gender and Mobility in Transnational Asia, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Cumings, B. (2005) Korea’s Place in the Sun: A Modern History (updated edition), New York: W.W. Norton & Company. Daily NK (2011) “South Korean Media Making a Difference,” 26 July. Dao, M., Furceri, D., Kim, T., Kim, M. and Hwang, J. (2014) “Strategies for Reforming Korea’s Labor Market to Foster Growth,” IMF Working Papers 14/137. D’Costa, A. (2015) After-Development Dynamics: South Korea’s Contemporary Engagement with Asia, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Diamond, L. and Shin, G. (2014) New Challenges for Maturing Democracies in Korea and Taiwan, Stanford: Stanford University Press. Donald, S., Anderson, T. and Spry, D. (2010) Youth, Society and Mobile Media in Asia, London: Routledge. Driscoll, C. and Morris, M. (2014) Gender, Media and Modernity in the Asia-Pacific, London: Routledge. Elias, J. and Gunawardana, S. (2013) The Global Political Economy of the Household in Asia, London: Palgrave Macmillan. Emiko, O. and Kaoru, A. (2014) Asian Women and Intimate Work, Leiden: Brill. Fielding, T. (2016) Asian Migrations: Social and Geographical Mobilities in Southeast, East, and Northeast Asia, London: Routledge. Fitzsimmons, L. and Lent, J. (2013) Asian Popular Culture in Transition, London: Routledge. Freeman, C. (2011) Making and Faking Kinship: Marriage and Labour Migration between China and South Korea, Ithaca: Cornell University Press. French, P. (2007) North Korea: The Paranoid Peninsula – A Modern History (second edition), London: Zed Books. Fuhr, M. (2016) Globalization and Popular Music in South Korea: Sounding Out K-Pop, New York: Routledge. Gateward, F. (2007) Seoul Searching: Culture and Identity in Contemporary Korean Cinema, Albany: State University of New York Press. Grayson, J. (2002) Korea: A Religious History (revised edition), London: Routledge. Guardian (2011) “Bored by Cowell Pop? Try K-Pop,” 15 December. Haggard, S. and Noland, M. (2011) Witness to Transformation: Refugee Insights into North Korea, Washington: Peterson Institute for International Economics. Han, G. (2016) Nouveau-Riche Nationalism and Multiculturalism in Korea: A Media Narrative Analysis, London: Routledge. Han, J. (2014) Power, Place, and State-Society Relations in Korea: Neo-Confucian and Geomantic Reconstruction of Developmental State and Democratization, Lanham: Lexington Books. Han, S. and Nasir, K. (2016) Digital Culture and Religion in Asia, London: Routledge. Hart-Landsberg, M., Jeong, S. and Westra, R. (2007) Marxist Perspectives on South Korea in the Global Economy, Aldershot: Ashgate. Hassig, R. and Oh, K. (2015) The Hidden People of North Korea: Everyday Life in the Hermit Kingdom (second edition), Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. Helgesen, G. (1998) Democracy and Authority in Korea: The Cultural Dimension in Korean Politics, London: Routledge. Heo, U. and Roehrig, T. (2010) South Korea since 1980, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Holden, T. and Scrase, T. (2006) Medi@sia: Global Media/tion In and Out of Context, London: Routledge.


Youna Kim Holroyd, C. and Coates, K. (2012) Digital Media in East Asia: National Innovation and the Transformation of a Region, Amherst: Cambria Press. Hong, F. and Lu, Z. (2015) Sport and Nationalism in Asia: Power, Politics and Identity, London: Routledge. Horne, J. and Manzenreiter, W. (2002) Japan, Korea and the 2002 World Cup, London: Routledge. Hsieh, P. (2013) Education in East Asia, London: Bloomsbury. Hughes, T. (2012) Literature and Film in Cold War South Korea: Freedom’s Frontier, New York: Columbia University Press. Hwang, K. (2010) A History of Korea: An Episodic Narrative, London: Palgrave Macmillan. Jager, S. (2003) Narratives of Nation Building in Korea: A Genealogy of Patriotism, New York: M.E. Sharpe. James, D. and Kim, K. H. (2002) Im Kwon-Taek: The Making of a Korean National Cinema, Detroit: Wayne State University Press. Jeong, K. (2011) Crisis of Gender and the Nation in Korean Literature and Cinema: Modernity Arrives Again, Lanham: Lexington Books. Jin, D. (2010) Korea’s Online Gaming Empire, Cambridge: MIT Press. Jones, G., Straughan, P. and Chan, A. (2009) Ultra-Low Fertility in Pacific Asia: Trends, Causes and Policy Issues, London: Routledge. Jones, N. (2006) Gender and the Political Opportunities of Democratization in South Korea, New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Joo, R. (2012) Transnational Sport: Gender, Media, and Global Korea, Durham: Duke University Press. Jung, J. (2015) Migration and Religion in East Asia: North Korean Migrants’ Evangelical Encounters, New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Jung, S. (2011) Korean Masculinities and Transcultural Consumption: Yonsama, Rain, Old Boy, K-Pop Idols, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. Kang, M. (2015) Multicultural Education in South Korea: Language, Ideology, and Culture in Korean Language Arts Education, London: Routledge. Kelly, W. and Mangan, J. (2014) The New Geopolitics of Sport in East Asia, London: Routledge. Kendall, L. (2002) Under Construction: The Gendering of Modernity, Class, and Consumption in the Republic of Korea, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Kihl, Y. (2005) Transforming Korean Politics: Democracy, Reform, and Culture, London: Routledge. Kim, B. and Vogel, E. (2011) The Park Chung Hee Era: The Transformation of South Korea, Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Kim, C. (2003) Korean Shamanism: The Cultural Paradox, Aldershot: Ashgate. Kim, C. S. (2011) Voices of Foreign Brides: The Roots and Development of Multiculturalism in Korea, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. Kim, E. H. (1982) Asian American Literature: An Introduction to the Writings and Their Social Context, Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Kim, E. H. and Choi, C. (1998) Dangerous Women: Gender and Korean Nationalism, New York: Routledge. Kim, E. M. (1997) Big Business, Strong State: Collusion and Conflict in South Korean Development, 1960–1990, Albany: State University of New York Press. Kim, H. (2013) State-Centric to Contested Social Governance in Korea: Shifting Power, London: Routledge. Kim, H. and Sorensen, C. (2011) Reassessing the Park Chung Hee Era 1961–1979: Development, Political Thought, Democracy, and Cultural Influence, Seattle: University of Washington Press. Kim, J. (2014) Reading Asian Television Drama: Crossing Borders and Breaking Boundaries, London: I.B. Tauris. Kim, K. H. (2011) Virtual Hallyu: Korean Cinema of the Global Era, Durham: Duke University Press. Kim, K. J. (2006) The Development of Modern South Korea: State Formation, Capitalist Development and National Identity, London: Routledge. Kim, N. (2008) Imperial Citizens: Koreans and Race from Seoul to LA, Stanford: Stanford University Press. Kim, S. (2013) Everyday Life in the North Korean Revolution, 1945–1950, Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Kim, S. and Kim, K. (2015) A History of Korean Christianity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kim, S. K. (1997) Class Struggle or Family Struggle?: The Lives of Women Factory Workers in South Korea, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kim, Y. (2005) Women, Television and Everyday Life in Korea: Journeys of Hope, London: Routledge. Kim, Y. (2008) Media Consumption and Everyday Life in Asia, London: Routledge. Kim, Y. (2011) Transnational Migration, Media and Identity of Asian Women: Diasporic Daughters, London: Routledge. Kim, Y. (2012) Women and the Media in Asia: The Precarious Self, London: Palgrave Macmillan.


Korean culture and society Kim, Y. (2013) The Korean Wave: Korean Media Go Global, London: Routledge. Kingston, J. (2016) Nationalism in Asia: A History since 1945, Malden: Wiley Blackwell. Koo, H. (1993) State and Society in Contemporary Korea, Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Koo, H. (2001) Korean Workers: The Culture and Politics of Class Formation, Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Korean Institute for National Unification (2014) White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea 2014, Seoul: Korean Institute for National Unification. Korean Internet & Security Agency (2015) Korea Internet White Paper 2015, Seoul: Korean Internet & Security Agency. Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (2012) K-Literature: The Writing World’s New Voice, Seoul: Korean Culture and Information Service. Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (2016) News Releases, Research and Statistics, http://www. Korean Ministry of Education (2016) News Releases, Research and Statistics, Korean Ministry of Employment and Labour (2015) Employment and Labour Policy in Korea, Seoul: Korean Ministry of Employment and Labour. Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2016) Statistics: Current Status of Overseas Compatriots, http://www. Kwak, K. (2012) Media and Democratic Transition in South Korea, London: Routledge. Kwon, B. (1999) Beyond Ke’eaumoku: Koreans, Nationalism, and Local Culture in Hawaii, New York: Routledge. Kwon, H. and Chung, B. (2012) North Korea: Beyond Charismatic Politics, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. Lankov, A. (2013) The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia, New York: Oxford University Press. Le Figaro (2011) “La Vague Coréenne Déferle Sur le Zénith,” 9 June. Le Figaro (2016) “Festival KCON: Au Coeur de la Pop Culture Coréenne,” 3 June. Le Monde (2011) “La Vague Pop Coréenne Gagne l’Europe,” 10 June. Le Monde (2016) “La K-pop Débarque en France,” 3 June. Lee, A. (2016) North Korean Defectors in a New and Competitive Society: Issues and Challenges in Resettlement, Adjustment, and the Learning Process, Lanham: Lexington Books. Lee, J. (2010) Service Economies: Militarism, Sex Work, and Migrant Labour in South Korea, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Lee, M. (2016) Early Study-Abroad and Identities: Korean Early Study-Abroad Undergraduates, Singapore: Springer. Lee, P. (1990) Modern Korean Literature: An Anthology, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Lee, P. (2003) A History of Korean Literature, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lee, R. and Wong, S. (2003) Asian America.Net: Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Cyberspace, New York: Routledge. Lett, D. (1998) In Pursuit of Status: The Making of South Korea’s “New” Urban Middle Class, Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center. Lewis, J. and Sesay, A. (2002) Korea and Globalization: Politics, Economics and Culture, London: Routledge. Lie, J. (2008) Zainichi (Koreans in Japan): Diasporic Nationalism and Postcolonial Identity, Berkeley: University of California Press. Lim, J. (2015) Leader Symbols and Personality Cult in North Korea: The Leader State, London: Routledge. Lo, A., Abelmann, N., Kwon, S. and Okazaki, S. (2015) South Korea’s Education Exodus: The Life and Times of Study Abroad, Seattle: University of Washington Press. Mahlich, J. and Pascha, W. (2016) Innovation and Technology in Korea: Challenges of a Newly Advanced Economy, Heidelberg: Springer. Majumdar, B. and Hong, F. (2007) Modern Sport: The Global Obsession, New York: Routledge. Martin, B. (2004) Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty, New York: St. Martin’s Press. McChesney, R. (2013) Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet against Democracy, New York: The New Press. McEachern, P. (2010) Inside the Red Box: North Korea’s Post-Totalitarian Politics, New York: Columbia University Press. McHugh, K. and Abelmann, N. (2005) South Korean Golden Age Melodrama: Gender, Genre, and National Cinema, Detroit: Wayne State University Press.


Youna Kim Molony, B., Theiss, J. and Choi, H. (2016) Gender in Modern East Asia: An Integrated History, Boulder: Westview Press. Moon, S. (2005) Militarized Modernity and Gendered Citizenship in South Korea, Durham: Duke University Press. Morozov, E. (2011) The Net Delusion: How Not to Liberate the World, London: Allen Lane. Mostow, J. (2003) The Columbia Companion to Modern East Asian Literature, New York: Columbia University Press. Nelson, L. (2000) Measured Excess: Status, Gender and Consumer Nationalism in South Korea, New York: Columbia University Press. New York Times (2005) “Roll Over, Godzilla: Korea Rules,” 28 June. New York Times (2016) “13 North Koreans Working Abroad Defect to the South,” 8 April. Nichols, R. (2009) Modern Korean Drama: An Anthology, New York: Columbia University Press. Nye, J. (2004) Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics, New York: PublicAffairs. OECD (2007) Facing the Future: Korea’s Family, Pension and Health Policy Challenges, Paris: OECD Publishing. OECD (2009) OECD Reviews of Tertiary Education: Korea, Paris: OECD Publishing. OECD (2011) Doing Better for Families, Paris: OECD Publishing. OECD (2014a) Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education: Lessons from PISA for Korea, Paris: OECD Publishing. OECD (2014b) OECD Economic Surveys: Korea 2014, Paris: OECD Publishing. OECD (2016) Health Status: Suicide Rates, Oh, A. (2015) To Save the Children of Korea: The Cold War Origins of International Adoption, Stanford: Stanford University Press. Oh, D. (2015) Second-Generation Korean Americans and Transnational Media: Diasporic Identifications, Lanham: Lexington Books. Oh, J. (1999) Korean Politics: The Quest for Democratization and Economic Development, Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Oh, J. H. (2016) Immigration and Social Capital in the Age of Social Media: American Social Institutions and a Korean-American Women’s Online Community, Lanham: Lexington Books. Oh, M. and Larson, J. (2011) Digital Development in Korea: Building an Information Society, London: Routledge. Ono, K. and Pham, V. (2009) Asian Americans and the Media, Cambridge: Polity. Otmazgin, N. and Ben-Ari, E. (2012) Popular Culture and the State in East and Southeast Asia, London: Routledge. Paquet, D. (2009) New Korean Cinema: Breaking the Waves, New York: Columbia University Press. Park, J. (2010) Makers of Modern Korean Buddhism, Albany: State University of New York Press. Park, J. and Wee, L. (2012) Markets of English: Linguistic Capital and Language Policy in a Globalizing World, New York: Routledge. Park, S. (2008) Korean Preaching, Han, and Narrative, New York: Peter Lang. Renshaw, J. (2011) Korean Women Managers and Corporate Culture: Challenging Tradition, Choosing Empowerment, Creating Change, London: Routledge. Rindfuss, R. and Choe, M. (2015) Low and Lower Fertility: Variations across Developed Countries, Heidelberg: Springer. Romano, A. and Bromley, M. (2005) Journalism and Democracy in Asia, London: Routledge. Seth, M. (2002) Education Fever: Society, Politics, and the Pursuit of Schooling in South Korea, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Seth, M. (2016) Routledge Handbook of Modern Korean History, London: Routledge. Shin, C. and Stringer, J. (2005) New Korean Cinema, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Shin, G. (2006) Ethnic Nationalism in Korea: Genealogy, Politics, and Legacy, Stanford: Stanford University Press. Shin, G. and Chang, P. (2011) South Korean Social Movements: From Democracy to Civil Society, London: Routledge. Shin, M. (2014) Korean History in Maps: From Prehistory to the Twenty-First Century, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Smith, H. (2015) North Korea: Markets and Military Rule, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Song, J. (2011) Human Rights Discourse in North Korea: Post-Colonial, Marxist, and Confucian Perspectives, London: Routledge. Starrs, R. (2013) Asian Nationalism in an Age of Globalization, London: Routledge.


Korean culture and society Stolle, D. and Micheletti, M. (2013) Political Consumerism: Global Responsibility in Action, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Suh, J. (2013) Origins of North Korea’s Juche: Colonialism, War, and Development, Lanham: Lexington Books. Suh, J. and Chen, D. (2007) Korea as a Knowledge Economy: Evolutionary Process and Lessons Learned, Washington: The World Bank. Tan, M. (2015) North Korea, International Law and the Dual Crises: Narrative and Constructive Engagement, London: Routledge. Tsai, M. (2016) Global Exposure in East Asia: A Comparative Study of Microglobalization, London: Routledge. Tsuya, N. and Bumpass, L. (2004) Marriage, Work, and Family Life in Comparative Perspective: Japan, South Korea, and the United States, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Tu, W. (1996) Confucian Traditions in East Asian Modernity: Moral Education and Economic Culture in Japan and the Four Mini-Dragons, Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Tudor, D. and Pearson, J. (2015) North Korea Confidential: Private Markets, Fashion Trends, Prison Camps, Dissenters and Defectors, North Clarendon: Tuttle. Yi, C. (2013) The Psychological Well-Being of East Asian Youth, Heidelberg: Springer. Yonhap News (2013) “Survey Shows 41% of Hallyu Fans in U.S. Learning Korean Language,” 1 January. Yoo, D. and Chung, R. (2008) Religion and Spirituality in Korean America, Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Yoo, G. and Kim, B. (2014) Caring Across Generations: The Linked Lives of Korean American Families, New York: New York University Press. Yoo, T. (2016) It’s Madness: The Politics of Mental Health in Colonial Korea, Oakland: University of California Press.



Formation of Korea

1 COMPRESSED MODERNITY IN SOUTH KOREA Constitutive dimensions, manifesting units, and historical conditions Chang Kyung-Sup

Introduction South Korea is a nation of extreme changes, rigidities, complexities, intensities, and imbalances. According to World Bank data, South Korea’s nominal per capita GDP was a mere 156 US dollars in 1960 (World Bank 2016). It rose to 27,970 US dollars in 2014 thanks to several decades of explosive economic growth (and despite a few intermittent economic crises). World Bank data also show that the volume of the entire national economy in 2005 ranked South Korea at the world’s 11th, between India and Russia, and this ranking was largely sustained until recently. This process of explosive economic growth has been accompanied by a thundering restructuring of society. The urban population (in official urban districts called dong) was only 28.0 percent in 1960 but kept bloating to reach 81.5 percent in 2005, a level sustained for the following decade (KOSIS 2016).1 Private domains of life have not been exempted from radical alteration. South Korean women shocked the world (and South Koreans themselves) by recording a total fertility rate of 1.076 in 2005, the world’s lowest except the two city states, Hong Kong and Macao, whose citizens were agonizing about their uncertain futures under China’s new rule (NSO 2006; World Bank 2016). The highest total fertility rate in South Korea was recorded in the early 1960s (6.0 in 1960). Having recorded historically and internationally unprecedented changes in their society and life, the same South Koreans have stubbornly resisted certain significant changes. Above all, having become the world’s most rapidly aging population, most South Koreans continued to regard elderly care as the exclusive domain of filial piety. In 1998, when South Koreans had to confront an unprecedented national financial crisis, as many as 89.9 percent of them reportedly considered elderly care as the sole responsibility of children (KOSIS 2016). However, the widespread and prolonged material hardship for both young and old people in post-crisis South Korea would rapidly reduce this proportion to 33.2 percent in 2012 and induce 48.7 percent of South Koreans to demand familial-social-governmental co-responsibilities in the same year. Perhaps not unrelatedly, the supposedly traditional norm of son preference was intensely manifested until the final years of the 20th century, but it would gradually become insignificant thereafter. The sex ratio at birth remained at levels higher than 110 during most of the 1990s (except 109.6 in 1999), but 31

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has suddenly been attenuated so as to approximate the so-called “natural” level of 105 in recent years (KOSIS 2016). These enduring features of South Korea in tandem with explosive changes in many other aspects have inevitably made the country an extremely complex social entity for which no easy sociological account is available. The miraculous transformations and tremendous complexities of South Koreans’ economic, social, and political life have required South Koreans to devote astonishing amounts of time and energy for national and/or individual advancement (or for sheer adaptation and survival). According to the OECD, South Koreans were the only people on earth working more than 2,000 hours yearly as of 2007 (2,261 hours on average) (OECD 2008). South Korea has continued to remain at similar levels even though a few other countries under economic hardship (e.g. Mexico, Greece) have joined the 2,000-plus working-hour club. Before toiling in the labor market, South Koreans have to go through no less spartan processes of studying, and almost all students advance to next levels of schooling up to college (NSO 2005; World Bank 2016). Relatedly, numerous international surveys have shown that South Korean youth study longer and sleep less than most of their counterparts in other industrialized societies (National Youth Policy Institute 2009; OECD 2009). In spite of – or perhaps because of – such devotion to work and study at internationally unrivalled levels, South Koreans have been endemically subjected to critical social imbalances in terms of social, physical, and spiritual risks, again at internationally incomparable levels. Among 20 OECD member countries with available data for 2005, South Koreans were least satisfied with their job (68.6%), with the French (70.5%) and the Japanese (72.4%) trailing behind (OECD 2009). More seriously, the number of safety-related deaths per hundred thousand workers was 12.4 in 2007, the largest among all 30 member countries of the OECD (Nocutnews 15 July 2008). Both industrial accidents and traffic accidents contributed to this gruesome dimension of South Korean development. Despite a sustained rise in life expectancy, South Koreans’ health conditions continue to suffer from what they call “backward country symptoms.” As of 2011, South Korea was the only OECD member country with more than 100 tuberculosis incidents per 100,000 people despite a gradual decline thereafter – 101 in 2011, 96 in 2012, 90 in 2013, and 86 in 2014 (WHO 2016). Furthermore, South Koreans inflict fatal harm on themselves at one of the highest levels in the world – e.g. 29.1 out of 100,000 South Koreans committed suicide in 2012, the highest level among all OECD countries (WHO 2016). Age-adjusted data on suicide in 2014 ranks South Korea at the world’s third (29.34 per 100,000 people) after Guyana (43.22) and North Korea (37.44). It is hard to imagine this society used to be called a “hermit kingdom” when it was first exposed to Westerners. How can social sciences, sociology in particular, deal with this miraculous yet simultaneously obstinate and hystericalized society? Social sciences in general have been employed from the West, especially the United States, and dispatched to South Korean realities throughout the postcolonial era (Park and Chang 1999). Besides hiring Koreans with academic degrees from major Western universities for most faculty positions, renowned Western social scientists have frequently been invited and oftentimes begged to speculate upon South Korean realities. But borrowed Western social sciences in the South Korean context, no matter how much adapted locally, have critically added to the complicated nature of South Korean modernity by inundating this society with hasty speculative prescriptions under the rubric of Westernizationcum-modernization. Many South Korean scholars have responded to this dilemma by proposing the construction of “indigenous social sciences” or “Korean-style social sciences” (Shin,Y. 1994). However, South Korean society’s distinctiveness since the last century seems to consist much more critically in its explosive and complex digestion (and indigestion) of Western modernity than in some isolated characteristics inherited from its past. A globally grounded comparative modernity approach to what I conceptualize as compressed modernity – drawing insights from critical debates on postcolonialism, multiple modernities, 32

Compressed modernity in South Korea

reflexive modernization, and postmodernity – is called for. Compressed modernity is a critical theory of postcolonial social change, aspiring to join and learn from the main self-critical intellectual reactions of the late 20th century as to complex and murky social realities in the late modern world. Such intellectual reactions include postmodernism (e.g., Lyotard 1984), postcolonialism (e.g., Chakrabarty 1992), reflexive modernization (Beck, Giddens and Lash 1994), and multiple modernities (Eisenstadt 2000). Postmodernism forcefully argues that modernity has exhausted or abused its progressive potential, if any, only to spawn deleterious conditions and tendencies for humanity and its civilization and ecological basis. Postcolonialism cogently reveals that postcolonial modernization and development have been far from a genuinely liberating process due to the chronic (re)manifestation of colonial and neocolonial patterns of social relations and cognitive practices in the supposedly liberated Third World. Reflexive modernization in late modern reality, as argued by Beck, Giddens, and Lash, is a structurally complicated process of social change under the uncontrollable floods of choices that expose modern society and people to more risks than opportunities. The multiple modernities thesis emphasizes a comparative civilizational perspective that can help recognize variegated possibilities and forms of modernities in the diverse historical and structural contexts for nation-making or national revival. As directly indicated or indirectly alluded to below in this chapter, all of these critical debates on modernity have essential implications for the compressed modernity thesis. Since the early 1990s, I have tried to argue that compressed modernity can help to construe, one the one hand, the extreme changes, rigidities, complexities, intensities, and imbalances in South Korean life and, on the other hand, analyze interrelationships among such traits and components. In a rapidly increasing body of international research on South Korea and East Asia, the concept of compressed modernity has been widely adopted as a conceptual/theoretical tool for organizing and interpreting empirical findings in various lines of social research.2 In this chapter, I intend to present a formal definition and core theoretical components of compressed modernity, point out historical and structural conditions for compressed modernity, and discuss the historical and theoretical relevance of compressed modernity beyond the South Korean context.

Compressed modernity in perspective Definition Compressed modernity is a civilizational condition in which economic, political, social, and/or cultural changes occur in an extremely condensed manner in respect to both time and space, and in which the dynamic coexistence of mutually disparate historical and social elements leads to the construction and reconstruction of a highly complex and fluid social system (Chang 2015). Compressed modernity, as detailed subsequently, can be manifested at various levels of human existence and experience – that is, personhood, family, secondary organizations, urban/rural localities, societal units (including civil society and nation), and, not least importantly, the global society. At each of these levels, people’s lives need to be managed intensely, intricately, and flexibly in order to remain normally integrated with the rest of society. Figure 1.1 shows that compressed modernity is composed of five specific dimensions that are constituted interactively by the two axes of time/space and condensation/compression. The time facet includes both physical time (point, sequence, and amount of time) and historical time (era, epoch, and phase). The space facet includes physical space (location and area) and cultural space (place and region). As compared to physically standardized abstract time-space, era-place serves as a concrete framework for constructing and/or accommodating an actually existing civilization.3 Condensation/Abridgement refers to the phenomenon that the physical process required 33

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Time (Era)

Space (Place)


[ II ]

Condensation/Abridgement [V]

Compression/Complication [ III ]

[ IV ]

Figure 1.1 Five dimensions of compressed modernity

for the movement or change between two time points (eras) or between two locations (places) is abridged or compacted (Dimensions [I] and [II] respectively). Compression/Complication refers to the phenomenon that diverse components of multiple civilizations that have existed in different areas and/ or places coexist in a certain delimited time-space and influence and change each other (Dimensions [III] and [IV] respectively). The phenomena generated in these four dimensions, in turn, interact with each other in complicated ways and further generate different social phenomena (Dimension [V]). The above schema of differentiating time and space and separating condensation and compression needs a logical justification. In a non-Western historical/social context in which Western modernity is conceived as the core source of civilizational as well as politico-military superiority, the West stands not only as a discrete region but also as a discrete (but prospectively own) moment of history. Where indigenously conscious efforts for civilizational rebirth are defeated by external forces or frustrated internally, the West often becomes both a direction for historical change (modernization) and a contemporaneous source of inter-civilizational remaking (Westernization in practice). The more condensed these changes become – that is, the faster modernization proceeds and the fuller Westernization takes place – the more successful the concerned countries tend to be considered (in spite of cultural and emotional irritations, as well as political and economic sacrifices experienced by various indigenous groups). However, the very processes of modernization and Westernization endemically induce the cultural and political backlashes on the part of the adversely affected groups and, in frequent cases, systematically reinforce the traditional/indigenous civilizational constituents as these are deemed ironically useful for a strategic management of modernization and Westernization. Thereby compression becomes inevitable among various discrete temporal and regional civilizational constituents.

Constitutive dimensions The five dimensions of compressed modernity (in Figure 1.1) can be explained in terms of South Korean experiences in the following way. Time (era) condensation/abridgement (Dimension I) can be exemplified by the case that South Koreans have abridged the duration taken for their 34

Compressed modernity in South Korea

transition from low-income agricultural economy to advanced industrial economy on the basis of explosively rapid economic development. The rapid changes so often discussed in connection with South Korea – such as the “compressed growth” of the economy and the “compressed modernization” of society – belong to this dimension. That is, compressed modernization is a component of compressed modernity. Such compressed (condensed) changes are also apparent in the cultural domain, so that even postindustrial and/or postmodern tendencies are observed in various sections of society. South Koreans’ pride that they have supposedly achieved in merely over half a century such economic and social development carried out over the course of two or three centuries by Westerners has been elevated to the level of the state. The South Korean government has been busy publishing numerous showy statistical compilations that document explosive economic, social, and cultural changes for the periods “after liberation,” “after independence,” and so on (NSO 1996, 1998). South Koreans’ success in condensing historical processes, however, does not always reflect the outcome of voluntary efforts but, in numerous instances, has simply resulted from asymmetrical international relations in politico-military power and cultural influence. For instance, no other factor was as crucial as the American military occupation during the post-liberation period for their overnight adoption of (Western-type) modern institutions in politics, economy, and education (Cumings 1981). Nowadays, even the postmodern culture has been instantly transposed on to South Koreans through internationally dependent media and commerce (Kang 1999). Even in those areas in which voluntary efforts have been decisive, targeted end results do not alone tell everything. For instance, if one drives between Seoul and Busan taking ten, five, or three hours respectively, the driver (and passengers) will feel differently about the trip in each case and the probability of experiencing accident and fatigue from driving cannot but differ as well. We should analyze South Koreans’ experience of overspeeding towards development by focusing on the very fact of their overspeeding. Space (place) condensation/abridgement (Dimension II) can be exemplified by the fact that the successive domination of South Korea by various external forces in the last century compelled the country to change in diverse aspects ranging from political institutions to mass culture under the direct influence of other regions (societies) no matter what geographic distances and differences existed. After South Koreans were physically subdued by colonial or imperial external forces, many ideologies, institutions, and technologies engendered in dissimilar regional contexts were coerced onto them directly – that is, omitting the usual geographic requirements for inter-civilizational exchange, such as the Silk Road. Such geographic omission constituted an abridgement or dismantlement of space. In particular, the Korean urbanization in the periods of colonial rule and capitalist industrialization was respectively a deepening process of external institutional imitation and economic dependency, so that the modern cities thereby created through space abridgement turned out utterly alien spaces disengaged from the indigenous civilization of Korea. As another customary evidence of space abridgement, most universities located in major cities function as the outposts of the Western civilization. The space condensation realized by South Koreans’ own will was accelerated in the 1990s under the full forces of informatization and globalization. Especially, the splendid development of the so-called IT industry has placed South Korea at the rank of the very leader of informatization. Now, the abridgement or dismantlement of space by electronic communication mechanisms is a catchword for national development in the 21st century. With these changes combined, South Korea – a society where until recently overseas travel used to be a luxury experience for a privileged minority – has enabled its citizens quasi-travel experiences of foreign (mostly Western) spaces even without moving overseas physically. 35

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Time (era) compression/complication (Dimension III) involves the phenomena of intense competition, collision, disjuncture, articulation, and compounding between (post)modern elements (which have been generated as a result of time (era) condensation/abridgement) and traditional elements (which have been either left unattended or intentionally preserved or reinstated) within a compact socio-historical context. These phenomena, often dubbed “the simultaneity of non-simultaneous matters,” are usually observed in ideology, culture, and other non-material domains that have fairly complex conditions and processes of change.4 Particularly on the Korean peninsula where no indigenous social revolution helped to eradicate the feudal social structure, colonization and capitalist industrialization fell short of thoroughly permeating or replacing traditional values and culture. Besides, rapidly extended life expectancy as a core facet of social development has elongated the lifespan of traditional values and culture along with that of the old generations who wish to maintain such values and culture. Consequently, traditional, modern, and postmodern values and cultures have come to coexist so as to bring about inter-civilizational compression among dissimilar time zones. Such inter-temporal compression is also found in the economic arena where the strategy of inter-sectoral “unbalanced growth” led to the coexistence of rapidly growing modern manufacturing sectors (in which the state has favorably supported modern industrialists) and stagnant traditional agriculture (in which only archaic family farming has been allowed legally). As a result, the articulation between dissimilar systems of production representing dissimilar historical epochs has become a core trait of the modern economic order. The everyday life, not to mention the lifetime, of South Koreans who are confronted with the compression of various historical epochs is filled with ceaseless “time travels.” This is perhaps the most crucial ingredient of the South Korean television dramas and movies that have fascinated so many Asian nations under the rubric of the “Korean Wave” (hallyu). Space (place) compression/complication (Dimension IV) concerns the phenomena of intense competition, collision, disjuncture, articulation, and compounding between foreign/multinational/ global elements (which have been generated as a result of space (place) condensation/abridgement) and indigenous elements (which have been either left unattended or intentionally preserved or reinstated) within a compact socio-historical context. As diverse social elements generated from different regional contexts coexist and function within a same time-space, a hierarchical structure of dependency or (neo)colonial domination between them often ramifies. In the cultural realm, what Edward Said (1978) criticized as the West’s “Orientalism” has frequently been internalized in postcolonial societies under the “internal Orientalism” (Schein 1997) of modernization elites or other culturally dependent local interests. According to Michael Lipton (1977), a similar hierarchical order has been observed in the form of “urban bias” in many Third World countries, sacrificing native agriculture, peasants, and rural society unjustly or irrationally. Besides, the early modernization theory, which coerced self-abasement onto indigenous societies and peoples, was warmly welcomed by South Korean elites even if it reflected a political effort to propagate the supposed superiority of the Western civilization into the politically subjugated territories. Such a historical atmosphere has been crucially responsible for the extremely antagonistic conflict between indigenous cultures and institutions and foreign ones, as has been vividly illustrated in the sectors of cultural production and medicine in South Korea. Chronic bitterness characterizes the atmosphere among scholars of humanities (e.g. Korean history, philosophy, and literature) specialists in traditional music and dance, and practitioners of indigenous medicine when their professional counterparts of Western specialties dominate society. However, thanks to the very historical context that Korean society was appropriated as a colony of industrial capitalism by an external force (Japan) and that, even after independence, South Koreans were 36

Compressed modernity in South Korea

pressurized to accept the political and economic order of Western standards by another external force (the United States), the remaining indigenous culture has sometimes claimed a significant historical and existential legitimacy regardless of its practical utility. The duality of South Koreans who have trodden, in practice, a highly extroverted developmental path and still show no hint of shedding their unreserved nationalist pretense presents an easy clue that the modernity they have pursued is chronically afflicted with space-wise compression of dissimilar civilizations. The social phenomena and cultural elements generated in the above four dimensions of compressed modernity are often put in intense competition, collision, disjuncture, articulation, and compounding among themselves, so that still more social phenomena and cultural elements are engendered. These can be considered the fifth, or all-encompassing, dimension of compressed modernity. In fact, most social phenomena and cultural elements in South Korea involve this dimension. Given that the co-existence of past, present, Asia (Korea), and West is a rather common trait of social phenomena and cultural elements engendered under compressed modernity, every civilizational component must have come into existence through various processes of hybridization. If anyone who lives in this type of society fails to develop and maintain a fairly complex mindset for incorporating such complicated social phenomena and cultural elements, he/she has to constantly risk the possibility of becoming a social dropout. While understanding and responding to social phenomena that arise through condensed time and space are already formidable tasks, comprehending and coordinating the complex interaction of such abruptly new social phenomena with traditional and indigenous ones constitute an even more challenging undertaking. Such difficulties are particularly manifest in the complexities of social values and ideology systems. Family, firm, university, civil society, and even government exist as panoramic displays of diverse values and ideologies. These institutions, in which the values and ideologies from past, present, Asia (Korea), and West do not simply coexist but keep generating new elements through constant interactions with one another, are “too dynamic” and too complex.5

Manifesting units There are various different units/levels of manifestation of compressed modernity in South Korea and elsewhere. Societal units (nation, state, civil society, national economy), city and community, secondary organizations, family, and personhood are all observable units of compressed modernity. These plural units/levels can take on compressed modernity in highly diverse configurations, ramifying what may be called internal multiple (compressed) modernities. Also, the primacy of certain units/levels over other units/levels in manifesting a society’s compressed modernity constitutes a critical structural characteristic of the concerned society. On the other hand, different units/levels can exert mutually escalating (or obstructive) effects in compressed modernity. Let us discuss this issue in the concrete historical and social contexts of South Korea and, where relevant, East Asia in general. Societal units: Societal units are most commonly discussed in regards to compressed modernity in South Korea (and East Asia). Economic catching-up and swift social and political modernization have been common national agendas in postcolonial contexts. Indeed, condensed economic, social, and political changes have commonly been experienced under the rubric of national development or revitalization. The nation is to flourish through economic, political, and social modernization, but its historical foundations need to be constantly reaffirmed through traditional/indigenous values, symbols, and memories. Besides, whether successful or not in such courses of (West-oriented) modernization, traditional and/or indigenous components of social, economic, and political orders will not vanish overnight. In this context, compression of 37

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traditional/modern(/postmodern) and indigenous/Western(/global) components of social, economic, and political orders almost inevitably ensue. It should be noted that, because of the internationally dependent and politically selective process of liberation (Cumings 1981), South Korea’s modernization as a postcolonial national(ist) project has been a historically contested affair to date between the state and civil society. A sort of domestic Cold War has led civil society to assume an independent or rival status in South Korea’s otherwise state-centered modernization and actively pursue various progressive agendas ranging from labor rights to ecological justice (Chang 1999, 2012). Regional (urban and rural) places: East Asian countries not only boast of many historic cities of traditional governance, culture, and commerce but also have undergone explosively rapid (or condensed) urbanization in the course of sequential industrializations (from Japan to Taiwan to North and South Korea to China). In mega-size urban places, dense blocks of modern (if not altogether Western) life are juxtaposed with museum-like pockets of traditional/indigenous culture and politics. Overnight creation of huge bed towns and industrial cities is all too usual; so is overnight spread of modern and/or Western lifestyles. On the other hand, refined versions of middle-class consciousness or neotraditional forms of authoritarian political rule oftentimes help to resurrect traditional/indigenous facades to private and public life. Condensed urbanization and compressive urban life, however, do not themselves constitute an honorable civilizational alternative, so that constant reconstruction of urban spaces becomes a built-in feature of East Asian urbanism. Urbanism here is not only “phantasmagoric” but also structurally ephemeral.6 It should be noted that the urban-centered nature of East Asia’s (compressed) modernity does not necessarily imply that rural areas have been left unchanged or frozen in their traditional characteristics and conditions. In a great historical paradox, South Korea’s acutely urban-biased development has recently led villages and peasants to spearhead sociocultural globalization in the form of an abrupt increase in rural “forced” bachelors’ transnational marriage with foreign brides from across Asia (Chang 2015). In many sociocultural and economic affairs, in which rural areas have turned out or functioned as central arenas of compressed modernity. Secondary organizations: Secondary organizations such as schools and business firms have been hastily set up in massive numbers as instruments for modernization and development, but their organizational structure and culture are far from simple replication of those of Western societies. Traditional teacher–pupil relations still reverberate in authoritarian classrooms where cramming (condensed absorption) of modern/Western knowledge and technology is considered an uncompromisable goal of education in the process of national economic and sociopolitical catch-up (Han 1996). In South Korean sweatshop factories where the “economic miracle” was initiated from the late 1960s, work-line supervisors and company managers demanded that yeogong (women industrial workers) subserviently yet faithfully serve them as if they were elder kinsmen in a village (Koo 2001). Modern industrial workplaces have often been reinvented as arenas for arguably communal interactions associated with paternalistic cultural traditions (Dore 1973; Walder 1986). Families: Korean/East Asian familialism (or, broadly, family-centeredness) both as personal orientation and societal order is as much modern as traditional. Families function, on the one hand, like social battalions in which confusing and contradicting goals of societal processes (modern economy, polity, and civic life) are reorganized into strategic targets of everyday life and, on the other hand, like cultural reservoirs in which values and norms of diverse historical and social origins are absorbed and reproduced as guiding poles for personal life (Chang 2010a). Family life in East Asia both appears microcosmic of condensed and compressive societal processes and buttresses such societal processes by tightly regimenting family members accordingly. In fact, most of South Korea’s (and East Asia’s) supposedly unique features of compressed development 38

Compressed modernity in South Korea

and modernization – such as labor-intensive industrialization, educational zeal, family-centered welfare, hyper-mobilization of (women’s) gender, and familial corporate control (chaebol) – are intricately enmeshed with various material and ideational functions and social institutional effects of familial relationships and organizations (Chang 2010a). In an unprecedentedly rapid industrialization-cum-urbanization, most rural families have in fact internalized such development by sending some of their talented or motivated members to urban industries and schools and accordingly reallocating their material resources to actively support migrating family members’ urban activities as a grand familial strategy. The public debate on chaebol’s effectiveness in their familial form of corporate ownership and management is still ongoing despite many legal, political, as well as economic mishaps thereby committed. The developmental state’s persistent dependence on women in flexible labor supply and stable welfare provision has been most essentially predicated upon (married) women’s intense commitment to family. Considering the overwhelming share of parental financial contribution and moral commitment to public education, South Korea’s unrivalled educational achievement is basically a familial accomplishment.7 Personhood: If an ordinary Korean (or East Asian) adult hopes to secure a genteel image or position – or personhood in general – in everyday social life, he/she needs to be able to skillfully exhibit a highly complex set of values and attitudes that are finely tuned to diverse sociocultural, political, and economic contexts. To be considered a good parent, teacher, and senior worker is a highly challenging and oftentimes confusing task, since he/she is expected to successfully become a seemingly inconsistent or contradictory being in variegated contexts. To be considered a good child, student, and junior worker is no less challenging and confusing. To be considered a good spouse, friend, and colleague is another formidable and perplexing challenge. Life is further complicated along different stages of one’s life course that demand constantly radical shifts in her/his social roles and relations in tandem with condensed and complicated societal changes. In a most crucial dilemma in this regard, various stages of one’s life course can be influenced by mutually inconsistent – or, according to Beck and Grande (2010) and Giddens (1990), “discontinuous” – historical and societal factors, so that her/his youth, adulthood, and old age lack logical sequences. Born in a traditional culture, raised in a modernizing/industrializing era, and surviving into a postmodern/postindustrial era, an ordinary Korean/East Asian adult must continually juggle with apparently illogical sets of values, duties, and expectations in each stage of her/his life course. Flexibly complex personhood – circumspectly and tactfully being, or at least appearing, traditional-modernizedpostmodernized on the one hand, and indigenous-Westernized-cosmopolitan on the other hand – is a civilizational requirement in this society.8 Chronic possibilities for failing to be a flexibly complex social subject tend to induce Koreans/East Asians to remain stressfully alert, whereas some energetic and resourceful individuals try to lead highly colorful forms of life by tapping all sociocultural, economic, and political opportunities associated with compressed modernity. Internal multiple modernities/modernizations: Modernity has usually been conceived as the civilizational state of affairs in a national society. When postcolonial nations, upon liberation, embarked upon modernization often as a state-driven project of material, cultural, and institutional transformation, many of their respectively incumbent states were not able to justly represent or fully incorporate people(s) and society (societies) under their supposed jurisdictions. Within loosely, hastily, and/or coercively defined national boundaries, certain regions, ethnicities, classes, professions (military in particular), or civil society have frequently challenged the rule of the often self-established states by envisioning and pursuing alternative lines of modernization. At the micro-social or private level, individuals, families, and other intimate groups often implicitly defy the rule of any ineffective and/or authoritarian state in similar ways. Modernity – and the process of modernization – can be plural not only across different national societies, as persuasively indicated in the “multiple modernities” thesis (Eisenstadt 2000), but also within each 39

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national society. Such internal multiplicity of modernities and modernizations is critically predicated upon the varying complexities of time-space (era-place) compression across different units of (inherently compressed) modernity.9 In a major historical irony, the internal plurality of modernizations/modernities was manifested with particular intensity under the political and ideological influence of the Cold War, which helped enthrone certain political factions into state power against broad local social ideals and interests. Beneath the coerced uniformity of liberal capitalism under the authoritarian Cold War states, paradoxically diverse aspirations for liberation and happiness nurtured multiple competing axes of modernities/modernizations. This corresponds to the so-called “second society” phenomenon in many state-socialist countries under Stalinist dictatorship (Hankiss 1988; Suh 1995). Such interactive multiplicity of modernities in the Cold War context can be understood as an exemplary manifestation of what Therborn (2003: 295) dubs “geo-historical entanglements.” That is, the Cold War era may be seen as a world of entangled internal multiple modernities. Another critical trigger for the multiplicity of modernizations/modernities is the latest trend of globalization – namely, what is termed as “reflexive cosmopolitization” by Beck (Beck and Grande 2010) and myself (Chang 2010b) in contrast to the ideationally focused or framed process of cosmopolitanization. Under reflexive cosmopolitization, national society has rapidly lost its salient status as the unit of modernity, whereas other human existential domains or levels such as individual, locality, world region, and the whole world itself have become seriously competing units of modernity. Furthermore, these competing units are also increasingly characterized by compressed modernity, again in conjunction with reflexive cosmopolitization. These trends do not imply that national societies or states which govern them are left to themselves with nothing much to do. In fact, as convincingly indicated by many statist political economists (e.g. Weiss 1998), (late) modern states are entrusted with ever expanding and challenging functional duties. So are individuals, families, localities, regional blocs, and the world community. The functional relationship between national societies (and states) and other human existential domains or levels does not remain in a zero-sum structure, but assumes a dynamic of mutual escalation. Likewise, compressed modernities of different existential domains or levels tend to reciprocally intensify.

Historical and structural conditions of compressed modernity: entanglements as compression The above dimensions of compressed modernity are emergent patterns of social structure and change that can be analyzed only in concrete historical and societal contexts. Therefore, the formation and transformation of compressed modernity in South Korea need to be explained under a systematic and comprehensive examination of its global historical and structural conditions. In so doing, Therborn’s thesis of “entangled modernities” offers a highly useful hint at the social and institutional outcomes of complex interactions and interrelations between international and local agents of modernity. According to Therborn (2003: 295), “[b]ecause of its modes of historical generation, modernity has to be seen as a global phenomenon” and requires a “global approach . . . focusing on global variability, global connectivity, and global inter-communication.” Therborn (2003: 295) goes on to point out two “general processes of the making of modernity,” namely, “the constitutive entanglements of modernity and some tradition, coming out of the infinitely variable incompleteness of every modern rupture with the past, and out of the plasticity of most traditions” and “the geo-historical entanglements, of the very different but significantly interacting and mutually influencing socio-political roads to and through modernity.” South 40

Compressed modernity in South Korea

Korea’s global historical and structural conditions of modernization clearly demonstrate that geo-historical entanglements – and sometimes modernity-tradition entanglements as well – tend to frequently or chronically induce a compressed nature in the thereby generated modernities. Among others, the following historical conditions and processes require special attention: Forced skewed insertion into modernity: Modernity was instantaneously superimposed onto Korea in such manners that would facilitate Japan’s modernization as a capitalist empire (Cumings 1987; Jansen 1987). As in so many other colonized countries, the very beginning of modernity in Korea was a condensed and skewed experience of its neighbor’s modern (imperial) institutions and practices. The Cold War as a modernization (Americanization) regime: Upon (dependent) liberation, the Korean peninsula became a showcase of the clash between the two opposing lines of modernity. In South Korea, American capitalist modernity was transplanted as a lump sum package (or in a manner of industrial plant export), and its basic operation would be ensured with American military protection and economic aid (Kim 1996). Civil war and post-war reconstruction: The post-Korean war reconstruction in South and North Korea intensified a hasty modernizationist (geundaehwajuui) approach to national development as most of the indigenous values, interests, and resources had been critically damaged through the three-year calamity. In a sense, the civil war paved the way for the modernization programs designed for instant but total social and economic restructuring (Kim, D. 2000).10 Statist order and catch-up development: Envisaging modernization as a strategic process of national catching-up (with advanced capitalist economies), the military-led state attempted, not unsuccessfully, to orchestrate an unprecedentedly rapid industrialization and its requisite social changes while preserving or reinforcing conservative cultural traditions and social orders.11 Authoritatively administered modernization was certainly expeditious (as opposed to social evolutionary modernization), but it was an essentially skewed process, leaving many domains of society unattended, underdeveloped, protracted, or distorted (Chang 1999; Hart-Landsberg 1993). Modernization instead of social revolution: Their traditions having been subjugated and affronted by colonial forces, postcolonial peoples had a fundamental sentimental motivation to restore dignity to their past. Under variegated versions of dongdoseogi (Eastern philosophy, Western instrument), traditional values and ideologies, encompassing both societal and personal domains, have been tenaciously recycled or reinvented as supposed guidelines of modernization. In this context, many state heads tried to superficially or strategically reposition themselves as nationalist leaders and redefine (West-dependent) modernization as a nationalist project. Advantages and pitfalls of late development/dependent modernization: The presence of earlier-modernized and consequently more powerful countries implied not only an exigency of national catch-up but also an opportunity for economized modernization. The so-called “advantages of late development” were clearly perceived by South Koreans and aggressively realized, in particular, thanks to their American connections (Amsden 1989). What needed justification (or what incurred criticism) was not the borrowed modernity or its costs but the supposed local realities of backwardness. International political economy, sequential industrialization-modernization, and global economic restructuring: The unceasing technological and industrial restructuring of advanced capitalist economies necessitated continuous transfer of low-end technologies and industries to newly industrializing economies, particularly in East Asia. South Korea, as both Japan’s next door and the West’s strategic outpost, was a key beneficiary of the so-called “international product cycles” (Cumings 1984). However, the breathtaking economic rise of next-door China (in addition to the continuingly strong performance of the Japanese economy) has made South Koreans inveterately worried about their “sandwiched” position. 41

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Submissive, nationalist, neoliberal cosmopolitization: Submissive cosmopolitanization in South Korea took place under the successive colonial domination or influence by Japan and the United States and South Korea’s post-Korean War politico-military, economic, and sociocultural dependency on the United States; whereas nationalist cosmopolitanization has taken place as a result of the aggressive expansion of international economic and other activities and relations under an outward national(ist) development strategy and an existential urge to confirm its own condensed development and to be internationally recognized about such development. South Korea’s proactive accommodation of neoliberal globalization since the 1990s is not a transition (from a closed to an open economy) but an economic expansion or completion of a basically cosmopolitan historical entity whether or not it attests to South Koreans’ actual possession of genuine philosophical or cultural cosmopolitanism. Although the above-listed historical and structural conditions in combination hint at the decisive significance of international political economic factors and local reactions to them for South Korea’s compressed modernity, this should not lead to one-way thinking on the West versus nonWest relationship in the global history of modernity (and post-modernity). As comprehensively and persuasively argued by many Marxist and postcolonialist intellectuals, the Western modernity has not only been imposed upon non-Western cultures and peoples but also evolved through its intense interactions with them. “Geo-historical entanglements” in the making of modernity have not been a unidirectional incident. To begin with, as emphasized time and again by Marx and his followers, European industrial capitalism was no less an outcome of the European political economic expansion into Asia, Africa, and America than of the internal technological and social structural transformation of Europe. Even earlier, as richly illustrated by both academic and public historiography, the European encounters and exchanges with the Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Central Asian civilizations critically helped form the scientific, technological, and institutional basis for the revolutionary nature of European modernity.12 Besides, a significant body of rigorous historical and social scientific research in recent years has systematically revealed how the very contact of the West with non-Western societies helped develop modern institutions and cultures.13 Similarly, in Koreans’ historical experiences, Japan tried to reaffirm to itself the civilizational validity of its West-oriented industrial modernity through its colonial conquest of the allegedly traditionalist Korea (then Chosun) and its capitalist exploitation of Korean people and resources. The Cold War, of which the first major showdown of international power competition was undertaken through the inter-Korea war and subsequently political economic rivalry, shaped the Western (American) public mind and politics as critically as it delimited the ideological and sociopolitical parameters of Korean life. As forcefully argued by Amsden (1989), the developmental statist engagement in capitalist industrialization and economic growth in South Korea has become an international economic paradigm in itself, in particular, against the global neoliberal doctrine that has putatively incapacitated the developmental potential of most developing countries.14 South Koreans, with the so-called “Korean Wave” (hallyu), have also set a new direction in global culture industry, successfully utilizing their industrial technologies for cultural production and richly projecting their life experiences and social histories into global award-winning movies and internationally viewerrecord-breaking dramas (Kim, Y. 2013). All these trends and episodes clearly attest to the fact that modernity, at the global level, is a fundamentally interactive civilizational state of affairs.

Compressed modernity beyond South Korea Compressed modernity is not just a sociological concept or perspective but the consciously lived experience of ordinary South Koreans. Furthermore, its publicity has been politically promoted (in numerous official publications that document condensed economic, social, and political 42

Compressed modernity in South Korea

changes) and culturally represented (in frequent exhibitions of photos, artifacts, and arts that attest to the condensed and complicated nature of life experiences). Hence, the validity of compressed modernity in regards to South Korean society and people is in no sense difficult to establish. However, does this mean that compressed modernity is a uniquely South Korean phenomenon? This question would meet many immediately negative responses. To the extent that many of its historical and social structural conditions construed in the preceding section have been rather common features of postcolonial societies, compressed modernity can be duly proposed as a widely relevant theory in diverse world regions. Furthermore, as discussed elsewhere in detail (Chang 2010b), even most Western countries and virtually all state-socialist countries went through some analogous processes for the sake of early modernization. Most recently, under “reflexive cosmopolitization” (Beck and Grande 2010; Chang 2010b), compressed modernity has increasingly become a rather universal feature of contemporary societies, localities, and peoples. The intra-regional complexity of East Asia – two Koreas, Japan, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Russian Far East – may not warrant an easy conclusion on any shared experience of modernity, but a careful examination of their historical and social conditions can reveal interesting mutual correspondences in regards to compressed modernity. Above all, Japan and China seem to present highly interesting yet different versions of compressed modernity. It is needless to say that Taiwan may most closely approximate South Korea in compressed modernity, as vindicated by studies in and on Taiwan dealing with various aspects and components of compressed modernity.15 Japan’s early modern history represents a paradigmatic instance of condensed catch-up modernization.16 The Meiji Restoration would become a model for Park Chung Hee’s South Korea. An autocratic reformulation of politics under the name of the “October refurbishment” (siwolyusin) was staged by Park under the supposed exigencies of political stability and economic catch-up (Chung 2006). More essentially, the Japanese know-hows and practices for industrial overtaking seem to have been consciously studied by South Korean bureaucracy and business, so that many similar features between the two countries would arise in industrial technologies and organizations, state–business relations, and international marketing strategies (Kholi 1994). China, in turn, showed strong interest in emulating the South Korean achievement of rapid industrialization and economic catching-up. Delegations at various levels and in diverse domains have visited South Korea back to back since the onset of reform. Ultimately, China’s condensed economic development and industrialization have seemingly dwarfed the South Korean achievement.17 Besides, the protracted coexistence of socialist and capitalist elements – a core syndrome of China’s gradual reform – tends to make its modernity an even more compressive one than that of South Korea. Contemporary China’s modernity certainly appears even more compressed than that of South Korea, particularly because of lingering effects of socialist institutions, values, and interests. Gradualism in Chinese reform often manifests itself in terms of syncretism, for instance, as revealed in China’s recent (neo)traditionalism coated with daguozhuyi (big country-ism) (Kim, K. 2008). Given these diverse instances, compressed modernity may be usefully applied to sociological accounts of Japanese and Chinese historical experiences and social conditions. In fact, compressed modernity may have served as the core rationale for frequent efforts at international learning by each follower nation. For this reason, all late-developing societies have been under compressed modernity in one way or another. As a more recent development, what may be called cosmopolit(an)ized reflexive modernity tends to drive virtually every nation into a new line of compressed modernity (Chang 2010b). In today’s rapidly and intricately globalizing world, if Ulrich Beck’s (1999) argument is extended, the driving forces of radical scientific-technical-cultural inputs and monopolistic political economic interests almost freely operate across national boundaries. The ecological, material, and 43

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sociocultural risks as well as opportunities accompanying the latest (neoliberal) capitalist offense are not unidirectional (from developed to less-developed nations) anymore, because even developed nations cannot avoid the cosmopolitized hazards and pressures generated in the process of their global economic and political domination over less-developed nations. Handling these challenges by individual nations entails that internalization of cosmopolitized risks (and opportunities) takes place both in developed and less-developed nations and thereby universalizes what may be categorized as cosmopolitized compressed modernity (Chang 2010b).

Acknowledgments Many ideas in this chapter have been presented at seminars at University of Munich, Delhi University, Kyoto University, University of California at Berkeley, Brown University, and Seoul National University. The author wishes to thank Rajni Palriwala, Emiko Ochiai, Alvin So, Bryan S. Turner, Anthony Woodiwiss, Lee Hong Yung, Kim Do Young, Han Sang-Jin, Jung Keun-Sik, and Choi Kap-Soo, as well as the late Ulrich Beck, for useful comments and suggestions. Youna Kim’s invitation to this valuable timely publication is greatly appreciated. Her comments and suggestions at the final stage of completing this chapter have been very useful in improving clarity and coherence. Research for this work has been supported by The National Research Foundation of Korea Grant 2013016337.

Notes 1 With more generous (and internationally more comparable) standards, South Korea is now more urban than most of advanced capitalist societies. If rural towns (eup) are included as urban, the urbanization rate would be 37.0 percent in 1960 and 89.8 percent in 2005. Most rural towns have typical urban characteristics. 2 See Abelmann (2003), Lan, P. (2014), Martin-Jones (2007), Ochiai (2011). 3 In this regard, David Harvey’s (1980) observation on the (global) time-space compression under the accumulation crisis of late modern capitalism should be differentiated from the national, regional, organizational, familial, and personal condensation of time and space under postcolonial compressed modernity. 4 See Ernst Bloch ([1935]1991), Heritage of Our Times. As Germany was behind England and France in industrialization, and in modernization in general, Bloch perceived the German social situation as wedged between backward culture and modern industrialism. 5 “Too dynamic” once became a thematic phrase for South Korea among many foreign media correspondents in Seoul during the Roh Moo-Hyun presidency. “Dynamic Korea” was an official catchphrase for attracting international tourism to the country, but these journalists seem to have felt that it was too dynamic. 6 Giddens (1990: 18–19) argues, perhaps inspired by Walter Benjamin’s critical assessment of modern cities (Gilloch 1997), “In conditions of modernity, place becomes increasingly phantasmagoric: that is to say, locales are thoroughly penetrated by and shaped in terms of social influences quite distant from them.” 7 Interestingly, this familial(istic) nature of South Korean modernity seems to have been more persuasively revealed and more effectively communicated in Korean cultural products (such as dramas, cinemas, and novels that thematically address family relationships and affairs) than in academic social sciences (whose Western dependency chronically inhibits autonomous systematic exploration of the local essential features of social issues and phenomena). See Y. Kim (2013) for Korean dramas in this regard. 8 See Orta (1999) for an ethnographic discussion of complex personhood. See Abelmann (2003) for a discussion on the South Korean case. 9 Internal multiple (compressed) modernities can be seen as complex local instances of Appadurai’s (1990) global “scapes” in postcolonial modernization. 10 In a sense, the civil war accidentally functioned as a disembedding mechanism for Giddensian modernity (Giddens 1990).


Compressed modernity in South Korea 11 The issue of national economic catching-up tends to constitute a distinct field of research in development economics. It is no coincidence that South Korean scholars have been internationally active in this area (e.g. Lee and Lim 2001). 12 This has become a popular topic for collaboration projects between Western and Asian television broadcast companies. 13 For instance, see Anghie (2005) for a lucid account of the evolution of (Western) legal universalism in the political context of colonial/imperial interactions with non-Western cultures, peoples, and states. 14 Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) once decided to establish a division of South Korean affairs and prepared an internal report for benchmarking South Korea, entitled “The Current State and Problems of Japanese Industries” (Korea Economic Daily 5 April 2010). The report enviously indicated the strength of South Korea’s corporate management, government industrial policy, government-business cooperation, and proactive technological investment. 15 For instance, see Lan’s (2014, 2016) recent research on Taiwanese parenthood. 16 For an extended application of compressed modernity to cover Asia broadly, see Kyoto University’s Global Center of Excellence for “Reconstruction of the Intimate and Public Spheres in 21st Century Asia.” 17 The Stalinist heavy industrialization project in state socialist countries (including China) was a strategy of condensed industrialization in their race against capitalist countries (Riskin 1987). Interestingly, South Korea’s Park Chung Hee promoted heavy and chemical industrialization as a strategic effort to hastily overpower North Korea (H. Kim 2004).

References Abelmann, N. (2003) The Melodrama of Mobility: Women, Talk, and Class in Contemporary South Korea, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Amsden, A. (1989) Asia’s Next Giant: South Korea and Late Industrialization, New York: Oxford University Press. Anghie, A. (2005) Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Appadurai, A. (1990) “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy,” Theory, Culture & Society, 7(2–3): 295–310. Beck, U. (1999) World Risk Society, Cambridge: Polity. Beck, U., Giddens, A. and Lash, S. (1994) Reflexive Modernization: Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order, Stanford: Stanford University Press. Beck, U. and Grande, E. (2010) “Varieties of Second Modernity: Extra-European and European Experiences and Perspectives,” British Journal of Sociology, 61(3): 409–443. Bloch, E. ([1935]1991) Heritage of Our Times, Berkeley: University of California Press. Chakrabarty, D. (1992) Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference, Princeton: Princeton University Press. Chang, K. (1999) “Compressed Modernity and Its Discontent: South Korean Society in Transition,” Economy and Society, 28(1): 30–55. ——— (2010a) South Korea under Compressed Modernity: Familial Political Economy in Transition, London: Routledge. ——— (2010b) “The Second Modern Condition? Compressed Modernity as Internalized Reflexive Cosmopolitization,” British Journal of Sociology, 61(3): 444–464. ——— (2012) “Different Beds, One Dream? State-Society Relationships and Citizenship Regimes in East Asia,” in K. Chang and B. Turner (eds) Contested Citizenship in East Asia: Developmental Politics, National Unity, and Globalization, pp. 62–85, London: Routledge. ——— (2015) “From Developmental to Post-Developmental Demographic Changes: A Perspectival Recount on South Korea,” Korean Journal of Sociology, 49(6): 21–45. ——— (2017) “Compressed Modernity,” in B. Turner, K. Chang, C. Epstein, P. Kivisto, J. Ryan, and W. Outhwaite (eds) The Encyclopedia of Social Theory, Chichester: Wiley Blackwell (forthcoming). Chung, I. (2006) “Antinomy of the Yushin System and ROK-U.S. Conflicts: National Security without Democracy” (in Korean), Society and History, 70: 149–178. Cumings, B. (1981) The Origins of the Korean War: Liberation and Emergence of Separate Regimes, 1945–1947, Princeton: Princeton University Press. ——— (1984) “The Origins and Development of the Northeast Asian Political Economy: Industrial Sectors, Product Cycles, and Political Consequences,” International Organization, 38(1): 1–40.


Chang Kyung-Sup ——— (1987) “The Legacy of Japanese Colonialism in Korea,” in R. Myers and P. Mark (eds) The Japanese Colonial Empire, 1895–1945, pp. 478–496, Princeton: Princeton University Press. Dore, R. (1973) British Factory, Japanese Factory: The Origins of National Diversity in Industrial Relations, Berkeley: University of California Press. Eisenstadt, S. (2000) “Multiple Modernities,” Daedalus, 129(1): 1–29. Giddens, A. (1990) The Consequences of Modernity, Stanford: Stanford University Press. Gilloch, G. (1997) Myth and Metropolis: Walter Benjamin and the City, London: Polity. Han, J. (1996) The Youth Issue (in Korean), Seoul: Yonsei University Press. Hankiss, E. (1988) “The ‘Second Society’: Is There an Alternative Social Model Emerging in Contemporary Hungary?” Central and East European Social Research, 55(1–2): 13–42. Hart-Landsberg, M. (1993) The Rush to Development: Economic Change and Political Struggle in South Korea, New York: Monthly Review Press. Harvey, D. (1980) The Condition of Postmodernity, Oxford: Blackwell. Jansen, M. (1987) “Japanese Imperialism: Late Meiji Perspectives,” in R. Myers and M. Peattie (eds) The Japanese Colonial Empire, 1895–1945, pp. 61–79, Princeton: Princeton University Press. Kang, M. (1999) “Postmodern Consumer Culture without Postmodernity: Copying the Crisis of Signification,” Cultural Studies, 13(1): 18–33. Kholi, A. (1994) “Where Do High Growth Political Economies Come from? The Japanese Lineage of Korea’s Developmental State,” World Development, 22(9): 1269–1293. Kim, D. (2000) War and Society: What Has the Korean War Been to Us (in Korean), Seoul: Dolbaegae. Kim, H. (2004) Korea’s Development under Park Chung Hee: Rapid Industrialization, 1961–79, London: Routledge. Kim, K. (2008) “Reflections on China’s Power,” in K. Lee, J. Kim, and W. Woo (eds) Power and the Sustainability of the Chinese State, pp. 11–30, London: Routledge. Kim, S. (1996) The State and Administration during the American Military Government Era: The Formation of the Divided State and the Reorganization of the Administration System (in Korean), Seoul: Ewha Womans University Press. Kim, Y. (2013) “Korean Wave Pop Culture in the Global Internet Age: Why Popular? Why Now?” in Y. Kim (ed) The Korean Wave: Korean Media Go Global, pp. 75–92, London: Routledge. Koo, H. (2001) Korean Workers: The Culture and Politics of Class Formation, Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Korea Economic Daily (2010) 5 April, KOSIS (Korea Statistical Information Service) (2016) 30 May, Lan, P. (2014) “Compressed Modernity and Glocal Entanglement: The Contested Transformation of Parenting Discourses in Postwar Taiwan,” Current Sociology, 62(4): 531–549. ——— (2016) “Compressed Parenthood in Taiwan,” Global Dialogue: Newsletter for the International Sociological Association, 6(2), Lee, K. and Lim, C. (2001) “Technological Regimes, Catching-Up and Leapfrogging: Findings from the Korean Industries,” Research Policy, 30(3): 459–483. Lipton, M. (1977) Why Poor People Stay Poor: Urban Bias in World Development, Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Lyotard, J. (1984) The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Martin-Jones, D. (2007) “Decompressing Modernity: South Korean Time Travel Narratives and the IMF Crisis,” Cinema Journal, 46(4): 45–67. National Statistical Office (NSO), Republic of Korea (1996) Changes in Social and Economic Indicators since Liberation, Seoul: NSO. ——— (1998) Economic and Social Change in the Fifty Years of the Republic of Korea in View of Statistics, Seoul: NSO. ——— (2005) Social Indicators in Korea 2005, Seoul: NSO. ——— (2006) Annual Report on Live Births and Death Statistics: Based on Vital Registration, Seoul: NSO. National Youth Policy Institute (2009) International Comparison Study on the Life Patterns of Children and Youth (in Korean), Research report, Seoul: National Youth Policy Institute. Nocutnews (2008) 15 July, Ochiai, E. (2011) “Unsustainable Societies: The Failure of Familialism in East Asia’s Compressed Modernity,” Historical Social Research, 36(2): 219–245. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2008) OECD Employment Outlook 2008, Paris: OECD Publishing.


Compressed modernity in South Korea ——— (2009) Society at a Glance 2009: OECD Social Indicators, Paris: OECD Publishing. Orta, A. (1999) “Syncretic Subjects and Body Politics: Doubleness, Personhood, and Aymara Catechists,” American Ethnologist, 26(4): 864–889. Park, M. and Chang, K. (1999) “Sociology between Western Theory and Korean Reality: Accommodation, Tension, and a Search for Alternatives,” International Sociology, 14(2): 139–156. Riskin, C. (1987) China’s Political Economy: The Quest for Development since 1949, New York: Oxford University Press. Said, E. (1978) Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient, New York: Pantheon. Schein, L. (1997) “Gender and Internal Orientalism in China,” Modern China, 23(1): 69–98. Shin, Y. (1994) “A Suggestion for the Development of ‘Unique Korean Sociology’” (in Korean), Korean Journal of Sociology, 28(1): 1–12. Suh, J. (1995) Another North Korean Society: A Study of the Duality of Social Structure and Social Consciousness (in Korean), Seoul: Nanam. Therborn, G. (2003) “Entangled Modernities,” European Journal of Social Theory, 6(3): 293–305. Walder, A. (1986) Communist Neo-Traditionalism: Work and Authority in Chinese Industry, Berkeley: University of California Press. Weiss, L. (1998) The Myth of the Powerless State: Governing the Economy in a Global Era, Ithaca: Cornell University Press. World Bank (2016) World Bank Open Data, World Health Organization (WHO) (2016) Global Health Observatory (GHO) Data, gho/database/en/



Overview of militarized modernity Militarized modernity as a sociopolitical and economic formation emerged in the 1960s when new and old techniques of ruling came together, reached its peak in the 1970s, and showed some signs of decline in the 1980s. The rise of militarized modernity needs to be understood as a Korean path to modernity stemming from the following circumstances faced by South Korea: national division, the Korean War and prolonged military confrontation, and the postcolonial exigencies of building a modern nation through establishing a national identity and disciplining its population into useful and loyal members of the nation. These historical conditions modified the general trend of modernity characterized by increasing rationalization and internal pacification in various spheres of human life and generated a society ruled by the fusion of disciplinary power and pervasive force. The pursuit of militarized modernity in the process of nation building involved authoritarian imposition of a ruling elite’s view of modernity on the populace. It also necessitated the mass mobilization of men and women, consolidating the gendered political subjectivity of “dutiful nationals” ( gungmin) who were expected and willing to forgo their rights for the sake of the nation. Such imposition and mobilization triggered oppositional discourse of modernity as well as the acceptance of militarized modernity. Many ruling elites in postcolonial societies have commonly viewed modernity as a social condition marked by an industrial economy and a strong military to strengthen the nation-state. In South Korea, this elite view of modernity was closely interwoven with militarism and particularly the institution of male conscription. The core elements of militarized modernity included the construction of the Korean nation as the anticommunist self at war with the communist other, the constitution of members of the anticommunist body politic through discipline and physical force, and the intertwining of the industrializing economy with mandatory military service. The militarization of national identity as such centered on the ideologies of anticommunism and national security. In other words, South Korea was founded as an anticommunist nation against the “archenemy,” North Korea. This ideological construction of the nation enabled the modernizing state to deploy disciplinary techniques of surveillance and normalization, as well as institutionalized violence, in its remolding of individuals and social groups. It also resulted in the ascendance of militarized national security over any other sociopolitical issues and 48

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justified the construction of the strong modern military and the integration of men’s mandatory military service into the organization of the economy.

The militarized construction and maintenance of the anticommunist nation The South Korean state was founded in the maelstrom of decolonization, national partition, and the rise of the Cold War. Born in tandem with the establishment of the state in 1948, the anticommunist national identity had remained hegemonic in the context of prolonged military confrontation between the two Koreas. Crucial to the making of this national identity was the political dynamic during the period of the U.S. Army military government (USAMG) in South Korea (1945–1948). At the outset of the Cold War rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, the USAMG attempted to establish a “friendly” regime in Korea, serving its own political and strategic interests, with a heavy reliance on coercive means. Upon its arrival in the southern half of the peninsula, the USAMG proclaimed that it was the only legitimate authority in the region. With the establishment of the foreign military government, the euphoria of national independence soon evaporated and was followed by the partition of the Korean peninsula into north and south. Throughout its occupation, the USAMG militantly suppressed the indigenous grassroots political movements organized around the Korean People’s Republic and the people’s committees (Cumings 1981: 441–43). At the same time, the USAMG collaborated with the conservative landed class and bureaucrats in South Korea who had served the Japanese colonial government. This privileged minority was equally threatened by the mass-based movement aiming at the redistribution of land and other crucial resources. Therefore, the conservative Korean elite and the USAMG shared fervent anticommunism, to the point of equating any autonomous local movement in the south with communist insurgency sponsored by the Soviet Union and eradicating it (Cumings 1981: 349, 380). This anticommunist fervor contributed not only to the division of the Korean nation, but also to the absence of effective organized opposition to rigid anticommunism for decades to come. Although over time it had gradually given way to pragmatism in the area of foreign policy, anticommunism as the state ideology that defined North Korea as the “chief enemy that poses actual military threat” remained largely intact until the North-South summit meeting in June 2000 (Ministry of National Defense 1998: 51). Upholding anticommunism as the state ideology, Syngman Rhee’s regime (1948–1960) continued, on the internal front, to suppress the left-wing press while exercising tight control over the remaining right-wing press under the National Security Law, proclaimed in 1948 (Gang 1998: 116). Externally, the regime displayed belligerent hostility to North Korea in the context of the escalating politics of the Cold War. As Kim Il Sung was explicit about his desire to “liberate” the South by force, so was Rhee about his desire to “restore” the northern territory by force (Cumings 1990: 388; Hong 1997: 237). The mutually militaristic rhetoric was accompanied by several skirmishes, initiated by both sides, including a serious battle near Kaesong in 1949 that involved thousands of troops (Hart-Landsberg 1998: 116). It was, however, the Korean War, leaving more than four million casualties (Cumings 1990: 770), which shaped the national identity into its hegemonic form, which essentially revolved around, and was nourished by, fierce anticommunism directed toward North Korea. The war not only intensified the existing hostility between the two states to the point of irreparability, but also justified the paramountcy of militarized national security and therefore the need for a strong military for decades to come. During the war, President Rhee advocated an irredentist march to 49

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the north of the thirty-eighth parallel. Although negotiation for an armistice agreement had been under way since July 1951, he ardently opposed any truce in favor of fighting to a victory by the allied forces over the communists and driving them out of the Korean peninsula. Hence, President Rhee was instrumental in coining popular phrases such as “victory over communism” (seunggong), which was later adopted as the title of an ethics textbook widely used in primary and secondary schools during the 1970s. The exodus of Koreans from the North to the South during the period between decolonization and the end of the Korean War generated a large number of people who were or became ardent supporters of anticommunism in South Korea. During the first five years after decolonization, an estimated 740,000 North Koreans, who had been landowners, members of the Japanese constabulary, and employees of the colonial government, migrated to the South (Foley 2003: 30). In the context of the sociopolitical revolution in the North, these groups, who had collaborated with the colonial regime to varying degrees, had no other choice but to leave. During the Korean War, another estimated 650,000 North Korean refugees migrated to South Korea (Foley 2003: 42, 56). Reasserting anticommunism as an official doctrine, Park Chung Hee’s regime (1961–1979) fortified the anticommunist national identity through its involvement in the Vietnam War from 1965 to 1973. Indeed, the North and the South fought a vicarious war in Indochina by actively supporting communist North Vietnam and capitalist South Vietnam, respectively. In the spirit of advocating a Third World nationalist struggle against imperialism, North Korea sent food, clothes, medicine, military supplies, and soldiers. South Korea, meanwhile, dispatched its troops in exchange for a pledge by the United States to modernize its military, purchase war supplies produced in South Korea, and offer new loans (Editorial Board 1994: 104; Gills 1996: 109–10, 152). For the eight years of its Vietnam entanglement, South Korea sent more than 300,000 soldiers annually, representing the second largest ally to the U.S. forces after the South Vietnamese military itself (Han 1978: 893). One of the significant social consequences of this long-term involvement was the reinforcement of the unthinking acceptance of anticommunism among the populace, exposed to mass mobilization and ideological propaganda. Students were exhorted to send comfort letters and comfort goods to Korean soldiers serving in Vietnam. The mass media produced a plethora of images and stories supporting the everyday mythology of brave and ferocious Korean soldiers fighting in the war. Hence, in the face of the global spread of the antiwar movement in the late 1960s, no critical public discourse on the Korean participation in the Vietnam War, let alone popular protest against the war, was visible (Gim 2001: 69). Dramatic changes in international relations in the early 1970s, characterized by the U.S. rapprochement with the People’s Republic of China and détente with the Soviet Union, did not significantly modify South Korean anticommunism. In 1972, Kim Il Sung and Park Chung Hee made a symbolic gesture to ease tension by declaring a joint statement for peaceful unification independent of foreign intervention. Park’s regime also established diplomatic relations with some communist countries during the 1970s. At the same time, though, this regime maintained its anti-North stance and accelerated military buildup to catch up with the North, which had achieved military superiority over the South as a result of its own successful postwar reconstruction (Hart-Landsberg 1998: 146–57). The anticommunist identity of the modern Korean nation was perpetuated in the reescalation of Cold War militarism after the election of Ronald Reagan and other conservative leaders in Western countries in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Yet some signs of the weakening of the anticommunist identity began to appear. Critical to this change were the Gwang ju massacre (May 1980) and the U.S. role in establishing Chun Doo Hwan’s military rule (1980–1987). Instrumental to the birth of this second military regime was the U.S. condoning of the 1979 coup 50

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d’état and the Korean army’s brutal suppression of the citizens’ uprising for democracy in the city of Gwang ju. The U.S. complicity in the massacre, which left an estimated 500 civilians dead (Shin and Hwang 2003: xvii), and the subsequent U.S. support for Chun’s regime seriously damaged its claim to defending democracy in South Korea against the communist North. Consequently, the popular perception of anticommunism as part and parcel of democracy was eroded, particularly among political dissidents, and this erosion, in turn, contributed to the emergence of public skepticism toward the anticommunist national identity.

The making of members of the anticommunist body politic through discipline and violence In its pursuit of modernity, the anticommunist state attempted to remold its population into docile and useful members of the body politic through the combined use of discipline and physical violence. This amalgamation distinguished militarized modernity in South Korea from Foucauldian modernity, characterized by the progressive decline of force in the context of growing disciplinary power. According to Michel Foucault (1979), as discipline became the dominant organizing principle of modern society, the military which initially lent various techniques of ruling to other modern disciplinary institutions such as the school, the factory, the hospital, and the prison, reduced its own prominence in domestic politics. Discipline is a sophisticated form of power that achieves maximum effect at a minimum economic and political cost. Exercised in the form of knowledge designed to improve individuals, disciplinary power aims at meticulous control over individuals to maximize their productivity and utility (as opposed to the renunciation of the world that was produced by premodern religious discipline) and minimize their resistance. Therefore, disciplinary power does not need to be violent; it is productive power which is also impersonal and rationalized, to use Weberian terminology. In contrast, the use of physical force was pervasive in South Korea during the period of militarized modernity, despite the expansion of the state’s disciplinary power over individuals and social groups. It would be misleading, however, to confine the frequent use of physical force to militarized modernity as if it testifies savagery of lesser modernity. Western modernities also blatantly used physical force to control colonized people. What distinguishes militarized modernity from Western modernities in this regard is the way in which the boundaries between civilization (the realm governed by law) and savagery (the realm ruled by physical violence) are drawn. To the extent to which they lacked procedural democracy and the process of “internal pacification,” the military regimes in South Korea relied on the use of organized violence against those who did not conform to the rule of the anticommunist nation. At the same time, the developmental state used “surveillance” and “normalization,” two major instruments of disciplinary power (Foucault 1979: 184), to mold its members. Reflecting the disciplinary technique of using reports and registers to exercise surveillance over the population (Foucault 1979: 213–14), in May 1962, Park’s junta (1961–63) enacted the resident registration law and introduced the system of resident registration ( jumindeungnokjedo). Under this system, each individual is given a unique and immutable number at birth, and this identification is used to monitor the populations’ movements for a wide range of purposes, including military service, taxation, criminal investigation, and recently the administration of social welfare services. The registration system enables the modernizing state to keep comprehensive records on its individual members, ranging from his or her address, marital status, and date of birth to his or her schooling, technical license acquisition, vocational training history, and reasons for changing his or her permanent address. Compared with state-administered identification systems in other modern societies, the Korean version is 51

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decidedly excessive, with its punctilious collection of 140 different items of individual information (Gim 2000). Central to the development of the resident registration system was the imperative of military mobilization, rooted in the ideology of national security against communist North Korea. The first amendment to the law, issued in 1968, required all adult men and women to carry a fingerprinted card (jumindeungnokjeung) to document their registration. One of the main reasons for instituting the card was “to be fully prepared with anticommunist attitudes for easily distinguishing North Korean spies and impure elements and ferreting them out” (Gim 2000: 70). The legal change was a response to North Korea’s growingly aggressive stance toward both South Korea and the U.S. in the escalation of the Vietnam War, indicated by a series of widely publicized incidents in 1968: its commandos’ infiltration of the Blue House to assassinate President Park, the seizure of the USS Pueblo, and the infiltration by over 130 armed guerrillas of the eastern maritime towns. In the face of opposition by the Democratic party to the institution of the resident registration card, the ruling Democratic Republican Party pushed through passage of the amendment in the National Assembly, along with the Homeland Security Force Establishment Law, in the absence of the opposition party. By the end of 1968, the modernizing state had issued the resident registration card to 15.76 million people. Throughout the 1970s, the South Korean state reinforced the registration system in the name of strengthening national security and preparing for total war. In 1975, it lowered the age at which citizens were required to apply for the registration card, in order to enhance “the effective management of the civil defense forces, the homeland security forces and the national human resources” (Gim 2000: 70). In the mid-1980s, Chun Doo Hwan’s regime modified the system for the effective control of the populace. Another disciplinary technique for monitoring individual commitment to anticommunism was the use of anticommunist mottoes to alert the populace to communist infiltration and subversion. These mottoes also encouraged them to identify North Korean spies and impure elements and report them to the police. Such anticommunist posters were ubiquitous along highways and street, and in public transportation, public buildings, schools, apartment complexes, and business corporations. Anticommunist mottoes were printed on cigarette cases, lottery tickets, and movie tickets. Based on an analysis of numerous anticommunist mottoes, Hyeok-beom Kwon (2000) argues that this ubiquitous, impersonal supervision generated an “anticommunist circuit” in popular perception that automatically makes the following associations. First, people link a “suspicious” person to an “impure” element, and then to a “leftist,” or to link a leftist to a supporter of North Korea and its spy. Second, people equate confusion, division, and the lack of discipline with machination by the impure element, North Korean aggression, and national insecurity (Kwon 2000: 55, 58). Although Kwon’s study focuses on anticommunist mottoes collected in the 1990s, his analysis is relevant to earlier decades as well, because this disciplinary technique was more pervasive and conspicuous then. The use of punctilious surveillance by the police was not, however, always connected to the molding of the anticommunist members of the nation. One such exception was the regulation of the length of men’s hair and women’s skirts after the Lesser Crime Punishment Law became effective in 1973. Unacceptably long hair for a man was defined as hair that covered his ears and touched his shirt collar; an unacceptably short skirt for a woman was defined as a skirt that was 17 centimeters above her knee. Carrying a tape measure and scissors, policemen caught these “lesser criminals” on the streets and cut men’s hair in public as punishment. While the regulation of the miniskirt was not quite as strict, the police carried out annual campaigns throughout the 1970s during which they intensified the punishment of long-haired men (Gang 2002: 110–15). 52

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The modernizing state fortified its ability to supervise the population by organizing individuals into the hierarchical associations called “administered mass organizations” (AMOs) (Kasza 1995). These organizations were a legacy of Japanese colonial rule, particularly during the 1930s and 1940s, the decades of wartime mass mobilization. The postcolonial state attempted to reach every corner of Korean society by creating and expanding the national network of numerous AMOs arranged by residence, gender, age, and industry. A telling example of this disciplinary technique was the use of the residential association (bansanghoe) in all urban and rural towns to monitor and indoctrinate local residents. During the second half of the 1970s, the Ministry of Interior administered monthly assemblies of the residential associations, during which attendees were instructed in anticommunism, government policies, and the code of conduct for members of Korean state ( gungmin), including detailed guidelines about how to behave during an emergency and how to identify North Korean spies and report suspicious persons. Local residents were also instructed to report “groundless rumors” and avoid “impure” conduct (Gang 2002: 41). This disciplinary practice continued during Chun’s rule. The use of AMOs by the modernizing state was conspicuous in its remolding of workers into useful and docile carriers of labor power necessary for building the industrial economy. The state attempted to secure its control of labor in the following ways. First, it permitted only one labor union per firm and required each union to be registered. Second, it organized labor unions hierarchically for effective monitoring and control, requiring each local union to belong to a nationwide industrial federation and ultimately to the confederation of industrial unions. Third, although collective bargaining was allowed through the labor-management councils, the state retained the ultimate authority to impose its own resolution. Fourth, it promoted the sampo system. Originating in a Japanese colonial practice, this system coopted labor union through company’s financing (Ogle 1990: 14–15; Sin 1988: 18). The constitution of members of the anticommunist body politic entailed the disciplinary technique of “normalization” to train individuals to become anticommunists dedicated to protecting national security and building the industrial economy. The modernizing state deployed its orthodoxy of anticommunism to make normalizing judgments on individuals. Producing “a whole range of degrees of normality indicating membership of a homogeneous social body” (Foucault 1979: 184), those judgments distinguished legitimate members of the Korean nation from those who were not. Hence, anticommunism as the state ideology was essential to the creation of the individual members of the nation, linking them to the body politic. Such disciplinary training involved the detailed regulation of individual attitudes, conduct, movement, and thoughts. Schooling functioned as a mechanism for reshaping individual thoughts, attitudes, and conduct and for normalizing individuals as members of the anti-communist nation. Park’s military junta announced the “pulverization of the communist invasion” as a main goal of higher education (Gim and Hong 1991: 231). By using the national network of schools centrally controlled by the government, Park’s regime tried to intensify the inculcation of anticommunism, and of the importance of militarized national security, into students at various levels of education. Major curriculum reforms carried out in 1963 and 1973 emphasized the formation of an unshakable anticommunist consciousness as a principle goal of education. This type of ideological control evolved from a narrow focus on anticommunism in the 1960s to the incorporation of “traditional” values such as loyalty and filial piety into curricula in the 1970s (Gim and Hong 1991: 233, 237). As a result, students were instructed in the following subjects: anticommunist morality (bangongdodeok), victory over communism (seuggong), right living (bareunsaengwhal), national ethics (gungminyulli), and national history (guksa). These subjects essentially highlighted the danger and threat of communist North Korea and the need for unity under the military leadership. Students were also regularly instructed to participate in contests for anticommunist posters, 53

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writings, and public speeches. Echoing the Japanese colonial practice during World War II, students were advised to send “comfort letters” and “comfort goods” to conscripted soldiers who protected the nation. Chun’s regime also tried to maintain the ideological control of students by implementing a “school curriculum reform” in 1981. The reform reasserted the anticommunist national identity as a crucial goal of education and designed more sophisticated ideological indoctrination in response to the growth of the anti-regime movement among college students. It relabeled anticommunist education, calling it “unification security education” (tong’ilanbogyoyuk) (Gim and Hong 1991: 235, 237). Under this rubric, the blatant demonization of communism was replaced with an ideological critique in an attempt to appeal to college students (Han’gukkyoyukmunjeyeon’guhoe 1989: 350–51). Yet as the explosive development of the militant student movement in the mid-1980s testified, this attempt was not very successful. Crucial to the indoctrination and mobilization of individual members of the body politic for quotidian war preparations were the mass media, especially the national television network, which rapidly expanded throughout the late 1960s and the early 1970s (Gang 1998: 199–200). The 1970s were a time of societal mobilization par excellence in which the entire population was mobilized for war preparation under the ideology of total national security (chongyeokanbo) and total unity (chonghwadangyeol). All sectors of society were drawn into war preparation in several ways. The populace was mobilized to participate in monthly civil defense training, introduced for the first time in 1971. Employed men and women were required to pay a defense surtax (bangwise), instituted immediately after the communization of Indochina following the fall of Saigon and the ascendancy of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in 1975. The collection of this surtax lasted until 1990 and served to finance military buildup under the Yulgok project (Editorial Board 1994: 105–6). Representing approximately 2 percent of the gross national product during the 1970s and 1980s, it served as a major source of financing for the modernization of the armed forces (Moon 1998: 278). Between 1973 and 1988, the national television network also played a central role in promoting campaigns to collect defense funds (bangwiseonggeum) among students, workers, and housewives, which resembled the Japanese wartime colonial practice (Gim 1996: 298). In the Korean nation unified under the banner of anticommunism, those who failed to conform to the norms of correct attitudes and conduct were subject to violent punishment. The categories of deviants in the anticommunist body politic included external communists, as well as internal communist followers and sympathizers. In 1956 the postcolonial state legally reestablished the conversion system (jeonhyang jedo) used by the colonial state to reshape the beliefs and thoughts of North Korean spies and prisoners of the Korean War (Jo 2001: 109). Bizarre on the face of it, the conversion system was a logical though extreme outcome of the disciplinary regulation of individuals, aiming to reduce the gap between rules and nonconformity. Under military rule, “nonconverted prisoners” (bijeonhyangsu) were incarcerated in several designated prisons and exposed to excessive surveillance and ideological indoctrination. Yet these prisoners were also subjected to brutal violence involving terror and torture (Jo 2001: 111), which separates the working of militarized modernity from Foucauldian disciplinary modernity. Even after “conversion,” the prisoners were under close supervision, including the monitoring of their movements and telephone conversations. And under the “societal security law (sahoeanjeonbeop) enforced between 1975 and 1989, converted thought criminals were kept in quasi prison even after their supposed release” (Jo 2001: 122–23). While North Korean communists were external others, political dissidents and workers organizing democratic unions, often accused of being communist sympathizers, were internal others, who also needed to be punished. Although the Constitution and the Standard Labor Law 54

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formally upheld workers’ rights to assemble and to take collective action, the technique of anticommunist normalization categorized workers involved in labor organizing as criminals undermining national security who existed outside the boundary of normal membership in the body politic. The Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) and later the National Security Planning Council (NSPC) played the major role in exercising extensive and detailed surveillance over the suspicious. However, surveillance was frequently coupled with brutal violence, including torture and beating. By the beginning of the Yushin system in 1972, the KCIA had become a thuggish institution that enjoyed enormous power to reward allies and punish foes at will (Cumings 1997: 365). Its agents were almost omnipresent, keeping watch over not only opposition political parties but also mass media and college classrooms (Cumings 1997: 366). A history of political persecution in South Korea shows ample examples of political dissidents who were executed or suffered enormously from anticommunist witch-hunts. Day-to-day surveillance of individuals and their normalization, justified by the ideologies of anticommunism and national security, remolded them into useful and docile members of the anticommunist nation. Many of the techniques of surveillance and normalization persisted into the era of procedural democracy, suggesting the largely successful constitution of individuals as gungmin to be mobilized to build the modern nation. Yet the frequent use of violence and the repressive control of individuals and social groups galvanized militant protests and later an organized oppositional movement in the 1980s (Moon 2005: chapter 4). The military regimes’ frequent abuse of the ideologies of anticommunism and national security in the service of suppressing protests against the dictatorship, going as far as the execution of several journalists and dissidents, also undermined the effectiveness of anticommunism as the orthodoxy that justified the surveillance and normalization of the populace. Dramatic economic growth also altered priorities among the general public in daily life. As ordinary Koreans became concerned with achieving and maintaining high standards of living in the context of economic expansion, they became less willing to be mobilized for war preparation. Unlike Park’s regime, Chun’s regime in the 1980s promoted the building of a “welfare society” by announcing its plan to implement, for the first time in South Korean history, a national pension system and a minimum wage system and to expand the national health care system (Choe and Go 1989: 393). This kind of rhetoric was accompanied by cosmetic but culturally significant changes in daily life: the lifting of the midnight curfew, the abolition of school uniforms (criticized for being trappings of Japanese colonialism), and the beginning of professional sports leagues. This line of social liberalization was far less conducive to popular mobilization for war preparation than was the previous regime’s emphasis on “total security” and “total unity.” While these discontinuities did not entail the immediate decline of the anticommunist national identity, they prepared the soil for further challenges to it in the following decade.

The integration of men’s military service into the organization of the labor market An aspect of militarized modernity far less recognized than the militant suppression of labor and the discipline of big business by the state was the extensive integration of men’s mandatory military service into the overall working of the labor market in South Korea. Not only was the completion of military service the precondition for any type of employment, including any self-employment that required the state’s approval, but military service was also recognized as work experience in the conventional and legal practices of employment. Although this coupling of military service with employment resulted from the state’s intension to establish the system of universal male conscription by penalizing evaders, its enforcement contributed to the development 55

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of the militarized economy. There were three ways in which paid employment in the industrializing economy was closely tied to mandatory military service. First, military service was integrated into the workings of the labor market in the process of recruitment. During the period of military rule, which was before the enforcement of the Equal Employment Law (1988), business corporations commonly specified the completion (or official exemption from) military service as a criterion for applicants in their recruitment advertising. This specification was a formal reminder of the Special Measure Law that contained penalties for the violation of the Military Service Law enacted in 1973. At the same time, this criterion also came to mean that such job openings were reserved for men. That is, although women were technically exempted from military service and therefore eligible, they need not apply. According to a study of the recruitment advertisements of 683 firms published in a newspaper between March 6, 1982, and February 28, 1983, over a third of these firms used the completion of military service as a necessary precondition for application. Military service was the third most frequently printed criterion, after education and age (Jang 1990: 168). This practice of excluding women from jobs advertised was more prevalent among “large” corporations (ones that hired more than 300 employees and provided better working conditions and better pay). According to the Korean Women’s Development Institute (KWDI)’s study of the gender-segregated recruitment practices of 1,217 corporations, over half of large firms required the completion of, or exemption from, military service for mere application (KWDI 1983: 51). Second, recognizing military service as work experience, not only public but also private firms developed conventional practices of granting higher pay and faster promotion to veterans, an absolute majority of whom were former conscripts. The KWDI study of gender-segregated recruitment practices shows that over a third of all firms studied observed these conventional practices (KWDI 1983: 51). These employment practices remained intact without challenge until the late 1980s, when the Equal Employment Law was enacted and provided at least a legal ground to contest them. Third, the military service extra-point system (eliminated in late 1999 as a result of a women’s movement and the democratizing court system) guaranteed veterans some advantages in employment tests and interviews in public sectors and some designated private sectors. Other private employers were encouraged to apply this legal practice. It is useful here to discuss briefly the legal evolution of the extra-point system, because it reveals the legal arrangement of connecting military service to employment, which had uneven ramifications for women and men in the presence of “universal” male conscription. The system was introduced under the Military Relief Recipients Employment Act promulgated in 1961. Initially, the extra-points system was adopted as the core element of national compensation for veterans and their families in the area of employment, in the absence of other substantive forms of reward. The Supreme Council for National Reconstruction, formed by General Park Chung Hee’s military junta, articulated a twofold rationale for establishing such an act: first, to provide a livelihood for those who had completed the “sacred duty of national defense,” particularly disabled soldiers and families of soldiers killed in battle, and second, to elevate the national military’s morale, undermined by the impoverishment of veterans. As a way to assist their employment, the law included an article specifying veterans’ entitlement to extra points when they took public employment tests for positions in government, public corporations, and other relevant organizations. According to Article 5 of the Employment Support Act, former conscripts were guaranteed extra points worth 5 percent of full marks, while one family member of each disabled or deceased soldier received 10 percent extra (Korean National Assembly 1998). The practice of granting extra points was modified after the Military Relief Act was replaced, in 1984, by the Honorable Treatment of Persons of National Merit Act (Gim 1997). Basically, 56

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this new law expanded the application of the extra-points system in terms of which employers were required to adopt it and which types of recruitment test it applied to. According to Article 30 of this act, the category of employers included not only the public employers specified in the previous law but also private schools and firms defined as “organizations practicing employment protection.” Article 70 of the Honorable Treatment Act guaranteed extra points not only on written tests but also in other equivalent tests, such as job interviews and auditions. The act redefined “patriotic martyrs, patriotic fighters, and policemen and soldiers killed in the line of duty” as “persons of national merit.” Compared with the earlier term, “military relief recipient,” this euphemistic terminology implied state’s affirmative recognition of soldiers and their bereaved families. While families of disabled or deceased persons of national merit were entitled to receive an extra 10 percent of full marks on any given test, veterans – both conscripts and professional soldiers – received extra points ranging from 3 percent to 5 percent, depending on the length of their service. In this sketch of the evolution of the military service extra-points system, the following points deserve further attention. First, its gradual expansion over time suggests the increasing symbolic significance of military service in the labor market in the 1980s. More categories of employers were expected to adopt it, and more categories of recruitment tests were included in it. While we have no reliable data by which to determine the total number of beneficiaries of the extra-points system, what is more important is its symbolic currency as the expedient marker of the state’s recognition of the hardship of military service. The state tried to use the system as a minimum reward or compensation to military service in order to sustain the universal conscription system. Second, it is worth discussing this seemingly esoteric system in a comparative manner. While it may sound peculiar to South Korea, it can be understood as one form of incentives that every nation-state has to offer to ensure the supply of competent and willing soldiers for the smooth working of the military. The restrictive nature of military service necessitates certain forms of initiatives and rewards to attract potential recruits and to mitigate discontent among conscripts, depending on the availability of resources, the perceived state of national security, and the form of the military recruitment system. Most states offer a combination of government pensions, monetary compensation, medical insurance, and educational and other employment aids to attend to the basic needs of veterans and their families. Moreover, some states grant veterans advantages in public employment, and the military service extra-points system implemented in South Korea can be seen as a specific version of that. For example, under the Veterans Preference Act (1944), honorably discharged veterans in the United States receive additional points on federal and state employment tests. Because these three ways in which military service was integrated into the labor market, the organizational culture of large corporations under military rule was particularly imbued with militaristic values and practices. Corporate culture in major business firms was characterized by rigid hierarchy based on rank, the command mode of one-way communication, and a collective ethos used to justify individual sacrifice. These aspects of corporate culture underlay interactions among workers and managers in offices and on shop floors. In addition, orientation and on-thejob training programs in large corporations for college-educated, white-collar employees often included endurance training (marching and collective gymnastics in athletic uniform), which mirrored military training, in their regimented daily schedule.


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Gendered mass mobilization Men’s mobilization to be soldiers and primary workers in the industrializing economy As discussed above, the pursuit of militarized modernity necessitated the remolding of individuals into members of the anticommunist nation. It also required mass mobilization of such members as men and women. This gendered mobilization showed at least two separate paths of being incorporated into the modernizing nation. Men were mobilized to be soldiers and primary workers in the industrializing economy. The mass mobilization of men for conscription is a difficult task for any state because men do not naturally embrace military service as their national duty. Despite the enduring symbolic link between masculinity and military service in various societies, many men are reluctant to perform military service for different reasons; these would include pacifism, fear of death and severe injuries, loss of years of youth, and economic obligation to families. According to comparative and historical studies of conscription in the Middle East and Central Asia, popular resistance toward conscription as a new form of military recruitment was a norm rather than an exception (Zürcher 1999). In South Korea, universal conscription system (gungmingaebyeong je) was formally introduced with the enactment of the Military Service Law in 1949, which defined military service as “men’s national duty.” However, its implementation was delayed until 1957 due to the Korean War and postwar political instabilities (Gang 1996: 68). The militarization of masculinity in South Korea was intimately linked to the building of the postcolonial nation-state in the context of the Cold War. During the Korean War, the South Korean Army expanded exponentially, from 100,000 to 650,000 (Kim 1971: 37–40). The implementation became serious only after the Korean state was under the control of Park Chung Hee and his military officers. His government made aggressive and coordinated efforts to alter popular resistance toward military service. They involved the daunting task of transforming the deeply negative associations that military service held among the grassroots population, shaped by neo-Confucian tradition, Japanese colonial rule, and the internecine civil war, as well as the absence of any substantial sociopolitical and economic reward for mass military mobilization (Moon 2005: 47–48). The modernizing state used repressive surveillance over the body of prospective conscripts and ideological indoctrination through schooling and the mass media to establish military service as men’s national duty. The state strengthened its organizational infrastructure necessary for effective surveillance of the body of prospective conscripts. Upgraded as an independent organization outside the Ministry of National Defense in 1970, the Office of Military Manpower played a central role in administering all affairs concerning conscription. In particular, by improving techniques for the physical examination of prospective conscripts and monitoring their overall supply and identification, the office contributed to the drastic reduction of draft evasion over time (Bak 1995). Park’s regime also carried out a crackdown of conscription evasion and implemented a series of initiatives to eradicate it. A highly effective deterrent to evasion was the practice of prohibiting employers from hiring men who did not complete military service. The violation of this regulation subjected employers to heavy fines and withdrawal of the state approvals necessary to run a business (Gi 1995; Ryu 1989). In conjunction with these coercive measures, the state made active use of schooling and the mass media to inculcate militarized patriotism in young people and adults. Interwoven with men’s mass mobilization for mandatory military service was their mobilization for the industrializing economy, especially after 1973. Under the Military Service Special Cases Law, tens of thousands of men were employed annually in factories and research centers 58

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designated by the state in lieu of military service. These men received systematic training in manufacturing jobs and research jobs in heavy industries and were paid for their work. Although this practice has persisted throughout the 1990s and even today, its heydays were the 1970s and 1980s, when it was instrumental to the building of national defense and heavy industrialization pursued by the state. In particular, male conscripts in these factories and research centers were considered “industrial soldiers” and their growing number over time contributed to the masculinization of the skilled workforce (Moon 2005: 55–64).

Women’s mobilization as mothers and housewives and their marginalization in the industrializing economy Women’s mobilization for building the modern nation took a path quite different from men’s. In the absence of systematic policies and programs to train women as a permanent workforce for the industrializing economy, the only continuous policy and program directed to women were “family planning” (euphemism for population control) policy and the campaign to promote “rational management of the household.” Reflecting the underlying assumption about women as reproducers confined to the domestic sphere, the family planning policy cast women as breeders, and the campaign cast them as housewives. Although these initiatives never received any material and ideological investment by the military regimes comparable to the investment in the military and industrial mobilization of men, they reveal the distinct ways in which women were incorporated into the modern nation to boost the strong military and the industrial economy (Moon 2005: chapter 3). In the process of industrialization, growing number of young women became factory workers in expanding manufacturing industries. Yet despite their critical contribution to the national economy, women workers were marginalized as secondary workforce. This marginalization became conspicuous as the focus of industrial development shifted from the manufacturing of light consumer goods to that of heavy and chemical industrial products, and the drive to build self-reliant defense was unleashed (Moon 2005: 71–75). While the modernizing state discriminated against women in job training and excluded them, it provided them with domesticating instructions through the Factory New Village Movement, “working women’s classes,” “workplace classes,” and “ladies’ university.” Common to all these programs was a type of class teaching single women workers household management, womanly etiquette, concerning speaking, dressing, and overall conduct, and domesticating hobbies such as flower arrangement, handicrafts, and calligraphy. In sum, women workers remained untrained or trained with feminized skills and therefore cheap, temporary, and secondary source of labor. This should be understood against the background that labor-intensive manufacturing industries continued to be crucial to the Korean economy in the 1980s. The flip side of the drastic growth of the so-called capital-intensive export goods in the 1980s is the persistent feminization of labor-intensive manufacturing industries. This tendency is directly related to the state’s attempt to recruit married women to compensate for the shortage of young female labor in the gender-segregated labor market (Moon 2005: 75–78). The modernizing state perceived women and their fertility as the object of control and manipulation. It launched aggressive propaganda for family planning because the idea of contraception to reduce the number of children was foreign to most Koreans in the early 1960s, who believed that having many children meant good luck and that every child would bring his or her own food into the world. To alter this customary idea, the state made extensive use of hierarchical organizations administering the family planning policy. It also established Mothers’ Clubs, a women’s administered mass organization (AMO) with numerous branches in rural and urban 59

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areas, to encourage women’s participation in implementing family planning. From the early 1960s to the late 1980s, the target group of married women in rural and poor urban areas was merely a set of statistical numbers for intrauterine device (IUD) insertion and sterilization, the two most common methods promoted. Women were visible either as fertile mothers and wives or as temporary and underpaid family planning staff at the bottom of the hierarchy of family planning projects. At the same time, the existence of the Mothers’ Clubs for family planning in local villages and towns implies that the modernizing state attempted to induce active participation of women in its project of nation building. Ironically, this national call to women appealed to them because the state’s interest in population control converged with women’s interest in reducing pregnancies and childbirths in the context of urbanization and industrialization (Moon 2005: 78–80). The national campaign for rational management of the household involved the tailoring of such daily practices as cooking, shopping, and consuming various goods and observing ceremonial rituals and holidays according to the needs of the nation’s industrializing economy. One element of the rational management of households was the “scientific improvement” of cooking and eating. With instructions on nutrition and food saving, mothers and wives were strongly encouraged to consume wheat, brown rice, or grains other than white rice of which self-sufficiency had been in rapid decline. In association with the mass media, the state-sponsored women’s centers and women’s organizations held rice-saving campaigns and bread-making workshops and introduced recipes that used wheat flour and mixed grains. Another element of the campaign was the “wise” consumption of goods and resources. Mothers and wives were strongly encouraged to plan household budgets and keep records of their spending. They were also expected to recycle used goods and save valuable resources like running water, electricity, and paper. They as managers of the household economy were encouraged to observe simple and thrifty familial ceremonies and holidays. Promoting the reproductive nature of women’s membership to the modernizing nation, the state bolstered the traditional gender division of labor stemming from the cultural ideal of “wise mother and good wife” (Moon 2005: 89–93).

Conclusion The pursuit of militarized modernity and gendered mass mobilization generated counterhegemonic meanings of modernity that were observed in popular protests against the authoritarian regimes and in works of dissident intellectuals during the 1970s and 1980s. This counterhegemonic discourse re-envisioned grassroots women and men as citizens (as opposed to gungmin), active participants in the body politic who monitor the state and struggle with it to protect their rights and obtain new ones. After the end of military rule in the late 1980s, the three major aspects of militarized modernity declined unevenly. The shifting political context both enabled and constrained the transformation of women and men from duty-bound nationals into active citizens. The military and economic mobilization of men during the period of militarized modernity shaped the emergence of men as citizens and the obstacles to that emergence in post1987 South Korea. Generating the problem of inequity across classes, men’s military mobilization did not lead to the development of the citizens’ movement to redefine the relationship between military service and men’s citizenship during the process of (procedural) democratization. The demand for basic rights has been collectively articulated through the labor movement, dominated by (relatively privileged) male workers employed by large companies in the heavy and chemical industries. In their militant struggle to form autonomous unions in the face of violent opposition from the state and management, these male workers shattered their subjectivity as dutiful nationals and became rights-bearing citizens. Despite its significance to men and women as workers, 60

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the labor movement was deeply masculinized by the pervasiveness of militarized violence and the patriarchal culture of the labor union. In comparison, women in South Korea emerged as citizens in the process of contesting the economic marginalization. While the trajectory of men’s citizenship showed the division between the working-class labor movement and the middle-class citizens’ movement, the trajectory of women’s citizenship demonstrated the centrality of autonomous women’s associations and the relatively interclass orientation in struggling for labor unions and equal employment for all women. The interclass women’s movements reflect the ambiguous class positions of women in Korean society. Marginalized in the industrializing economy as the secondary labor force, a majority of women have structurally occupied less definite class positions than men. Social scientists tend to subsume a woman’s class position under that of the husband or male household head. Women’s emergence as citizens, however, is a process in the making and by no means indicates a fixed path.

Acknowledgment This chapter contains excerpts (pp. 23–42; pp. 45–46; pp. 52–53) and selective modifications (chapters 2 and 3) from my book, Militarized Modernity and Gendered Citizenship in South Korea (Duke University Press, 2005; reprint in 2007), and appears here with the permission of the publisher.

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Seungsook Moon Gim, J. (1996) “1990 Nyeondae Han’gukgunsusanyeobui Donghyangkwa ‘Gyeong jeui Gunsahwa Munje’” [A Trend in Korean Military Industry in the 1990s and the ‘Problem of Militarization of the Economy’], in J. Gim and S. Hong (eds) Gunsinkwa Hyeondaesahoe [Mars and Contemporary Society], pp. 285–315, Seoul: Munhwakwahaksa. ——— (1997) “Jedaegunin Kwalleon Ipbeop Siltaewa Banghyang” [Legislation of Veterans- Related Acts: Its Actual Conditions and Directions], Han’gukgunsa [Korean Military Affairs], 5(July): 164–172. Gim, J. and Hong, S. (1991) “Han’guksahoeui Kyoyukkwa Jibaeideologi” [Education and Ruling Ideologies in Korean Society], in Korean Industrial Society Studies Association (ed) Han’guksahoewa Jibaeideologi [Korean Society and Ruling Ideologies], pp. 227–257, Seoul: Nokdu. Han’gukkyoyukmunjeyeon’guhoe [Korean Educational Issues Research Association] (1989) “Je 6 Gonghwagugui Kyoyuge Daehan Jibaejeongchaek” [The Sixth Republic’s Ruling Policy on Education], in Korean Educational Issues Research Association (ed) 1980 Nyeondae Han’guksahoewa Jibaegujo [The Structure of Ruling in Korean Society in the 1980s], pp. 331–362, Seoul: Pulbit. Han, S. (1978) “South Korea’s Participation in the Vietnam Conflict: An Analysis of the U.S.-Korean Alliance,” Orbis, 21: 893–912. Hart-Landsberg, M. (1993) The Rush to Development: Economic Change and Political Struggle in South Korea, New York: Monthly Review Press. Hart-Landsberg, M. (1998) Korea: Division, Reunification, and U.S. Foreign Policy. New York: Monthly Review Press. Hong, Y. (1997) “Gukgaanbowa Jeonggwonanbo: Yiseungman Daetongnyeonui Anbojeongchaegeul Jungsimeuro, 1953–1960” [State Security and Regime Security: A Focus on the President Rhee Syngman’s Security Policy, 1953–1960], Gukjejeongchinonchong [International Relations Studies], 36(3): 237–262. Jang, J. (1990) “Han’guksahoe Jigeobui Bunjeolhwawa Gyeong jejeok Bulbyeongdeung: Seongbyeol Imgeum Gyeokcha Bunseogeul Jungsimeuro” [Occupational Segregation by Gender and Economic Inequalities in South Korea: An Analysis of Wage Differences by Gender], in Korean Social History Studies Association (ed) Han’guksaheoui Yyeoseongkwa Gajok [Women and the Family in Korean Society], pp. 121–185, Seoul: Munhakkwajiseongsa. Jo, Y. (2001) “Jeonhyang jedowa Gamogui Yaman” [The Conversion System and Savagery of the Prison], in B. Yi and K. Yi (eds) 20 Segi Han’gugui Yaman [Savagery in the Twentieth Century Korea], pp. 107–127, Seoul: Ilbit. Kasza, G. (1995) Conscription Society: Administered Mass Organizations, New Haven: Yale University Press. Kim, S. (1971) The Politics of Military Revolution in Korea, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Korean National Assembly (1998) “The Abstract of the 14th Regular Meeting of the Supreme Council for the National Reconstruction: The Record of Legislation and Revision, June-July 1961,” Seoul, DOCID 002558-AA03XX-B101 0001. Korean Women’s Development Institute (1983) Yeoseong Illyeok Baljeonui Jedojeok, Sahoejeok Jeohaeyoin Josa [A Study of Institutional and Social Factors Preventing Women Workers’ Development], Seoul. Kwon, H. (2000) “Naemonsogui Banggongjuui Hoerowa Kwolleok” [Anticommunist Circuit and Power in My Body], in J. Im et al. (ed) Urianui Pasijeum [Fascism inside Us], pp. 49–63, Seoul: Samin. Ministry of National Defense (1998) Gukbangbaekseo [White Paper on National Defense], Seoul. Moon, C. (1998) “South Korea: Recasting Security Paradigms,” in M. Alagappa (ed) Asian Security Practice: Material and Ideational Influences, pp. 264–287, Stanford: Stanford University Press. Moon, S. (2005) Militarized Modernity and Gendered Citizenship in South Korea, Durham: Duke University Press. Ogle, G. (1990) South Korea: Dissent within the Economic Miracle, Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Zed Books. Ryu, Y. (1989) “Pyeonyeokpungto, Eutteoke Pyeoncheondoeeo Wanna?” [Social Perception of Military Service, How Has It Changed?], Pyeongmu, 12: 18–22. Shin, G. and Hwang, K. (eds) (2003) Contentious Kwang ju: The May 18 Uprising in Korea’s Past and Present, Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield. Sin, I. (1988) Yeoseong Nodong Beop [Women Labor Law], revised and expanded edition, Seoul: Pulbit. Zürcher, E. (ed) (1999) Arming the State: Military Conscription in the Middle East and Central Asia, 1775–1925, New York: I. B. Taurus.



Introduction South Korea (or Korea) is hailed as an exemplary case of modernization theory for having developed economically under authoritarian rule before making its transition to democracy. The Korean economy began to rapidly expand in the 1960s under Park Chung Hee’s dictatorship and maintained an annual growth rate of eight percent through the 1980s under his successor, Chun Doo Hwan. While orchestrating the celebrated “Miracle on the Han River,” these autocratic leaders suppressed all forms of dissidence. Yet in this “dark age of democracy” (Lee 2006; Lee 2010; Yi 2011), a sustained democracy movement also emerged. Proponents of modernization theory have been quick to point out that development and democratization are related processes. As Samuel Huntington (1991: 72) argued, “economic development had proceeded to the point where pressures for expanded political participation compelled [the South Korean government] to begin the process of democratization.” These pressures culminated in the mass demonstrations by civil society groups during the 1987 June Democratic Uprising (6-wol Minju Hang jaeng), which provided the bottom-up motivation for South Korea’s democratic transition (Chang and Shin 2011). On June 29, 1987, the government announced the reinstitution of direct presidential elections and other political reforms, setting the country on the path towards democracy. Since the implementation of democratic reforms in 1987, Korea has made significant strides toward consolidating democracy. Political contestation has become increasingly fair, and it is notable that Korea was able to peacefully transfer power from conservative to progressive rule in 1998, and from progressive to conservative rule in 2008, thus passing Samuel Huntington’s “true test for democratic stability” (1991: 266–267). Notwithstanding the government’s periodic intrusion in the affairs of private media companies and labor unions, civil liberties have also substantially expanded, including the general abolishment of press censorship and restrictive labor laws that undergirded past authoritarian regimes. The Freedom House has continually assigned a score of no worse than two for political rights and civil liberties, with one representing the most free and seven the least free. South Korea’s democracy has endured its first economic turmoil during the Asian financial crises of 1997 and remains the legitimate political system of the country. 63

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At first blush, South Korea illustrates the basic premise of modernization theory. Modernization theory posits a single path to development with a single outcome: industrialized, urban, wealthy, well-educated stable democracies (Deutsch 1961; Inkeles 1966; Lerner 1958; Lipset 1959). A large literature on Korea’s economic and political development also depicts a relatively “smooth and peaceful capitalist transition toward modernity” (Koo 1999: 55). However, under Park Chung Hee (1961–1979) and Chun Doo Hwan (1980–1988), the political system became increasingly authoritarian alongside the growth of the national economy. Contrary to the simplistic modernization narrative, democracy in South Korea was not a natural outcome of economic growth and the expansion of the middle class. Rather, Korea’s path to economic development and democracy was a “dialectic process of social change,” characterized by “continuous opposition and conflicts between a strong autonomous state and an unruly society” (Koo 1999: 56). To reconcile these two seemingly contradictory views regarding Korea’s path to modernity and democracy, we show in this chapter that the structural foundations of modernization did have a stabilizing effect on authoritarian rule initially. But these same modernization structures also laid the socioeconomic foundations for the emergence of a successful democracy movement. We first introduce two socioeconomic structures developed during Korea’s modernization drive that helped bolster the authoritarian regimes of Park Chung Hee and Chun Doo Hwan: industrial complexes and higher education. We then demonstrate how these same structures facilitated anti-regime protests in the 1970s and 1980s by various social movement groups, including, most importantly, workers and students. By highlighting the differential impact of modernization structures, we show how socioeconomic development acted as a “double-edged sword” by stabilizing the dictator at first, but destabilizing the dictatorship over time. We close our chapter with a discussion of the current polarization of Korean politics and society, which we interpret as a legacy of the long contest between the authoritarian state and civil society.

Modernization structures Industrial complexes Korea was largely an agrarian society prior to Japanese colonization (1910–1945). Industrialization first began under colonial rule, but it was a strategy designed primarily to buttress the Japanese Imperial Empire and its war effort during World War II. Moreover, much of the physical infrastructure and industrial facilities built by the Japanese were destroyed during the Korean War (1950–1953). Heavily dependent on foreign (mostly U.S.) grants and loans, South Korea’s per capita gross domestic product (GDP) in the 1950s lagged behind many developing countries in Africa and Latin America. It was not until Park Chung Hee seized power through a military coup in 1961 and launched a series of five-year economic development plans that South Korea’s industrialization took off in the 1960s.1 During Park’s rule, per capita gross national income (GNI) soared from $85 in 1961 to $1,709 in 1979.2 This remarkable growth was arguably achieved through effective implementation of an industrial planning policy spearheaded by a strong “developmental state” (Amsden 1989; Chang 1999; Evans 1995; Johnson 1987; Wade 1990; Woo-Cumings 1999). In 1963, the government adopted export-oriented industrialization as its development strategy given the country’s underdeveloped domestic market and lack of capital. Exploiting the large supply of low-cost labor, Park’s government initially promoted labor-intensive light industries in the


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1960s but later shifted its focus to heavy and chemical industries in the 1970s (Moon and Jun 2011). A central focal point in the government’s export-led industrialization strategy was the construction of specialized industrial complexes ( gongeop danji). The intended benefits of concentrating factories in designated areas were synergic effects among related industries, an increase in exports and employment opportunities, and the free exchange of technology. Businesses that set up factories in these industrial complexes were given powerful incentives to export, including low bank loans, exemptions from corporate income tax, and discounts on transportation and utility costs. The subsequent government under Chun Doo Hwan continued to develop industrial complexes, especially in neglected rural areas, to reduce regional economic disparity and promote local industrial development. The export-oriented industrialization process increased women’s employment opportunities, as “women’s participation was crucial in the success of manufacturing industry, the ‘engine’ of South Korea’s economic development” (Park 1993: 132). The economically active female population (fourteen years of age or older) increased from two million in 1960 to six million by 1985 (Korean Economic Planning Board 1960, 1985). The “female manufacturing industries” – where women accounted for more than half of all workers in textile and clothing manufacturing, rubber and plastics, electronic goods, shoes, and china and pottery manufacturing – produced 70 percent of the total national export earnings in 1975 (Park 1993: 132). Despite women’s significant contributions to South Korea’s successful economic growth, the monetary rewards they received were minimal in comparison to male workers who dominated capital-intensive industries (Koo et al. 1986: 67).3 Many female workers, labeled as gongsuni (“factory girls”), lived in factory dormitories that functioned as “spaces of labor exploitation” (Kim 2004: 108). To maximize labor productivity, employees worked long hours and were subject to strict curfews. Security guards and dormitory inspectors (sagam) monitored employees during working hours as well as leisure time. Through increased labor force participation in the manufacturing sector, women became “integrated” into the industrialization process, but they were exploited for the sake of export-led economic development. The expansion of industrial complexes contributed to the rapid economic growth that provided political legitimacy for the authoritarian regimes of Park Chung Hee and Chun Doo Hwan. Similar to other developing authoritarian regimes in Latin America (e.g. Mexico under the Institutional Revolutionary Party) and the Middle East and North Africa (e.g. Jordan, Syria, and Egypt), Korean autocrats were able to garner popular support for their regimes by providing economic and material benefits to targeted groups.4 Proximity to industrial complexes benefited residents by (1) expanding local employment, (2) increasing the local population and tax revenue, (3) motivating large investments in infrastructure such as transportation, facilities, sewage systems, electricity, and housing clusters, and (4) providing welfare benefits to workers in the manufacturing sector, including injury insurance and medical insurance (Hong and Park 2016: 6; see also Hangugeunhaeng 1970). These benefits, in turn, facilitated popular support for the authoritarian regimes, including tangible payoffs for Park’s Democratic Republican Party (DRP) and Chun’s Democratic Justice Party (DJP) in the form of electoral gains (Hong and Park 2016). For example, in the 1978 general elections, despite winning fewer overall votes than the opposition New Democratic Party at the national level, Park’s DRP gained 12 to 14 percent more votes in areas chosen as sites for industrial complexes (Hong and Park 2016). Some Korean voters, evidently, supported the authoritarian regime in return for the successful implementation of an industrial policy that generated economic growth for local communities.


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Higher education In addition to creating industrial complexes, the expansion of tertiary education was an important strategy the government pursued to foster an increasingly skilled labor force. To support the rapid industrialization drive, educational opportunities grew at all levels, including greater access to post-secondary institutions. According to a statement made by a UNESCO mission, “The remarkable and rapid economic growth that has occurred in Korea . . . has been based to a large degree on human resources, and education has assisted in the production of a literate and industrial people” (Mason et al. 1980: 342). As highlighted by Alice Amsden (1989), a well-educated labor force was crucial for continuing Korea’s successful “late industrialization” that required “industrial learning.” Although basic formal education became available to historically marginalized social groups in the Japanese colonial period, through both the Japanese colonial education system and foreign missionary-run schools, it was not until the 1960s that tertiary education became accessible to large sectors of the general population. During Park’s eighteen-year rule, the number of post-secondary institutions increased by 160 percent from 86 to 222 (Korean Economic Planning Board 1963, 1988). Augmenting the government’s effort to expand tertiary education, the private sector began to occupy a greater share of the education industry. According to official statistics from the Korea Statistical Yearbook (Hanguk tonggye yeongam), the number of private institutions of higher education, as well as the number of students enrolled in them, continued to outpace the number of public institutions. From 1962 to 1973, on average, 67 percent of higher education institutions were privately run and 70 percent of all students were enrolled in these private institutions.5 With the expansion of both public and private higher education, college and university enrollment increased more than threefold from 891,328 to 2,933,683 students in the 1970s and 1980s. While the number of tertiary education institutions increased steadily over time, student enrollment increased dramatically, especially in the 1980s. From 1961 to 1987, the number of four-year (public and private) colleges and universities steadily increased from 48 to 103 at about a rate of two colleges per year. However, with regard to matriculation rates, student enrollment in these four-year colleges and universities increased by 12,638 students per year from 1961 (the beginning of Park’s rule) to 1979 (the end of Park’s rule). Furthermore, student enrollment noticeably increased by 82,395 students per year from 1980 (the beginning of Chun’s rule) to 1987 when Korea made the transition to democracy (Cho 2016: 16). It is important to note that during the authoritarian period, the intended role of education was to foster “the basic attitude of compliance with a strong central government . . . [and] education did play a critical role in . . . assisting a strong government with ‘modernizing’ policies to impose its will upon the nation” (Mason et al. 1980: 378). In 1968, the Ministry of Education mandated anticommunist lessons to be conducted each week in an effort to indoctrinate students. The utilitarian motive behind the education policy was also reflected in the technical and industrial curricula that were used to prepare students to become the backbone of the country’s industrial sector. With its emphasis on practical learning, the government provided greater access to industrial job training by increasing the number of vocational schools from nine in 1963 to seventy by 1973. Overall, South Korean autocrats established and invested in socioeconomic institutions that were intended to facilitate economic development and garner public support. Through the expansion of industrial complexes and tertiary education institutions, the authoritarian government was able to wield effective control over society. These institutions of development, contrary to expectations of modernization theory, did not naturally lead to democracy. Indeed, as discussed, industrial complexes and colleges and universities initially contributed to the stability of 66

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dictatorship in Korea. But as we show below, over time these same institutions became the foundations for a nascent contentious civil society that was manifest in various social movements that were part of the larger democracy movement in the 1970s and 1980s.

Social movements and democratization The labor movement While modernization theory and much of the civil society literature on Western societies characterize the middle class as the driving force for democratic change, the real agents of South Korea’s democratization were students, intellectuals, and workers (Chang 2015; Kim 2000; Koo 1999; Lee 2007). As Hagen Koo (2001) has shown, the labor movement played a unique role in bringing about democracy and expanding civil society. Contributing to the solidarity of the democracy movement, the alliances workers formed with Christians in the 1970s (Chang 2015) and with students in the 1980s (Lee 2007) significantly enhanced the coalitional power of social movements (Shin et al. 2011). Many student and Christian groups were directly involved with labor struggles in the 1970s and the 1980s, and by 1987, labor activism had matured to the point of being able to instigate the largest and most significant labor protest cycle in South Korean history. The Korean labor movement developed gradually over time under harsh authoritarian regimes. Industrialization began in the 1960s, but labor mobilization efforts during this period were primarily local campaigns to establish democratic unions within company settings (Nam 2011). It was not until the 1970s that active labor resistance was directed at the authoritarian state. In order to suppress the emerging labor movement, the Park Chung Hee regime attempted to prevent the establishment of independent unions outside of the government-controlled union structure, while also discouraging connections between labor and political opposition movements (Koo 2001). Repressive laws limited union activity and blocked the intervention of industry unions in labor disputes and collective bargaining at the enterprise level. Despite harsh state repression, the formation of independent unions became the main strategy for the labor movement, first in the 1960s and then through the 1970s and early 1980s (Koo 2001; Lee 2007; Nam 2011). The prohibition of third-party intervention in disputes also inadvertently contributed to opposition groups (e.g. Christians and students) entering factories as workers to directly participate in the labor movement. As a result, the labor movement gradually developed both inside and outside the industrial arena. The product of the cumulative growth in workers’ capacity to systematically organize and engage in collective action was manifest in the 1987 “Great Workers’ Struggle” (Nodong ja Daetujaeng). From July to August 1987, there was an explosion of protests and strikes involving roughly 1.2 million workers (about a third of the regularly employed workforce) from most major industries including mining, manufacturing, shipbuilding, transportation, and service sectors. The Great Workers’ Struggle was not a spontaneous event, and the patterns of mobilization that defined this large protest cycle were in no way arbitrary. It was an outcome of accumulated past struggles, in which class awareness and political consciousness grew continuously among workers, especially in the very industrial complexes that had initially bolstered the popularity of Park Chung Hee and Chun Doo Hwan (Cho 2016; Hong and Park 2016). The general optimism surrounding economic growth in the 1960s and 1970s gave way to growing discontent as it became clear that the equitable distribution of wealth was not a priority for the government. Concerns about widening class inequality, in turn, fueled the labor movement. With the support of progressive Christian groups in the 1970s (Chang 2015) and student activists in the 1980s 67

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(Lee 2007), workers began to develop a politicized class consciousness that became the foundation of the Great Workers’ Struggle (Koo 2001). In fact, new research shows that counties containing industrial complexes for a longer period of time witnessed more labor protests during the 1987 Great Workers’ Struggle (Cho 2016). Several factors facilitated the transformation of industrial complexes into sites of labor activism. First, the construction of industrial complexes produced spatial concentration of factories and workers, providing a favorable condition for workers to organize (Huang 1999; Kim 1993; Koo 2001; Orru et al. 1997; Shin 1994). The majority of manufacturing industries in the 1970s were located in large urban areas around the major axis connecting Seoul and Busan. By 1984, approximately 50 percent of all manufacturing workers were located in the Seoul-Gyeongin area (Seoul, Incheon, and surrounding areas in Gyeonggi province), and another 40 percent in the southeastern Yeongnam region. By 1987, there were 265,273 workers in 2,493 factories in 15 industrial complexes in the Seoul-Gyeongin area alone.6 The close proximity of factories within each industrial complex promoted social ties and communication among workers from different companies, a feature that contributed to inter-firm solidarity struggles in the 1980s. In 1985, for example, when three union leaders of Daewoo Apparel were arrested, approximately 2,500 workers from nine other companies in the Seoul Guro Industrial Complex organized a “solidarity strike” for six days. This new strategy in the labor movement was made possible through the spatial concentration of manufacturing firms, which facilitated interactions among workers inside industrial complexes. Second, the structure of factory dormitories and associational life inside them aided the process of organizing independent labor unions. As mentioned earlier in the chapter, the majority of workers, especially female workers, lived together in tiny rooming houses in the surrounding areas or in dormitories inside industrial complexes. While dormitories were designed to help monitor workers and increase their productivity, they became places of “everyday forms of resistance” (Scott 1985) where workers developed class consciousness and devised strategies to oppose their employers. The physical layout of the dormitories facilitated the spread of information and provided a starting point for workers to create networks. Workers also formed small social groups (such as mutual aid society, hiking, singing, mask dance, and Chinese character clubs) and organized group activities such as outings and retreats. During these small group meetings, workers shared their experiences with one another and were first introduced to the concepts of rights (gwolli) and organization (jojik). These small social networks helped foster solidarity (sometimes in the form of sisterhood among female workers), recruit union members, and produce a “discourse of resistance” for the independent union movement (Jeoung 1993; Kim 2004; Pang 1993; Yu 2010). Lastly, the ecology of industrial complexes facilitated not only labor mobilization within and across firms but also the entry of Christian and student activists into the labor movement. Christian activists in the 1960s and 1970s set up churches and social welfare organizations nearby industrial complexes to increase their interactions with factory workers. These churches and Christian organizations provided physical spaces for some of the above-mentioned small group meetings. Some dedicated Christian activists even lived and worked as factory workers inside these industrial complexes. For example, Reverend Jo Hwa-sun, a Methodist minister associated with the Urban Industrial Mission, worked at Dongil Textile Co. located inside the Korea Export Industrial Complex in Incheon. She played a critical role in the Dongil Textile Co. labor struggle throughout the 1970s that later became a rallying point for the larger democracy movement (Koo 2001). Similarly, in the 1980s, the student movement adopted labor praxis (hyeonjangron) as a central strategy and entered factories as disguised workers to help politicize workers (Lee 2007). The students-turned-workers (hakcheol) linked the labor struggle to the larger 68

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political goal of ending authoritarian rule by actively forming small groups and instilling political consciousness among workers through study, debate, and recreational activities.

The student movement It is perhaps understandable that in a society that has historically valued scholarly pursuits, albeit a privilege limited to the elite yangban class in the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1897), college students would come to play a significant role in the development of modern Korea (Chang 2015; Lee 2007; Park 2008; Yi 2011). Following liberation from Japanese colonial rule in 1945, students were the primary agents in some of the most important political transitions in South Korean history. The ability of students to play this central role, however, was not only based on Confucian cultural values that made them believe they possessed the moral mandate to evaluate political leaders, but also on the material expansion of tertiary education and the subsequent prodigious growth in the number of matriculated students in public and private universities. As discussed above, the government intended the expansion of higher education to be a positive force that would provide a continual flow of skilled labor to a rapidly growing economy. However, these institutions of higher education also became fertile ground for the concentration of social movement actors that had ready access to social, cultural, and human capital, which facilitated the emergence of large-scale anti-government protests throughout the authoritarian period. Following the devastation of the Korean War, efforts to rebuild the nation occupied much of the remainder of the 1950s. In 1960, when Syngman Rhee (first elected in 1948) successfully ran for a fourth presidential term – made possible by an irregular amendment to the Constitution that lifted the limitation on presidential terms – students were quick to mobilize against his autocratic leadership style. On April 19, 1960, thousands of students marched on the presidential Blue House in protest of what they considered to be corrupt presidential and vice-presidential elections. President Rhee responded by ordering the police to quell the student protests, resulting in over 100 student deaths. State violence against the students shocked Korean society “given that students, however ‘radical,’ represented the future hopes of the Korean nation” (Chang 2015: 79). This prompted other segments of society, including university professors, to stage protests against Syngman Rhee’s government. When it became clear that the Korean military would not mobilize to support the government, Rhee readily resigned. The student uprising in April marked an important moment in South Korean political history. Although Korea did not transition to democracy in 1960 (because of Park Chung Hee’s coup in 1961), the “4.19 Student Revolution” became a seminal moment for subsequent social movements as it demonstrated to students and society at large the potential power of student mobilization (Yi 2011). In 1964, this power was again manifest when students mobilized large demonstrations against Park Chung Hee’s efforts to reestablish diplomatic relations with Japan. The student protests were so unruly and destabilizing that Park Chung Hee was forced to declare martial law on June 3, 1964, and a garrison decree a year later on August 26, 1965. With tanks and soldiers patrolling the streets, student demonstrations subsided and South Korea normalized relations with Japan. Following the 1964–1965 protest cycle, the student movement entered a period of relative quiescence until 1971, when students remobilized to challenge Park Chung Hee’s attempt to run for a third presidential term. In 1969, mirroring the familiar power play first modeled by Syngman Rhee, Park Chung Hee forced the National Assembly to amend the Constitution to allow him to run for a third presidential term in 1971. Because presidents at this time were still elected by popular vote, the main tactic students adopted in 1971 was to monitor voting booths to prevent electoral fraud. In addition to the presidential election, students at this time first became interested in labor 69

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conditions following the sensational self-immolation of a poor garment worker. Jeon Tae-il’s suicide protest on November 13, 1970, galvanized the labor movement and also prompted other social groups, including students, to take notice of the plight of workers who were central to Korea’s modernization drive. These two issues – fair elections and workers’ rights – along with the grievances associated with mandatory military training, motivated students to stage largescale demonstrations in 1971 (Chang 2015). The proliferation of tertiary education institutions helped facilitate a new strategy for student mobilization at this time. A marked departure from the less-organized student movement in 1960, students increasingly focused their efforts on developing a nationwide network of student activists. In April 1971, students from universities across the nation formed the National Alliance of Youth and Students for the Protection of Democracy (Minju Suho Jeonguk Cheongnyeon Haksaeng Chongyeonmaeng). Known simply as the Students’ Alliance, this national coalition of student activists would come to play a leading role in organizing a concerted effort to monitor the 1971 presidential election and challenge the legitimacy of Park Chung Hee’s rule. The immediate consequence of greater coordination between students from different universities was a heightened level of large public demonstrations that were planned to occur simultaneously. This, in turn, alarmed the government and prompted it to again declare a garrison decree on October 15, 1971. In the ensuing repression campaign, 1,889 student leaders and protesters were arrested (Chang 2015: 64). After Park Chung Hee transitioned to formal authoritarianism with the declaration of the Yusin Constitution in 1972,7 students waged one final campaign against Park’s rule before state repression silenced them for the remainder of the 1970s. In the Yusin period, the student movement was reignited with a single protest event on October 2, 1973, orchestrated by students at the elite Seoul National University. By 1973, a new cohort of student leaders emerged who realized the importance of an integrated student movement. Building on the growing number of colleges and college students, these leaders focused on connecting students nationwide, a strategy first explored in 1971. In addition to this “horizontal integration,” this new cohort of student leaders made a concerted effort to connect with past student activists, especially those who participated in the 1960 April 19 Revolution and the 1964–1965 protest cycle. The “vertical integration” of older activists and younger students was thus combined with horizontal integration to ensure that there would be a united front against what was now a blatant dictatorship in Korea. Drawing on the additional resources that the national integration strategy provided, student demonstrations quickly escalated in the winter and spring of 1973 and 1974. In response, Park Chung Hee resorted to special presidential Emergency Decrees (gingeup jochi). On April 3, 1974, Emergency Decree (ED) number 4 was declared which illegalized student organizations.8 Shortly after, over 1,000 students were rounded up in what became known as the “Mincheong incident,” named after the national student coalition, the National Democratic Youth and Student Alliance (Minju Cheongnyeon Haksaeng Chongyeonmaeng). Furthermore, in May 1975, Park declared the infamous ED number 9, which combined the content of all of the past EDs into one repressive law.9 In this highly repressive “ED era” (gingeup jochi sidae), the student movement was forced underground. It was not until after Park Chung Hee was assassinated in 1979 that the student movement reemerged, even if it was for a brief tragic moment. On October 26, 1979, Gim Jae-gyu – the director of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) and a member of Park Chung Hee’s inner political circle – assassinated Park, thus ending his eighteen-year rule. The political freedom that immediately followed Park’s death proved to be ephemeral, as Major General Chun Doo Hwan forcibly took political charge. In a reenactment of Park’s own coup in 1961, Chun used his position as the head of the investigation into Park’s assassination to purge other contenders. As it became evident that Chun had no intention to 70

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instigate the process of democratic transition, students again took to the streets in large numbers. In particular, students in the southwestern province of Jeolla actively demonstrated against Chun’s seizure of power. This set the stage for the Gwang ju massacre when students and civilians in the city of Gwang ju took up arms against the Korean military that was sent in by Chun to put down protests. Beginning in May 18, 1980, the citizens of Gwang ju and the military engaged in a violent conflict that resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths (Shin and Hwang 2003). The brutality of the massacre solidified Chun’s power but also spurred students’ convictions to engage in a revolutionary anti-government movement. The Gwang ju massacre escalated the contest between the state and students. Forced underground, students began to entertain radical ideologies as they sought to develop an appropriate response to the new political situation. As Namhee Lee (2007) has shown, after revolutionary texts associated with Marxism and Leninism began to circulate among underground student circles in the 1980s, democratic reforms were no longer sufficient to assuage students’ grievances. Instead, a political revolution led by students and workers was the new goal. Although students first became interested in workers’ movements in 1971, it was in the 1980s that they began to drop out of universities in large numbers to work in factories in order to help politicize the labor movement. Even as the student movement was constrained by the highly repressive policies of Chun Doo Hwan’s government from 1980 to 1984, the potential for student mobilization continued to increase due to several structural factors. In addition to the persistence of underground networks, through which students became radicalized (Lee 2007; Park 2008), the dramatic growth in the number of tertiary education institutions and the number of students matriculated in them ensured a strong foundation for mobilization once the government relaxed its policies on public gathering and political organizing. As discussed earlier, it was in the 1980s that we see the exponential growth in the number of students enrolled in higher education institutions. These factors came to a head in the summer of 1987, when a broad coalition of students, progressive intellectuals, opposition politicians, and an increasingly dissatisfied middle class came together to stage the largest protests in South Korean history. Their long history of anti-government mobilization and the structural expansion of tertiary education allowed students to become central agents in the June Uprising that precipitated democratic transition in 1987.

Discussion: modernization, democratization, and polarization In recent decades, starting with a handful of countries in East Asia in the 1960s and 1970s, some of the world’s poorest countries have made the “fastest and biggest development gains in history” (Radelet 2015: 5). With discernible patterns of decline in both poverty and dictatorship in some parts of the world, the relationship between development and democracy remains relevant in debates among practitioners and social scientists. South Korea, a country that transitioned to democracy after having developed economically under military dictatorships, is often regarded as a “dream case of a modernization theorist” (Przeworksi and Limongi 1997: 162). We have argued in this chapter that a closer examination of the South Korean case suggests a more nuanced interpretation as development contributed to both authoritarian durability and democratization. Rapid economic development that began under Park Chung Hee in the 1960s served as a key pillar of regime legitimacy for South Korean dictators. Over time, this same development process created favorable structural conditions for the politicization of workers, students, and other social groups. Although the industrial policy pursued by the South Korean autocrats brought about rapid economic growth, it also created a large labor class in urban centers throughout the country. 71

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Industrialization, in the long run, had a destabilizing effect on the regime by fostering a militant working class. The construction of industrial complexes brought workers together in close proximity, inadvertently facilitating labor mobilization over several decades. Industrial complexes became spaces for resistance, where workers and activists came together to mobilize against the very regimes that created these modernization structures. Similarly, the expansion of tertiary education was instigated by the government to buttress and complement the country’s industrial development. The growing emphasis on technical and vocational training, as well as the skills necessary in an evolving export-oriented global economy, helped produce a well-educated labor force that contributed to rapid economic growth. It was also perhaps predictable that the expansion of both public and private tertiary education in the 1970s and 1980s would generate a large population of college students. These students who were expected to participate in the country’s industrial drive instead became the vanguards of South Korea’s democracy movement. University campuses became fertile ground for the development of a nationwide student movement that pursued new tactics, such as entering factories to help politicize workers (Lee 2007: 165). Instrumental in mobilizing a united front with other social groups – workers, intellectuals, and the middle class – students played a key role in the 1987 June Democratic Uprising that pressured Chun Doo Hwan to begin political reforms. Although the authoritarian period is over, political and economic legacies still persist in Korea. Because of the contradictions inherent to developmental dictatorship, memories of Park Chung Hee remain divisive among progressive and conservative segments of society. A 2015 poll showed that 93.3 percent of the surveyed sample positively assessed Park’s role in South Korea’s economic growth, and 74.3 percent positively evaluated him in the realm of political development (Joongang Ilbo 2015). In 2012, Park Chung Hee’s daughter, Park Geun-hye, was elected president as the candidate of the Saenuri Party, the contemporary manifestation of Park Chung Hee’s conservative Democratic Republican Party. Her campaign slogan, “Let’s Try to Live Well, Again” (dasi jal sara bose), directly referenced her father’s own slogan from the 1970s, “Let’s Try to Live Well” (jal sara bose; Loxton 2015: 160). Reconciling the decades of authoritarian rule with the contemporary image of South Korea as a democratic capitalist nation is not always easy. While some lament the death of the democracy movement – a “glorious” movement when the people rose up to fight tyranny and injustice – others see it as the natural trajectory of a nation that made the transition to democratic governance. Throughout the authoritar ian period, generations of progressive activists emerged to claim the democracy they had been promised when the Republic of Korea was officially established in 1948. The contest between democracy advocates and successive authoritarian governments was bitter and often violent, leading to the torture of civilians and an unknown number of deaths. And yet, at the same time, it was from the crucible of this repressive period that a sustained movement for democracy emerged. If South Korea is characterized by a “strong state and contentious civil society” (Koo 1999: 231), it was through a dialectical process of protest and repression that “the state became ‘strong’ and civil society ‘contentious’ (Chang 2015: 6). Maybe the spirit of the democracy movement has indeed been quenched, but the legacy, or perhaps more precisely the scars of past social movements, are still evident today. The development of class consciousness – fueled by widening socioeconomic inequality during the turbulent industrialization process – created a society that is “more fragmented than ever before” (Lee 2005). The chasm between progressive and conservative forces continues today to have a large impact on society and institutional politics. Social psychologists have been telling us for years that in-group identity and solidarity are a function of out-group contention. It should come as no surprise then that Korean activists, who fought against the dictatorial system for decades, would develop a collective concept of self that bears all the hallmarks of an oppositional social identity; 72

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individual-level attributes (e.g. meaning, self-esteem, and purpose) are tied to membership in various movement generations through the 1970s and 1980s. It is in this context that we can understand better why current President Pak Geun-hye is such a polarizing force. Her election in 2012, although through democratic procedures, represents the reemergence of conservative forces at best, and, at worst, the authoritarian legacy. And while the democracy movement has indeed waned to make room for more institutionalized civil society movements, decades of struggle against authoritarianism resulted in a significant portion of Korean society unwilling, indeed unable, to support the progeny of dictatorship.

Acknowledgment Research and writing for this chapter was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea Grant funded by the Korean Government (NRF-203S1A3A2055081).

Notes 1 The First Five-Year Economic Development Plan, 1962–1966, was followed by the second, 1967–1971; the third, 1972–1976; the fourth, 1977–1981; the fifth, 1982–1986; and the revised sixth, 1988–1991. 2 Data are available from the Korean Statistics Information System, Statistics Korea (URL: 3 Holding education level constant, female workers received 56 percent of the wage of male workers in 1978 (Kim 1984: 65). In 1984, while women worked an average of 245 hours per month, men worked an average of 241 hours per month (Park 1993: 133–134). 4 See Greene (2009) and Magaloni (2006) on Mexico and Blaydes (2013) and Lust-Okar (2009) on the Middle East and North Africa. 5 These proportions are calculated using official statistics from the Hanguk tonggye yongam [Korea Statistical Yearbook], 1962–1973. The breakdown of national (public) and private higher education institution is only available for years 1962 to 1973. 6 The numbers are calculated using information found in Gongeop Danji Hyeonghwang [An Overview of Industrial Complexes] published by the Korean Ministry of Commerce and Industry in 1989. 7 The Yusin Constitution transferred the power to elect future presidents to an electoral college convened by the incumbent president, lifted limitations on the number of presidential terms, and allowed the president himself to directly appoint one-third of the National Assembly. 8 ED 1 was used to repress specific anti-government mobilizing tactics including signature campaigns, ED 2 designated military judicial jurisdiction over cases of anti-government dissidents, and ED 3 reduced the tax burden of low-income earners. 9 ED 5 annulled EDs 1 and 4, ED 6 annulled ED 3, ED 7 was used to close down Korea University, and ED 8 annulled ED 7

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Joan E. Cho and Paul Y. Chang Evans, P. (1995) Embedded Autonomy: States and Industrial Transformation, Princeton: Princeton University Press. Greene, K. (2009) Why Dominant Parties Lose: Mexico’s Democratization in Comparative Perspective, New York: Cambridge University Press. Hangugeunhaeng [Bank of Korea] (1970) “Gongeopdanjiui gyeong jejeong uiuiwa urinaraui gongeopdanji joseong [Economic Significance of Industrial Complex and South Korea’s Composition of Industrial Complexes],” Jugannaeoegyeong je [Weekly Domestic and Foreign Economy], Seoul: Bank of Korea Department of Industrial Research. Hong, J. and Park, S. (2016) “Factories for Votes? How Dictators Gain Popular Support Using Targeted Industrial Policy,” British Journal of Political Science, 46(3): 501–527. Huang, C. (1999) Labor Militancy and the Neo-Mercantilist Development Experience: South Korea and Taiwan in Comparison, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL. Huntington, S. (1991) The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Inkeles, A. (1966) “The Modernization of Man,” in M. Weiner (ed) Modernization: The Dynamics of Growth, pp. 138–150, New York: Basic Books. Jeoung, M. (1993) 70-nyeondae yeoseongnodongundongui hwalseongae gwanhan gyeongeom segyejeok yeongu: seomyubyeol jungsimeuro [A Study on the Women’s Labor Movement in the 1970s: The Case of Textile Industry], Master’s Thesis, Seoul: Ewha Woman’s University. Johnson, C. (1987) “Political Institutions and Economic Performance: The Government Business Relationship in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan,” in F. Deyo (ed) The Political Economy of the New Asian Industrialism, pp. 136–164, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. JoongAng Ilbo (2015) “Park Chung Hee·Roh Moo-hyun·Kim Dae Jung·Chun Doo Hwan sun gyeong je giyeo” [Economic Contributions of Park Chung Hee, Roh Moo-hyun, Kim Dae Jung, and Chun Doo Hwan], 9 September. Kim, J. (1993) Asia gwonwijuui gukkaui nodong jeongchiwa nodongundong [Labor Politics and Labor Movements in Asian Authoritarian State], Ph.D. Dissertation, Seoul National University, Seoul. Kim, M. (1984) Preliminary Study of the Korean Female Labor Force, 1960–1980: Its Occupational Sex Differentiation During a Period of Significant Economic Development, Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Sociology, University of Georgia, Athens. Kim, S. (2000) The Politics of Democratization in Korea, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. Kim, W. (2004) “1970-nyeondae ‘yeogong’eui munhwa: minjunojo saeopjangeui gisuksawa somoim munhwareul jungsimeuro” [The Culture of ‘Factory Girls’ in 1970s], Feminism Yeongu [Issues in Feminism], 4(1): 101–148. Koo, H. (1999) “Modernity in South Korea: An Alternative Narrative,” Thesis Eleven, 57: 53–64. Koo, H. (2001) Korean Workers: The Culture and Politics of Class Formation, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Koo, H., Haggard, S. and Deyo, F. (1986) “Labor and Development Strategy in East Asian NICs,” Social Science Research Council, 40(3–4): 64–68. Korean Economic Planning Board (1960) Population and Housing Census of Korea, Seoul: Gyeong je Gihoekwon [Economic Planning Board]. Korean Economic Planning Board (1985) Annual Report, Seoul: Gyeong je Gihoekwon [Economic Planning Board]. Korean Economic Planning Board (1963–1988) Hanguk tonggye yongam [Korea Statistical Yearbook], Seoul: Gyeong je Gihoekwon [Economic Planning Board]. Korean Ministry of Commerce and Industry (1989) Gongeop danji hyeonhwang [An Overview of Industrial Complexes], Seoul: Sanggongbu [Ministry of Commerce and Industry]. Lee, B. (2006) Developmental Dictatorship and the Park Chung Hee Era: The Shaping of Modernity in the Republic of Korea, Paramus, NJ: Homa & Sekey Books. Lee, M. (2010) The History of the Democratization Movement in Korea, Seoul: Korea Democracy Foundation. Lee, N. (2007) The Making of Minjung: Democracy and the Politics of Representation in South Korea, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Lee, S. (2005) “Democratization and Polarization in Korean Society,” Asian Perspective, 29(3): 99–125. Lerner, D. (1958) The Passing of Traditional Society: Modernizing the Middle East, New York: Free Press. Lipset, S. (1959) “Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy,” American Political Science Review, 53(1): 69–105. Loxton, J. (2015) “Authoritarian Successor Parties,” Journal of Democracy, 26(3): 157–170. Lust-Okar, E. (2009) “Competitive Clientelism in the Middle East,” Journal of Democracy, 20(3): 122–135.


Socioeconomic foundations of democracy Magaloni, B. (2006) Voting for Autocracy: Hegemonic Party Survival and Its Demise in Mexico, New York: Cambridge University Press. Mason, E. S., Kim, M. J., Perkins, D. H., Kim, K. D. and Cole, D. C. (1980) The Economic and Social Modernization of the Republic of Korea, Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Moon, C. and Jun, B. (2011) “Modernization Strateg y: Ideas and Influences,” in B. Kim and E. Vogel (eds) The Park Chung Hee Era: The Transformation of South Korea, pp. 115–139, Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Nam, H. (2011) Building Ships, Building a Nation: Korea’s Democratic Unionism under Park Chung Hee, Seattle: University of Washington Press. Orru, M., Woosley Biggart, N. and Hamilton, G. (1997) The Economic Organization of East Asian Capitalism, Thousand Oaks: Sage. Pang, H. (1993) 70-nyeondae yeosongnodongundongeseo yeoseong teuksugwajeui silhyeonjogeone gwanhan yeongu [A Study on the Special Topics in the Women’s Labor Movement in the 1970s], Master’s Thesis, Seoul: Sogang University. Park, K. (1993) “Women and Development: The Case of South Korea,” Comparative Politics, 25: 127–145. Park, M. (2008) Democracy and Social Change: A History of South Korean Student Movements, 1980–2000, New York: Peter Lang. Przeworksi, A. and Limongi, F. (1997) “Modernization: Theories and Facts,” World Politics, 49(2): 155–183. Radelet, S. (2015) “The Rise of the World’s Poorest Countries,” Journal of Democracy, 26(4): 5–19. Scott, J. (1985) Weapons of the Weak, New Haven: Yale University Press. Shin, G. (1994) Gegeupgwa nodongundongui sahoehak [The Sociology of Class and Labor Movements], Seoul: Nanam. Shin, G., Chang, P., Lee, J. and Kim, S. (2011) “The Korean Democracy Movement: An Empirical Overview,” in G. Shin and P. Chang (eds) South Korean Social Movements: From Democracy to Civil Society, pp. 21–40, London: Routledge. Shin, G. and Hwang, K. (2003) Contentious Kwang ju: The May 18 Uprising in Korea’s Past and Present, Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield. Wade, R. (1990) Governing the Market: Economic Theory and the Role of Government in East Asian Industrialization, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Woo-Cumings, M. (1999) The Developmental State, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Yi, C. (2011) Hanguk haksaeng undongsa: 1945–1979-nyeon [History of Korean Student Movements: 1945– 1979], Seoul: P’ara Puksŭ. Yu, J. (2010) “1970-nyeondae yeoseongnodong jaui yeogasiganeul dulleossan tujaeng” [Korean Female Workers’ Struggle on Leisure Time in the 1970s], Sahoewa yeoksa [Society and History], 85: 53–82. .



Introduction Why is it important to understand North Korean culture? First, North Korea’s ruling regime has always claimed legitimacy over the capitalist South on the basis of a greater fidelity to traditional Korean culture, a claim that many overseas Koreans (and even some South Koreans) have bought into. As the state’s economic failures have become more apparent, its purported achievements in promoting and preserving traditional Korean culture have grown more important than ever to keeping it in power. Second, if the two Koreas ever unify, cultural and linguistic differences will be brought into stark relief, and this may prove to be an unexpected destabilizing factor. As reunification planning has grown fashionable in recent years, priority has been given to developing strategies for economic/political integration, managing refugees, and disbanding the military (Cha and Kang 2011; Bennett 2014). Few analysts have taken a serious look at the cultural divergence in the two Korean states over time and how this may complicate the integration process. Furthermore, most unification plans assume that “nothing of the North Korean state or its institutions can be allowed to survive,”1 an understandable assumption given North Korea’s appalling record in human rights and economic planning. However, the toll that such a wholesale scuttling would take on North Korean pride must not be underestimated. Understanding the focal points of North Koreans’ pride and self-worth is essential to achieving a peaceful negotiated transition, the stated goal of the South Korean government and its allies. It is particularly important for analysts and policymakers to understand that North Korea’s society and culture have changed significantly over time, and that reports that were quite accurate and insightful thirty years ago might not apply today. A case in point is how Western media reports continued referring to Kim Jong Il as the “Dear Leader” right up to the day of his death (Oremus 2011), when North Korea stopped using that title after 1994. Political analyses by nonarea specialists persistently describe the intense travel restrictions, importance of seongbun (class background), and after-hours “community sessions” and “self-criticism sessions” as if these practices were still highly relevant in North Korean society today,2 whereas Haggard and Noland (2011), Lankov (2013), Hassig and Oh (2009), and others have documented extensive evidence that such institutions have faded dramatically since the famine of the 1990s. Helen-Louise Hunter’s declassified CIA report on North Korea is full of wonderful insights into life in the isolated nation, but it describes North Korean society as it existed circa 1975. That this 76

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book continues to be referenced by political scientists as a reliable source for present-day conditions is a testament to its quality, but regrettably results in some woefully outdated analyses. There is an assumption in the West that because North Korea and Cuba did not join in the landslide of reform and regime change at the end of the Cold War, these states have not changed internally at all. North Korea is frequently described as “unchanging” (Petrov 2012), “frozen in time” (Weissmann 2011), “ossified,” “a Cold War relic” (Song 2005: 345), and “stuck in the past,” “like going back in time” (Allen-Jones 2006). These descriptors cloud a much more complex picture. North Korea has changed plenty over the past 25 years – just not in the ways we would like it to. Another recurrent fallacy is the idea that North Korean culture today is fundamentally more Korean than that of the South. As Charles Armstrong rightly points out, the DPRK regime has always based its legitimacy on a bedrock of hyper-nationalism and fidelity to traditional Korean culture (Armstrong 2013). It would be a mistake, however, to fall for this propaganda ourselves and believe that the culture celebrated by North Korea today is indeed a faithful reproduction of the culture of pre-modern Korea. From the earliest days of division, both sides of the peninsula have taken on outside cultural influences and become increasingly unrecognizable to each other. A Korean time traveler from the Chosun era would likely be equally at sea in one of North Korea’s juche study sessions as in a South Korean PC-bang. The question of which Korea has more faithfully preserved traditional culture has long been a bone of contention between the two sides. Here North Korea’s economic and technological backwardness actually serves its purpose; it is easy for the casual observer, presented with the sights of women washing clothes in the river and rice being transplanted by hand with crude tools, to believe that the North is the more authentically “Korean” side of the peninsula. But culture is not defined by the presence or absence of technology; it is how people use the technology and materials available to them. For instance, Koreans may not have invented the Internet, but their relentless pursuit of speed and affinity for social networking has yielded one of the world’s fastest and most ubiquitous networks. Similarly, Korean appetites for multi-player gaming, handheld devices, plastic surgery and e-commerce all reflect longstanding cultural priorities and values. Culture is also evident in Koreans’ distinct aversion to certain other technologies, such as hormonal birth control, microwavable foods, and electric fans. North Koreans may share these preferences, but they simply have not been able to express them because so many technologies have been withheld from them. To that end, this chapter puts forth two related arguments. First, North Korea’s society and culture have changed significantly since the end of the Cold War, even though it did not undergo political regime change like the rest of the Soviet bloc. Second, despite the regime’s claims to the contrary, the culture lovingly preserved in North Korea today is considerably different from that of pre-modern Korea.

Foundational elements of North Korean culture To understand how North Korean culture has changed over time, we must first outline what it was to begin with. Several exogenous factors had formative influences in the early development of North Korean culture and society: Sino-centric Confucianism, Christianity, Japanese colonial policy, Soviet state-building, Stalinism, Chinese revolutionary culture, and the Korean War. The northern half of Korea was historically the more industrial part, and at the time of division it had a strong Christian community. As Armstrong describes, In some ways Pyongyang was at the forefront of modernity in the early 20th century: the home of many of Korea’s leading writers and intellectuals, the center of Protestant 77

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Christianity, and the site of many new manufacturing and industrial concerns under Japanese colonialism. (Armstrong 2013: 67) Kim Il Sung’s parents were both active Christians, and scholars have noted aesthetic and substantive similarities between the Kim Il Sung cult and biblical mythology (Myers 2010; Armstrong 2013). Like the South, it had undergone 40 years of cultural transformation under the policies of Japan’s Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. This included a unified educational curriculum that inculcated reverence for the God-like emperor, a propaganda engine that churned out patriotic slogans and songs, and a Japanese aesthetic that prized purity, cleanliness, and uniformity. The Japanese colonial era was marked by successive waves of cultural transformation, first under a policy of forced assimilation and later as cooperative integration. The specific cultural policies undertaken during the colonial era have been extensively documented elsewhere (Kang 2013; Caprio 2014). Notable examples include mandatory Shinto worship, setting Japanese as the official language, imposition of Japanese names, etc. At the same time, during this period of rapid modernization Korean society saw its first streetcars, modern universities, hospitals, newspapers, phone lines, etc. (Lankov 2007). The goals of Japan’s cultural policy were twofold: bringing Koreans into cultural unity with Japan and transforming them into a modern workforce with an efficient infrastructure for industry. The two most enduring and transformative ideological legacies of the Japanese colonial era were the collective worship of a single religious, political, and military leader in one person (the Showa emperor) and a profoundly xenophobic, muscular nationalism that prized racial purity. This was bolstered by a propaganda apparatus that was left more or less intact in the North, with many of the same writers and artists that had been active under the Japanese keeping their jobs under the new communist administration (Myers 2010: 331). Immediately after liberation, the Soviet Union took over and had a commanding role in shaping the political, economic, and cultural foundations of the new state. With few in-country communists remaining at the war’s end, Moscow dispatched a small army of Russian-born ethnic Koreans to serve as powerful ambassadors of the Soviet Army Headquarters in the new North Korean state. One such Russian-born Korean cadre recalls that the immediate post-liberation period was known as the “Age of the Rule of Interpreters.” The Soviet Army Headquarters even drafted Kim Il Sung’s first public speech, delivered at a Pyongyang citizens’ reception welcoming the Soviet Liberation Army. The speech had to be translated into Korean (Lim 1982: 144). Soviet cultural influence was absolutely dominant from liberation in 1945 through about 1956, when the Soviet Korean faction was purged from power and the USSR’s de-Stalinization campaign came directly in conflict with Kim Il Sung’s cult of personality (Wada 2012). Some key legacies of Soviet state-building included Stalinist control structures, restrictions on internal travel and commerce, official narrative building, factionalism and purges, and socialist realism in art and architecture (Buzo 1999: 28–56; Lankov 2002). Soviet influence was prominent in the architectural style and layout of the reconstructed capital city: a broad avenue leading to an enormous central square with a viewing platform explicitly designed for political festivals and grand goose-stepping military parades, a mirror image of Stalin’s blueprint for Soviet cities (Apor 2004: 145). The wave of land reform and class struggle that took place under Soviet tutelage dramatically overturned traditional Korean social structures and morals. Land reform upended the traditional landlord–tenant system of farming and replaced it with a communal farming system (Armstrong 2003: 146). For the first time, one’s prospects for social advancement were not aided by one’s knowledge of the Confucian classics or position within the wealthy landowner class; in fact, persons of such backgrounds became politically suspect. As was the case throughout the new 78

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socialist states, poverty became a virtue and landlessness a badge of honor. The highly hierarchical Confucian traditions which had infused the very language of Korea fit poorly with this new ideology. The unfamiliar term dongmu (comrade) became the universal way of addressing all fellow citizens, replacing the complex familial hierarchical terms of appellation so fundamental to the Korean language (Kim 2010: 106). The everyday lexicon soon became littered with borrowed Marxist terms such as “organizational life,” “scientific life,” “living revolution,” etc. (Kim 2010: 14–15). Finally, no analysis of the formative elements of North Korea would be complete without mentioning the legacy of the Korean War. The intensive carpet-bombing by UN forces laid waste to the countryside and exacerbated the xenophobia of an already highly xenophobic people. In terms of cultural and social impacts, one of the greatest legacies of the war was a collective desire for “self-sufficiency.” This impulse took root at both national and provincial levels, as bombing crippled transportation and communication networks and left the provinces to fend for themselves in food, medicine, daily necessities, and defense. Local self-sufficiency was later associated with the tenets of juche, the new national ideology, in the 1960s, but the true origins of this tradition may even predate the Korean War. Armstrong notes that “juche at the local level” was inspired by Japanese colonial practice of local “self-strengthening” (jiriki kōsei) (Armstrong 2013: 54). Whatever its origins, local self-sufficiency became a defining feature of postwar North Korean economic policy, having dramatic impacts on the traditional way of life. School and work units doubled as reserve army units, complete with military ranks and codes for deployment, periodically sent to undergo training so that they could reliably defend their own area in case of war.3 In addition to self-defense, each “unit” was encouraged to practice self-sufficiency in obtaining essential provisions and materials, a policy which led to munitions factories deploying their own fishing fleets, forestry workers collecting root vegetables and medicinal herbs for sale, factory workers farming small plots in their spare time, schoolchildren collecting rabbit skin quotas, etc. In an attempt to become locally self-sufficient in food production, formerly unfarmed regions underwent land reclamation programs informed by Russian agronomists with little knowledge of local soil conditions. Now cut off from the traditional rice basket of the South, and occupying mostly mountainous terrain unsuitable to rice agriculture, North Korean agriculture came to rely upon Russian staples such as wheat, barley, millet, corn, sorghum, and potatoes (Kuark 1963: 90), and the traditional diet was affected accordingly.

Juche and personalist dictatorship The hyper-nationalist and rigidly organized socialist society described by Hunter began to take shape in the years following the Korean War, as Kim Il Sung eliminated the pro-Soviet and pro-Chinese factions and consolidated his rule into a true personalist dictatorship (Lankov 2002; Wada 2012; Armstrong 2013). The most excessive parts of Kim’s cult of personality were developed in the 1960s, as the regime developed the cultural ideal of the “Kim Il-sung Man” (Hunter 1999: 31). From this time, it became common for the state, in the name of the Great Leader, to issue decrees through its mouthpiece media organs regulating a wide range of cultural practices. Formal decrees have been issued governing everything from fashion and hairstyles to popular music and cinema. The Soviet Union’s de-Stalinization campaign in the late 1950s put Kim Il Sung in an awkward position, as it condemned personality cults right at the time that Kim was constructing his own (Lim 1982: 214–15). This, together with the political need to eliminate the pro-Soviet faction in Pyongyang, helped pushed North Korea closer to China and away from the Soviet Union’s ideological orbit (Pak 2004: 324–25). 79

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The Kim regime learned early on the political necessity of shaking off appearances of dependence on foreign powers, even going so far as to modify old photographs to remove the Soviet army insignia from Kim Il Sung’s uniform. Juche, the ideology attributed to Kim Il Sung, went further than Stalinism or Maoism in shaking off its philosophical roots and claiming originality. Lankov writes, Mao and Stalin were presented officially as the successors of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, as the best disciples of the dead Communist sages . . . Kim Il Sung was never presented in such a way. North Korean propaganda of the early 1950s sometimes referred to Kim Il Sung as “Stalin’s loyal disciple,” but this was done in the times when the alleged primacy of the Soviet Union still remained a core element of the regime’s ideological discourse. Such references disappeared by the late 1950s. (Lankov 2013: 50) Recurrent themes in the North Korean lexicon are “in our own way” (uri-sik) and “our nation by itself ” (uri-nara-kkiri). The central theme of juche (often mistranslated as “self-reliance,” the term literally means “the main subject”) has little to do with independence from foreign aid and everything to do with independence from foreign ideas and influence. The term first appeared in a speech attributed to Kim Il Sung which was reportedly delivered in 1955 but not published until 1960: What is the main subject (juche) of our party’s ideological work? We are not carrying out some other country’s revolution, we are carrying out Korea’s revolution. It is this Korean revolution which is the main subject of our party’s ideological work . . . If you go to an elementary school, the pictures on the walls are all of foreigners like Mayakowsky and Pushkin; there is not a single photo of a Korean. Raising children in this way, what sort of confidence will they have in their nation? Some say the Soviet way is best, others say the Chinese way is best; hasn’t the time come to make our own way (uri-sik)? ( Kim Il-sung Selected Works Vol 4, quoted in Wada 2012: 99) Thus from its very beginnings, juche was framed in terms of claiming independence not only in ideology but in culture as well. From this turning point onward, North Korea went further than any other Soviet satellite in declaring ideological independence from communism’s Russian and German forebears. That it was allowed to do so owes largely to the strategic need to prevail in the competition with South Korea over nationalist legitimacy and the existence of a potential alternative sponsor in communist China. The outcome for North Korean society was a generation of fiercely proud, stridently xenophobic people who had been raised to believe that the Korean race was the purest, smartest, and most enviable race in the world, the source of all the finest culture and thought known to man – most of it produced by Kim Il Sung himself or his relatives. In the process, there was a gradual purging of all references to Marx, Lenin, and other outside influences in official documents and histories (Lankov 2013). In this way the traditional culture of North Korea, which had been largely wiped out by thirty years of Japanese colonial policy and ten years of Soviet cultural chauvinism, was resurrected by Kim Il Sung and his ideological team as a tool for shoring up the political legitimacy of their Soviet-backed regime. But like most zombies, it came back a little bit different. For one, the regime didn’t stop borrowing foreign cultural traditions; they simply stopped giving credit for them. Soviet innovations in art, film, and theater were introduced in North 80

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Korea as unique new creations from the mind of the Great Leader or his son. Many of the kitschier elements of the Stalin personality cult, such as mass-produced portraits of the Leader and children’s songs extolling his boundless love, were adapted and given new life within North Korea’s closed system. Adrian Buzo has catalogued a long list of key practices of the DPRK that originated with Stalin, including the incorporation of grossly abusive language (“puppet fascist bandit clique,” etc.) into public political rhetoric, the emphasis on remolding human nature and creating “a new type of man,” heavy use of kinship metaphors like “fatherly leader,” and Stakhonovite “speed campaigns” to achieve economic targets (Buzo 1999: 42–3). By the 1970s, North Korean propaganda was depicting Kim Il Sung as the original creator of socialist realism in art and architecture, superseding the likes of Gorkii and Zhdanov. A coterie of writers known as the 4.15 Creation Group was tasked with churning out plays, operas, poems, and novels in the style of socialist realism, and their most popular works were belatedly attributed to the pen of Kim Il Sung (Lim 1982: 14).4 The crowning achievements of this team were the revolutionary operas created in the 1970s, most notably Sea of Blood and Flower Girl, which were the cultural descendants of the early revolutionary operas produced by the Chinese Communist Party in Yenan in the 1930s, which in turn were descended from the classical Beijing opera tradition (Terzuolo 2009). North Korea’s isolation, far from preventing foreign influences, actually helped enable the leadership to plagiarize the most popular trends in foreign music, art, and film; the very few elites who might have recognized such plagiarism were hardly going to speak up about it. Many sources have described the Kim Il Sung style of absolute personalist leadership as a logical extension of Korea’s long tradition of dynastic rule based on the Confucian “Mandate of Heaven” (Kim 1995: 180). Such comparisons tell only part of the story, however. In constructing the various features and practices of the Kim personality cult, the regime borrowed liberally from the cults of Stalin and Mao, Japan’s militant state Shinto of the 1930s, and even some aspects of Christianity. For instance, North Korean newspapers’ practice of highlighting in bold all authentic quotes by Kim Il Sung and his successors is likely taken from the Christian bible, although China adopted a similar practice during the Cultural Revolution. The practice of displaying reverence toward portraits and monumental statues of the leader stems directly from Stalin’s personality cult (Buzo 1999: 28–56; Lankov 2002). The practice of inscribing the leader’s most famous quotes in authentic calligraphy into the sides of mountains seems to have been borrowed from China’s cult of Mao, which in turn took the idea from the ancient Chinese practice of carving calligraphic inscriptions by famous sages onto scenic rock outcroppings, thought to date back as early as the Qin dynasty (Yen 2004: 1–3). The Kim Il Sung personality cult only really began to take off around 1965, coinciding with the dawn of the Cultural Revolution in China, and many practices now considered distinctly North Korean trace their origins to those heady days under Mao: badges of the leader on every lapel, big-character posters and slogan signs, rote memorization of the leader’s quotations, etc. Incorporating Marxist collectivism and Kim’s personality cult required a fundamental transformation of such traditional Korean social practices as hierarchical speech patterns and bowing. The high honorifics so fundamental to the Korean language were now reserved only for the Kim family, and all other work and family relations were encouraged to use plain speech as if among equals. Jang notes that, breaking from traditional Korean practice, in North Korea deep bows can only be made to a member of the Kim Il Sung family; anyone else of superior status gets a shallow bow, and one never bows at all to a total stranger (Jang 2013: 25). Hunter’s (1999) book describes the system of organized, mandatory “study sessions” that each work group participated in after hours, at which party directives and editorials were discussed. Many defectors have also described weekly “self-criticism” sessions, a sort of atheist confessional 81

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where participants stand before their units and confess their ideological shortcomings and misdeeds of the past week. Such sessions have become so strongly associated with the Asian communist regimes – particularly China during the Cultural Revolution and Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge – that it is easy to forget the practice originated in the early Soviet Union, where Russia’s “tradition of peasant communes with customs of deliberation and self-governance in village meetings” facilitated the rise of various peasant councils, educational meetings, etc. (Kim 2010: 24). Public self-criticism originally met with some resistance in Korea, going against the traditional emphasis on “saving face,” but over time these sessions became an ingrained part of everyday life. The transformation of traditional gender roles that had begun under Soviet guidance took on a new direction in the isolated regime, as it struggled to delineate a proper role for women as modern revolutionary heroines and, simultaneously, as chaste defenders of traditional Korean values. Women “became not only the focal point within the traditional family structure but also the agents of ideological awakening for the newly founded socialist state” (Kim 2013: 205). Yet defining a new role for women created a dilemma – traditional Korean women’s roles within the family made it difficult for them to move into the public sphere to become revolutionaries. North Korean women were thus saddled with the contradictory tasks of leading the forward march to modernity as socialist workers and soldiers, while also representing Korea’s traditional past in important, if largely symbolic, ways. For instance, on formal occasions women always wear joseonot (modified traditional Korean clothing), whereas men wear Western-style suits. In North Korean film and theater, “Joseonot acquires a timeless quality embodying essential Korean values as it mediates disparate times and places . . . It is only the women who must confront this double standard, mastering the performance of both gender roles” (Kim 2013: 236–37). In Korean magazines and news reports, women appeared garbed in joseonot in such impractical settings as farms and factories, while participating in very manly acts of socialist construction. This grafting of nationalism, tradition, and contemporary political control has woven a deep and powerful cultural meme in North Korea. Women, men, families, classes, and regions all have been given meaning and told how to perform in a way that is meaningful and links to an imagined “Korean” past. Perhaps the greatest transformation has occurred in the North Korean childhood experience. The DPRK has always taken great pride in its favored treatment of children and its emphasis on moral education. But under Kim Il Sung, the institutions of a privileged North Korean childhood came to bear much greater resemblance to those of Soviet Russia than anything in the Chosun era. During the golden age of Kim Il Sung’s reign, childhood revolved around admission into the Young Pioneers (modeled after the organization of the same name in the Soviet Union), and later the League of Socialist Youth (Hunter 1999: 49–50). In the 1980s, the Mangyongdae Children’s Palace in Pyongyang was constructed as a central showpiece of children’s education. Images on a North Korean tourist website show pupils at the Children’s Palace practicing such stereotypically Russian pastimes as ballet and rhythmic gymnastics, and perfecting their skills in traditional Russian instruments like the accordion, violin, and piano – as well as the Korean kayageum and drums.5 As part of the socialist construction and the push to bring women into the workforce, the Party made arrangements for extensive day care and childrearing services. In the process, the traditional Korean family structure was subverted, and children were effectively “raised by the state.” Parents typically only had one day of the week to spend with their children, who spent the rest of the time with their assigned units in school, political struggle sessions, or “volunteer” labor (Hunter 1999). One commonly heard trope in reports of this period is that every North Korean child’s first words were “Thank you, Great Leader Kim Il Sung.” More devastating to traditional


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familial relations was the division of all members of society into assigned, cradle-to-grave work units. As Hunter describes it, Every North Korean over the age of six is a member of a unit of some sort . . . It can be the school one attends; the factory, collective farm, or government office where one works; or the military unit to which one is attached. (Hunter 1999: 37–9) The unit provided food, clothing, and housing; families were housed with the father’s unit. One had to apply to one’s unit for permission to marry, travel, or eat at public restaurants. North Koreans attended study sessions, theater performances, and other events with their units, not with their families. The result was a rigidly controlled society in which families spent little time together and the state took on the role of father and mother for many who grew up in this period; however, this system was sustainable only so long as the state had the material resources and bureaucratic capacity to maintain it.

Changes since 1994 Many scholars have remarked upon the surprising fact that North Korean communism survived the end of the Cold War while so many more functional communist regimes failed. But perhaps “survived” is too strong of a term. Three major shocks of the 1990s conspired to dramatically transform North Korean society and culture: the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the death of Kim Il Sung, and the onset of a bleak period of famine known in North Korea as the gonan ui haenggun, or “arduous march.” These three events are in many ways intertwined, and indeed it can be justly said that the third was directly caused by the first and mentally associated with the second. But we will eschew causal logic here and simply focus on the main sociocultural impacts of each event. Culturally, the impact of the Cold War’s end was a final severing of cultural ties with the Soviet Union and an ever more insular definition of “civilization” as something uniquely Korean. To its people, the regime interpreted the wave of reform in the Soviet bloc as a treasonous rejection of the truths of Communism and a surrender to the siren song of commercialism. In North Korean literature after this period, Russians were depicted as weak and naïve but basically good people who have fallen under the spell of “wrong ideas” (Lankov 2013: 80–1). Materially, the immediate impact of the Soviet collapse was that Soviet subsidies in the form of spare parts, fuel, and fertilizer dried up, causing factories to shut down and crop yields to dramatically decline. Food and consumer goods became scarce, and the public distribution system (PDS) ceased operating, depriving the state of one of its primary mechanisms of social control. People were still officially expected to show up for work, but without functioning machinery they had nothing to do (Lankov 2013: 76–7). The lack of fuel aid also led to chronic power outages, making life more unpredictable and hampering reception of TV and radio broadcasts, formerly important means of disseminating political messages. A second unforeseen shock was the death of Kim Il Sung, the “father” of the country who had reigned as the unchallenged supreme leader for over forty years. In a final nod to the Soviet personality cults he had borrowed from throughout his reign, his body was preserved and laid out on permanent display at his palatial former residence, which became a permanent memorial. The most immediate outcome following the death of the Great Leader was the succession of his son, Kim Jong Il, to official power, earning North Korea notoriety as the communist world’s first and only hereditary monarchy.


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Third and perhaps most importantly, the famine that began in the mid-1990s dramatically transformed the traditional social roles and culture of North Korean citizens. This was the period when much of the neatly ordered socialist society described in Hunter’s (1999) book began to fall apart. The collapse of the PDS which began from 1994 greatly weakened the state’s ability to control internal movement and maintain the strict expectations on organizational life that had dominated society up to that point. Bribes and material wealth became more important than Party membership in surviving and advancing within the system (Haggard and Noland 2010: 99). From this point on, conditions on the ground clashed visibly with the official rhetoric, which continued to insist that people were living in a workers’ paradise. This cognitive dissonance, combined with the psychological toll of extreme hunger, had transformative effects on language, gender roles, family cohesion, and interpersonal relationships. The collapse of the PDS forced people to adapt and find creative coping mechanisms: selling off factory parts, collecting copper wire and other parts to sell, traveling to and from China in search of food, selling household goods in the jangmadang (small private markets), and tending illegal private gardens in the mountains. The general decline in food, fuel, and materials prompted a resurgence of the latent entrepreneurial spirit of North Koreans, and defectors’ stories from this period abound with creative replacements: wood-powered trucks, noodles made from wheat chaff, new recipes using tofu dregs, etc. Those who could not or would not innovate often did not survive. While the old restrictions on residence and internal movement remained in place, those who survived the famine developed ingenious means of circumventing them (Fahy 2015: 74). Border crossing and black market trading also remained technically illegal, but enforcement was difficult and those caught could use bribery to escape punishment. Bribery and graft became routinized and remained endemic within the system even after the crisis was over; numerous defector reports have testified that in the new post-famine North Korea, having money is more important than class background, and bribery can be a way to escape all sorts of legal trouble.6 As North Korean law specifically forbade men from participating in the markets, women become the principal breadwinners of many families, subverting traditional gender roles. While men were obligated to keep punching their cards at non-functioning factories for little or no pay, women were busily innovating new kinds of foodstuffs, circumventing travel restrictions, and transporting goods from places of relative abundance to relative scarcity, using narrow profit margins to keep their families alive. A common joke during the famine years was that men were as useless as “daytime light bulbs” (Fahy 2015: 100). While women’s market endeavors played such a crucial role in the survival of their families, this also created considerable tension between the genders and further subverted the traditional Korean family hierarchy. One effect of the famine that is not well understood is how famine coping mechanisms may have led to a Darwinian social transformation in which the “fittest” were those who were willing to break the law, to be dishonest, and to betray friends and neighbors to survive. As South Korean researcher Kim Seok-hyang observed, in today’s North Korea lying is “a way of surviving” and telling the truth “is a good way to kill yourself,”7 the result being that many North Korean defectors in the South lie almost instinctively about their experiences and have earned a reputation for dishonesty.8 In her book, Barbara Demick quotes a female defector who recalls that it was the “simple and kindhearted people who did what they were told – they were the first to die” during the famine (Demick 2010). In the new, hard world created by the famine, survival skills became the ultimate virtue. One defector recalled observing children begging and sometimes stealing from smaller children in the market: “When I saw that, I thought:‘Yes, do whatever it takes to live . . . Even if you have to steal. Live. Good job, good job’” (Fahy 2015: 81). Defectors view the famine years as the turning point when these new self-preservationist attitudes overtook the communal, cooperative values of the Kim Il Sung era. 84

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Historically, those raised in communist societies have tended to develop behavioral propensities of dependence on the state for survival and advancement (Pence and Betts 2008). South Korean assessments of the likely costs of unification tend to invoke comparisons with the German case (Kim and Lee 2003: 299–316), citing the “culture of dependency” which made it so difficult for East Germans to adjust to the capitalist norm of fending for themselves without the socialist guarantee of public welfare. However, it is important to remember that East Germany never experienced a total collapse of state distribution the way North Korea did. Younger North Koreans who came of age after the collapse of the PDS have out of necessity developed extraordinary coping mechanisms. Along with the aforementioned survival mechanisms of dishonesty and self-interest, younger North Koreans are likely to have developed high levels of creativity, selfsufficiency, entrepreneurial spirit, and a vigorous work ethic, all for the sake of survival. Obliged to develop grassroots marketization on their own without the encouragement of the state (indeed, in direct conflict with state directives), those North Koreans who thrived in the underground market environment had to develop a keen intuition for the dynamics of supply and demand. In the last decade, another external development has had significant impact on North Korean culture: technology, chiefly in the form of advances in data compression, processor speed and network diffusion, has finally begun to break through the wall of North Korean isolation. Smuggled DVDs and flash drives have flooded across the border, filling a growing demand for South Korean movies, dramas, and music. These items have become popular, if illegal, commodities for trade in the small markets; North Koreans have been inspired to imitate hairstyles, fashions, and even dialect patterns from South Korean dramas. AM radio broadcasts have penetrated far into the North, and along the Chinese border, citizens can illegally connect with Chinese cellphone networks. These links, while still limited, have broadened the information environment and elevated the social position of citizens with relatives abroad. The increasing public demand for outside information and the diversity of networks have made it increasingly difficult for the state to block these channels through traditional methods such as jamming and freezing radio dials. Additionally, a 2008 deal with Orascom Telecom created a domestic cell phone market which now boasts over three million subscribers; while users are limited to the domestic network, this has expanded inter-regional lines of communication that were once utterly blocked. “Cellphone chic” has infiltrated the country, and smartphones have become a major status symbol. The stealthy influx of South Korean dramas, music, and fashion have rendered it impossible for the regime to claim that its people are more prosperous than their southern brethren; accordingly, the regime’s primary basis for legitimacy has shifted from public welfare to cultural fidelity. As Lankov writes, With all its wealth, South Korea is represented as basically a very unhappy place. The reason for this unhappiness is that South Koreans’ national identity, their precious “Koreanness,” has been spoilt and compromised by the domination of American imperialists who propagate their degrading and corrosive “culture.” (Lankov 2013: 105) This shift has prompted a series of culture-affirming moves: the “discovery” of Tangun’s tomb, construction of a giant folk culture park, new excavations of historic sites at Kaesong, and so on.

Enduring similarities between the two Koreas After 70 years of division, what cultural similarities remain between North and South? First, both sides seem to share a uniquely Korean belief that both virtue and villainy can be passed along family lines. North Korea has long been condemned for its practice of sending three generations 85

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to the gulag for the crime of a single family member, to ensure that the reactionary seed is completely eliminated. This practice reportedly ended after Kim Jong Il came to power, but continues to be applied for special cases, such as the families of high-level defectors, and is unfailingly mentioned in every report about North Korean human rights. But South Koreans share the expectation that family members should bear some of the blame for their relatives’ sins. It is common to see a prominent business executives or politicians apologizing on the nightly news for the misbehavior of a sibling, child, or grandchild.9 To this day, certain South Korean civic groups maintain lists of descendants of “pro-Japanese collaborators” who held positions of power or prestige during the colonial era and frequently threaten to name and shame them (Scofield 2004). North Korea celebrates its leaders as the “bloodline of Mt Paekdu,” seemingly oblivious to the embarrassment its hereditary leadership system has caused for its Chinese sponsors. But South Korean business conglomerates display the same preference for inherited leadership along family lines. In South Korean dramas, the protagonist is often the hereditary heir of a historical dynasty or modern business conglomerate, while anyone trying to change the line of succession is portrayed as an evil schemer (Shaw 2015). Second, both Koreas share a deep frustration and dissatisfaction with their countr ies’ global positions. South Koreans seem well versed on their national rankings on various economic indicators, and any changes are reported widely in the media. North Koreans beam with pride over their nuclear and missile (satellite) technology and trumpet their dubious scientific achievements in animal cloning and cold fusion, while bitterly resenting the lack of international acclaim for these successes. Citizens of both Koreas remember international sports victories and agonize over painful defeats for years, sometimes decades, after they occurred. Media outlets of both Koreas frequently express a conviction that all of the great powers – including the U.S., Japan, and China – are determined to prevent unification, fearing the political and economic might of an independent, unified peninsula. There is a palpable sense of opportunities wasted due to the cost of maintaining a divided peninsula on constant alert. Perhaps related to this, both Koreas seem eager to gain greater global recognition for their cultural achievements. South Korea competes fiercely for increased registrations of UNESCO World Heritage sites, particularly eager to top Japan. South Korea has also constructed several “folk villages” in recent years where tourists can experience the best of old Korea. Perhaps in emulation of this, one of Kim Jong Eun’s first acts as leader was to break ground on the sprawling “Korean Folk Park” in suburban Pyongyang. The park features a miniature Mount Paekdu and scale replicas of modern Pyongyang buildings, as well as historic temples, tombs and palaces (including, intriguingly, several from the Kwang ju historic site in South Korea), and representations of traditional Korean markets and houses.10 In the 1980s, North Korea developed the Mass Games, a sort of mass display of coordinated rhythmic gymnastics, expressly to perform for foreign visitors. Hoping to share its cuisine with the world, North Korea has opened a string of restaurants in major Asian cities, where one can also hear popular North Korean ballads and patriotic songs performed by waitresses clad in miniskirts or joseonot. South Koreans have long sought to promote Korean traditional medicine around the world, gaining UNESCO status in 2009; not to be outdone, North Korean scientists recently announced that they had uncovered herbal cures for MERS, SARS, AIDS, and Ebola (KCNA 2015). For all their intense national pride, Koreans often seem genuinely surprised and touched when foreign visitors express admiration for some aspect of Korean culture. For instance, in 2011 when a group of Somali pirates was brought to South Korea for trial after a failed raid, they quickly charmed the nation by enthusiastically devouring their jailhouse Korean dinner (one pirate asked for seconds!). When the “Korean Wave” of pop music and dramas hit big in Japan in the early 86

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2000s, Koreans briefly softened their long-standing enmity toward Japan. Though the Korean Wave has tempered somewhat internationally, stories of Korean celebrities being swarmed by fans abroad remain a frequent highlight in South Korean media. News reports from South Korean cultural events and festivals invariably include interviews with beaming foreign attendees. For their part, North Korean newspapers continue to print reports of juche study groups in various foreign countries and images of foreign dignitaries laying wreaths at the Kim Il Sung statue, implying global esteem for the late Great Leader. Clearly, Koreans on both sides are eager to attain greater global awareness of their culture and achievements. Finally, citizens of both Koreas share a strong sense that they are “one nation” united by a common heritage and values – a perception that often leads to heartbreaking disappointment when they actually encounter one another. In September 1985, after extensive Red Cross negotiations, the two Koreas held their first cultural exchange since division. Through this event, North and South Korea came in contact with each other’s performing arts, and particularly music, for the first time. One observer recalled, The response from each side to the music of the other was quite unfavorable. South Koreans spoke critically of North Korea’s music and musical instruments for distorting tradition and betraying our nationality, while North Korea berated the South’s music for its vestiges of feudalism. (Hwang 2001) Traditional music is rarely played in North Korea since it is generally “shunned for being reactionary” (Hwang 2001). When South Korean social workers recently tried to help a group of North Korean defectors to reconstruct their ancestral family registries, they found that most of them had no idea what clan they belonged to or where their clan village might be located, and half of them did not even know the hanja (Chinese characters) for their own last names. Clan affiliation, a concept so important to the fabric of South Korean society, appears to have been erased completely in North Korea. One defector later blogged about this experience, explaining that “In the North, things like family registers were denounced as ‘feudal vestiges,’ so the younger generation has no idea where their roots are” (Ju 2012).

Conclusion Juche and Kimilsungism are more than just buzzwords for North Koreans; they are ideals for which North Koreans have suffered and sacrificed for decades, and they have become engraved into their culture and customs. The connection between modern North Korean culture and traditional Korean culture is tenuous at best, but many continue to believe that North Korea has preserved a more authentic version of Korean culture than the South has. Defectors continue to believe this even as they are jumping ship for a better material life in the South. The flip side of being “pro-Korean” is “anti-Western”; “Western” culture for North (and South) Koreans seems to be equated with things like individualism, commercialism, political activism, feminism, cosmopolitanism, etc.; embracing these values is likened to surrendering Korean heritage. Cultural divisions between the two Koreas will be hard to overcome if unification ever happens. South Koreans must understand what to expect and what “red lines” cannot be crossed in terms of cultural unification. Evidence from other collapsed Soviet bloc states suggests that the revival of traditional culture can play a huge role in political stabilization. Particularly in the case of other ethnically 87

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homogenous states such as Mongolia, the new democratic government’s ability to pass laws bringing back traditional dress, song, art forms, and reverence for historical figures helped tremendously by appeasing the public through the first harsh years until economic stability could be restored. Dismantling the Kim regime and personality cult will go much more smoothly if the North Korean public can be convinced that the new system will be more true to authentic traditional Korean culture and values than the old was. Reinstating opportunities to give public reverence for Buddhism, Confucian rites, and shamanism can go a long way in this regard, as well as revival of historical figures such as Admiral Yi Sun-shin, Cho Man-sik, and Shin Chae-ho.11 While educating people in the Russian cultural origins of socialist realist painting and the Chinese origins of red banners and revolutionary operas, simultaneously efforts can be made to reintroduce traditional forms like pansori music, ssireum wrestling, Korean ceramics, calligraphy, and ink painting. That these cultural forms remain active in the South, while they have largely disappeared or stagnated in the North, speaks elegantly to the power of democracy to preserve traditional culture.

Notes 1 Remark by Andrew Scobell at roundtable talk, “Korean Unification: What Would It Take?” RAND Corp., 3 November 2015. 2 A few examples: A large part of a North Korean’s grade depends on his/her family background. If a family member had committed a ‘thought crime,’ or come from another country (such as Japan or South Korea), etc., then no matter how hard a person works, or how qualified he/she is . . . that person will never advance very far in society. (Saxonberg 2013: 125–6) Schoolchildren and adults alike must participate in daily political study groups, where they are quizzed about juche thought and history and instructed to memorize lists of significant dates and long speeches by Kim Il-sung. The party-appointed neighborhood chiefs monitor attendance and performance. (Byman and Lind 2010: 54) 3 See Kim Hyon-hui’s memoir for a first-person account of military training in a female junior high school reserve unit in the 1970s (Kim 1991). 4 This started a unique North Korean tradition of the leader as pop culture artist-in-chief which has continued to the present. Kim Il Sung allegedly penned numerous revolutionary operas; his son Kim Jong Il famously helmed the North Korean film industry for decades; and his grandson Kim Jong Eun reportedly hand-picked the members of the Moranbong Band, North Korea’s most famous pop music group. 5 Images found on the North Korea Travel website, (accessed 2/29/16). 6 For details, see the White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea, published annually by the Korean Institute for National Unification. 7 Quoted by Strother (2015). 8 For example, see the reaction to defector Shin Dong-hyuk’s confession that he lied in his memoir (Choi 2015). 9 A few examples: Former President Kim Young-sam appeared on national television in 1997 to apologize for the behavior of his 38-year-old son who was implicated in a bribery scandal. In 2014, Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho publicly apologized after his daughter threw a tantrum aboard a Korean Airlines flight, saying he “regretted not raising her better.” 10 Details found on the KTG DPRK Tours website, html?idxno=100809 (accessed 2/29/16). 11 Defectors have reported ignorance of this early independence activist, who is well-known in the South (Kim and Lee 2003: 303).


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References Allen-Jones, P. (2006) “A Trip ‘Back in Time’ to N. Korea,” The Herald Tribune, 6 September. http://www. Apor, B., Behrends, J. C., Jones, P. and Rees, E. A. (2004) The Leader Cult in Communist Dictatorships, Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan. Armstrong, C. K. (2003) The North Korean Revolution, 1945–1950, Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Armstrong, C. K. (2013) Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World, 1950–1992, Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Bennett, B. (2014) Preparing for the Possibility of a North Korean Collapse, Santa Monica, CA: RAND. Buzo, A. (1999) The Guerilla Dynasty: Politics and Leadership in North Korea, London: IB Tauris. Byman, D. and Lind, J. (2010) “Pyongyang’s Survival Strategy: Tools of Authoritarian Control in North Korea,” International Security, 35(1): 44–74. Caprio, M. (2014) Japanese Assimilation Policies in Colonial Korea, 1910–1945, Seattle: University of Washington Press. Cha, V. and Kang, D. (eds) (2011) Challenges for Unification Planning: Justice, Markets, Health, Refugees, and Civil-Military Transitions, Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies. Choi, S. H. (2015) “Prominent North Korean Defector Recants Parts of His Story of Captivity,” New York Times, 18 January. Demick, B. (2010) Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea, London: Granta. Fahy, S. (2015) Marching through Suffering: Loss and Survival in North Korea, New York: Columbia University Press. Haggard, S. and Noland, M. (2010) Witness to Transformation: Refugee Insights into North Korea, Washington, DC: Peterson Institute. Hassig, R. and Oh, K. (2009) The Hidden People of North Korea: Everyday Life in the Hermit Kingdom, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Hunter, H. (1999) Kim Il-Song’s North Korea, Westport, CT: Greenwood. Hwang, B. K. (2001) “Direction of Inter-Korean Musical Exchanges,” Korea Focus, 9(4): 137–146. Jang, J. S. (2013) The Story of North Korea Told by a North Korean Refugee, Seoul: Neulpum Plus. Ju, S. H. (2012) “Bukhan Bo’anseo wa neun Samut Dareun Namhan ui Hojeok Deungbon,” Nambuk Story, 21 January, Kang, H. (2013) Under the Black Umbrella:Voices from Colonial Korea, 1910–1945, Ithaca: Cornell University Press. KCNA (2015) “Kumdang-2 Injection,” 18 June. 20150618-26ee.html Kim, B. L. P. (1995) Two Koreas in Development: A Comparative Study of Principles and Strategies of Capitalist and Communist Third World Development, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers. Kim, H. H. (1991) Kin Kenki Zenkokuhaku: Ima, Onna to Shite, Tokyo: Bungei Shunjū. Kim, K. D. and Lee, O. J. (2003) The Two Koreas: Social Change and National Integration, Vol. 23, Seoul: Jimoondang. Kim, S. (2013) Everyday Life in the North Korean Revolution, 1945–1950, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Kim, S. Y. (2010) Illusive Utopia: Theater, Film, and Everyday Performance in North Korea, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Kuark, Y. T. (1963) “North Korea’s Agricultural Development during the Post-War Period,” The China Quarterly, 14: 82–93. Lankov, A. (2002) From Stalin to Kim Il Sung: The Formation of North Korea, 1945–1960, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. Lankov, A. (2007) The Dawn of Modern Korea: The Transformation in Life and Cityscape, Seoul: Eunhaeng Namu. Lankov, A. (2013) The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia, New York: Oxford University Press. Lim, U. (1982) The Founding of a Dynasty in North Korea – An Authentic Biography of Kim Il Song, Tokyo: Jiyu-sha. Myers, B. R. (2010) The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters, Brooklyn, NY: Melville House. Oremus, W. (2011) “Great Leader, Dear Leader: What’s Next?” Slate, 19 December. articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2011/12/kim_jong_il_s_successor_who_decides_on_kim_jong_ un_s_nickname_.html Pak, G. H. (2004) Cheontong: Bukhan Sahoe Yihae ui Yeolsoe, Paju, South Korea: Hanguk Haksul Jeongbo.


Meredith Shaw and David Kang Pence, K. and Betts, P. (2008) Socialist Modern: East German Everyday Culture and Politics, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Petrov, L. (2012) “Kim Jong-Un Is Coming of Age and North Korea Stays Unchanged,” East Asia Forum, 23 August. Saxonberg, S. (2013) Transitions and Non-Transitions from Communism: Regime Survival in China, Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam, New York: Cambridge University Press. Scofield, D. (2004) “Korea: Naming Names of Japan’s Collaborators,” Asia Times Online, 4 February, http:// Shaw, M. (2015) “Can South Korean TV Shows Really Change North Korea?” The National Interest, 4 December. Song, A. V. (2005) “Hunting the Snark: Methodological Considerations in Studying Elusive Politicians,” in W. T. Schultz (ed) Handbook of Psychobiography, pp. 344–355, New York: Oxford University Press. Strother, J. (2015) “When North Koreans Go South, Some Go Professional,” 38 North, 25 June, http:// Terzuolo, C. P. (2009) “Opera and Politics: In China the Twain Shall Meet,” Stanford Journal of East Asian Affairs, 9(1): 34–45. Wada, H. (2012) Kita Chosen Gendaishi, Tokyo: Iwanami Shinsho. Weissmann, J. (2011) “How Kim Jong Il Starved North Korea,” The Atlantic, 20 December. http://www. Yen, Y. (2004) Calligraphy and Power in Contemporary Chinese Society, London: Routledge.



The Korean peninsula is home to what has been called by outside observers the most religiously diverse country on the planet (Johnson et al. 2015: 28). That reference is to the southern half of the peninsula, the Republic of Korea, since South Korea has large Buddhist, Protestant, and Roman Catholic communities, along with shamans, Confucians, and followers of many different new religions. However, when we combine the situation in South Korea with that in North Korea we see even greater diversity, since the religious environment in North Korea is very different from what we see in South Korea. North Korea is usually considered one of the least religious countries on earth, since it is under the draconian control of an atheistic regime. Only a few very small state-controlled religious organizations (Buddhist, Protestant, Catholic, and Cheondogyo), with a combined membership of no more than 50,000 out of a population of 24 million, are tolerated by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. That regime promotes an ideology, called juche, that looks suspiciously religious (for example, Kim Il Sung, the founder of that state who died in 1994, is still the official president of that country, banners throughout the country proclaim that he is still watching over the North Korean people, and his mausoleum is called the “Temple of Juche”). The vast majority of the North Korean population, whether voluntarily or non-voluntarily we cannot determine, show the same sort of ritual respect for Kim Il Sung that religious believers in other countries show for deities they worship. Nevertheless, juche is not normally considered a religion. And, if there are any followers of juche in South Korea, they are well hidden. Since this chapter will focus on South Korea, it will set aside any discussion of believers in juche wherever they are and instead focus on the fascinating religious culture of South Korea in the twentieth-first century. South Korea has a religious market that, in stark contrast with what we see in the North, is extremely open and competitive. Approximately half of the people in the south say they do not have a religion (though many of them engage in behavior others might see as religious). The other half are primarily members of Buddhist, Protestant, or Catholic communities, but no single religion claims the allegiance of more than a quarter of the population (Gallup 2015: 19). Moreover, the Buddhist and Protestant communities are fragmented into a number of different denominations, and they compete in the religious market with both home-grown and imported religions that are neither Buddhist, nor Protestant, nor Catholic. Given this variety of religious orientations, trying to describe the religious beliefs and practices of Koreans today is like trying 91

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to describe the colors you see through a kaleidoscope – it is far too varied to put into just a few words. To make matters more confusing, even though only 52% of South Koreans told Gallup pollsters in 2012 that they are religious, only 15% said they are atheists. Another 2% said they were not sure what they were. That means that at least 31% of South Koreans, though they claimed they are not religious, apparently believe in either God or in gods (WIN-Gallup International 2012: 15). Clearly, belief in supernatural entities and a specific religious orientation are seen as two separate things by almost a third of South Koreans, making the religious landscape even more difficult to map.

Folk religion in contemporary Korea This is particularly evident when we examine folk religious practices. Korea’s folk traditions, even those which involve ritual interactions with supernatural beings, are usually not considered religious. The ROK government views them as customs, not religious activities. Gallup Korea, in its comprehensive studies of Korean religiosity, does not ask about folk religious beliefs or practices. And usually the scholars who study Korea’s folk traditions are based in anthropology departments, not in the religious studies departments where professors of Buddhism and Christianity are found. Nevertheless, many activities seen in the folk tradition, though clearly not all, assume the existence of supernatural forces, some of which are supernatural personalities whom human beings can influence through ritual behavior. If we define religion as belief in supernatural beings who interact with human beings, then many folk practices would have to be considered religious. Among the areas of folk traditions that have religious overtones are animism, shamanism, and geomancy. Animism, dealing with natural objects that are inanimate, or at least do not have personalities, as though they are responsive to human entreaties, was much stronger in Korea’s distant past but we can still find signs of it today. The most obvious signs are the separate shrines to the mountain god [sansin] and the big dipper constellation [chilseong] that can be seen on the grounds of major Buddhists temples in Korea’s countryside (Mason 1999; Sørensen 1995). People who visit those temples to pray to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas enshrined there will often stop by the Mountain God and Big Dipper shrines as well to ask those spirits to ensure them a long life and, if they are young, to help them add a son to their family. The spirits of animism are not clearly defined, so if you ask people praying before a mountain god shrine if they are praying to the mountain or to the god who lives in that mountain on which the shrine sits, you will receive different answers, if you receive any answer at all. You will get the same wide range of responses if you ask if there is one mountain god for all the mountains of Korea or if each mountain has its own god. Folk religiosity is more about what you do than what you believe. It lacks the clearly articulated theology of organized religions. It is this lack of an explicit definition of its objects of worship, as well as its lack of a specific creed in general, that makes some people, including some who participate in folk religion rituals, reluctant to call such interactions with supernatural beings “religious.” The definition of religion imported into Korea at the end of the nineteenth century (before then, Korea did not have a clear concept of religion as a separate and distinct sphere of society) was based on the Judeo-ChristianIslamic understanding that its theology is what makes a religion a religion (Baker 2006). Since folk traditions by definition are not organized enough to enforce theological conformity, many scholars of religion dismiss them as more superstition than religion. That is even more the case with the sacred trees still seen in some Korean villages as protective deities as well as the piles of rocks left alongside mountain trails or at entrances to villages as signs of prayers asking spirits for 92

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protection (Oh 2008;Yi and Pak 1994). The jangseung [the pairs of guardian spirit posts, one male and one female] once erected to provide another layer of spiritual protection for villages and travelers between them have largely escaped dismissal as useless superstition, not because they have been elevated to respectable religious status but because they have become symbols of Korea’s distinctive culture. They can still be found by the entrance to a village that wants to attract tourists to its traditional festivals or even by the entrance to restaurants that want passersby to notice their menus of traditional food (Yi et al. 2015: 34–36). Nevertheless, their original religious nature has not been totally forgotten. As recently as 1991, conservative Korean Protestants protested vehemently against the plan of a local community group to erect two jangseung in their neighborhood, in Noryang jin in Seoul. Those Christians protested that they could not tolerate such “idol-worship” near their homes (Jungang Ilbo 1991). Those who wanted those jangseung erected there insisted that, to the contrary, they were cultural artifacts, not religious objects. Classifying shamanism is equally problematic for observers who operate within the imported paradigm of what a real religion should look like. Shamans in Korea are ritual specialists who, for a fee, promise to help their clients contact dead loved ones or negotiate with spirits who can forecast their future or help them in some endeavor, or who have been causing them trouble and they would like them to stop doing so. Shamans are not ordained clergy with formal training, they do not have a sacred scripture they rely on, there is no powerful authority figure to tell them which spirits they can interact with or how they can do so, and they do not hold regular weekly worship services. In other words, even though their defining role is interacting with supernatural beings, they do not meet the standard definition of what a modern religion should look like (Kendall 2009: 1–33). Yet, despite the rapid industrialization and social and political modernization Korea has undergone over the last half century, shamanism continues to thrive. Since shamans do not operate within a formal religious structure, it is difficult to determine exactly how many active shamans there are. Estimates run from 100,000 to 300,000. There are different types of shamans in Korea. Scholars have shown the most interest in charismatic shamans, those who become possessed in order to serve as spirit mediums who channel the words of invisible beings (who can be the spirits of ancestors, great heroes of the past, or simply other supernatural entities who have been interfering in the lives of the living). There are also fortune-telling shamans who do not dance around or stand barefooted on the sharpened blades of paper-cutting swords the way charismatic shamans often do. And there are still a few of the old hereditary shamans. Hereditary shamans, who used to be the dominant form of shamans in the southern half of the Korean peninsula until the superior showmanship of the charismatic shamans attracted most of their potential clients, do not go into a trance or become possessed but simply perform rituals they have learned from an earlier generation. Their rituals, like the rituals of the charismatic shamans, are believed to have the power to change the behavior of spirits who either are, or have the potential to, cause trouble for human beings (Yi et al. 2015: 81–109). An observer expecting a religious ritual to be conducted in a solemn and restrained manner will probably conclude that a shamanic ritual, especially one conducted by a charismatic shaman, is not very religious. Gut, as they are called, are a noisy affair. In fact, they are so noisy that, in the crowded cities of Korea today, neighbors complain if someone invites a shaman into their home or apartment to perform a gut for them. In recent years, gutdang (literally “sites for gut”) have opened on the outskirts of Seoul, away from clusters of homes or apartments, and shamans rent rooms there for their rituals. There will often be several gut going on at the same time in the gutdang, which can create quite a cacophony. During a ritual, a charismatic shaman will sing and dance in order to attract the attention of the spirits and entertain them so that they will be more willing to do her bidding. She will also 93

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talk with the spirits who show up and may even argue with them in order to determine which spirit is bothering her client, and why it is doing so. In some cases, she will let herself be possessed by the spirit who is causing trouble so that the offended parties can talk to that spirit and convince it to change its behavior. Bribery in the form of money presented to the shaman is a particularly effective way to change a wayward spirit’s behavior. Once she has determined the cause of her client’s problems, she may become possessed by a different spirit and, speaking through that spirit, order the offending spirit to treat her client better. She may even threaten the offending spirit in order to convince it to flee. However, not all rituals involve threatening misbehaving spirits. Sometimes shamans perform rituals to thank the spirits who have recently helped them or their clients or they perform rituals to seek the advice of spirits. And people who have recently had a family member die suddenly at a young age, such as in an automobile accident or by drowning, will hire a shaman to become possessed by the spirit of that deceased family member so that they can say good-bye. Why do people hire shamans? They do so for the same reason people turn to other religions and their ritual specialists. Despite the many advances humanity has made over the last century or so in lessening the causes of uncertainty and fear, there are still many things we cannot predict and cannot understand. Why did we or a loved one contract a fatal illness? Why are we suddenly having serious financial troubles or encountering discord within our family? How can we overcome the problems we are now facing? In pre-modern times Koreans tended to believe that a lot of our troubles were caused by supernatural beings interfering in our lives. Though such a belief has weakened in the face of the advances made by modern medicine and technology, many Koreans still reach out to shamans out of a desire to do everything they can to understand their problems and overcome them. When they fall seriously ill, they will go to a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment. But they may also consult a shaman just in case the doctor fails to find out what is wrong with them or prescribe an effective treatment. And, if they want to talk with a recently deceased loved one to say good-bye or to apologize for how they treated that loved one when they were alive, their only option is to hire a charismatic shaman who can bring that spirit back long enough for them to talk to him or her for a while. We not only can be concerned about what is happening to us now or happened to us a while ago, we also can be very concerned about what might happen to us in the future. For that, Koreans can turn to two types of fortune-tellers. The first are shamanic diviners. Unlike charismatic shamans, they do not walk on sharp blades or dance around. And, unlike hereditary shamans, they do not perform elaborate rituals. Instead, they have their clients tell them what they need to know, and then provide answers through the words of the spirits revealed in the throw of coins or rice grains or, in some cases, by channeling the words of their guardian spirits. Such spirit-diviners can be found sitting in offices in Korea’s cities with signs of their doors proclaiming that inside is a “philosophy research center” or a Bodhisattva (a Buddhist saint). The vast majority of shamans, including shamanic diviners, are women. Shamans are the only group of ritual specialists in Korea who are over 98% female. There are also male fortune-tellers but they tend to deny that what they do is religious at all, since they do not consult spirits. Instead, they consult books, often ancient books, such as the Classic of Changes, written in Literary Chinese. They ask their clients for their “four pillars” [saju]: the year, month, day, and hour of their birth. These scholarly fortune tellers then consult their books to tell the clients what someone born at that particular time can expect in the near future. Such book-dependent fortune-tellers were, until quite recently, frequently seen on streets near universities. Worried passersby would drop by and ask those fortune-tellers if they will succeed in their plans to go to graduate school overseas. Evidence for the “education fever” Michael Seth found in his research on Korean 94

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attitudes toward education can be seen in such questions asked of those fortune-tellers (Seth 2002). Other inquiries they receive from clients reveal the lack of confidence some modern Koreans have had in modern medicine. Fortune-tellers used to be quite common in front of entrances to hospitals. Patients leaving those hospitals would ask them if the medical prescription they had just received would be effective. In recent years, however, human “four pillars” fortune-tellers have begun to be replaced by computer programs, accessed via the Internet or a fortune-vending machine. Someone anxious about their future can simply input their “four pillars” and wait for a prediction to show up on a screen. If they prefer a human fortune-teller but do not want to seek out an elderly man on a street corner, they can go to a “four pillars” café. There they can have their fortune told while they enjoy a cup of coffee or tea. Sometimes, in addition to a prediction based on their time of birth, they can also get a prediction based on their facial structure (gwansang) (Yi et al. 2015: 127–140). Koreans who believe fortune-telling do not necessarily believe that is the only way you can determine your future. You can also take steps to improve your prospects. That can be done through geomancy, better known in the West through the Chinese version Feng-shui (the Korean term is pungsu jiri). Those who believe in geomancy do not call it a religion. They call it a science. Those who do not believe in it call it superstition. That is because geomancy is based on the assumption that there are invisible channels of energy running under the ground. If you find a spot where that energy, called gi (C. qi), is strongest and build your house there, you and your family will prosper, or so those who believe in geomancy will tell you. This also applied to religious and government buildings. For example, traditionally Buddhist monks tried to erect their temples where the gi was strongest so that Buddhism would flourish. And Seoul was chosen as the capital of Korea’s new Joseon dynasty in the late fourteenth century because of its geomantic features. Until recently, however, the most important use of geomancy in Korea was for choosing a burial site. It was widely believed that gi flowing through the bones of a recently departed ancestor would be channeled toward that dead person’s descendants and, as a result, they would be able to live a happy, healthy, and prosperous life. Therefore, it was important to hire a geomancer (who would always be a man, not a woman) to tell you where you should bury your recently deceased father or grandfather. Over the last few decades, population growth, along with a massive movement of Koreans from villages to cities, has created a scarcity of available land that has made it much more difficult to find a geomantically advantageous burial site. As a result, Koreans have abandoned grave-site geomancy. Over the last two decades there has been a dramatic increase in cremation rates, even though that means gi has no bones to flow through. In 1994 only around 20% of the dead were cremated. That figure reached almost 60% by 2007 and has continued to rise since then (Park 2010: 26). A popular belief system unsupported by a religious institution has almost vanished, at least as far as its impact on burial practices is concerned. It survives today primarily in interior decorating. Many modern Koreans try to arrange the furniture in their house to maximize their contact with vitality-enhancing gi (Yi et al. 2015: 111–125).

Buddhism As already noted, most Koreans do not consider folk traditions religious. Even most shamans do not say that shamanism is a religion. Some of them, wearing with pride criticism they have heard thrown at them, will say that what they do is superstitious! Others, however, call themselves Buddhists since some of the spirits shamans interact with overlap with deities in the Buddhist pantheon and therefore Buddhism is the only recognized religion they feel comfortable with. 95

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Also they feel it gives them greater respectability to say that their religious practices are Buddhist. Both animism and shamanism assume that there are supernatural beings around us whom we can interact with. Geomancy, though it does not posit the existence of gods or spirits, tells us that there is an invisible force we can manipulate. However, none of those components of Korea’s folk tradition bother to tell us anything more about those invisible forces than we need to know to interact with them. They are all primarily concerned with behavior, not belief. Buddhism is different. It emphasizes ritual as much as the folk tradition does. But, unlike the folk tradition, it has a clearly defined clerical hierarchy (monks living in monasteries presided over by abbots), made up of ritual specialists with formal training. It has sacred texts, called sutras. And it has clearly-articulated doctrines, drawn from those sutras, to explain why its rituals are believed to be effective and why monks are the best qualified to perform them. That combination of a trained clergy, sacred texts, and doctrine in addition to ritual means Buddhism comes much closer to the usual notion of what a religion should look like than folk tradition does. The defining doctrines of Buddhism are these: First of all, Buddhism teaches that nothing is permanent. Since everything around you and even you yourself are constantly changing, you should train your mind so that that you do not get disappointed when something you like changes into something you do not like as much. In other words, since change is inevitable, avoid becoming attached to things. Do not expect a permanence you will never find. Second is the doctrine of karma. According to the doctrine of karma, what you do today determines what you will be in the future. You are responsible for your own actions and their consequences and cannot blame anyone else. The third key doctrinal point, reincarnation, is related to the first and the second: change for human beings includes their own death, but that is not normally the end of their existence. All sentient beings, unless they are able to become detached from everything, including their own existence, will be born again after they die. There is one variety of Buddhism called Pure Land Buddhism that teaches that if you have strong Buddhist faith, you can be born again in paradise despite the attachments you had in your previous life. However, most Buddhists assume that they are likely to be reincarnated into this world in which moments of disappointment are inevitable because things we become attached to change. Nevertheless, they try to escape a return to this realm of unavoidable frustration by pursuing enlightenment that provides the detachment that will bring an end to continuous rebirths. Underlying all three previous doctrines is a fourth more philosophical one: Buddhism tells us not only that we live in a world of constant change but that we also live in a world of constant interactions in which we are connected to everything else. According to Buddhism, we influence how things around us change, but they also influence how we and our environment change. Our very existence is therefore relational and we exist only because we interact with other things that in turn interact with us. Buddhist rituals are intended to remind us of these fundamental assumptions of Buddhism. This is all very philosophical and is the Buddhism we see in meditative Buddhism (which Koreans call Seon). Meditative Buddhists meditate to calm their mind and still their desires so that they can observe the changes around them without becoming attached to those things that are changing. There is another side to Buddhism in Korea, however. The most important element of Buddhism for many of the laity who visit temples are the statues and paintings that tell them that there are powerful supernatural beings who can offer them concrete assistance in dealing with the immediate problems they face in their daily lives. Most of the people who visit Korean temples are not there to calm their minds and still their desires to hold onto that which is changing but to access the supernatural assistance they believe the divine beings known as Buddhas can provide. They also turn to Bodhisattvas for help. 96

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Bodhisattvas are supernatural beings who have become so spiritually advanced that they have earned release from this realm of transitory and therefore frustrating phenomena but have resolved to postpone their own release in order to help other sentient beings follow the same path they themselves followed. A typical Buddhist temple is full of statues of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and devotees will bow and pray before a number of them when they visit a temple. They often visit the Mountain God and Big Dipper shrines as well. We can call this devotional Buddhism, since the primary activity of those who adopt this approach to Buddhism is to display devotion to particular Buddhas and Bodhisattvas by praying to them, chanting their sutras, and giving them offerings, in the hope that in return those supernatural beings will offer them assistance. Devotional Buddhism is theocentric Buddhism, in that devotees rely on the power of divine beings to help them overcome the problems of this world. Meditative Buddhism, on the other hand, is anthropocentric. Meditators believe that through their own efforts, without relying on assistance from a supernatural personality, they will be able to gain release from the realm of suffering by cleansing themselves of their attachments. Some Buddhists who emphasize meditation over devotion could, with little fear of exaggeration, be called atheists, since they do not look upon Buddhas and Bodhisattvas as gods but rather as models for their own spiritual practice. According to the 2005 government census (at this writing, the figures for the 2015 census are not yet available), 22.8% of South Koreans say they are Buddhists. That makes Buddhism the largest single religious community in South Korea, if we do as South Koreans do and treat Roman Catholicism and Protestant Christianity (which together outnumbered Buddhists in 2005 29.2% to 22.8%) as separate religious communities (Korean Statistical Information Service 2006: 32). It is likely that the vast majority of active Buddhists are devotional Buddhists rather than meditative Buddhists. However, many of the rest may be Buddhists in name only. A Gallup survey in 2014 found that only 8% of self-professed Buddhists prayed at least once a day, compared to 25% who said they never prayed at all. 11% of self-professed Buddhists said they read sacred writings at least once a week compared to 48% who said they never read them at all. And only 6% of those self-professed Buddhists said that they visited a temple at least once a week (Gallup Korea 2015: 44–46). Even though the 2005 census says it found 10.7 million Buddhists in Korea, many of those self-professed Buddhists may actually have been shamans or their clients. What do Buddhists who frequent temples do there? Monks meditate, study the sutras (ancient texts that teach the Buddhist notion of what is real and what is not, and how telling the difference can help us avoid suffering), pray, chant, and try to show their concern for suffering in the world by helping the less fortunate both spiritually and materially. Monks also perform rituals. Other than performing rituals, which can be quite elaborate, of homage to different Buddhas and Boddhisattvas, what monks do is not all that different from what lay Buddhists do, though monks do it more intensively. Increasingly Buddhist temples, especially those in major cities, hold Sunday services for lay Buddhists. Those modern Buddhist services might focus on meditation, or they may consist of a sermon by the head monk of that temple followed by repetitive bowing and chanting of the name of a particular Buddha or Bodhisattva. In some Buddhist rituals, lay people will watch monks recite sacred texts read aloud in the Korean pronunciation of the Chinese characters used to translate the Sanskrit in which those texts were originally written. It is unclear how much the average lay Buddhist understands from such readings. However, in other rituals, lay people may join with the pastor-monk is singing modern Buddhist hymns in Korean (Kim 2007). Increasingly we also find lay Buddhists in urban areas joining monks for meditation sessions on weekdays. Korean Buddhism, as it is practiced today, is a combination of traditional and modern elements. Urban temples, in addition to regular Sunday morning services, usually have regular 97

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monthly rituals dedicated to the Healing Buddha (Bhaisajyaguru K. Yaksa yeorae), the Bodhisattva who assists the dead (Ksitigarbha K. Jijang), and the Bodhisattva of Compassion (Guanyin K. Gwaneum) on the 8th, the 18th, and the 24th days respectively of the lunar month. As noted above, monks still chant sutras, especially the Heart Sutra and the Thousand Hands Sutra, following a tempo established by a monk striking a wooden gong. However, many temples now also have a piano along the wall in the main worship hall for leading lay congregations in the singing of modern Buddhist hymns. Temples, especially rural temples, hold meditation retreats for lay practitioners, but they also welcome those who visit a temple a hundred days in a row, bowing 108 times on each visit, to pray that their eldest son will be accepted into one of Korea’s top universities, another sign of the zeal for educational credentials scholars find in Korea (Seth 2002). Those who are too busy to visit a temple every day can make an offering for a monk to say their prayers for them. A visitor to a temple in South Korea today will be able to witness the vitality and diversity of contemporary Korean Buddhist practice. If they visit a major temple in the countryside, they may spy a lonely hermitage off a mountain trail behind the temple, but closer to the temple entrance they are also likely to see crowds gathering around the main worship hall and as well as around the halls dedicated to the Bodhisattva who assists the dead and possibly around a separate hall for Amitābha (K. Amitabul, the Buddha who offers believers rebirth in the paradise called the Pure Land). If they visit an urban temple on a Sunday morning, they will notice cars filling the streets, confirming that Buddhism continues to attract followers. And if they walk down the street near the Jogye denomination headquarters in downtown Seoul (Jogye is the largest Buddhism denomination), they will notice many shops selling Buddhist prayer beads as well as CDs of hymns, ritual chants, and music to meditate by.

Confucianism What you will not see in Korea is much evidence of an impact of Buddhist ethics on the general population. Buddhism encourages its practitioners to abstain from eating meat and from an overindulgence in alcohol. However, only monks have adhered to those precepts. Few lay Buddhists have bothered to do so. Buddhism, to the average Korean lay Buddhist, means either meditation or prayer, not the precepts. For ethical guidance, for centuries Koreans have turned to Confucianism. The general public does not usually regard Confucianism as a religion. After all, there are no gods in Confucianism. Confucian rituals pay homage to ancestors and revered teachers and scholars, not supernatural personalities. During the Chosun dynasty (1392–1910), Neo-Confucianism was the dominant ideology and it served as the functional equivalent of a religion for the ruling elite. It told them what was real and what was not, what was important and what was not, and what they should do and what they should not do. Devout Neo-Confucians were willing to die for their beliefs and values, just as devout believers in a religion often are. However, the metaphysical elements that distinguish Neo-Confucianism from regular Confucianism have faded into insignificance in modern Korea. We no longer see many Koreans paying attention to Neo-Confucian cosmology, which explained the world in materialistic terms while also providing philosophical justification for Confucian ethics. The only place Neo-Confucianism is taken seriously in twenty-first century Korea is in classrooms in university philosophy departments. Confucianism, without the metaphysics of Neo-Confucianism, survives nonetheless. Although in 2005 the government found only around 105,000 Koreans, out of a population of 50 million, who said they were Confucians (Korean Statistical Information Service 2006: 32), Confucian influence remains pervasive. One sign of continued Confucian influence is the zeal for education 98

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mentioned earlier. Confucianism taught that the most effective way to cultivate a moral character, the primary concern of Confucian thought and practice, was to study. This respect for education led to respect for the educated. As a result, even today those who want to be respected by their peers, and to have better job and marriage prospects, strive to acquire the best educational credentials they can. We can also see Confucian influence in the fact that Koreans continue to use Confucian terms in ethical discourse and in the way they honor their ancestors with Confucian or Confucian-style memorial services. The Confucian ethical system is anthropocentric, in that morality is defined in terms of interactions within the human community rather than interactions between human beings and gods or God. The primary virtues in Confucianism are those virtues that are believed to keep society operating harmoniously. Those virtues, all seen as manifestations of selflessness, include being trustworthy, acting with integrity (doing what you are supposed to do), and acting politely and appropriately (treating others as you should treat them), as well as the essential interpersonal virtues of filial piety, loyalty, and benevolence. In the Confucian world view, the community is more important than the individual. In fact, traditionally individualism was the root of all evil. According to the core principles of Confucian ethics, when you blindly pursue your own personal benefit, you harm those around you. And that is immoral. A core assumption of Confucianism is that, if everyone acts with the common good rather than individual advantage in mind, then society, and everyone in it, will be better off. This is an ethics of this world, which puts aside religious questions of why we are on this earth in the first place, and what happens to us when we die. Even though there are very few self-professed Confucians in Korea today, the persistence of this collective orientation in Korea, favoring the family and the community over individual self-interest, is testimony to the continued relevance of Confucian values. It is the reason Confucian ethics provides the vocabulary Koreans use today when they discuss ethical issues. Koreans continue to use Confucian terms such as filial piety, loyalty, and sincerity when they evaluate human behavior. Even Christians wield Confucian ethical rhetoric. For example, an evangelical church in Incheon, the Incheon Full Gospel Church, has established a University of Filial Piety (Hyo Seongsan Taehakkyo 2016). Moreover, in recent years, institutes have emerged in rural areas to teach the younger generations traditional Confucian virtues. One such modern institute is operating near the most famous of all the traditional Korean Confucian academies, Dosan Seowon, established to honor the renowned Neo-Confucian philosopher Toegye Yi Hwang (1501–1570) in 1574 (Dosan Seowon Seonbi Munhwa Suryeonwon 2016). Of all the Confucian virtues, it is hyo, filial piety, that gets the most attention today. There is even a Buddhist temple not far from Seoul, Yong ju-sa, with a Museum of Filial Behavior on its grounds (Museum of Filial Behavior 2016). Moreover, for well over half the South Korean population, modernized Confucian rituals serve as the primary way to show respect for deceased parents and grandparents. Most Koreans still appear to feel the need to display their filial piety, their love and respect for those who gave them life, with ritual. In most cases, food is still prepared for the ancestors and a few ritual words are said. In addition, the descendants bow to the spirits of their ancestors. It has been estimated that around 90% of Koreans engage in ritual displays of filial piety (Sorensen and Kim 2004: 173). However, only about 60% of Koreans try to stay close to the traditional Confucian form of ritual homage to ancestors (Moon 1998: 152). The remaining 30%, mostly Christians, refrain from elements of the traditional ritual, such as bowing before a spirit tablet or offering food to the dead, that they have religious objections to. Nevertheless, the need in Korea to engage in such rituals is so strong that even Christians, who are uncomfortable bowing to spirits, even spirits of departed parents and grandparents, have created their own versions of the traditional Confucian mourning rites (Grayson 2009). Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to point out that, although 99

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almost 30% of South Koreans say they are Christians and another 23% say they are Buddhists, Confucian rhetoric and Confucian ritual both remain central to life in contemporary South Korea.

Christianity Folk religion, Buddhism, and Confucianism have all been part of Korean culture for more than a millennium. They were joined in the late eighteenth century by Christianity. That religion has grown into a major presence on the Korean religious landscape and, in the process, has transformed the way Koreans think about religion. The first Christians in Korea were Catholics. A Catholic community appeared on the Korean peninsula in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, when there were not yet any missionaries there. Those first Catholics were converted by books imported from China that had been written by Jesuit missionaries in literary Chinese. Encouraged by a friend who had read some of those books, one young Confucian scholar traveled to Beijing in 1783 and sought out a Catholic church there. Baptized as Peter Lee, he returned to Korea in 1784 and began preaching his new faith to friends and relatives, and baptized those who shared his conviction that Catholicism offered the best approach to living a moral life. His staunchly Confucian government did not agree. When one of those early Korean Catholics, obeying a directive from the bishop of Beijing, held a funeral service for his mother without the spirit tablet mandated by the Korean government for use in such rituals, that Catholic was executed in 1791. He was not the last Korean Catholic martyr. Over the course of the next eight decades, possibly as many as 8,000 Koreans were executed for defying their government and affirming their faith in teachings of Catholicism. Ten non-Koreans were martyred along with them, one Chinese priest and nine priests from France. Yet despite that bloody persecution, the Korean Catholic church survived and in the process implanted new concepts in Korea’s religious culture. The first new concept was that of monotheism, the notion that there is only one God. Before 1784, Koreans had believed in gods but not in God. Belief in one God brings with it the assumption that that God, and that God only, is worthy of worship. That meant that Catholics refused to participate in any shamanic, Buddhist or Confucian rituals that they understood as implying worship of other supernatural entities. Before Catholicism arrived, Korean religious communities had porous boundaries. Koreans saw nothing strange or wrong in praying at a Buddhist temple in the morning, availing themselves of a shaman’s rituals in the afternoon, and attending a Confucian ritual in the evening. Catholics stood apart in their insistence that their commitment to their new religious community meant they had to keep their distance from other religious activities. The exclusive nature of the Catholic community created one more new feature in the religious landscape of Korea. Catholics tried to meet regularly to affirm their shared faith and worship God together. By doing so, they formed congregations, bringing together clergy and laity in one community. There is some evidence in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries of small groups of lay Buddhists, sometimes with a monk or two, meeting to chant the name of Amitābha in the hope of earning admission to the Pure Land after death (Cho 2003: 103–108). But Catholics were to first to make congregations a core characteristic of their religious community. In 1884, one century after a Catholic community emerged in Korea, the first Protestant missionaries arrived. Protestantism, like Catholicism, preached an exclusive monotheism and brought clergy and laity together in congregations. Protestants also added one new element to Korea’s modern religious culture: participatory worship. Unlike Catholicism, in which the congregation listened to the priest say mass in Latin, Protestant services were in Korean. Moreover, the audience 100

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was expected to participate in those services with communal vocal prayer and hymn singing. That, plus a much larger number of Protestant missionaries compared to the number of Catholic priests, brought a lot of Koreans into churches and led to Protestant Christianity growing much faster than Catholicism (Baker 2005). Today, according to the census of 2005, 18.3% of South Koreans call themselves Protestant and another 10.9% call themselves Catholic (Korean Statistical Information Service 2006: 32). A Gallup poll in 2014, with a much smaller sample (1,500 individuals), found an even larger percentage of the population to be Protestant, though the total percentage of Christians remained about the same: 21% told Gallup they were Protestants, and 7% of those polled said they were Catholics (Gallup Korea 2015: 19). That means there are around 14 million Christians in Korea, out of a population of 50 million. That is a remarkable number, considering that there were no Christians at all in Korea two and a half centuries ago. How do Christians express their faith in Korea? Is there anything distinctively Korean about Korean Christianity? The basic doctrines defining Christianity are the same the world over. Korean Christians, like Christians everywhere, believe that Jesus is Lord and one of the three persons in a Triune God. They believe that the Bible is the revealed word of God. And they believe that, if they obey God’s commandments, when they die they will be rewarded with eternal life in heaven. However, the way Catholics and Protestants worship God reveals that Christianity in Korea is now a Korean religion, not a foreign religion. The Catholic mass is now in Korean, a product of the decision of Vatican II in the 1960s to encourage mass in the vernacular. But that is not what makes the Korean practice of Catholicism distinctive. Rather, it is the way Catholic congregations form communities. Korean Catholics typically arrive at church a half hour or even an hour before mass begins on Sunday so that they can prepare for the mass by singing hymns together. They also tend to stick around after mass for an hour or so to get to know each other better. Catholic congregations tend to be quite large so, in order to overcome the anonymity of such large crowds, not only do they socialize for a while after mass, the members of a particular congregation are divided into groups of ten to twelve parishioners who live near each other. Those small groups meet during the week to discuss how the teachings of the Bible or Church teachings in general apply to their daily lives. Protestant churches have similar groups. Such small group meetings ensure that, even in a large city such as Seoul, Catholics do not feel isolated but have a personal connection with their parish community. To further strengthen congregational solidarity, Korea’s parishes regularly rent highway buses to take members of their congregations on pilgrimages to sacred sites on the peninsula, primarily where Catholic martyrs lived or died. There are many such sites in South Korea. Korea now has 103 canonized saints, and another 124 Koreans were raised to beatified status, one step below sainthood, in 2014. Services in Korea’s Protestant churches are very different from those in Catholic churches. There are now over 70,000 Protestant churches in Korea (Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism 2012: 10). The majority of people filling those churches are Presbyterians, with Methodists in second place. In North America, Presbyterians and Methodists are not normally considered part of the Evangelical side of Christianity. In Korea, however, the majority of those who attend churches affiliated with those denominations are fundamentalist Evangelicals who believe that the only true Christian is one who has been born again, i.e., has felt the power of the Holy Spirit in their life (Lee 2010: 141). In 2014, 36% of Protestant Koreans told Gallup that they had been born again, and 31% said they had received divine assurance that they would go to Heaven after they die (Gallup 2015: 52). Such a strong Evangelical tone means that Protestant services can be quite active. In a growing number of Protestant churches, those services are dominated by the communal singing of hymns, praying aloud, and congregational responses to the sermons of 101

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the pastor. The sermon will often be met with sporadic calls of “Hallelujah” and “Amen.” Also, it is not at all unusual for the members of the congregation to stand up during the service and wave their hands high in prayer. Sometimes those prayers are in a language those standing nearby cannot understand, since speaking in tongues is quite common among Korea’s Protestants (Harkness 2015). Another distinctive feature of Korean Protestantism that distinguishes Protestantism from Catholicism in Korea is the central role of the pastor. Not only is the sermon the core of the Sunday service, Koreans choose which church to attend based more on who the pastor is than on what denomination that church is a member of. That is why the largest congregation in Korea is not a Presbyterian or Methodist congregation but an Assemblies of God church founded by Cho Yonggi, known for his dynamic sermons promising believers that faith in God will be rewarded with spiritual, material, and physical blessings (Cox 1995: 221–224; Lee 2010: 122–125). A few years ago he retired as pastor but his church, the Yoiudo Full Gospel Church, still draws hundreds of thousands to its Sunday services because of the pastors there who trained under him. Not all Korean Protestant services are as participatory as Pastor Cho’s were, but, even if those services are on the quieter side, the pastor’s role is still paramount (Park 2007).

Conclusion When either the government or Gallup asks Koreans what their religious affiliation is, around 49 or 50% say they are either Buddhist, Protestant, or Catholic. Another 1% will give another religion as their religious orientation (Gallup Korea 2015: 19; Korean Statistical Information Service 2006: 32). No one answers “shamanism” because that is not considered a religion in Korea. Which religions claim the 1% who are not Buddhist, Protestant or Catholic? Some say that they are Confucians. Others say they are Won Buddhists, a new religion with Buddhist elements that is a century old and is usually considered the fourth major religion in Korea today. The Unification Church, founded by Sun Myung Moon, does not show up as a separate category in either Gallup or government surveys, probably because it originated as just another Christian denomination and is still widely viewed as such. Unification Church members most likely check the “Christian” box. There are also a few respondents who say their religion is Cheondogyo, a successor to the Donghak movement founded in 1860 that was Korea’s first indigenous organized religious community. Cheondogyo is neither Buddhist nor Christian. It has its own scriptures and its own understanding of God. The same is true of other important Korean new religions. Daesoon Jinri-hoe and Jeungsando both worship as the Supreme Lord Above (Sang jenim) a Korean who lived a little over a century ago. Their scriptures are the records of his conversations with his disciples. Daejonggyo worships Dan’gun, whom they believe is not only God but also the first king of the Korean people. There are several other new religions as well, but none of them have enough members to show up in government or Gallup statistics. Despite their small number of members, many of those new religions have opened their own universities. Knowing the traditional Korean respect for education, Protestant Christianity quickly gained acceptability by establishing schools, many of which became universities after 1945. Currently, there are 52 colleges and universities in the Republic of Korea run by Protestant organizations, compared to 14 run by Catholics and only four by Buddhists (Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism 2012: 116). That Protestant investment in higher education could be one reason Protestant Christianity has fared so well on Korean soil. Several of the small new religions have tried to imitate the Protestant example. Won Buddhism, the Unification Church, and Daesoon Jinri-hoe have established universities in recent decades. Nevertheless, they have failed to gain much ground on the big three on the Korean religious landscape: Buddhism, Protestantism, and Catholicism. 102

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What about the roughly 50% (it was 47% in the 2005 census) who say they do not have a specific religious affiliation? As noted earlier, only 15% of South Koreans say they do not believe in God. What about the rest? It is likely they visit Buddhist temples and hire shamans when they need supernatural assistance. They may even drop by a church now and then to see what is happening there. They may represent the 35% of respondents to Gallup’s 2014 survey who said that they believed they were capable on their own of being a good person and did not need a religious organization to help them do that (Gallup Korea 2015: 70). Though we do not know the precise details of the spirituality of the officially non-religious in South Korea today, we do know that South Korea today is a religious marketplace, with a number of different religious organizations, some quite large, some quite small, competing to win the allegiance of the people of the Republic of Korea. As noted earlier, no one group claims more than 30% of the population. This results in a religious culture of tolerance. With no one group strong enough to dominate the others, they have all had to learn to get along. If you visit South Korea today, you will see striking architectural evidence of that. Protestant and Catholic Churches shares the streets of Korea’s cities with Buddhist temples and even with a rare mosque (there are about 100,000 Muslims in Korea, mostly non-Koreans who have moved there to work in factories). If you look closely, you may also notice the many shaman shrines and offices scattered across the urban landscape. And you may even see a worship hall for one of Korea’s many new religions. This is in sharp contrast to the religious desert of North Korea. The vibrant and diverse religious culture of South Korea is one of the reasons so many non-Koreans find Korea fascinating. What will South Korea look like a few decades from now? Will it still be divided equally among the religious and the non-religious? Will the religious still be roughly equally divided between Buddhists and Christians? Will some new religious force emerge on the peninsula? How might the eventual re-unification of the Korean peninsula affect the religious culture there? These are questions that only time – and a future generation of scholars – can answer.

References Baker, D. (2005) “Sibling Rivalry in Twentieth-Century Korea: Comparative Growth Rates of Catholic and Protestant Communities,” in R. Buswell and T. Lee (eds) Christianity in Korea, pp. 283–308, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. ——— (2006) “The Religious Revolution in Modern Korean History: From Ethics to Theology and from Ritual Hegemony to Religious Freedom,” Review of Korean Studies, 9(3): 249–275. Cho, E. (2003) “Re-Thinking Late 19th-Century Chosŏn Buddhist Society,” Acta Koreana, 6(2): 87–109. Cox, H. (1995) Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-First Century, Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Books. Dosan Seowon Seonbi Munhwa Suryeonwon [The Center at the Dosan Academy for the Cultivation of Confucian Culture] (2016) Gallup Korea (2015) Han’gugin eui Jonggyo: 1984, 1989, 1887, 2004, Je Ocha 2014 Bigyo Josa Bogoseo [The Religion of Koreans: A Report Comparing Survey Results from 1984, 1989, 1887, 2004, and 2014], Seoul: Gallup Korea Research Center. Grayson, J. (2009) “Ch’udo Yebae: A Case Study in the Early Emplantation of Protestant Christianity in Korea,” Journal of Asian Studies, 68(2): 413–434. Harkness, N. (2015) “Other Christians as Christian Others: Signs of New Christian Populations and the Urban Expansion of Seoul,” in P. van der Veer (ed) Handbook of Religion and The Asian City: Aspiration and Urbanization in the Twenty-First Century, pp. 333–350, Berkeley: University of California Press. Hyo Seongsan Taehakkyo [Seongsan University of Filial Piety] (2016) Johnson, T., Zurlo, G., Hickman, A. and Crossing, P. (2015) “Christianity 2015: Religious Diversity and Personal Contact,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, 39(1): 28–29. Jungang Ilbo [Jungang Daily] (1991) “Jangseung Baegi-jangseung Geonnip 6 Gaewoljjae Jejari,” [The Sixth Month of the Dispute over Whether or Not to Erect a Pair of Jangseung in the Area Called Jangseungbaegi], 9 October, p. 13.


Don Baker Kendall, L. (2009) Shamans, Nostalgias, and the IFM: South Korean Popular Religion in Motion, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Kim, J. (2007) “Buddhist Daily Rituals in Korea: Their Structure and Meaning,” Review of Korean Studies, 10(1): 11–32. Korean Statistical Information Service (2006) 2005 Census Jeonsu Jipgye Gyeolgwa: In’gu Bumun [Results of the 2005 Census in Aggregate Numbers for Various Categories: The Population Section], Seoul: National Bureau of Statistics. Lee, T. (2010) Born Again: Evangelicalism in Korea, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Mason, D. (1999) Spirit of the Mountains: Korea’s San-Shin and the Traditions of Mountain Worship, Elizabeth, NJ: Hollym. Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism (2012) Han’guk Eui Jonggyo Hyeonhwang [The Current Situation of Religion in Korea], Seoul: Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism. Moon, O. (1998) “Ancestors Becoming Children of God: Ritual Clashes between Confucian Tradition and Christianity in Contemporary Korea,” Korea Journal, 38(3): 148–177. Museum of Filial Behavior [Hyohaeng pangmulgwan] (2016) http://www.yong Oh, S. (2008) The Dangsan Tree (K. Lee, trans.), Singapore: Stallion Press. Park, C. (2010) “Funerary Transformation in Contemporary Korea,” Mortality: Promoting the Interdisciplinary Study of Death and Dying, 15(1): 18–37. Park, S. (2007) “The Structure and Characteristics of Sunday Worship in a Korean Protestant Church: Focusing on the Korean Methodist Church,” Review of Korean Studies, 10(1): 51–64. Seth, M. (2002) Education Fever: Society, Politics, and the Pursuit of Schooling in South Korea, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Sorensen, C. and Kim, S. (2004) “Filial Piety in Contemporary Urban Southeast Korea: Practices and Discourses,” in C. Ikels (ed) Filial Piety: Practice and Discourse in Contemporary East Asia, pp. 153–181, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Sørensen, H. (1995) “The Worship of the Great Dipper in Korean Buddhism,” in H. Sørensen (ed) Religions in Traditional Korea, pp. 71–105, Copenhagen: Seminar for Buddhist Studies. WIN-Gallup International (2012) Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism, Zurich, Switzerland: Gallup International. Yi, J. and Pak, H. (1994) Seonangdang [Local Tutelary Deity Shrines], Seoul: Daewonsa. Yi, Y., Lee, K., Choi, J. and Walraven, B. (2015) Korean Popular Beliefs, Seoul: Jimoondang.



Transforming Korea


Growing income inequality and a widening gap between the rich and the poor are almost universal phenomena in all advanced economies today. South Korea is not an exception. A country that had enjoyed a relatively equitable pattern of income distribution during the period of rapid economic development, Korea began to experience a rapid increase of income inequality in the mid-1990s. Thus, a major social concern in Korea today is the polarization of income distribution and the endangered status of the middle class. It is now commonplace in Korea that the middle class is shrinking in size and is even in danger of disappearing as the majority class. The analysts of this phenomenon are in agreement that a major turning point in the South Korean economy and in the fortunes of the Korean middle class was the Asian financial crisis of 1997–1998. The crisis had devastating consequences for the country’s economy and ruined the livelihood of millions of Korean people. It was the first time since the Korean War that the middle class experienced such a large-scale downward mobility. Even after the financial crisis was over, neoliberal restructuring of the Korean labor market continued and made the economic lives of the working population extremely precarious and vulnerable. Consequently, the size of the Korean middle class has continuously declined since the late 1990s, although the magnitude of this change varies depending on the measurements of the middle class (Hong 2005). The purpose of this chapter is to examine the phenomenon of the declining Korean middle class and to describe some important social and cultural aspects of this change. What I present in this study is somewhat more complex than a simple “shrinking middle class” story. The Korean middle class, I argue, is not simply shrinking in size but is also undergoing some profound internal changes. More specifically, the middle class is becoming internally divided between a minority of the affluent and privileged and a majority who suffer from growing job insecurity and unstable income. This internal division within the middle class reflects a larger trend of polarizing income distribution in the society. The focus of my analysis is on the ways in which this growing economic inequality is expressed and valorized, in social and cultural forms, by the new opportunity structures provided by neoliberal globalization in Korea. Rapid globalization of the Korean economy has opened up its market widely, bringing in all varieties of material and symbolic goods that are used by the new rich to distinguish themselves from the ordinary middle-class people. Also, the globalization of the education market and the valorization of global cultural skills and credentials have prompted many well-to-do families to pursue expensive overseas education for their children. Thus, with the globalization of the economy, the Korean middle class 107

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itself becomes globalized and turns into an arena of intense status competition as its members either struggle for class privilege or simply struggle not to fall out of the middle class altogether. Gradually, the affluent middle class’s lifestyle and social mobility strategies come to define the desirable standards for respectable middle-class membership. In the meantime, the majority of the middle class who are struggling with precarious jobs and increasing family debts are becoming deeply frustrated and worried, and they wonder whether they are still in the middle class. As a consequence of all these changes, the Korean middle class, I argue, has become an increasingly polarized, muddled, and somewhat vacuous category, losing its old character of being relatively homogeneous, fluid, and upward-looking. I would like to note that this chapter draws much from descriptive materials that I have presented elsewhere (Koo 2007, 2016) but also provides new materials and a different interpretation of my previous observations.

The rise and fall of the Korean middle class As in other East Asian societies, the Korean middle class was the product of export-oriented industrialization during the period of the 1960s through the 1980s. This was a period of massive labor migration from rural to urban areas and rapid expansion of manufacturing industries. This process created a large number of white-collar, managerial, and technical workers. At the same time, rapid urbanization facilitated the growth of a large stratum of the self-employed and small business owners in large urban areas. While these occupational changes provided the structural foundation for the rise of the middle classes, the thriving economy also brought a continuous improvement in the living standards for the majority of the population and made them feel they had moved up to the middle class. The Korean middle class in those days, as today, was not conceived in a Marxist sense – as an intermediate class that exists between the capitalist and working classes – but more broadly and vaguely as those who enjoy a certain degree of economic comfort and stability and can participate in a socially respectable lifestyle. The language used to denote the middle class in Korea is chungsancheung (the middle-propertied stratum). The term vaguely refers to a category of people who are not rich and are not poor, but who possess a certain amount of income and property that allows them to enjoy economic stability and a lifestyle appropriate to the mainstream of society. Chungsancheung was thus a convenient concept for Korean people to interpret their changed economic status after two decades of rapid economic growth. Compared to their parents’ generation, and even to their own past, a majority of Koreans experienced great improvement in their living standards and could look forward to further improvement in the thriving economy. Vague as it is, the chungsancheung notion represented this widespread subjective sense of status improvement and upwardly mobile orientation. But the formation of the middle class in Korea, as elsewhere, was not just the product of economic change. It was also a product of discourse (Wacquant 1991). In Korea, it was the political discourse that played a particularly important role in shaping the middle class. Having come to power through a military coup, the Park Chung Hee reg ime (1961–1979) was determined to establish its political legitimacy by delivering a growing economy and a visible improvement in people’s living standards. Making the nation strong and prosperous and raising standards of living were the overriding goals of the regime, which nicely translated into the project of producing a middle-class society. The middle-class dream and middle-class ideology were actively propagated through state-controlled media and state-supported intellectual discourse (Yang 2012). Both structurally and experientially, the Korean middle class during the period of rapid economic growth represented a relatively open and fluid category of social status. Entry was relatively easy, and once in, upward mobility was generally smooth and predictable, thanks to the 108

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rapidly growing economy and the expanding job market for white-collar workers. While the state made little effort to extend welfare services, the promise of raising their social status encouraged many people to participate voluntarily in the development project. Thus, the middle class served as a sort of “social contract” that encouraged people to work hard, save, and look to a brighter future for themselves and their children. Indeed, by the late 1980s, Korea seemed well on the way to becoming a mass middle-class society, as Japan had two decades earlier. Surprisingly, however, only one decade later the story was completely reversed. The dominant discourse on the Korean middle class had come to be about its crisis and collapse rather than its vitality. There is wide agreement among Korean analysts that the main cause of this middle-class crisis was the Asian financial crisis that hit the South Korean economy in 1997. The devastating consequences are well known: huge unemployment, massive layoffs, widespread bankruptcies, frozen wages, and a growing number of homeless people. All these economic troubles were a serious blow to the middle class. Large-scale layoffs of white-collar and managerial workers and the collapse of many small businesses meant downward mobility for many families. Several surveys conducted during this period confirm this fact. One representative survey conducted jointly by the Hyundai Economic Research Institute and Joongang Daily found that people’s subjective identification with the middle class fluctuated from over 70 percent in 1994, to about 45 percent in 1999, to 56 percent in 2005 (Joongang Daily 2006). Fortunately, the Korean economy recovered fairly quickly and the country paid off its debt to the IMF in 2001, three years before the deadline. But the woes of the working population continued. The financial crisis was not a short-term, one-time event. It led to more thoroughgoing neoliberal restructuring, especially in the labor market. Firms adopted a flexibilization approach and they reduced the size of their regularly employed workforce and increased the number of employees hired on a temporary or nonstandard basis (Lee 2015; Shin 2011). Workers in the irregular employee category increased from 27.4 percent in 2002 to 34.2 percent in 2011. This group includes not only blue-collar and service workers but also about one third of white-collar workers who had previously enjoyed very secure jobs and predictable careers (Shin 2011). The small business sector also suffered from increased competition from other Asian economies and the continuous encroachment of their territory by chaebol (family-owned conglomerate firms). Many laid-off or early-retired white-collar workers moved into self-employed business but failed due to a lack of business experience and over-competition in the saturated market. The financial crisis was clearly a crucial element in the downfall of the Korean middle class. But it is important to recognize that it was also a critical occasion for the rise of inequality and internal division within the middle class in Korea. First, we must understand that the financial turbulence had uneven effects on different groups of people. While the majority of wage workers suffered tremendously, the people who possessed financial resources did not suffer from the financial crisis but instead benefited from it. The first two years of the financial crisis provided an excellent investment opportunity for cash-rich people due to the spike in bank interest rates, the depression of the real estate market, and the cheapening of stock prices, which were then followed by a real estate boom and a bull stock market right after the financial crisis. In short, the rich became richer. Second, the crisis played an instrumental role in establishing neoliberalism as a dominant ideology in Korea and led to many significant changes in corporate management styles and payment systems. Many firms scratched the old seniority-based wage system and adopted a performancebased payment system, so wage differentials began to increase among salaried workers (Jung and Cheon 2006; Kim and Kim 2015). More important, many conglomerate firms adopted an American management style and began to offer exceptionally high wages and stock options to a select cadre of professional and managerial workers. This corporate change occurred in tandem with 109

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Korea’s gradual transition from a labor-intensive to a technology- and knowledge-based economy. The outcome of these changes was increasing concentration of income at the top of the hierarchy. Nak Nyun Kim and Jongil Kim, who analyzed Korea’s historical pattern of income distribution using tax data (following Piketty’s methodology), reported: Until 1985, the average wage incomes of all income groups, including the bottom 90%, increased at similar rates. In contrast, the average wage incomes diverged after 1997 between the top 10% and the bottom 90%. In particular, the growth rate of the average wage income of the top 0.1% is distinguished from those of other income groups. (Kim and Kim 2015: 11) Thus, we can see a polarizing tendency occurring within the larger middle class. While the economic situation of the majority of the middle class deteriorated after the financial crisis, a small minority of professional and managerial workers in large conglomerate firms emerged as a new privileged stratum, the winners of the neoliberal transition of the Korean economy. If the growing inequality occurred only in the economic dimension, however, class inequality in Korea would not have become as serious as it is today. Economic differentials among individual families can change over time and do not always produce stable class boundaries, unless supported by social and cultural mechanisms. But the fact is that the liberalization and globalization of the Korean economy was followed by many broader social and cultural changes, and these changes have transformed Korea’s class system in a significant way. What I am going to discuss in the remainder of this chapter is how neoliberal globalization has transformed economic inequality into more keenly felt social and cultural forms of inequality, thereby intensifying class distinction within the middle class. In order to understand this process, I believe it is important to explore the class effect of globalization in two important areas of social life: one is consumption, and the other is education. Sociologically speaking, consumption activities are directly related to the symbolic world of class distinction, while the educational system is linked to social mobility and class reproduction.

Consumerism and class distinction In all modern societies, consumption plays a critical role in determining people’s social statuses and identities. Consumption is especially important in determining the class identity of the middle class, because this class occupies an ambiguous or “contradictory” location between capital and labor and because its members are working mostly in the service sector and in very diverse occupations (Liechty 2003; Wright 1985, 2009). Thus, middle-class members tend to seek and confirm their class identity based on their consumption status rather than their position in the production relations. As mentioned above, the Korean concept of chungsancheung is primarily defined in terms of consumption status. Maintaining a certain respectable level of consumption has always been regarded as an essential requirement for middle-class status in South Korea (Hart 1993; Lett 1998; Yang 2006). During the earlier days of Korean development, however, consumption played a more modest role in determining one’s status. The main reason was, of course, the lower living standards and the underdevelopment of the domestic market at that time. But an equally important reason was the tight control that the Park Chung Hee government maintained on imports and foreign exchange and on conspicuous consumption among the rich (Nelson 2000). But the consumption world started to change noticeably in the 1980s, when the South Korean economy began to be liberalized. In addition to continuous economic growth, democratization 110

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in 1987 and the Olympic Games in 1988 facilitated a liberal social atmosphere and rising consumerism in Korea. Then the 1997–1998 financial crisis forced Korea to open its markets widely and accept an increasing volume of imports and foreign direct investments. The shock of the financial crisis helped to remove not only government sanctions on imports but also public resistance to luxury consumption among the rich by establishing neoliberalism as a hegemonic ideology and culture. This change, of course, did not occur overnight, but the public slowly began to accept the fact that the rich are entitled to spend their money any way they want. The state, which had once preached against overspending (kwasobi), began to tell people that in order for the Korean economy to continue to export, the Korean people must be willing to reciprocate by consuming more imports from the trading economies. The most noticeable trend of consumerism in Korea since the 1990s is the consumption of luxury imports as a mark of high status, a trend no doubt led by rich people. A new word that expresses this trend clearly is myongpoom, which refers to prestigious or distinguished goods. Introduced by the marketing industry, the term has been part of the popular vocabulary since the mid-1990s. Myongpoom evokes an image of fine art or craftsmanship of exceptional quality, in contrast to ordinary products. But in actuality it refers to luxury brand-name products imported mostly from Europe. The myongpoom label is attached to all expensive brand-name accessories, handbags, clothes, jewelry, fragrances, cosmetics, and other personal items and is associated with such well-known names as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, Prada, and the like. Most of these items are for women, but a few, like luxury watches, European cars, or expensive golf sets, are considered myongpoom for men. These luxury goods have a symbolic value beyond a mere utility value and serve as a status marker for people who have become rich but are insecure with their status. Through exclusive consumption linked to the image of global bourgeois culture, the new rich seek to establish a new class identity of their own, above the rest of the middle class. This luxury consumption trend is, of course, not limited to Korea. Asia’s craze for brand-name products started in Japan and spread to the four little tiger economies, and now China is a hotbed for extravagant luxury consumption by the new rich. According to one study, Asia consumes more than half of the world’s brand-name products, and Asia’s new rich provide a major clientele for these luxury goods (Chada and Husband 2006). The reason for the rise of luxury consumption is about the same in all developing economies: the new rich in developing economies want to establish their new class identity above the ordinary middle-class crowd through consuming luxurious, high-end products and adopting a fashionable lifestyle borrowed from the middle-class culture of the advanced economies (Chada and Husband 2006). Global capitalism is more than happy to meet this demand by producing luxury goods and disseminating new fashions and lifestyles. Another interesting pattern of consumption that has appeared among well-to-do Korean people lately is an increasing obsession with health and beauty and the willingness to spend much money and time to achieve them. Increasingly, the idea of luxury and high status is extended to health and physical appearance. If the earlier desire to practice luxury consumption was satisfied with simple possession and display of luxury goods, the new trend stresses the bodily consumption of scarce goods and the bodily expression of the results of consuming these goods. The upper class must show their superiority not simply by possessing luxury goods but by consuming them differently and effectively to show the effect through their bodies. A new marketing label that appeared at the turn of the century and became widely used in popular media and advertising was welbing (well-being). Well-being, of course, implies a better, healthier, and wholesome quality of life. In practice, however, it usually refers to maintaining a good life though eating organically grown foods, drinking purified water, using healthful materials for housing interiors, joining health clubs, practicing yoga or chigong, spending a family 111

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weekend on a country farm, and the like. The commercial culture of well-being was quickly established in the early 2000s when a series of environmental problems broke out and raised great health concern among Koreans, including the SARS epidemic, continuous waves of yellow dust blown from China and Mongolia, and several shocking media revelations of contaminated foods sold in the market. Health became an increasing concern for Korean people, especially among the well-to-do, who were willing to spend much money to ensure better health for their families. The well-being culture spread quickly in the early 2000s and commodified the traditional notion of health and wholesomeness. While a well-being lifestyle was traditionally practiced as a simple and nature-oriented mode of life in rural communities, it became redefined and repackaged by the commercial market. Well-being is now increasingly understood to be achievable by consuming all kinds of “health foods” and using expensive modern instruments provided by cutting-edge industries, like “well-being rice cookers,” “well-being juice makers,” modern air purifiers, exercise machines, and the like. Most of them are imported from the United States, Japan, or Europe. They carry the mark of post-modern technology and a higher quality of living enjoyed by the affluent middle class in the advanced countries. The well-being culture is thus closely associated with the Western image, as demonstrated in yoga ads featuring an attractive Western actress or in real estate commercials featuring a happy middle-class family enjoying an outdoor barbecue in a country-style villa. It became fashionable for middle-class people, first men and then women, to join well-equipped health clubs and maintain a regimented schedule of daily exercise. These clubs with an upper-middle-class membership are equipped with the most modern exercise machines and health-measuring devices in a super-technically controlled indoor environment, nicely separated from the noisy and polluted streets outside. The members learn to tone their bodies under the instruction of qualified physical trainers. The well-being culture, however, is not all Western-oriented. In fact, it has awakened interest in and awareness of the value of traditional Korean foods and indigenous methods of exercise and health maintenance. Simple peasant foods, consisting of barley, rice, and vegetable dishes, have become popular in some fashionable restaurants in Seoul, and all kinds of local Korean wine have been revived, as well as many other forgotten health-nourishing foods. Traditional elements of Korean housing, like yellow mud walls and hot-floored (ondol ) rooms have become popular again. Many members of the affluent middle class try to own a traditional Korean-style house (hanok). The culture of tea drinking enjoyed in a proper, traditional, cultured manner has also been revived among higher social circles. In this revival of traditional health practices, we see the same nationalistic reaction to Western, modern cultural influences as found in other areas, like in wedding and funeral ceremonies (Kendall 1996). The dominant ethos expressed in this cultural response is “Ours Is the Best.” This awareness and sentiment became especially strong with regard to agricultural products as cheap imports from China and other countries flooded the agricultural and fish product markets. Thus, consuming indigenous Korean products has become something that requires more money and more discriminating taste, and therefore part of “well-being.” The increasing obsession with appearance is another important trend closely related to the myongpoom syndrome and well-being culture. In recent years, Koreans have shown an increasing interest or even obsession with physical appearance and a willingness to spend large amounts of money and time to achieve a desired look. Today, South Korea is well known for its super developed cosmetic surgery industry, where an extraordinary number of young women and many young men have received cosmetic surgery of some kind, and thousands of tourists from other Asian countries come for cosmetic surgery every year. Korea’s well-known hallyu (Korean Wave) success and the saturation of media images of beautiful hallyu drama actors and K-pop performers 112

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contribute to the growing obsession with physical appearance in Korea. And, unquestionably, the more money you have, the better quality of service you receive from the beauty industry. It is no surprise that most of the top-notch clinics in the beauty industry are concentrated in the upper-middle-class neighborhoods of the Gangnam area of Seoul. In fact, this escalating consumption strategy of class distinction became more apparent as Gangnam (south of Han River) emerged as a distinctly upper-middle-class residential area in the 1990s. The emergence of Gangnam as a large, relatively homogeneous area, with a concentration of well-to-do middle-class families who pursue their own lifestyle and educational strategies that differ from those of others, has contributed greatly to highlighting the class cleavage between the affluent and non-affluent segments of the middle class. This spatial segregation makes cross-class mobility more unlikely, since the cost of entry to the Gangnam residential area is too high for most people in the middle rungs. The scale of consumption has a natural tendency to escalate in any capitalist society. Up to the 1990s, the consumption culture that Korea’s new rich enjoyed was a more or less materialistic one, which means that class distinction was based on consumption activities that were determined by monetary power, like driving expensive European cars, playing golf, or taking leisure trips abroad. But entering the new century, upper-middle-class people were seeking status distinction through a more upscale, sophisticated style of consumption. This change is partly due to the arrival of the second generation of the new rich. The younger generation is more globally educated and globally connected than their parents, and therefore they are able to show a more cosmopolitan style and taste in their consumption and leisure activities, which makes their status claims more difficult to challenge by other middle-class people. The luxury consumption among the rich has a serious harmful effect on the middle class. Even when they are situated in difficult economic conditions, most middle-income families have no choice but to try to keep up with the escalating standards for consumption in order not to fall from the middle class. If they cannot possess genuine brand-name products, they try to possess at least well-made fakes. The consequence has been increasing family debts among the entire population, except for the truly rich. Today, increasing household debt is a major cause of the fall of many families from the middle class. The cost of remaining in the respectable middle class has become too high in this super-consumerist society. The harmful effect of luxury consumption on the middle class is a phenomenon well observed in the United States (Frank 2007; Schor 1998), but it may be even more pronounced in Korean society.

Globalization of education We have seen how the affluent middle class seeks to establish their distinction from the rest of the middle class through consumption. But perhaps a more important area of class distinction is education, where diverging class differences are apparent in the ways parents educate their children. The dominant trend of educational change in Korea has been the twin development of privatization and globalization. First, much education in Korea has come to be conducted outside the schools – through private institutes, cram schools, tutorial lessons, and the like. The development of Korea’s huge private education market is due to the well-known educational zeal of Korean parents, as well as to the well-intended but ill-planned High School Equalization Policy adopted during the Park Chung Hee period and kept in place until recently. This policy was a bold effort to create an egalitarian public school system by abolishing elite secondary schools and making schools select students randomly on a residential basis, while prohibiting outside tutorial education. But this novel educational experiment backfired because middle-class parents were dissatisfied 113

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with the quality of education in the “equalized schools” and searched for more competitive education in the private market. But the quality of education in the private market varies greatly. This difference is clearly marked between Gangnam and Gangbuk (north of Han River), as the top-ranking private institutes and cram schools are concentrated in the Gangnam area. The reason why real estate prices are much higher in Gangnam than in Gangbuk is largely due to the reputed superiority of private education available in Gangnam. Indeed, as if reflecting these superior educational opportunities, students from Gangnam have a substantially better chance of entering elite universities than do their counterparts from Gangbuk, and this gap has grown wider over the years (Kim 2014). While the educational problems of South Korea are longstanding and have local origins, globalization definitely has played a critical role in shaping the current situation. The most obvious way globalization has affected the Korean educational process is through the increasing emphasis on English competency and global skills. English is an important cultural skill in almost every society in today’s world. In South Korea, this is particularly the case because of South Korea’s special relationship with the United States. But the value of English has greatly increased since the mid-1990s when the Kim Young Sam government adopted globalization (sekyehwa) as its dominant policy orientation and ordered schools to begin to teach English from elementary school rather than from junior high school. This policy shift also meant that English would play a critical role in entrance exams for high schools and colleges. Middle-class parents, who were always preoccupied with how to improve their children’s competitive edge in entrance exams for elite schools, immediately responded by starting their children’s English education at a very early age, most often through private tutoring. When the Asian financial crisis arrived in South Korea, it had its own effect on the educational process. The neoliberal industrial restructuring that followed the financial crisis was focused on improving global competitiveness, and all major firms and government organizations began to stress globally competitive skills for their managerial workforces. English competence was an essential and easily observable element of global competence. Also, one important lesson that the financial crisis taught Korean workers was that in order to survive this kind of economic crisis, one must possess extra skills demanded by the globalizing economy. English ability came to be seen as a sort of survival kit in the new, harsher world, and this perception caused a rush among white-collar workers to attend private institutes to improve their English. So, entering the 2000s, the whole society became wrapped up in a frenzy to learn English. And this English frenzy produced a huge private market for English education, offering all varieties of English instruction. Needless to say, the more money one can pay, the better quality of English education one can receive. We must recognize that obtaining English fluency is different from doing well in math, science, history, or social studies. A high level of English competence simply requires more money to acquire; it must be taught at an early age, preferably by native English speakers, and preferably with opportunities for language immersion in English-speaking countries. Thus, the growing importance of English means that a family’s financial resource has become a more important factor in determining a child’s educational achievement than ever before. Since the late 1990s, the dominant trend among middle-class families has been to send their youngsters abroad for English education. Each year, a large number of elementary or secondary school students go abroad for short- or long-term English education in the United States, Canada, Australia, or Europe. This trend has produced the interesting phenomenon of kirogi (wild geese) families in which the children are studying overseas, accompanied by their mothers, while their fathers remain in Korea and send money to their families (Cho 2005; Finch and Kim 2012; Kim 2011; Lee and Koo 2006; Park and Abelmann 2004). The dominant reason for this unusual 114

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form of family practice is to make children learn English at an early age and to give them a better and more cosmopolitan education in the advanced Western countries. A considerable proportion of these kirogi families had been to America or Europe when the parents had overseas job assignments, or sabbatical leaves in the case of academics. Started as a new global strategy of mobility among high managerial and professional families, it was quickly adopted by a growing number of middle-class families. Despite the expense and psychological strain that such split-family arrangements may entail, many parents still opt for this method in the belief that it is the best way to prepare their children to be competitive in the changing occupational world. It has been observed that similar educational practices are becoming popular in other East Asian countries these days (Abelmann et al. 2014; Ong 1999; Post 2004; Waters 2006), suggesting that globalization produces a similar effect on educational processes in many different countries. Early study abroad was most popular among Korean parents in the post-financial crisis period but has tapered off since the 2008 world financial crisis. Hit by a severe financial crunch, many Korean parents decided to bring their children back home. But this trend was also influenced by a growing skepticism about the merits of sending children away at so early an age. Many of the children had difficulty adjusting to the host society and culture, and the parents also had to worry about their children losing their cultural and social ties to Korea. Nonetheless, what has not changed is the recognition of the importance of global cultural skills for children’s occupational and social success. While the study abroad trend has slowed down, the domestic education market has become rapidly diversified and internationalized to satisfy the demand for global education. The private education market has expanded tremendously, while all the major universities have moved to internationalize their programs. The way Korean universities have become internationalized and globalized in the past decade and a half is really impressive (Jarvis 2015). Under strong pressure from the state, every major university has increased the number of courses taught in English, the proportion of foreign faculty and foreign students, and the number of foreign exchange programs for students. Thus, in the 2010s, Korean students are able to obtain a good amount of globalized education without leaving the country. These changing trends in education, however, do not mean that opportunities for global education have become more widespread and evenly distributed across different social classes. That is certainly not the case, because students still have to rely on tutors and private institutes to improve their English and to prepare for all kinds of tests and resume-building activities (what is popularly called SPEC in Korea). All these extra educational services require money, and parents’ financial status can make a big difference in terms of what kind of private education one can receive. Furthermore, Korea’s higher education has become more sharply stratified in terms of the extent and the quality of international education they can provide to students. A huge difference exists between the elite universities and the second-tier universities in this regard. And a more important and disturbing trend is that elite university students are disproportionately drawn from higher social classes and from Seoul’s Gangnam area (Kim 2014). In short, class differences continue to have a powerful influence in determining students’ educational opportunities in the globalized environment of education, even while global education becomes increasingly available inside the country. The real tragedy of the insanely competitive education game in Korea is that it affects every family. Hardly any family is free from the burden of private education. Even many lower-middle-class parents feel they must support their children’s overseas study, if only for one summer program. The rising cost of education is indeed the number one problem that most Koreans complain about, and it is a major cause of downward mobility for many middle-class families (Hong 2005). 115

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Obviously, the affluent middle class enjoys many advantages and privileges in this privatized and globalized educational environment. Interestingly enough, however, the winners in the globalized opportunity structure are not without their own troubles. In fact, they also suffer great uncertainties and anxieties. Keeping ahead in a continuously escalating status competition and seeking ever more privatized and globalized educational opportunities requires too much money, time, and information gathering. Moreover, whether all these investments will pay off is always uncertain, as the competition constantly intensifies and prized positions become scarcer. Thus, while the affluent globalized middle class represents a privileged class, it is at the same time an anxiety-ridden class. Both the winners and the losers of neoliberal transformation suffer in the globalized game of stratification.

Conclusion There is no question that the Korean middle class is suffering from great economic difficulties today and is in danger of continuing to shrink or of breaking down completely. But the main point that I have tried to stress in this chapter is that the Korean middle class is not simply shrinking in size while maintaining its basic character; rather, it is undergoing a more profound change in its internal composition and cohesiveness as a social class. Broadly speaking, the Korean middle class has been changing from a relatively homogeneous and fluid social class to an internally divided, muddled, and anxiety-ridden class. I have shown that neoliberal globalization in Korea brought two important economic consequences. One was increasing precarity in the job market for the majority of the working population; the other was the rapid rise of economic inequality. These changes led to internal division within the middle class. While the majority of the middle class suffered from the sudden rise of economic instability and vulnerability, a small minority was positioned to benefit from the neoliberal transformation of the economy. If this polarization was first produced by economic globalization, cultural globalization soon translated it into social and cultural forms of inequality. An abundance of consumer goods (both material and symbolic) became available to be used for class distinction, and education became privatized and globalized; these two changes promoted the status enhancement and class reproduction among the privileged class. In other words, using Bourdieu’s terminology, globalization in modern times provides a new opportunity structure in which economic capital can be transformed into social and cultural capital (Bourdieu 1984). In this process, the affluent segment of the middle class slowly becomes a global or transnational middle class and gradually becomes separated from the rest of the middle class (for more discussion on this topic, see Koo 2016). It is this changing context of the Korean middle class that makes its class identity increasingly muddled and vacuous. As the middle class becomes polarized, it gradually loses both its top and bottom segments; the affluent and privileged group is pulled upward, probably preferring to identify themselves with the upper class or the global middle class, while the bottom is pulled down. Even those in the stable middle (the middle middle) are becoming unsure of their position, partly because of their slipping economic condition and partly because of their relative deprivation vis-à-vis the affluent minority above them. Compared to the lifestyle and opportunities enjoyed by the latter, the otherwise core members of the middle class are not too sure whether they are really middle class anymore. In most people’s eyes, it is now the affluent people, most of whom are now living in the Gangnam area, who seem to be the real representatives of the middle class in today’s Korean society. And yet, many people who are in the middle income brackets are still not ready to accept they are no longer middle class. Simply speaking, the Korean middle class in the early 21st century has become a muddled class in its 116

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social identity, in its membership criteria, and most probably in its social and political inclinations.

Acknowledgment This work was partially supported by Overseas Leading University Program for Korean Studies through the Ministry of Education of Republic of Korea and Korean Studies Promotion Service of the Academy of Korean Studies (AKS-2015- OLU-2250005).

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Hagen Koo Ong, A. (1999) Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality, Durham: Duke University Press. Park, S. J. and Abelmann, N. (2004) “Class and Cosmopolitan Striving: Mothers’ Management of English Education in South Korea,” Anthropological Quarterly, 77(4): 645–72. Post, D. (2004) “Family Resources, Gender, and Immigration: Changing Sources of Hong Kong Educational Inequality, 1971–2001,” Social Science Quarterly, 85(5): 1238–58. Schor, J. (1998) The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don’t Need, New York: Basic Books. Shin, K. Y. (2011) “Globalization and Social Inequality in South Korea,” in J. Song (ed) New Millennium South Korea: Neoliberal Capitalism and Transnational Movements, pp. 11–28, Abingdon: Routledge. Wacquant, L. J. D. (1991) “Making Class: The Middle Class(es) in Social Theory and Social Structure,” in S. McNall, R. Levine and R. Fantasia (eds) Bringing Class Back In: Contemporary and Historical Perspectives, pp. 39–64, New York: Westview. Waters, J. L. (2006) “Geographies of Cultural Capital: Education, International Migration and Family Strategies between Hong Kong and Canada,” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 31(2): 179–92. Wright, E. O. (1985) Classes, London: Verso. ——— (2009) “Understanding Class: Towards an Integrated Analytical Approach,” New Left Review, 60: 101–16. Yang, J. (2006) “The Korean Middle Classes in the New Millennium: Class and Generation,” in H. H. M. Hsiao (ed) The Changing Faces of the Middle Classes in Asia-Pacific, pp. 89–129, Taipei: Academia Sinica. Yang, M. (2012) “The Making of the Urban Middle Class in South Korea (1961–1979): Nation-Building, Discipline, and the Birth of the Ideal National Subjects,” Sociological Inquiry, 82(3): 424–45.



Introduction Modernity has always been closely tied to the vigor, impatience, and fearlessness of youth. After the crumbling of feudalism in Europe and the absolute authority of the Church receded, the core of the population that ushered in the modern age was the young. Because of these courageous youth, relations within feudal society were transformed. They participated in “rebellious” actions that introduced new, more liberal forms of governance by opposing dynastic rule. Within the family, the young men rebelled against the long-held principles of seniority where, as one aged, one gained power and was accorded respect. They challenged their fathers’ rule and decisions to take on themselves a leading role in society. Young men and women revolted against the marriages arranged by their parents that were commonplace through the 18th century, preferring to choose their partners on the basis of romantic love (Coontz 2005). One of the most beloved works of modern literature, the Bildungsroman Demian (1919) by Hermann Hesse, captured this new sense of modern self, in which the protagonist learns, in the end, that being modern involves casting off old illusions to achieve a brave new world. Youth were no less important in South Korea’s transition to modernity. “My beloved Korea University students! In a word, the university is a symbol of rebellion and freedom. Now the lives and freedom of all the people is threatened with the suffocating last-ditch efforts of the current dictatorship . . . Keep in mind that only youth can be the pillars of progress in the history of a true democracy so let’s stand together!” Thus read the proclamation of the president of the Korea University students’ association to spark the revolt we now know as the “4.19” (19 April 1960) students’ revolution. The whole nation was up in arms after the body of a high school boy was discovered washed up on the beach, killed during protests against the rigged presidential elections one month earlier, and the students of Korea University, who had struggled since the colonial period against Japanese oppression, initiated what were to become mass demonstrations. The youth aspired for South Korea to become a modern democratic nation following liberation, and the “4.19 Movement” toppled the corrupt and incompetent regime of Syngman Rhee, the strongman that the United States had forced upon South Korea post World War II. During the era of military dictatorship since 1960, university students played a pivotal role in keeping the idea of democracy alive, at times sacrificing their studies, their careers, and even their lives for the sake of their homeland. During the democratic resistance in Gwang ju in 1980 that led to the brutal massacre by troops 119

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under the direction of General (later President) Chun Doo Hwan, many high school and college students were killed (Lewis 2002). The efforts of the radicalized young people on university campuses across South Korea throughout the 1980s finally culminated in a coalition between youth and new middle-class citizens in 1987 that brought an end to long-standing military dictatorship just prior to the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul and put South Korea on the road toward democracy. This chapter deals with Korean youth after the “miraculous” economic development of the 1960s and 1970s and political democratization achieved in the late 1980s. What kind of history have their younger sisters and brothers been writing after the victory of the youth of the 1980s? Who could have imagined that the efforts of the youth would bring the years of military dictatorship to an end and Korea would today be a country known for a new wave of pop music and its “idol” scene that has swept the world? It has become famous for its innovative electronic products, its plastic surgery clinics, its world-class athletes, and its other cultural products like films, TV dramas, dance music, and now even literature. Readers may expect to hear from us about the highly developed commercialism and culture industry led by the youth. But you will not. Instead, we are going to speak about youth unemployment and of their invisibility. Every civilization has its cycles of rises and falls. One notices the rising period, when the young people are dreaming new dreams, working together toward new shared goals, and living passionately. On the other hand, when youth activities start to decline and passion fades and they no longer have any choices but to depend on their parents for a living, that is a period of decline. This chapter describes the lives of youth living in such a period of decline, through their words and deeds. To speak a little more concretely, we will examine how the youth in South Korea born at the end of the 1970s through those now in their teens have been recognized as a target of social assistance rather than as a subject of social activism. We divide the youth generation into two groups: the “New Generation” (sin-sedae), the first generation of an affluent consumer society to live in a post-democratic activism and who came into adolescence in the era of rising cultural industry and the wired world of the Internet; and the “880,000 won” or “Spec” generation (seup’aek sedae), a generation of young people that came into adolescence during the decade following the Asian financial crisis of 1997 – a cultural shock that instilled deep insecurity in the adults who experienced it – and who were raised in a climate of neoliberalism that emphasized private education and endless competition. In the 2010s, these two generations are together suffering through a period of extremely high unemployment, and so, as a result, have been bundled together in a common discourse that refers to them as the “give-up” (sampo sedae) or “Hell Chosun” generation.

The “new” generation of the 1990s: “growing up optimistic and rebellious in a thriving economy” We do not want to get old. Oh, no, definitely not. We do not want to be grown-ups and “mature” adults. We do not ask the establishment to understand us. All we want is freedom. We do not want to harm anyone or isolate ourselves from society. If our parents take our side, we forgive them for oppressing us and for all the violence they have done to us. But if they continue dismissing our sensibilities and encroaching on our freedom to fly high like birds, we will not negotiate with them. (Mimesis Group 1993) After bringing an end to almost thirty years of military dictatorship in 1987, the Korean people – young and old, rich and poor – were looking ahead to a democracy where all could share in 120

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the nation’s wealth in an atmosphere free of censorship and patriarchal authoritarianism. Political liberalization and radical social reform took place through both top-down efforts by the state as well as bottom-up efforts by a flourishing civil society. It was also a period when previously silenced groups began to assert their own identities. Among the most visible and powerful signs of the new cultural politics were the “rebellious” actions of youth, including teenagers. Social commentators coined terms such as the New Generation, Generation I(ndividual), and Generation N(et) to refer to this new breed of youth. High school students, who felt that they had been suppressed by an antiquated and authoritarian educational system, drew upon various forms of creative and subversive tactics to call attention to their situation and to resist the establishment. Refusing to follow the stultifying norms they felt were imposed upon them, they quickly set themselves apart through new modes of cultural expression, behavior, and taste. They stood out in their baggy pants, their dyed hair, and body piercings – hanging out in clubs, “cola-theques” (non-alcoholic bars), and Internet cafés. They delighted in hanging out in public places, exercising their newfound freedoms and flaunting their visibility. They organized small groups of all kinds, from fan clubs for their favorite bands, pop singers, and TV stars, to groups more political in nature. They began to spend all night online with Internet diversions and then fall asleep on their desks in classrooms the next day. The media began to chatter about teachers “losing control” of their classes and an impending “classroom collapse.” This rebelliousness in the face of the infamous Korean college examination competition seemed to harbor signs that the educational system might be forced to change (Cho 2000, 2015). The New Generation aspired to freedom, self-expression, and self-realization. To achieve these ideals, they quickly latched onto the Internet and other digital media technologies to explore new ways to radically redefine their relationship and value system. These young people wanted to nurture a vibrant alternative to existing conservative and authoritarian culture that offered the possibility to form and sustain intimate relationships with their peers, as well as incorporating popular culture. They organized independent film festivals and subtitled and distributed unlicensed Japanese and American dramas. They published online and printed magazines. Around 1995, the media took notice that college students had begun taking leaves of absence from school to travel abroad in groups, and backpacking through Europe, for example, became a new rite of passage. The New Generation was so enthusiastic and energetic that even the financial crisis of 1997 could not stop them. The stamina and creativity of the New Generation manifested itself both in the blossoming of Internet venture companies and in the popular cultural industries. The government and media supported these young people, hoping that they would generate new sources of state revenue. Big corporations tried to harness the creativity of this generation by developing multi-national internship programs for college students in the hopes of building a new workforce for a global economy. It is important to emphasize that the liberation and liberalization of South Korean youth in the 1990s were grounded in a desire to create an autonomous space to serve as a corrective for the grownup establishment. Youth experimented with new lifestyles and fought to transform a society built on vertical relationships into one founded on horizontal ones. They disconnected themselves from the old establishment made up of their parents and teachers and formed their own communities. They rejected the lifestyles of their parents, which centered on work and the loss of the capacity for enjoyment. However, unlike the anti-establishment cultural revolutions conducted by youth in the United States and Europe during the 1960s and 1970s, youth in South Korea were able to engage in revolutionary movements without generating conflict with older generations because many of their activities took place in the newly nascent online space where only their imagination and energy were the limits. 121

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As opposed to being “homo economicus,” the laborers and economic producers that their parents were, the New Generation identified as “homo ludens,” playing in life and changing culture. Many of them were actively engaged in the politics of identity and culture as their agenda of continuing democratization. They were individuals of a consumerist society, but also individual activists who fought with a passion to transform an authoritarian and militaristic social order into a more democratic one. Their politics evolved from their various experiences of feeling oppressed and censored in their everyday lives, including in their sexualities. This politics toed the line between political radicalism and the apolitical ethos of consumer culture. Furthermore, aided by rapid advances in broadband Internet services, this apparatus that encouraged collaboration and exploration as well as transmission of knowledge to other generations allowed young people – regardless of class background – to participate in cultural production, narrowing the gap between consumer and producer, labor and play. The 1990s were a period in South Korea’s history when more young people of all class backgrounds became immersed in creative immaterial labor/activities than ever before. Amidst this maelstrom of activity and encouraged by hopeful signs that educational reform might be on the horizon, groups of educators and those concerned about the youth began to explore what could be done for high school dropouts during this moment of radical change. In 1998, the first alternative school in the nation, the Gandhi school, was launched under the motto of “creative disobedience” (Cho 1997; Yang 2005). In 1999, Yonsei University with the support of the city of Seoul launched an alternative center for youth called the Seoul Youth Factory for Alternative Culture, known under the more casual moniker of the Haja Center (Cho et al. 2002). Haja in Korean means “let’s do it.” In other words, “let’s do what we want to do.” The center opened with five studios well suited for the times – design, filmmaking, web content design, popular music, and humanities. The primary goal of the Haja Center was to promote the rights of youth as citizens by providing them with a space to express and realize their own ideas. It was an unusual space for young people to pursue activities that they truly enjoyed and to produce their own cultural content. Diverse individuals such as teenage cultural critics, website designers, and human and civil rights activists gathered and collaborated on various projects at the center. By allowing one to do what one “wanted” to do rather than what one was “supposed” to do, it became a temporary autonomous zone for experimenting and producing alternative culture in a networked and digitized environment. In a way, the young people at the center engage in a “silent revolution” involving the redefinition of school, study, labor, and life. Young people explored the boundaries beyond the family or the state but rather insisted on making a new world for themselves, surrounded by their friends and engaged in the experience of life and living. Different from their parents who had labored to “catch up” to the “developing countries,” as children of the new middle class, the youth rethought school and their lives in a new way, enjoying their own personal passions. They were busy stimulating their imagination with new forms of popular culture and the Internet space at the time of its start-up. Their dayto-day activities contributed to making Korea a “wired world” and what they did in those days formed the basis for later cultural products and Internet ventures. Without this generation of youth, who passionately experimented with alternative lifestyles and new technologies, many of today’s Internet companies and cultural industries would not have flourished as they have. However, soon these creative activities were appropriated by the cultural industry (Han et al. 2011). Those who were engaged in the alternative education movement firmly believed at the time that its principles had the potential to expand from the periphery to influence the formal educational system in Korea, with post-Fordism and the information society emerging hand-in-hand with the importance of youth power, but it did not happen. Less than fifteen years later, after the cultural liberation movement was set in motion by the downfall of the authoritarian strictures 122

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on society, secondary and post-secondary students began to return to the confines of the traditional family and school environment, the same place from which their older sisters and brothers had struggled so hard to put behind them. Streets that once teemed with rowdy, creative teenagers have become once again just functional thoroughfares carrying youth to cram schools or their part-time jobs – a stop on the way between home and “work” (Cho 2015).

The “spec” generation and the birth of the neoliberal subject: the 2000s If someone were to ask me, “Do you live to eat?” or “Eat to live?” I would answer, “I live in order not to be eaten.” “To be eaten” means to lose to all my competitors now and in the future. It’s true. I hate falling behind and fear losing. (MYJ, Yonsei University 2008) In the middle of the 2000s, with over 80 percent of students going on to university, “youth power” would seem to have been at its height. On the contrary, however, students’ attitudes began in fact to shift toward conservativism. In classroom discussions, students’ mothers would often enter as topics of conversation. What was surprising about this was that students from the 1990s would rarely mention their parents, as it would have been seen as a sign of weakness and shameful dependence by that earlier generation. Students also showed a distinct aversion to any kind of uncertainty or ambiguity. When asked to write a “freestyle” essay, the first question was always “how many pages does it have to be?” Campuses had ceased being places where youthful spirits thrived and students could engage in various cultural activities and politics of identity. Instead, it became a preparatory ground where students readied themselves for the cutthroat competition of a precarious labor market. Freshmen and sophomores would frequently ask with great concern about what they had to do to get the best grades in the class. What forces had compelled these students to so suddenly adopt a lifestyle that centered on hyper-competition, self-development, and self- and family pressure? In 2007, a book appeared that seemed to explain some of the phenomenon. The 880,000 Won Generation (about US$900 at the time) described a new generation born after the mid-1980s and raised by parents panicked by the occurrence of the 1997 financial crisis who were destined to spend their lives working away at temporary or irregular (non-contract) jobs for only a fraction of the average wage, where only a few would be able to secure higher-paying permanent jobs (U and Park 2007). Until the publication of The 880,000 Won Generation, this new generation of children, born in the affluent late 1980s where one-child families began to outnumber those with multiple children, had largely gone unnoticed by the media. In these new, smaller nuclear families, mothers exercised absolute power over the children, particularly in the case of more well off middle-class families where the wives were highly educated, stay-at-home mothers. These mothers’ lives centered on their children’s successful performance at school. In the context of a booming but crisis-prone economy, parents, regardless of class background, were determined to send their children to the best universities possible in the hopes of later attaining secure, lucrative future employment. This desire was born out of insecurity sown by the Asian financial crisis and the memory that social mobility in the rapidly developing Korea of the 60s through 80s had been achieved largely through education. This reasoning was apparent in the college attendance statistics: in 2009, 81.9 percent of high school graduates continued on to attend university, while only 65 percent (1.59 million students) had done so in 1999. The term “spec,” derived from the English “specification” – the set of technical characteristics that describes a consumer product, for example, began to be used on Korean college campuses in 123

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the mid-2000s to describe students’ ferocious résumé-building activities. Entering a good university with a saleable major was no longer enough. Students needed to continue to add to their “spec” through internships, high scores on foreign language exams, winning prizes in various competitive contests, and the like. A great “spec” helped a student stand out when it came time to be recruited for a lucrative job, and a great deal of time and energy was invested in building the perfect spec, just as time and energy had been expended during the high school years to prepare for the college entrance exam. In 2009, a female student who had been studying for the law school entrance examination while juggling three majors in Economics, Management Science, and Law died from overwork (Seoul Sinmun 2009). Her death should not be seen as an unusual occurrence but rather an indication of the ever-greater efforts that the “Spec” Generation had to endure. Young people whose lives were focused on building their specs could not bear to waste time. They considered the carefree cultural experiments of the New Generation to be a pointless use of time, money, and energy. When asked, students reported they had been practicing time management from early childhood under the watchful eyes of their mothers. Most of the books they said they read during middle and high school were neoliberal manuals for “self-development.” What such young people feared most was insecurity; they were accustomed to an unforgiving micro-management of self, with guidance and support of their teachers of public schools and cram schools, tutors, and mothers. To accumulate better specs than others, they chose to forego leisure. They went abroad to study English and then began a cycle of retaking English evaluation tests such as TOEIC over again and again until they received a perfect mark. Their résumés were impressive and they prepared for job interviews obsessively, gathering as much data from the Internet and successful elder classmates to determine exactly what the right answer might be. Many of these young people reported that they enjoyed the predictability of their high school routines, as they were shuttled between school and afterschool cram schools. They missed high school because there, they could immerse themselves only in study and be certain of the outcome of their efforts based on how much labor they had invested. The signs of this shift can be seen in the debut of “Seo Taiji and the Boys” in 1992 and its disbanding in 1996 and the launch of H.O.T. (“High-five of Teenagers”) in 2001. Seo Taiji and the Boys was a band that produced a new genre of dance music and inspired new forms of dance. With their lyrics that often contained sharp social criticism, they led the change in popular music. Their music was self-produced and flowed out of the strong indie scene that began to evolve in the late 1980s, centered on Hongik University, a popular gathering spot for college-aged artists and musicians. H.O.T., in contrast, was a five-member boy band created by an entertainment company. Korean pop culture really took off from there, with the Hallyu (Korean Wave) continuing from that, with the “idols” selected through a process that depended on music management and, rather than being born out of the spirit of fun and creativity, was born out of hard labor that was formed into a commercial product for sale (Cho 2005). The young people who experienced the panic of the 1997 Asian economic crisis were driven by work, different from the “new” generation who were cultural beings driven by a sense of freedom. And those who became Hallyu stars needed to cultivate their skills from an early age rather than in play. Like the “Samsung men” most college graduates aspired to be, they went through high-intensity training and endless competition in order to become the kind of product that the market wants. Becoming a singer in the 1980s and 1990s meant defying one’s parents and society plus an unbending determination to succeed. In the 2000s, deciding to become a singer is a decision actively supported by parents who often pay enormous sums to specialized schools who promise to nurture the talent in their children. Because every activity is viewed in terms of how much money one can make from it, becoming an “idol” in the music industry has become a respectable kind of career choice. As a 124

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result, instead of enjoying playing music for the sheer aimless joy of it, this too has disappeared as one of the activities that young people take up voluntarily. These youth, who were raised by their parents with the aid of the private education market, were very different from the previous generation in a number of respects. First and foremost, unlike the generation before that had experienced growing up in a high-growth economy, this generation had little experience of that. Because they had always received private education, they had lost the ability to speak for themselves in their own authentic voices. The “New” Generation, or at least up to the student activist generation, had experienced miraculous economic growth and social mobility and continued to believe in it, but the “Spec” Generation grew up entirely dependent on their parents in every facet of their lives. Inequality of education has grown significantly with the polarization of the classes. The middle class after the 2000s in Korea can be segregated into a “reliable income” group who obtained their financial stability through retail estate transactions or through a steady flow of rents from properties they own and the “working” middle class that is reliant upon salaries and bonuses, having come into the real estate game when the housing prices were high, leaving them with mountainous debt as retail prices stagnated. The inequalities for the youth can be tied back to parents’ financial and human capital as members of one of these groups. The “reliable income” group, the “landed” middle class, was able to establish themselves in prestigious neighborhoods, where elite cram schools also came to cluster. The middle class without the ability to afford the expensive cram schools were forced to hope that their children would themselves be standout pupils and have qualities of their own to allow them admission to the science and foreign language high schools that were set up for gifted students. A market for private education focusing on the readying students for high school and university entrance exams existed since at least the early 1960s in South Korea, but starting in the 2000s, its scope and its contribution to social inequality in South Korea expanded significantly. In contrast to the practice in North America where private tutoring outside of class hours is usually because of a remedial need, in Korea private education is considered a natural extension of the educational day and offered in various forms depending on the grade level (e.g. workbooks for elementary school students; in-home or cram school lessons for high school students, etc.). Between 2007 and 2015, despite various initiatives by the government that included more programming on public education TV channels and after-school programs held in-school in the evening hours in order to reduce the burden of private education on the students and their parents, 77 percent of all Korean students were still participating in some sort of private education in 2015 at a total cost to parents of about US$15.3 million, down only slightly from the US$17.3 million spent in 2007 (Statistics Korea 2016). These costs averaged 240,000 won (about US$175) per month per child in 2015 (Chosun Ilbo 2016). One insidious aspect of the higher ranked cram schools is their emphasis on yeseup, or “pre-learning.” Although outlawed by the government in in-school evening programs offered by the schools themselves, yeseup is still available privately. “Pre-learning” involves reviewing the next day’s course lessons prior to the material being introduced by the teachers themselves, offering an edge to students who can afford such cram schools. Compared to students whose parents must rely on educational TV or cheaper cram schools, students who have already grasped the essentials of the materials prior to its presentation in class are apt to acquire the learning more thoroughly and so get better grades. As well, the divide is widening rapidly between students whose parents can afford to turn their children into temporary or long-term transnational language migrants. An industry has grown up between English-speaking nations (the US, Canada, Australia, England, and even the Philippines) where children can be bundled off to boarding school to learn English in a native English-speaking environment. This practice also may take 125

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more familial forms where the children go with mother while the father remains in Korea to work, or where the children are entrusted to emigrant relatives or brothers and sisters. The duration may be for several months or extend into multiple years. The end result is that, when those children return to Korea, their language skills are almost of native proficiency, producing a linguistic class division with their peers and engendering a sense of superiority and alienation among the migrants on the one hand and intense envy and antipathy among those without the means to go abroad to study on the other. The cost of university has, over the past decade, increased by leaps and bounds, forcing poorer students to get part-time jobs to support their educations or to borrow money for their education in a country where an affordable student loan program has yet to exist. Students are charged high interest rates and must begin repayment before graduation, leaving them with a crippling debt from the outset of their studies. Many are forced to tutor or take part-time jobs in order to get by. Now, when times are rougher, young people are choosing to study in specialized academies at home that prepare students for taking the civil service exam, considered a “safe” choice of career these days. In 2014, 5 out of every 10 jobseekers were preparing for the exam on the side and 70 percent of those employed in ordinary companies said they were thinking about doing so in the next one or two years. Women working in secure jobs in large companies, though at a greatly discounted wage, are also thinking of taking the exam because of the free time that a job in the government would offer. Some 450,000 students attending those preparatory academies were living in so-called gositels (“test prep dormitories”), boarding houses with shared kitchens and bathrooms, thought to help students concentrate. As each level of the exam is only offered one time a year, parents end up paying for a kind of multi-year lottery where there are few winners. As the 2000s gave way to the 2010s, people began to realize that there was no magic solution in the offing to help better the lives of the jobless youth. In 1997, about 5 million young people over the age of twenty were participating in the work force, but by 2013, this number had dropped to 3.87 million, many of whom do not benefit from unemployment insurance, health insurance, and the like due to their status. The official unemployment rate for those 15–29 years of age stood at 11 percent in early 2015, which was the highest level since the late 1990s. These figures did not include those youths who had withdrawn from the job market entirely (Reuters 2015). According to official statistics, the unemployment rate for young people stands at 9.7 percent but, in reality, the effective unemployment rate is around 34 percent (SBS 2016b). Annual economic growth had slowed and permanent, well-paying jobs were “gifts from heaven” for only the select few graduating from good schools, with good backgrounds and connections.

Emergence of the “give-up” generation and the discourse of “Hell Chosun” I’m a 20 year-old who knows nothing of this world. But, my friends, what does this world know of us? . . . Over the past 50-some years, people have said this and that about the trickle-down effect, but the gap between the rich and poor just grows wider. They say that a few decades from now, the old-age pension fund will be run dry. The birthrate has plummeted and the number of people over 65 keeps increasing, so they tell us we have to raise bigger families but we can’t even find jobs. . . . I wasn’t born yet at the time of the Korean War and I’m too young to remember the ’97 financial crisis. But I know that patriotism and sacrifice for one’s country isn’t the kind of thing that you can force down someone’s throat. If the state is just and fair and protects the weak, with no other weapon that a stone in my hand, I’ll fight to defend my country. But where in 126

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the world can I find this place everyone calls “my country” and “our country”? . . . Clearly, this is not a hell of burning fire and choking smoke and ash like North Korea. But it’s a different hell that grabs ahold of you by the ankles and drags you down, slowly, in to the cold, dark swamp. (A section of “[Because] you don’t know anything” by Lee Ch’ang-hun, university student, Hankyoreh 2016a) Of course, this kind of world cannot continue to exist. As the despair over the lack of secure jobs continues to rise, frustration and insecurity rise with it. On the one hand, the parents who bore the costs for all this employment “preparation” (e.g. cram schools, study abroad, etc.) find it difficult to continue subsidizing these costs or come to realize that it will be difficult to ever recoup such investments in the future. Young people are dying of overwork or suicide and, according to one popular book of philosophy, the only result of this result-oriented society is exhaustion (Han 2012). On the other hand, there have been some students from top universities who have announced that they would no longer participate in the unwinnable “spec” competition and have publicly dropped out of school (Kim 2015). The instability in their lives and the inability to fashion the sorts of lives that their parents enjoyed led the post-2010 group to be baptized the “3-po” (sampo) generation. (The Korean word “po” translates roughly as “giving up” or “foregoing” in English). When the phrase was initially coined, it brought to mind the somber reality that because of the instability in their lives, many of today’s 20- and early 30-year olds would be forced to give up three things: the dreams of falling in love, marriage, and children. In fact, a recent survey puts the average total cost of a “middle class” marriage in 2016 for both the bride and groom (e.g. the ceremony and honeymoon, obtaining housing and furnishing it, and associated expenses) at 270 million won – just over US$233,250 (SBS 2016a). With the costs increasing year by year, it is not surprising that young people are getting married later, living with their parents for longer, forced to live off allowances from their mothers and fathers, and in some cases foregoing marriage altogether. Soon, 3-po was extended to become the “5-po generation” (in addition to the previous three, giving up one’s job and owning one’s own house) and then to the “7-po generation” (giving up all the previous, plus giving up one’s relationships and hope). Fatalists among this group have even called their cohort trapped in this time of low growth and insecurity the “no po” generation – a generation that has nothing to give up because they had no rights to any social advantages in the first place (Chang 2015). For the most part, the “n-po generation” has given up on politics and supporting social causes. Most are largely wrapped up in their own personal despair, either not believing change is possible or with no energy to get involved in trying to work for it. Other neologisms they have created to describe their situation, like “no”-ryeok, signaling the fact that no amount of effort (noryeok) whatsoever will give them what they desire, nodab (“no solution”), and “Hell Chosun,” have quickly spread into common usage. “Hell Chosun” describes the torturous land of inequality for young people without any clear prospects for the future. Because of the sharpness of its critique, the term has been on everyone’s lips in daily conversation domestically and has attracted media attention both at home and abroad (Washington Post 2016). Joining the English word “hell” with the name of the last royal dynasty to rule Korea (1392–1910), this curious word conjures up the notion of a tenth circle of hell where Koreans are destined to pass their eternity. One imaginative artist even drew a fantasy map of such a place in the style of Tolkien or perhaps Hieronymus Bosch where the prime destinations are the Fortress of Bureaucrats, Throne of Politicians, and the Armory of Golden Spoons, leaving the Pool of Joblessness and the Lair of Self-Employment for those unlucky enough to be born with a “dirt spoon” in his or her mouth with the only escape 127

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through the Forest of Emigration (Ikamu-seume 2016; on the “theory of spoons,” see JoongAng Daily 2016). For young people who realize the situation they are in, most adapt by becoming “survivalists.” According to Kim (2015), “survivalism” is a collective psychology formed by people to respond effectively to the various problems created by the conditions of late modernity. In planning their individual lives, such young people can be separated into three groups. The first group adapts to market society and concentrates on making money through work. They have a strong interest in maintaining their position in the middle class, and siding with their well-off fathers, they follow in his conservative political footsteps. This small group works for global corporations, owns their own business, or work as public servants. They live a tiring life, saving for their own homes and to pay the high expense of private education for their children. They work very hard, but more than anyone realize that such a life is unsustainable, so they prepare so their children will be well off enough to emigrate to another country. The second group has given up on work and just wants to get by in life. Like the hikikomori in Japan, they are the least active and live with their parents or, if they are female, they live with their mothers and split living expenses. Sometimes, young people in this group leave home and go to live with friends outside the Seoul area, earning little, spending little, seeking another kind of life. The numbers of this group are growing. In the third group are youth who don’t have suitable jobs or, if they do, because of the hard work they are required to do, are full of anger for various reasons. Among this group we find the critical, dispassionate youth who tend to be left-wing, and who through criticizing society through terms like “Hell Chosun,” 3-po, etc. dissipate their anger, as well as the conservative, patriarchal youth who express their hostility and violence towards those weaker than themselves. This latter subgroup are the young men who exhibit a backlash to feminism through their misogyny. The Ilbe, an abbreviation for youth who frequent a website called “Today’s Best,” are an increasingly active group of highly conservative youths that espouse misogynist, anti-Islamic, anti-foreigner rhetoric but has begun to expand its activities from the virtual to the real, staging outrageous protests that violate most Koreans’ sense of decency. The sinking of the Sewol Ferry occurred on 16 April 2014 and rescue efforts were shown live on TV around the clock. Feeling almost like direct witnesses to the tragedy, South Korean citizens nationwide mourned in shock together. While the ship was sinking, the crew had announced to the students on the vessel to “just stay where you are,” (“stay still!”) but some students who had ignored that instruction had come up to the deck and were rescued. From childhood, children are taught to obey their elders, and the phrase “stay still” struck at the hearts of many adults and some blamed Korea’s deference to one’s elders as one cause of the great loss of life. That the crew were the first to board the lifeboats and save themselves while hundreds of children lost their lives also inspired rage and a demand that an investigation be held and those guilty be punished. Many people, including the bereaved families, held the government responsible for not being well prepared for such emergencies and demanded a thorough investigation. When the bereaved families took their protest to a central square in Seoul and held a hunger strike in support of their demands, conservative groups and the Ilbe youth tried to disrupt their mourning, declaring that after all, it was just a kind of traffic accident so why did the families and supporters continue to whine about it. On 17 April 2016, a woman unknown to her assailant was stabbed to death in a unisex bathroom near the Gangnam subway station in Seoul with the attacker claiming he was motivated by always being rejected by women. The whole nation was shocked and many women and men came out to the station to protest growing misogyny within Korean society (Seoul Sinmun 2016). That time as well, Ilbe supporters came out to mock the grieving populace, claiming that it was the woman’s fault for being out drinking at night in the first place (Korea Herald 2016). This 128

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quasi-fascist hateful attitude seems to run deeper than one would think and is most likely fed by the social impotence these young men feel in the face of their murky future. It is certainly worrisome that this kind of extreme rightist group might gain more followers in the future. In addition to the murder mentioned above, on 29 May 2016, the violent, accidental death on the job of a nineteen-year-old subway worker plunged the Korean people into deep shock. The young man, subcontracted to a company working for the Seoul subway, was crushed to death by an oncoming train while trying to repair a sliding door meant to prevent passengers from falling or jumping onto the tracks. According to subway safety protocol, such work is supposed to be a two-person job, but the doors reportedly jam so frequently that this is normally unfeasible. Immediately after the accident and before a proper investigation had been done, subway system officials blamed the young man, just six months out of high school, for not following safety regulations but quickly retracted it in the face of fierce criticism (Hankyoreh 2016c). Through this accident, the Korean people instantly realized that Korean society in general felt no responsibility to protect its members. There are signs that student and youth groups have grown increasingly frustrated and angry at the bleak future offered them – a future of low wages, high unemployment, insecure employment situations, and scarce opportunities for advancement – and are willing to express their dissatisfaction through the power of the vote. During the April 2016 general election in which candidates are elected to the National Assembly, Korea’s national governing body, the voting rate for those in their 20s and 30s were up 13 percent and 6 percent compared with previous elections. Youth throughout the country made a concerted effort to get out the vote and ended up denying the ruling party a majority, a clear signal of their dissatisfaction with the current administration. This is a clear signal to prospective presidential candidates for the South Korean presidential election in late 2017 that youth issues and unemployment within the context of a full-fledged welfare state will be front and center as key issues in that election (Hankyoreh 2016b). Since the late 2000s, South Korea has become a dog-eat-dog “market society” in almost every area possible. From a very early age, children start receiving training and because one’s college education and preparation for a career are always in sight, parents are continually having to “invest” in their children’s education. In both schools and in the workplace, one has to be on the move constantly and achieve tangible results until one joins the ranks of the “fatigue society” (Han 2012). The number of people who have grown “addicted” to work or study has increased, and there are reports of people dying from working too much. Note that in the level of postsecondary education among OECD countries, Korea is number one. Relative unemployment and the youth suicide rate are also the highest among OECD countries. After graduation from university, a good number of young people are stuck in the category of perpetual “job seeker” and they get by continuing to live with their parents or by getting an allowance to live on from them. Young people who don’t get the permanent positions that their parents wanted for them are treated as if they are still dependent minors and lose their self-esteem. The number of young people who get precarious employment while waiting for a full-time job but then fall back into unemployment is increasing. Buying a house is expensive, and, in a conservative society where living together without being married is frowned upon, that makes getting married even more difficult. Korea’s fertility rate is at the extreme bottom of the OECD rankings, at 1.21 births per woman (OECD 2014). In the past ten years, the number of young people returning home to live with their parents has increased 91 percent, and this “kangaroo family” style of living is expected to increase even more. On the other hand, universities continue to claim to be able to produce “top-class talent” and “venture capital stars” – that 1 percent class of successful people who earn the top salaries. 129

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Recently, young people who are directly impacted by the problem have begun to comment cynically or with anger about the state of Korean society. They have come to realize that they are no longer living in a society with any sense of equality but rather one where one’s identity depends on the economic power of one’s parents. Misaeng (“An Incomplete Life”), which started as a Webtoon and then was made into a popular television drama, sparked a societal awakening that ended up creating a mini-exodus where some young people suddenly quit their good jobs in Seoul to move down to Jeju Island off the south coast of Korea in search of a “slow life.” The despair of having studied all one’s childhood to get into a good university and realizing that all that effort was for naught gave birth to this cynicism and has resulted in a movement to take a “gap year” to rest a bit and perhaps gain a different perspective on life. Newly coined words such 3-po and Hell Chosun explained above clearly caused youth as a whole to reflect on the growing class polarization and the lack of social mobility, and to consider options such as moving out of the country or down-shifting to a simpler form of life.

Youth precariat in East Asia united? Please take a moment and ask the young people. Ask them what this nation state wants. Ask the drunken customers at the table in the bar near the university with the empty green soju bottles lined up on their table. Ask the man who’s just moved into a shoebox of a room in a boarding house for students planning to take the civil service exams who can’t even find an empty shelf to store his loneliness. Ask the expressionless student who works at the convenience store in the dead of the night. Ask them what this nation state wants. They would say “collapse,” without hesitation. You may be shocked that they will say “collapse,” in a peaceful voice without any sign of evil intent. . . . Young people are not able to dream anymore and, rather than an unjust existence, are beginning to hope for a just destruction. . . . This country’s economy has grown steadily, but if only the sales of the huge conglomerates quickly increase and the gap between corporate and personal incomes continues to widen, we will stay at the bottom of the OECD rankings for income equality. We are living in a country where only the corporations are growing, like a cancer. Let’s ask the fundamental question. When the national per capita income tops $30,000 and the list of the world’s top 100 countries is filled with names of Korean companies, what good is it if the lives of each and every one of us don’t improve at all? (by Son Aram, from “Testimony from a Nation in Fast Decline” 2015) Is the picture we paint above of the lives of Korean youth just a grotesque portrait unique to Korea? We do not think so. Basically, in “market society” where the market dominates state power and public civility, everybody has to struggle for his or her own survival. Ulrich Beck (2014) called that state putting the needs of the market ahead of the needs of citizens the “system of organized irresponsibility” (Beck and Cronin 2014). Barbara Ehrenreich (2009) in her best-selling book, Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America, vividly described how people in the United States sustain their precarious lives by trying hard to think positively to overcome their anxiety and gloom. This is exactly what Lauren Berlant (2011) called “cruel optimism”: where one can’t avoid dying of exhaustion or in some kind of disaster. The cruel reality of optimism is seen everywhere. Differences between countries just lie in the degree, the methods, and the rapidity of death. The new realities that youth must face have come in for a national shock in light of a demonstration of artificial intelligence. On 15 March, the Google corporation staged a series of baduk 130

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matches – referred to in English by its Japanese name “go” – between its artificial intelligence (AI) program Alpha Go and the second-ranked human player in the world, 9-dan Korean Lee Se-dol. Televised nationwide and followed intensely by South Koreans, the nation was jolted when the computer program beat Lee 5–1 in the tournament. The realization that AI could beat a human at a game said to be many times the complexity of chess was a rude awakening for Koreans, signaling that, with time, even jobs relying upon the highest levels of human reasoning could be replaced by machines. Many parents and grandparents who have been constantly pushing their children and grandchildren to get regular jobs finally came to the realization that they might have been wrong. However, young people are still struggling to get jobs in a jobless world where the political and economic leaders have never asked them whether they want to invest huge sums of money for AI and information sciences to reduce employment. In this chapter, we have highlighted the brutal nature of the way this game affects youth in South Korea. We also wanted to show the anxiety of parents and children of falling from the middle class and the determination to remain the hereditary middle class. From a very early age, children start receiving training offered by the market and parents are continually “investing” in their children’s education because one’s college education and preparation for a career are always in sight. From early childhood, children and young people have grown heavily “addicted” to labor. After graduation from university, they are stuck in the category of perpetual “job seeker” and they get by continuing to live with their parents or by their parents’ support. Young people who don’t get the positions that their parents wanted for them are treated like dependent minors and lose their self-esteem. Jobless young people however move back to their parents’ houses if they are lucky. Otherwise, they will eventually become homeless drifters. This is the reality of the world we live in. In all “developed,” to be more precise, that is to say “regressing” and “declining” countries, one sees young adults returning home to live with their parents suffering from depression about their lives in isolation (Cho 2016). In Japan, during the boom of the 1980s, the freeter phenomenon developed with the motto, “work less and do what you enjoy.” When the economic bubble burst, young people hid themselves from society and the words such as kakkyu hôkai (school collapse), hikikomori, otaku, dameren, gyaru, ero kawaii, cosplay, or net café refugee to describe those youngsters’ situations in Japan. In Korea, cultural critics tried to explain the similar situation of Korean youth using these borrowed terms from Japan. This discourse of precarious youth first appeared in Japan in the 1990s and more recently in Japan where jobs have disappeared, the phrases “relation-less society” (muyeon sahoe) and jobless society (mueop sahoe) (NHK 2012) have been used to describe a situation in which there are no jobs and youth are to a greater and greater degree isolated, living and dying alone. Recently Na Ildung, a sociologist who has spent time in both Japan and Korea, said that Japan has actively imported the “more advanced current” from Korea. For example, “spec” is not a word that referred to humans in Japan, but of late the Japanese have begun to use it for people as well. The terms 3-po and n-po were also introduced to the Japanese audience by NHK a few months ago and, in a few years, the announcer said, perhaps a Japanese version of the words will surface as well. If there is a difference with this depressing situation it may be that Japanese youth tend to turn inward to the animation and cultural cosplay while, in Korea, with its strong mother-centered family and private education market, as well as men’s mandatory military service, the effects appear more misogynistic, more dramatic, and on the surface. The youth of the four dragons of the 1980s – South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore – are now on the long road that Japanese youth began travelling before them. They too are feeling trapped in their own “Hell Chosun”s. For example, some youth in Taiwan refer to their country as a “ghost island” to call to attention their precarious reality (Chang 2013; for information on Japan, see Goodman et al. 2012). It seems so hard for the parents’ generation particularly who experienced 131

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the modernity in its compression to visualize a society without the possibility of economic growth. It seems difficult for them to realize that the more they pressure their children and make unrealistic demands of them, the more complex it will be to resolve these societal contradictions. In the US, where it has been taken for granted that young people will go off on their own at the age of 18, the problem is somewhat less serious. In Europe, where a social safety net still is in place, the youth have more alternatives for assistance. However, in East Asia, the problems seem chronic and tied to compressed and uneven development in the course of which the family unit has been extensively mobilized and appropriated. Slow economic growth and the serious decline in possibilities for upward class mobility cast a pallor over the lives of today’s young people. A group of Korean independent youth media activists explored Taipei, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Seoul and found that youth are often living like “refugees” in their own homeland. If the global market-oriented, neoliberal state-centered growing economy paradigm remains in place, the situation for youth will just grow worse and worse. They might have known from their early childhood that the promises fail; their desperate effort would not be rewarded, so the young people who have been deserted by the market-driven state, are, in turn, rejecting society itself (Cho and Uhm 2016). Some have started saying they want to become extinct or refer to themselves as “bugs” (chung), a disgusting, Kafka-esque type of creature. Perhaps, they are preparing to “evolve” into totally different beings. Now, as modern democratic history is coming to an end, will the young people who are feeling like they are refugees in their own countries begin to move? Will they gather together and recapture their vitality in order to sow the seeds of a new civilization? We believe that this is the question that researchers studying youth should ask.

Acknowledgment This chapter draws on the recent publication by Haejoang Cho (2015) “Spec Generation Who Cannot Say ‘No’: Overeducated and Underemployed Youth in Contemporary South Korea,” Positions, 23(3).

References Beck, U. and Cronin, C. (2014) Cosmopolitan Vision, Cambridge: Polity. Berlant, L. (2011) Cruel Optimism, Durham: Duke University Press. Chang, C. (2013) “The Ghost Island,” Chang, G. (2015) Hanguk-I silheoseo [I Hate Korea Because . . .], Seoul: Mineumsa. Cho, H. (1997) Hakkyo-reul Geobuhaneun Ai, Ai-reul Geobuhaneun Sahoe [Children Rejecting School, Society Rejecting Children], Seoul: Ddo hana-ui munhwa. ——— (2000) Hakkyo-reul Chaneun Ai, Ai-reul Chaneun Sahoe [Children Seeking School, Society Seeking Children], Seoul: Ddo hana-ui munhwa. ——— (2005) “Reading the ‘Korean Wave’ as a Sign of Global Shift,” Korea Journal, 45(4): 147–182. ——— (2015) “The Spec Generation Who Can’t Say ‘No’: Overeducated and Underemployed Youth in Contemporary South Korea,” Positions, 23(3): 437–462. ——— (forthcoming 2016) National Subjects, Citizens, and Refugees: Thoughts on the Politics of Survival,Violence and Mourning Following the Sewol Ferry Disaster in South Korea, Canberra: Australian National University Press. Cho, H. and Uhm, G. (eds) (2016) No-o-ryeok-ui Baesin: Cheongnyeon-eul Geobuhaneun Gukka sahoe-reul Geobuhaneun Cheongnyeon, Seoul: Changbi. Cho, H., Yang, S. and Seo, D. (eds) (2002) Wae Jigeum, Cheongsonyeon?: Haja Senteo-ga Mandeuleojigi Ggaji, Seoul: Ddeo hana-ui munhwa. Chosun Ilbo (2016) “Spending on Private Crammers Hits New Record,” 10 June. http://english.chosun. com/site/data/html_dir/2016/02/29/2016022901342.html Coontz, S. (2005) Marriage, a History, New York: Penguin.


South Korean youth across three decades Ehrenreich, B. (2009) Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America, New York: Metropolitan Books. Goodman, R., Imoto,Y. and Toivonen, T. (eds) (2012) A Sociology of Japanese Youth: From Returnees to NEETs, New York: Routledge. Han, B. (2012) Piro Sahoe [Exhausted Society], Seoul: Munhak-gwa jisongsa. Han, Y., Choe, T. and Kim, J. (eds) (2011) Yeoljeong-eun Eotteohke Nodong-i Doeneun-ga [How Is Passion Becoming Work?], Seoul: Ung jin jisik hauseu. Hankyoreh (2016a) “[Waenyahamyeon] Dangsindeul-eun Amu-geotdo Moreumnida” [[Because] You Don’t Know Anything], 6 January. ——— (2016b) “Lashing out at ‘Hell Joseon, ‘Young’uns Drive Ruling Party’s Election Beatdown,” 15 April. ——— (2016c) “Family Marks Sad Birthday of Son Lost in Work-Related Subway Accident,” 30 May. Ikamu-seume [@iKaMuSuMe__] (2016) “Twitter, Image Reproduced with Accompanying English Translation,” JoongAng Daily (2016) “Socioeconomic Disparities Intensifying: Report,” 12 February. http://koreajoongang Kim, H. (2015) “Survival, Survival Ethics, and the Youth Generation,” Hanguk Sahoe-hak, 49(1): 179–212. Kim, Y. (1971) Joseon Hugi Nongeobsa Yeongu [Research into Late Joseon Agriculture], Seoul: Iljogak. Korea Herald (2016) “Pink Elephant’s ‘Zootopia’ Protest Aggravates Gangnam Murder Controversy,” 23 May. Lewis, L. S. (2002) Laying Claim to the Memory of May, Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. Mimesis Group (1993) New Generation, Do What You Want!, Seoul: Hyeonsil Munhwa Yeongu. NHK (2012) Mueop Sahoe: Honja Salda, Honja Chukneun Sahoe [Jobless Society: A Society Where You Live and Die Alone], Seoul: Yongoreum. OECD (2014) Fertility Rates by Country, Paris: OECD. Reuters (2015) “Bleak Job Prospects Drive South Korean Youth to Vocational Schools,” 12 November. SBS (2016a) “Nam, Gyeolhon-hal Ddae Deuneun Don 1 Eok 7 Cheon . . . Yeoseong-eun,” [Men Pay Out 170 Million Won for Marriage . . . and the Women?], 2 February. do?news_id=N1003395534&pc_searchclick=sub_news_total_11_08 ——— (2016b) “Cheongnyeon Sileobyul-gwa Chegam Sileobyul, Wae Dareun-ga,” [Why Are the Youth Unemployment Rate and the Youth Effective Unemployment Rate Different?], 9 June. Seoul Sinmun (2009) “Female Student Majoring in Three Fields Dies of Overwork,” 24 October. http:// ——— (2016) “If . . . Naega Geogie Isseottdamyeon Gong’gam . . . Ch’umoeui Him, Daehanminguk-ul Umchikinta,” [If . . . I Had Been There, The Power of Sympathy and Commemoration Move the South Korean People], 2 June. Son, A. (2015) “Mang-guk Seon’eonmun,” unabbreviated Korean original, news/khan_art_view.html?artid=201512312005461 Statistics Korea (2016) “Cho-jung-go Sagyo Yukbijosa Gyeolgwa.” action U, S. and Park, G. (2007) 88man Weon Sedae [The 880,000 Won Generation], Seoul: Radian. Washington Post (2016) “Young South Koreans Call Their Country ‘Hell’ and Look for Ways Out,” 31 January. Yang, H. (2005) Ggum-gguneun Gandhi Hakkyo [The Gandhi School That Dreams], Seoul: Gayanet.


8 THE KOREAN FAMILY IN TRANSITION John Finch and Seung-kyung Kim

Introduction In a recent episode of the Korean TV drama, “Yes, It Is What It Is” (Geurae geureon geoya), a middle-aged woman asked her older sister, “Who in the world would want to marry into a family where three generations live under the same roof, and the extended family gets together every Sunday?” The question clearly conveys that, in 2016 South Korea, it is distinctly odd to have a three-generation household. Although the drama deals with a wide variety of topical issues, it also nostalgically highlights the virtues of the traditional stem family (e.g. grandparents, parents, and children living together). The drama deals with other contemporary issues such as social class, marriage, death, getting old, regular and irregular jobs, and so on. However, its main subject is family, and the drama relentlessly asks, “what does a family mean in contemporary South Korean society?” Jae Kyung Lee, a feminist sociologist and a life-long researcher of the Korean family, starts her book In the Name of the Family: Modern Korean Family and Feminism (Gajok Ui Ireum Euro: Han Guk Geundae Gajok Gwa Pyemimiseum) with the question, “What is a family?” The reason why people often find this question so difficult to answer is, according to Lee, because family is “too familiar and given, and so normalized that we don’t even feel the need to define it” and at the same time “because of the complicated nature of family life and reality” (Lee 2003: 13). As South Korea went through the process of compressed modernization, it transformed into one of the most urbanized societies in the world and experienced far-reaching changes in the nature of the family. Changing demographic factors such as fertility, mortality, migration, and urbanization have had a direct impact on the structure of the family. Likewise, changes in family norms, gender roles, and women’s status within the family have influenced fertility and other aspects of demography. This chapter examines the changes that have occurred within the Korean family over the past half century in order to understand the interlocking factors that have shaped it up to this point, and perhaps to give an indication as to what to expect in the future.

Declining fertility As recently as 1960, South Korea was characterized by large families with the total fertility rate of six children per woman. However, the developmentalist state of Park Chung Hee regarded the country’s high rate of population growth as a major obstacle to economic development and 134

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instituted a policy of family planning. As the government pursued its development policies, large numbers of Koreans migrated from rural farming communities to industrialized urban areas, and the total fertility rate declined to 4.5 by 1970. The total fertility rate continued to fall steadily as Korea grew economically: It was 2.8 in 1980, and by 1983 it had reached the replacement level fertility rate of two children per woman (Eun 2011: 88). The decline of fertility to replacement level rates can be attributed to a combination of the increasing age at first marriage and the use of contraceptives and abortion to limit childbirth (Ahn 2007: 163). Many reasons contributed to the increase in the age of first marriage, but probably the most important were the increase in the number of years devoted to education for both boys and girls and the growth of new factory jobs that in many instances relied on young single women for their primary work force. The average age at first marriage for men in 1960 was 25.4 years, and it rose steadily through the period of military dictatorship and industrial transition to 27.8 years in 1990. During this same period, the average age at first marriage for women also increased from 21.5 years in 1960 to 24.8 years in 1990 (Eun 2011: 94). By the time the Korean government acted to limit population growth, the society had already acquired the preconditions for reducing fertility levels, so that while the government’s program to control fertility can be understood as a policy success, “it is important to emphasize that Koreans were eager to reduce the number of childbirths even before the family planning program was first introduced” (Eun 2011: 89). From early twentieth century, Korean women regarded having too many children as a hardship and wished they could have fewer children. Government policies made contraceptives available to a population that was already interested in limiting family size. The government was slow to modify its population policies, and even when fertility had dropped below the replacement level, it continued promoting birth control. In the 1980s, the government combined emphasis on a one-child policy and with its efforts to reduce gender imbalance in births with the slogan, “Having one well-raised daughter is no less than having ten sons.” It was only in 1989, after the total fertility rate had declined to 1.58, that the government finally abandoned its aggressive fertility control policy (Eun 2011: 91). Fertility rates continue to fall gradually through the 1990s, and then dropped more sharply following the Asian Financial Crisis at the end of 1997. In 1997, the total fertility rate was 1.54, but it fell to 1.47 in 1998, and continued falling steadily until 2005, when it hit an unprecedentedly low rate of 1.08, making Korea the country with “the lowest fertility in the world” (Eun 2011: 93). The continuing rise in the age of first marriage was the direct cause for this drop in fertility. Since Koreans still have a very low rate of out-of-wedlock births, this dramatic rise in marriage age delayed the formation of families, and thus produced Korea’s low fertility rate. In 1995, for women the average age at first marriage was 25.4, but in 2005, for women the average age at first marriage was 27.7 years, an increase of 2.3 years. By 2015, the average age at first marriage for women increased another 2.3 years to 30.0. The age at first marriage for men showed a similar steady increase. It was 28.4 in 1995, rose to 30.9 in 2005 (an increase of 2.5 years), and, by 2015, it had increased to 32.6 (an additional 1.5 years) (Eun 2011; Korea National Statistics Office 2016). The steady increase in the age at first marriage has been largely driven by economic factors. The Asian Financial Crisis in 1997 led to a steep rise in unemployment and fundamentally altered the structure of the labor market. Obtaining jobs was particularly difficult for new graduates who needed to achieve the economic stability to sustain a marriage. Although the overall economy recovered from the crisis, youth unemployment has remained high: “South Korea’s overall unemployment figure of 9.9 percent grossly understates youth unemployment and underemployment because over 58 percent of South Korea’s population aged 15–29 are without paid employment” 135

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(Kim, H. A. 2015). Many college-educated young people prefer to “compete for a limited number of prestigious full-time jobs,” while leaving low paying and less desirable jobs to be filled by immigrant workers (Kim, H. A. 2015). The high cost of housing has been another economic factor that compels young people to delay marriage and childbearing. In 2015, 44 percent of married couples were dual earner families (Korea National Statistics Office 2016). The lives of middle-class families were thus becoming more challenging because both men and women needed to balance family and work responsibilities. Women are at the heart of the work–life dilemma because they are placed in much more vulnerable positions than men are, both in the workplace and at home. Not only does the wage gap prevent women from earning the same incomes as men, but women are also much more likely to leave the work force in order to assume the responsibilities of child rearing. The educational attainment level of women is now virtually the same as that of men: 49.4 percent of recipients of bachelor’s degrees are women (Korea Education Development Institute 2015). Unequal access to the job market is another problem. Women start out with high rates of labor force participation, but, after age 30, women are significantly less likely to be in the workforce. The gap between women and men’s labor force participation is highest for people in their 30s, when about 90 percent of men are in the work force, but less than 60 percent of women are (Korea National Statistics Office 2016). This drop can be attributed to the fact that women of this age have child-rearing responsibilities that their male counterparts do not. Even after the end of the peak phase of childrearing, women in Korea do not return to the labor force in numbers comparable to those of men. The fact that so many women remain outside the labor force is both a loss of productivity to society and a loss of opportunity to the women. South Korea suffers from the largest wage gap between men and women in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, with women only earning 65 percent of what men earn. The low wages paid to women depresses their rate of labor force participation, and women who have left the work force find it difficult to resume their careers. Only 20 percent of re-employed women are hired for full-time regular positions, while more than 60 percent are hired back as part-timers or contract workers (Kim, S. K. 2015). Childbearing was also suppressed because women had a hard time reconciling the contradictions between the demands of the labor market and the expectation that mothers would be full time caregivers for their children. The expectation that women would quit their jobs and become full time housewives following marriage and childbirth, “changed fundamentally after the Financial Crisis” (Eun 2011: 100), and there are now more young mothers in the paid labor force. Despite this, it was difficult for families to find affordable, good quality childcare for young children. The high cost associated with children’s education (Chin 2011: 373) was an additional factor that led couples to defer starting a family.

Household size and structure Late marriage and low fertility rates have led directly to a decrease in household size. In 1960, the average household was 5.5 persons, while in 2005 the average household consisted of just 2.9 persons. And while one-person households were rare in 1960 (making up just 2.3 percent of the total), by 2005, 20.0 percent of households were single person households. In 1960, nearly half (48.2 percent) of all households had six or more members, but by 2005 these large households had become rare making up a mere 2.2 percent of all households (Eun 2011: 111). The structure of the smaller households where most Koreans now live has also become simpler. In 1960, 28.5 percent of all households consisted of three or more generations, while only 7.0 percent did in 2005 (Eun 2011: 112). These multiple generation households were mostly 136

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traditional stem family households where the eldest son is expected to continue the family line, and so he continues to live with his parents even after his marriage. While the stem family was the cultural ideal, they never formed a majority of households. The families of younger sons and those families whose grandparents had died could not form stem family households, so nuclear family households have always been common. Nevertheless, urbanization and Western ideologies have favored the nuclear family as an ideal form and, by 2005, these families increased to 82.7% of the total households (excluding one-person households). Living in smaller nuclear family households has also modified relationships within families in the direction of being more egalitarian and individualistic, instead of emphasizing rigidly hierarchical and authoritarian relationships within broader kin structures (Son 1993: 379). Korean families have not, however, transformed into copies of Western ones, but rather have combined “elements of the ideal modern family and Korean patriarchal traditions” (Lee 2005: 158) to come up with “a reconceptualization of the Korean family as neither a nuclear nor a traditional stem family, but a modern transformation of a traditional stem family” (Lee 2005: 161). Even though stem family households have become unusual, the kinds of obligations that existed within them continue to connect family members. Myung-hye Kim finds that her middle-class research subjects used the term family ( jip) to refer to both the normative unit of “husband, wife, and children” (Kim 1993) who live together as a nuclear family and “a more extended network of kin relations that people may activate selectively” (Kim 1993). These two levels, deriving from different idealizations of the family, are experienced as being in tension with each other. Nuclear families are under cultural constraints to appear as both autonomous and interdependent, and private and communal simultaneously. The ideal autonomy of an independent nuclear family is constantly being contrasted with the realities of extended kin networks, in which resources must be shared and faces must be saved. (Kim 1993) Jae Kyung Lee also finds that the middle-class utilizes both “narrow” and “broad” definitions when thinking about the family. “Generally, middle class women have a concept of the family based on blood ties. When speaking in narrow terms, they limit its scope to the nuclear unit and in broader terms, include their in-laws and parents” (Lee 2005: 162). In extending the family beyond the nuclear unit, however, Lee finds that while married women felt much closer emotionally to their own parents, “in terms of duty and responsibility, including both caring and economic support, their parents-in-law were the first priority” (Lee 2005: 165). This continued emphasis on the patriline leads Lee to conclude that the nuclear “external appearance” of middleclass Korean families obscures a strong continuation of “the principles of the stem family.” While the traditional family system was strictly male-centered and concerned with the father’s side of the family, women have always been the ones in charge of daily routines. Neolocal urban households allow women more freedom to connect with their side of the family than was the case in pre-modern Korea, so many activities involving relatives beyond the nuclear family are centered on the mother’s side of the family. Therefore, despite the continuing weight given to the patriline, many observers consider that the Korean family is taking on a more bilateral character.

The decline of son preference Sons were strongly preferred under Korea’s traditional Confucian family system, which was based on the succession of the eldest son to the position of family head. While a having son was essential for continuing the family line, daughters married outside the family and their descendants 137

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belonged to other families. During modernization, as family size declined and technology made it possible to determine the sex of the unborn fetus, families still wanted to have sons, so female fetuses were frequently aborted, resulting in a skewed sex ratio at birth. In 1987, the government attempted to counter this practice by making it illegal to identify the sex of a fetus before birth; however, the law was not stringently enforced (New York Times 2007), and the imbalance in the sex ratio at birth continued to rise until 1990, when 116.5 boys were born for every 100 girls. Changes in the structure of the family and way of life have made sons less valuable. Among urban residents, married eldest sons are unlikely to live with their parents in stem-family households. With parents no longer expecting that a son will provide for them in their old age, the value of having a son has declined. At the same time, the value of adult daughters has increased: “Married daughters no longer live far away from the parents. They often live in the same city or even in the same apartment complex. Parents receive a lot of informal support from their married daughters” (Yi 2001: 24). Many people actually prefer daughters because they “understand their parents better and are nice to their parents out of affection, while the daughter-inlaw is only nice out of a sense of duty” (Yi 2001: 24). Not only did parents begin expressing favorable attitudes toward having daughters, but by 2010, the sex ratio at birth had returned to its normal rate, confirming that the preference for sons over daughters had virtually disappeared (Eun 2011: 114). An example of the shift in attitudes toward daughters is included in a 2007 New York Times story: A young married woman recalled that as a child, “When my father took me to our ancestral graves for worshiping, my grandfather used to say, ‘Why did you bring a daughter here?’” She contrasts this with the current attitude: “My husband and I have no preference at all for boys,” she said. “We don’t care whether we have a boy or girl because we don’t see any difference between a boy and a girl in helping make our family happy” (New York Times 2007).

Family ideology Familism (gajokjuui), or the precedence of the family over the individual or other social units, has been an enduring characteristic of Korean society; however, while family has maintained its importance through the experience of compressed modernity, the ideology of family has undergone significant changes as it has absorbed a variety influences. Just as the historical events of modern Korean history have often been traumatic, “the overall nature of the ideological transformation of South Korean families is far from harmonious or stable” (Chang 2011: 134). Chang Kyung-sup (2011) identifies four main family ideologies: Confucian familism, instrumental familism, affectionate familism, and individualistic familism. Confucian Familism is “the modern inheritance of the traditional family values and norms of the Chosun era” (Chang 2011: 134). During the Chosun period, neo-Confucian ideology was actively promoted by the yangban aristocracy, and it became deeply imbedded in Korean culture. Confucianism recognizes family as the key unit of society, but it is deeply hierarchical and accords lower status to women and to young people. Confucianism remains part of Korean culture, and its emphasis on correct behavior has made it appeal broadly to the aspiring middle class as well as to the heirs of the old aristocracy. The hardships of the first part of the twentieth century, including colonial occupation and civil war, left many Koreans in situations where the family was the only social unit that they could rely on. This gave rise to Instrumental Familism, the total commitment to the family “as an instrument for its members’ social competition for status, wealth and power” (Chang 2011: 137). The excesses of instrumental familism were often blamed on women who “were notorious for aggressively advancing their children and their husbands with little concern for the larger community” (Cho 2002: 176). 138

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Economic growth and the spread of capitalism led to the importation of the Western middleclass ideology of Affectionate Familism, which regarded the family as providing “psychological buffers” against the “exploitation and alienation in industrial society” (Chang 2011: 138). This ideology highlighted the nuclear family and emphasized women’s role as homemaker and emotional center of the family. Finally, Individualistic Familism combines the “social democratization of family relationships in regards to women and youth,” with the “commercialization of domestic life amid the rapid expansion of consumer capitalism” (Chang 2011: 139). Women now have a more equitable role within the family, and the family retains importance mostly because it organizes consumption of commercial goods for its members. Mass media were important in spreading both affectionate familism and individualistic familism. The family ideologies of the older generations (Confucian familism and instrumental familism), continue to be well represented because the elderly are living longer, and the low birth rate has produced a society with a large proportion of elderly. The process of compressed modernity has resulted in a significant gap between values and behavior in Korean families, and despite the impact of Western ideology and individualism, most Koreans still behave in accordance with conservative family values surrounding gender, marriage, and the family (Eun 2011: 107–8). Koreans still generally disapprove of unmarried couples living together before marriage, and out-of-wedlock births are uncommon. As in the rest of East Asia, South Korea is characterized by a “very low level of nonmarital childbearing,” which can be explained by “the strong social and economic links between marriage and childbearing, lingering stigma, and legal discrimination against illegitimate children” (Raymo et al. 2015: 476–7). Despite the advances that women have experienced outside the home, women’s roles within the family have resisted change. Even with the increasing participation of married women in the paid labor force, the burden of housework falls almost exclusively on women (Lee 2011: 253). In dual-income families, the number of hours that men participate in housework remains extremely low, and women continue to be responsible for nearly all of the housework and child rearing. [M]arriages continue to be characterized by expectations of rapid transition to parenthood, a highly asymmetric division of domestic labor, and strong expectations of intensive mothering and maternal facilitation of children’s success in school. . . . In this context, the opportunity costs of marriage are thought to be particularly high for well-educated women. (Raymo et al. 2015: 480)

Establishing marriages Although, as Laurel Kendall wrote in 1996, “Korea remains a marrying country” (4), the social emphasis on marriage has diminished slightly over the past two decades. The younger generation is significantly more likely to view marriage as a “matter of choice,” rather than as the essential step that everyone needs to take in order to become an adult. One reason that marriage seems less essential is simply that many young adults are not married as the direct result of the rise in the age of first marriages. Some of those who delay getting married may end up never getting married. In addition, marriages themselves are more flexible than in the past, with divorce and remarriage being much more acceptable to the younger generation than to their elders. Marriages . . . not only are taking place at older ages, but also are less likely to remain intact. The low divorce rates characterizing marriages . . . for much of the twentieth 139

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century are now a thing of the past. . . . about 20% of recent Korean marriages are expected to dissolve within 10 years. (Raymo et al. 2015: 478) With the increased acceptance of divorce, remarriage has also become more acceptable, and rates of remarriage have increased. As women have gained more equality in educational attainment and more economic independence, divorce has become a preferred alternative to “a painful and unhappy marriage” (Eun 2011: 119), and divorce no longer carries a stigma that prevents the woman from remarrying. Western ideals of romantic love and marriage have been thoroughly absorbed into contemporary South Korean culture. Current movies and dramas present glamorized versions of romantic relationships to be consumed by enthusiastic audiences of young adults. Dating has become a commonplace experience by which young men and women get to know each other, sometimes “without necessarily considering the possibility of marriage” (Sohn 2011: 282). However, as people reach the age at which they expect to marry, “they tend to date as part of a ‘spouse-seeking’ process” (Sohn 2011: 282). Dating has provided young people with a more active role in choosing a spouse, favored “love marriages” over “traditionally arranged marriages,” and weakened “the influence of parents in selecting a spouse for children” (Sohn 2011: 284). Nonetheless, marriage continues to be viewed “as a transaction between two families rather than just between two individuals” (Kim 2009 [1997]: 66), and because of this, most couples still seek “parental approval and support” (Sohn 2011: 281) in order to get married. The criteria that young adults use in choosing marriage partners reveal a mix of modern and traditional elements as well. “Romantic and emotional factors such as love and affection coexist as important criteria” in selecting a potential spouse, “along with more utilitarian and practical factors such as professional ability and financial stability” (Sohn 2011: 283). Not surprisingly, given the persistence of strongly defined gender roles, men and women look for different factors in their ideal spouse. The characteristic that men seek in women is that they be “pretty, domestic, willing to give them a child, and provide emotional care to them and their family,” while women seek men “who can provide economic and physical protection” (Sohn 2011: 287). The continued involvement of parents in organizing the marriages of their adult children is well documented in a recent study by Bo-Hwa Kim et al. (2016: 338–62). Their study of unmarried women in their twenties and thirties found that women with high socioeconomic status expected active and extensive parental involvement in the marriage process, while the marital decisions of women whose families had fewer resources were made more independently of their families. Getting married was extremely important to these young women. They expected that it would provide them with a stable life, and perceived marriage as providing maturity, independence, and adulthood. Kim, Lee, and Park also found that unmarried women from advantaged backgrounds relied on significant economic support from their parents in order to get married, although ironically they also expected that marriage would lead to emotional, residential, and economic independence from their parents. Many unmarried women, especially those in the higher status group, also required their parents’ endorsement of their decisions regarding marriage, and indicated that they would not marry a man if their parents disapproved of him. For families that have significant financial resources, marriage remains a family project, because setting up a new household is such an expensive venture. Marriage ceremonies themselves are expensive; for example, a survey conducted in 2012 found that the average cost of a wedding was 45 million Korean won (US$45,000) (Kim et al. 2016: 355), but families that can afford to also invest much greater amounts of money in buying and furnishing the housing for the newlyweds. 140

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Maintaining the social status of the family is extremely important, and Kim, Lee, and Park report that there is widespread agreement among both adult children and their parents that parents should provide as much economic help for their adult children’s marriage as they can afford. Korea has a long tradition of matching the social status of marriage partners, and this continues today with education levels being one of the main measures of social status. Korea thus has an extremely high rate of educational homogamy, with marriage partners expected to have similar levels of educational attainment. Education level is also strongly linked to other measures of social status, and the income gap between highly educated and less well educated is large and increasing. Since parents with low socio-economic status are unable to provide significant support to their unmarried adult daughters, these young women actually experience more autonomy in their decisions regarding marriage. Kim, Lee, and Park observe, “If independence is considered to be a marker for the transition to adulthood, low-SES [socio-economic status] unmarried women typically have made earlier transition to adult status than their affluent counterparts” (Kim et al. 2016: 357). Despite their perhaps being more fully socially adult, low socio-economic status women are hardly in an enviable position since they are stuck with weaker families, fewer resources, and a pool of lower-status men from whom to select their potential spouses. The process of obtaining a spouse has undergone significant changes during Korea’s compressed modernization. When Korea was still predominantly rural, most marriages were negotiated by kin with assistance from amateur matchmakers, but as large numbers of young people left the countryside for the industrializing cities in the 1960s and 1970s, many of them formed so-called “love marriages” based on the couple’s own choice. On the other hand, industrializing Korea also saw matchmaking become professionalized, and began licensing marriage bureaus in 1973 (Kendall 1996: 143). Licensing was seen as necessary to cut down on profiteering and to reduce fraud in an environment where the bride and groom would marry without knowing each other very well, and where divorce was unacceptable. Many marriages contracted during the late twentieth century involved some form of introduction as well as the couple’s decision to marry each other, and were described as half “love” and half “arranged” (Kendall 1996: 129). The number of “love marriages” grew steadily, but matchmaking also remained an important and increasingly commercialized aspect of finding a potential spouse. In 2011, Jae Kyung Lee reports, There are currently more than 1500 matchmaking agencies in South Korea. Marriage businesses are booming, matching couples for young men and women in the middle and upper middle classes, finding partners for remarriage, and importing foreign brides for bachelors in rural areas. (Lee 2011: 259–60) Ironically, members of the younger generation, who “believe in romantic love” (Kendall 1996: 129) rather than traditional arranged marriages, end up relying on “the market” to find the ideal marriage partner for them. Marriages contracted between Korean men and non-Korean women are another significant innovation of recent decades. The migration of Korea’s population from the countryside to the cities left much of rural Korea impoverished and underpopulated, and by the 1990s the plight of Korean bachelor farmers had become a major social issue. Korean women were unwilling to marry these men because “[w]omen’s work in rural areas . . . is considered harder and lower status than even the lowest paying jobs available to women in cities” (Freeman 2011: 36). Following the normalization of relations with China in the early 1990s, the government began 141

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recruiting ethnic Korean women from China ( Joseonjok) as potential brides for these farmers. By this time, Korea was a relatively wealthy country, and Joseonjok women saw international marriage as a way to improve their standard of living. The fact that these women were of Korean ethnicity appealed to a nationalist sensibility in Korea, and the idea of bringing ethnic Koreans back to South Korea resonated with sentiment for the reunification of the nation, divided as it was between North Korea and South Korea. Eventually, the policy of recruiting foreign brides for Korean men expanded to include women from Southeast Asia with non-Korean backgrounds. By 2005, international marriages made up an astounding 13.5 percent of all marriages contracted in South Korea, and most of these involved foreign women marrying Korean men. The percentage and absolute number have decreased somewhat since then, but these marriages still form a significant proportion of all Korean marriages (Eun 2011: 122). Matchmaking agencies play an important role in recruiting these “marriage migrant women,” and many couples marry after only a short acquaintanceship, so these women have to “get to know their husbands, adjust to being married and move to a foreign country all at once” (Lee et al. 2015: 412). Brides who cannot speak Korean and who hardly know their husbands have a difficult time adjusting to their new lives, and they often are disappointed because their image of Korea was formed by watching Korean TV dramas which show the most modernized and sophisticated side of Korea, while their marriages connect them to situations that are backward and impoverished. Adding to their difficulties, Southeast Asian women encounter significant prejudice from a society that is struggling to adjust from seeing itself as a “pureblooded and single-race nation” to one that values “multiculturalism.” This prejudice against foreigners also extends to the Korean-born children of foreign mothers who are also labeled “multicultural” (Lee et al. 2015). Marriages between Southeast Asian marriage migrant women and Korean men are structurally unequal. Southeast Asian women come from countries that are less developed than Korea, and generally from families that are economically disadvantaged within them; Korean men are interested in these marriages because they are also economically disadvantaged, less educated, and older, and thus have poor marriage prospects within Korea. Nevertheless, both the men and the women regard the women as marrying up within these marriages. Korean men expect to have wives and children to be able to continue their patrilineal families, and Southeast Asian women expect to live in a country that is economically more prosperous than their countries of origin. The women struggle to establish themselves in their new country, and despite becoming wives, mothers, workers, neighbors, and, in many cases, citizens of Korea, they are still regarded as foreigners because of their different skin color and appearance, and they experience social, economic, and cultural exclusion. Their children, who are born with Korean citizenship and raised as native speakers of Korean, nevertheless face discrimination based on slight differences in appearance and the fact of having a foreign mother. Ironically, the government’s usage of the label “multicultural,” intended to be helpful to the children, marks them as different, and thus stigmatizes them within the still homogeneous Korean society.

Women as mothers and wives The nuclear family household that became prevalent in Korean cities in the 1970s and later required a rebalancing of women’s roles within the family. Rather than entering a stem family where her status was defined as a daughter-in-law, a new bride was now in charge of her own household on a day-to-day basis. The housewifization of women in this generation resulted from a combination of new living arrangements, as people “moved into the newly built apartment 142

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complexes” (Cho 2002: 172), and new cultural influences as they “were exposed to Western culture through movies and television dramas” (Cho 2002: 172). Women who got married in the 1970s and 1980s moved into nuclear family households, and were therefore more independent from their mothers-in law and had greater influence over their husbands than women of previous generations had had. Their husbands also exhibited more loyalty to their wives than to their own mothers, leading one researcher to observe that “mothers have lost their control over their sons and sons’ wives” (Yi 2001: 7). Although the power of mothers over married adult sons weakened, the role of mother within the nuclear family continued to be strongly validated, as women of this generation used “their new economic resources to advance family interests and to strengthen a distinctively matrifocal family culture” that nevertheless continued a modern form of “Korean patriarchy” (Cho 2002: 177–8). Particularly among the upper middle class, this “new form of patriarchal family co-exists with the ideology of egalitarian, companionate marriage” (Kim 2011: 194) and wives needed to navigate within the contradictions between patriarchy and egalitarianism. By 1990, when Kim conducted her study, woman in this social category were as well educated as their husbands, but “[t]he family has different meanings for husband . . . [and] wife:” the husband regarding the family as a source of “emotional comfort,” and the wife seeing family as providing “economic security” (Kim 2011: 194). Husbands were the ones who provided “the main income for the family” whereas wives were “encouraged to stay home and take full responsibility for social reproduction” (Kim 2011: 194). Women’s education was valued, but mainly as a social asset for their husbands, rather than for enhancing “mutual understanding” or for “self-development” of the wives (Kim 2011: 193). In the child-centered upper-middle-class families studied by Kim, “highly educated mothers” were responsible for everything that concerns the children – their discipline, education, and achievement. Fathers, on the other hand, believed that their responsibility to their children was completely fulfilled by providing the salary to support the family (Kim 2011: 198) and therefore they did not help their wives much with child care. The mothers in Kim’s study organized their daily schedules around their children’s education. “While children are in school or with private tutors, mothers are busy spending time with other ‘education mothers’ at restaurants, shopping centers, or health clubs, maintaining and strengthening relationships with them” (Kim 2011: 199). While upper-middle-class mothers of 1990 were already fully engaged in promoting their children’s education, over the next two decades Korean education became steadily more competitive, forcing mothers to work even harder on behalf of their children. As Park So Jin observes, “children are now busier than ever . . . and the maternal role in children’s education has become more intense than ever before” (2007: 188). The reason for this escalation in educational activity was due to the liberalization of the education system, particularly to the expansion of private after-school supplementary classes (gwaoe) for children at all levels. During the decades of military dictatorship, the government had pursued a policy of equalizing access to education, and nearly everyone attended public schools where class sizes were large, and the curriculum emphasized uniformity and standardization, rather than creative thinking. Opportunities to supplement public education with private after-school education were severely curtailed by an educational reform law enacted in 1980. With the end of the dictatorship, however, this education program began to break down, and a Constitutional Court decision in 2000 finally invalidated the 1980 law, finding it to be a violation of “parents’ rights over their children’s education” (Park 2007: 191). Other factors also contributed to the heating up of educational competition. Through the 1990s, as the country stressed globalization, there was increasing emphasis on the use of English, leading to English being added to the elementary school curriculum; and the neoliberal educational reforms put into place during the presidency of Kim Dae 143

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Jung “dramatically changed the rhetoric of educational values from ‘uniformity and equality’ to ‘creativity, excellence, and diversification’” (Park 2007: 191). In the twenty-first century, the Korean education system is driven by “market principles and consumer demand,” but educational innovation is largely confined to the private after-school sector, rather than to public schools, which, in line with the long standing focus on equalization, “still remain relatively uniform” (Park 2007: 192). Mothers, acting on their children’s behalf, are the ones who express this consumer demand in the after-school market and in the simultaneously emerging market for early childhood education. The role of educational manager mother has emerged as the dominant ideological expression of motherhood, and has become “central to the measurement of married women’s worth and citizenship” (Park 2007: 193). Park sees this current role as educational manager mother as being much more valorized than previous iterations of maternal roles. For example, during the era of school uniformity, affluent mothers who tried to boost their children’s prospects at school by bribing teachers (Cho 2002: 173) were described with the negative image of “a swish of a skirt” (chimaparam). By contrast, the educational manager mother is widely admired for the scope of her expert knowledge and her dedication to her children. The women in Park’s study “exerted enormous energy on and faced many decisions regarding their children’s private afterschool education” (Park 2007: 197), and while the public discourse lamented the stressful aspects of the education system, with headlines such as “No Time for Rest or Play” (200), overall educational manager mothers were regarded as “indispensable” for their children’s success. The educational manager has emerged as the hegemonic face of motherhood in the twenty-first century. Public discourse around motherhood suggests “that every mother should be a manager mother . . . and that ‘parents all want the same thing – to do as much as they can afford for their children’” (202). While middle-class, full-time housewives have sufficient time and economic, cultural, and social resources to master the role of “educational manager mother,” working mothers do not have sufficient time to participate in the networks of fulltime housewives that provide vital sources of information. Poor or working-class women are even more marginalized. They are exposed to the image of middle-class mothers through the mass media, but have few economic or cultural resources to devote to their families. Nevertheless, many do try to emulate middle-class mothers by spending on “their children’s private after-school education” (205). While women have generally accepted that becoming an educational manager is essential to being a mother in contemporary Korea, “the continuous escalation of the private after-school market” is a source for widespread anxiety. Park notes that “many women across the class spectrum . . . expressed ambivalence and confusion – rather than confidence – about what they should do in regards to their children’s education” (2007: 208).

Globalizing families: wild goose families One response to the intense competition in education has been for families to become what has come to be called “wild goose families” (gireogi gajok), a term that became widespread in the media in the early years of the new millennium. In these families, the mother and children move to an English-speaking country (usually the United States) for the sake of the children’s education, while the father remains behind in Korea to earn money to support the family. This strategy enables the children to learn English while they are still young enough to develop “native level fluency” and positions them to complete their education with a degree from a prestigious foreign university. Families are motivated to become wild goose families because fluency in English has become so important in twenty-first-century Korea. Many families are also worried about how their children are coping with the pressures of secondary 144

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education in Korea, with the long hours spent in school and in after-school programs (Finch and Kim 2012). Wild goose families are mostly middle class, and, like other Korean middle-class families, fully devote their family resources to the education of their children. Wild goose mothers follow the educational manager mother role, but they have taken it a step further by living apart from their husbands, for up to a decade. The father’s role is also essential, however, for the project to be successful: He needs to be able to provide enough income to support the family and maintain two households, one in Korea and one in the United States. The “wild goose family” project makes sense from the perspective of instrumental familism, in that the whole family is working together for the sake of the next generation, but it is highly problematic when considered from the perspective of the affectionate familism that is firmly established among middle-class members of this generation. At the height of the wild goose family phenomenon, the media were filled with stories about “lonely fathers spiraling into depression” (Finch and Kim 2012: 504) and experts expressed concern with the “lack of marital intimacy” between spouses (Chin 2011: 370). Wild goose mothers have to function away from their home country, and many lack the fluency in English that they want their children to achieve. It can also be difficult for them to secure the necessary visas for their children and themselves, and visa issues can make it difficult or impossible to travel back to Korea. Furthermore, the high cost of living in the United States frequently requires wives to earn additional income beyond what their husbands can send to them. In order to help their children succeed, wild goose mothers need to adopt a variety of strategies, including enrolling themselves in higher education programs, opening their own businesses, and working at menial jobs. They also form networks within the Korean American community to keep themselves informed about educational opportunities for their children. A wild goose father’s main obligation to his family is to provide them with financial support. In order to do this, fathers cut back on their own expenses, move into smaller living spaces, and some even move back to live with their elderly parents. They also try to increase their income by taking on extra projects. Wild goose families are especially prevalent among men with academic jobs who have earned advanced degrees from American universities in the early 1990s and who can take sabbaticals to travel to the United States and spend time with their families. Some fathers are able to travel to see their families several times a year, and they use the telephone and the Internet to keep in touch on a regular basis. While wild goose fathers cannot see their children on a daily basis, one father explained, this is not much different from family life in Korea where fathers work every day “until ten at night.” He was able to spend a year with his family in the United States and he said that his family had “spent more time together in one year in the US than five years in Korea” (quoted in Finch and Kim 2012: 497).

The end of the family-head system In addition to social, economic, and demographic factors, the Korean family has undergone a series of important legal changes. Korea’s “traditional” family-head system (hojuje) specified that the head of a family was a male who inherited his position through the male line on the basis of primogeniture. Since only males were able to be permanent family heads, a woman’s legal status was completely dependent on her relationship to males. The family-head system was codified into the Civil Code during the early years of Japanese colonial rule, and it remained part of South Korean family law until January 2008, despite being at odds with the 1948 Constitution of the Republic of Korea which explicitly prohibited discrimination based on sex and asserted that “[a]ll citizens shall be equal before the law.” It was a ruling by the Constitutional Court that took note of this contradiction and finally abolished the family-head system. 145

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The abolition of the family-head system was the culmination of a long political and legal struggle by the women’s movement to change Korea’s archaic family system. The colonial-era Civil Code was substantially revised in 1957, and again in 1962, 1977, and 1989, to reflect the changes taking place in Korean society. Women’s movement activists were the driving force behind each of these revisions which gradually shifted Korean families toward greater gender equality. The legal status of family head, however, remained in place through each one of these revisions. It eventually required a combination of political activism, mobilizing public opinion, and using the judicial system to get the family-head system abolished. During his 2002 campaign for the presidency, Roh Moo Hyun had identified abolishing the family-head system as one of his most important goals. Chi Eun-hee, the Minister of Gender Equality in his cabinet, was an activist who argued: “The family-head system is at the core of patriarchy, in that it defines men as family-heads and women as dependents” (Kim 2014: 83). Meanwhile, court cases brought by women who had been negatively affected by the family-head system reached the Constitutional Court, and it handed down its ruling in February 2005, abolishing the system. Even with the Court’s decision, however, it took three more years before this deeply entrenched aspect of the legal code could be completely replaced.

Family in crisis? Demography generated national headlines in 2003, when the National Statistics Office announced that the fertility rate had declined to an all-time low of 1.17 children per woman, and was now “the lowest in the world.” Headlines proclaimed that “families are in crisis” and that South Korea had become “a nation in crisis.” Speaking at the National Assembly, conservative Assemblyman Lee Won-hyong offered this assessment: These days, young people don’t get married. They are selfish and don’t want to get married. When they do get married, they get divorced. Furthermore, those who get married and don’t get divorced, don’t have children. That is the reason why this country has the lowest birth-rate in the world. And there are more elderly people. I wonder what will happen to the country if we continue this trend. It seems like the most basic social unit, the family, is crumbling. (quoted in Kim 2014: 93) Newspapers including the Seoul Sinmun (2003) called the “1.17 shock,” a “women’s childbirth strike” and argued that the low birth rate was linked to the country’s slowing economy. Concern about late marriage, rising divorce, the increasing number of single-person households, an aging society, and how the declining birth rate was leading to a labor crisis that threatened the country’ ethnic homogeneity led to the enactment of “The Framework Act on Healthy Families” of 2004. This act was designed to support families with policies that would increase fertility rates and thus boost the economy. Its provisions aimed to make services available to parents with young children and to keep marriages intact by discouraging divorce. The pro-natalist policies had little impact on the fertility rate, which continued to be alarmingly low for the following decade, generating news headlines such as “South Korea Birthrate Hits Lowest on Record” in 2014 (The Wall Street Journal 2014). The imposition of waiting periods on divorcing couples did, however, lead to a slight decrease in the number of divorces (Chung 2011: 336). For many feminists, the alarmist discourse surrounding the discussion of the family has been troubling. As Jae Kung Lee points out, “the ‘family in crisis’ discourse lumps all the changes that 146

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have been impacting Korean families together, including those changes that are not necessarily problems at all.” She argues that framing the issue as “family in crisis” leads to attributing family and social problems to individual moral failings and draws attention away from economic and demographic factors as sources of family change (Lee 2011: 246). The improvements in the status of women and women’s greater access to the labor market are examples of things that have changed the family, but should be seen as positive by society. By paying close attention to the changes that have been taking place in South Korean society and seeing how the family has adjusted to new circumstances, rather than holding on to a fixed idea of the patriarchal or nuclear family, we can gain greater understanding of the dynamic processes affecting the Korean family in the twenty-first century.

References Ahn, K.C. (2007) “Population Changes and Urbanization,” in H.R. Kim and B. Song (eds) Modern Korean Society: Its Development and Prospect, pp. 158–178, Berkeley: University of California Press. Chang, K.S. (2011) “Compressed Modernity and Korean Families: Accidental Pluralism in Family Ideology,” in Korean Family Studies Association (ed) Korean Families: Continuity and Change, pp. 129–149, Seoul: Seoul National University Press. Chin, M.J. (2011) “Korean Families in Mid-Life: Over-Emphasis on Children’s Education,” in Korean Family Studies Association (ed) Korean Families: Continuity and Change, pp. 355–378, Seoul: Seoul National University Press. Cho, H.J. (2002) “Living with Conflicting Subjectivities: Mother, Motherly Wife, and Sexy Woman in the Transition from Colonial-Modern to Postmodern Korea,” in L. Kendall (ed) Under Construction: The Gendering of Modernity, Class, and Consumption in the Republic of Korea, pp. 165–195, Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press. Chung, H.S. (2011) “The Early Years of Marriage,” in Korean Family Studies Association (ed) Korean Families: Continuity and Change, pp. 331–354, Seoul: Seoul National University Press. Eun, K.S. (2011) “Changes in Population and Family in Korea,” in Korean Family Studies Association (ed) Korean Families: Continuity and Change, pp. 87–127, Seoul: Seoul National University Press. Finch, J. and Kim, S.K. (2012) “Globalization, Transnational Migration and Education in South Korean Kirogi Families,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 38(3): 485–506. Freeman, C. (2011) Making and Faking Kinship: Marriage and Labor Migration between China and South Korea, Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Kendall, L. (1996) Getting Married in Korea: Of Gender, Morality, and Modernity, Berkeley: University of California Press. Kim, B.H., Lee, J.K. and Park, H.J. (2016) “Marriage, Independence and Adulthood among Unmarried Women in South Korea,” Asian Journal of Social Science, 44: 338–362. Kim, H.A. (2015) “South Korea’s Generation of Discontent,” East Asia Forum, http://www.eastasiaforum. org Kim, M.H. (1993) “Transformation of Family Ideology in Upper-Middle-Class Families in Urban South Korea,” Ethnology, 32(1): 69–85. ——— (2011) “Urban Family Relationships in the Rapidly Industrializing Korean Society,” in Korean Family Studies Association (ed) Korean Families: Continuity and Change, pp. 185–214, Seoul: Seoul National University Press. Kim, S.K. (2009 [1997]) Class Struggle or Family Struggle?: The Lives of Women Factory Workers in South Korea, New York: Cambridge University Press. ——— (2014) The Korean Women’s Movement and the State: Bargaining for Change, New York: Routledge. ——— (2015) “The Korean and American Presidents Should Discuss Work-Family Balance Issues,” blog posted on The Peninsula, 13 October, Korea Economic Institute. Korea Education Development Institute (2015). 03&menuId=m_02_03_02 Korea National Statistics Office (2016) “Annual Report on the Economically Active Population Survey, 2016,” Statistics Korea, p. 392. Lee, E.N., Kim, S.K. and Lee, J.K. (2015) “Precarious Motherhood: Lives of Southeast Asian Marriage Migrant Women in Korea,” Asian Journal of Women’s Studies, 21(4): 409–430.


John Finch and Seung-kyung Kim Lee, J.K. (2003) Kajogui Ireumeuro: Hanguk Geundaegajok-gwa Pyemimiseum [In the Name of the Family: Modern Korean Family and Feminism], Seoul: Tto Hanaui Munhwa [Alternative Culture]. ——— (2005) “Neo-Familism and Women: The Modern Transformation of the Korean Family,” in P. Chang and E. Kim (eds) Women’s Experiences and Feminist Practices in South Korea, pp. 155–175, Seoul: Asian Center for Women’s Studies. ——— (2011) “Imagining the South Korean Family beyond Patriarchy,” in Korean Family Studies Association (ed) Korean Families: Continuity and Change, pp. 246–269, Seoul: Seoul National University Press. New York Times (2007) “Where Boys Were Kings, a Shift toward Baby Girls,” 23 December, p. A1. Park, S.J. (2007) “Educational Manager Mothers: South Korea’s Neoliberal Transformation,” Korea Journal, 47(3): 186–213. Raymo, J., Park, H.J., Xie, Y. and Yeung, W.J. (2015) “Marriage and Family in East Asia: Continuity and Change,” Annual Review of Sociology, 41: 471–492. Seoul Sinmun (2003) 28 August. Sohn, S.Y. (2011) “Love, Sexuality, and Marriage,” in Korean Family Studies Association (ed) Korean Families: Continuity and Change, pp. 271–296, Seoul: Seoul National University Press. Son, C.K. (1993) “Gyeong je Baljeon-gwa Yeoseong-ui Jiwi” [Economic Development and Women’s Status], in H.S. Im and K.S. Park (eds) Oneul-ui Hanguk Sahoe [Korean Society Today], pp. 367–390, Seoul: Nanam. The Wall Street Journal (2014) “South Korea Birthrate Hits Lowest on Record,” 26 August. http://blogs.wsj. com/korearealtime/2014/08/26/south-korea-birthrate-hits-lowest-on-record/ Yi, E.H. (2001) “Mothers and Sons in Modern Korea,” Korea Journal, 41(4): 5–27.



Introduction South Korea made a quick transition from being a country that exported a variety of labor, including soldiers to Vietnam, construction workers to the Middle East, nurses and miners to West Germany, and emigrants to North and South America during the period between the mid1960s and the early ’80s, to a labor importer, starting in the late 1980s. For the past quarter of a century, South Koreans have been experiencing the migration of others into their country – migrant/immigrant laborers and immigrant brides mostly from China, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, among other places. While the South Korean working class served as a transnationalized workforce for the U.S./Japan–dependent economy of the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, since the late ’80s South Korea’s emergence as a subempire has transformed other Asians into a transnationalized labor force for South Korean multinational capital. By subempire, I mean South Korea’s semi-peripheral status in the global hierarchy of nation-states and their economies. The notion of subimperial South Korea also implies its economic dependence on and subordination to core nations such as the United States and Japan on the one hand as well as South Korea’s subordination of the periphery, e.g. less-developed economies, in the capitalist order. Politically, the year 1987 saw the end of over four decades of consecutive dictatorships and the beginning of a gradual transition into liberal democracy. Economically, the Seoul Olympics of 1988 also marked a historical juncture in which South Korea became one of the more affluent nations of Asia, a destination for migrant workers. Moreover, as South Korean companies also moved their production to offshore locations in less-developed parts of Asia, South Korean capital – both conglomerates and small-to-medium-sized businesses – came to employ a large non-ethnic Korean labor force overseas. Since South Korean capital has turned to immigrant/migrant and offshore labor in order to continue to grow and maintain profitability, the bottom of the “South Korean” working class no longer consists of ethnic Koreans, but of other Asians, both within and outside of South Korea. While the accumulation of wealth, made possible through the transnationalized, ethnicized labor of the South Korean working class (ethnicized vis-à-vis U.S. or Japanese capital) of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, laid the foundation for South Korea’s “Democratization” in the late 1980s, South Korea’s (neo-)liberal democracy of more recent years has also been maintained by a new 149

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influx of ethnicized labor (ethnicized vis-à-vis South Koreans and South Korean capital), that is, Chinese, Korean Chinese, South Asians, and Southeast Asians. Migrant workers began arriving in South Korea in the late 1980s, and over the past nearly thirty years, except for during the so-called IMF crisis from 1997 to 2000, the number has been steadily increasing. Though it is difficult to estimate the exact population figures, due to the fact that the overwhelming percentage of migrant workers are compelled to reside and work in South Korea illegally, the number of these workers is clearly on the rise and is projected only to increase at a more rapid rate in the future. As of 2016, about four percent of the entire population of South Korea are non-ethnic-Korean Koreans, both immigrant Koreans and second-generation multiracial Koreans. While a large number of migrant workers come from Asia, a smaller number of them come from the Middle Eastern, Latin American, and African countries. South Korea is now home to migrant workers from China, Mongolia, Bangladesh, Thailand, Myanmar, Pakistan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Nepal, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Iran, and Russia, among others. The majority of migrant workers are employed in the so-called 3D tasks, “dangerous, dirty, and difficult,” in various manufacturing industries. There is also a critical shortage of construction workers needed for continuing urbanization. Through a special provision made in 2002, the shortage of service workers is being met by allowing Korean Chinese (ethnic Koreans from the PRC, often known in Korean as Chosŏnjok) to work in the industry.1 Female migrants constitute about one third of the entire migrant worker population residing and working in South Korea. Apart from Russian and Filipina women who enter South Korea on “entertainment visas,” recruited for sex and sexualized service industry jobs, female migrant workers enter South Korea in search of factory or other service jobs in restaurants or sales. Another important category of female migrants that has become relatively visible in the mainstream media in recent years is “foreign brides” or “marriage migrants” (kyŏlhon ijuja) from various Asian countries, those who marry Korean farmers and settle in the countryside. These marriages have contributed to the swift increase in the percentage of mixed-raced births in recent years: as of the mid 2010s, one in every twenty births in contemporary South Korea is a mix-raced newborn. In this chapter, for the most part, I use the term, “migrant” or “migrant workers,” while I use the term “immigrant brides” to refer to “kyŏlhon ijuja,” which is the most common term used in South Korea, meaning “marriage migrant.” I would like to note that the distinction between migrant and immigrant is often spurious and at best problematic. As in many other immigrant national contexts, in South Korea it is also the post-arrival conditions that determine, in fact only after the fact, whether he/she would end up being a migrant or an immigrant, regardless of his/ her original intention. These two terms, migrant and immigrant, entail different implications; while the term “migrant,” a temporary worker from another country, implies that he/she would be part of a national economy, the term “immigrant” indicates that their status as permanent members of a nation-state must involve issues of citizenship that go well beyond the economy. While I use the term “migrant” as a reflection of the reality of labor migration and labor import on the part of both workers and the South Korean state, I would like us to be mindful of this immanent and slippery (non-)distinction between these two terms, migrant and immigrant.

The South Korean state vs. the international human rights regime: sovereignty and its erosion? This chapter explores dual historical processes, in which South Korea as a nation-state still operates powerfully, governing and controlling various dimensions of “labor import” and migrants’ work and lives, while at the same time contemporary globalization has been eroding the 150

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nation-state system, disrupting the isomorphism among territory, people, and nation-state sovereignty (Appadurai 1996). I argue that the South Korean state functions simultaneously as a racial state that plays a major role in creating and maintaining a racially segmented labor market, and as a multicultural state that facilitates management of diverse ethnicized populations. Accordingly, South Korean migrant labor activism reacts to and engages with coexisting and overlapping historical conditions and systems. It is situated within the context of South Korea’s transition from a mono-ethnic nation into a multiethnic immigrant nation, whose “labor import” is premised on its new status as one of the Asian subempires. Simultaneously, migrant labor activism emerges out of the recent rapid globalization process – which has encompassed all spheres, including international politics, transnational capitalism, and multinational culture industries – of which South Korea is part. While the South Korean state of the industrializing era played a central role in exporting labor, its transformation in recent years to a labor importer has created and maintained a racially segmented labor force through a range of laws and regulations that are designed to supply cheap labor for South Korean capital, bar social entitlements for migrant workers, and prevent their permanent settlement. The contemporary South Korean state heterogenizes the population by allowing labor migration in order to serve the needs of national economy, while continuing to insist on the conception of South Korea as an ethnically homogeneous nation by legislating political and social exclusion of migrant workers. The South Korean state as a “racial state,” to borrow Omi and Winant’s term – one that performs a key role in the ongoing racial formation of South Korea – is further complicated by the ideologically complementary and compensatory role it plays in its purveying of official multiculturalism (Omi and Winant 1994). The state demands that South Korean society embrace multiculturalism for the purpose of managing its diverse laboring population effectively, while disavowing the necessary political and social changes to openly legitimize and formally include the multiethnic population. Just to name a couple of instances of its recent multicultural policies, the state makes special visa provisions for the children of migrant workers, offers Korean language classes for migrant workers and their children, and sponsors multicultural events and festivals. One of these festivals, held in 2005, was even named “Migrant Workers’ Arirang,” after the traditional folksong arirang, associated with Koreans’ ethnonationally-based oppression since the Japanese colonial period. The highly precarious status of migrant workers in South Korea further raises the stakes for the compensatory function of official multiculturalism in South Korea. Furthermore, migrant workers’ organization as laborers, as residents, and as (future and current) citizens, and their active resistance to the state and the South Korean mainstream society contribute, subversively, to the ongoing process of racial formation in contemporary South Korea, as we will see in the last section of this chapter. Until 2003, the most widely used, systematic method of exploiting foreign migrant labor was the “Industrial Trainee System” (sanŏp yŏnsusaeng chedo). In July of 2003, the South Korean National Assembly passed a law that began to allow a combination of two systems for foreign migrant labor, the existing Industrial Trainee System and the new Work Permit System (koyong hŏgaje). This new law also included a provision for legalizing some of the undocumented migrant workers by offering amnesty for those who have stayed in South Korea under four years, while others with over four years of illegal residency were asked to leave the country voluntarily. This new law also gave migrant workers with legal status rights equivalent to those of South Korean workers, including the right to strike. However, the consensus has been that the availability and acquisition of legal status for some of the migrant worker population has not accomplished much in terms of improving their overall working and living conditions since the implementation of the Work Permit System. For the undocumented migrant worker population in South Korea, labor laws are separate and unequal. While the South Korean constitution and labor laws prohibit 151

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discrimination based on nationality, unenforced laws are as good as nonexistent. The goal of migrant workers and labor activists is to have government authorities guarantee three major labor rights – the right to unionize, the right to strike, and the right to collectively bargain – by enforcing the laws guaranteeing them on behalf of the migrant worker population. While South Korea as a sovereign state still wields enormous power over the working conditions of migrant workers through laws and regulations, globalization has precipitated the emergence of a “new international human rights regime” in which “human rights override the distinctions between citizens and aliens, undermining the authority of the state.” Sassen argues, “Under human rights regimes states must increasingly take account of persons qua persons, rather than qua citizens. The individual is now an object of law and a site for rights regardless of whether a citizen or an alien” (Sassen 1998). In 2002, immigration authorities tried to forcibly deport a migrant worker from Bangladesh, Mr. Kobil, who had participated in a demonstration lasting over seventy days against labor abuses in South Korea. While migrant workers’ right of assembly is not recognized by South Korea’s racially discriminatory laws, which does not confer the status of laborer on migrant workers, his right to free assembly is, in fact, protected by international human rights regulations (in Korean, kukje inkwŏn kyuyak). Mr. Kobil refused to cooperate with the authorities, indeed charging the South Korean government with violation of international law (Hangyŏre Newspaper 13 November 2002). Although the extent to which international regulations and laws can be enforced within the jurisdictions of a particular sovereign nation-state still remains in question, such international interdictions, at the very least, can be appropriated by workers and labor activists as a strategic weapon of empowerment and negotiation.

Racism and racial violence against im/migrants In a survey of eleven Asian nations that measured the quality of life for migrant worker populations in areas such as housing, education, health services, and entertainment, South Korea was ranked in the late 1990s as the number one nation in terms of the inconvenience and discomfort that migrant workers experienced in their work and living situations (Hangyŏre Newspaper 4 May 1998). While the survey does not seem to have included questions directly related to racial discrimination, race is a central issue that affects all of the areas of living and working mentioned above, whether these aspects are regulated by laws or remain outside state governance. While we do note the continuity between the patterns of race-based exploitation and exclusion of migrant and immigrant workers and those of class-based marginalization from the earlier decades in industrializing South Korea, there is an enormous gap between classism of the preceding mono-ethnic context and the racialized class system in the fast-multiracializing context of contemporary South Korea. South Korean manufacturing industries in the ’70s routinely locked their young female factory workers inside the walls of the factory and the dormitory. The contemporary South Korean companies who employ migrant workers do the same in order to prevent them from running away; their workplace is locked from the outside, just as their dormitories are bolted after work. These conditions are most accurately described as carceral labor (kamgŭm nodong) (Hangyŏre Newspaper 29 October 2002). This particular system of carceral labor reverses, in a way, and yet mirrors Angela Davis’s concept of a “prison-industrial complex” (Davis 1998). One of the key factors that contributes to racialized working conditions for migrant workers is their South Korean employers’ and coworkers’ day-to-day racism. In the construction businesses, where many Chinese and Korean Chinese workers are employed, South Korean workers have come to resent their presence as competitors. Labor organizers and activist leaders try to remind workers of the need for their solidarity, but Korean workers are reluctant 152

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to be equated with workers of other races, whom they perceive to be racially inferior. About half of migrant workers fall victim to industrial accidents within the first year of their arrival (Hangyŏre Newspaper 29 October 2002). As victims of industrial accidents, mig rant workers often return home dead, arriving as a box of ashes or in a coffin. Some die from the violence committed by South Korean coworkers or bosses. Furthermore, migrant workers’ deaths are not limited to direct dangers to which they are exposed at their workplaces. Their deaths are often a result of a combination of related physical and psychological factors, such as overwork, malnutrition, depression, and alcoholism. Others return home as permanently disabled and mutilated bodies that carry the memories of the physical hardship and psychological pain they suffered in South Korea. Both Seoul and other industrial cities in South Korea now have ethnic enclaves and neighborhoods where migrant worker populations reside and work or congregate for socializing with one another at restaurants, shops, and houses of worship. For example, the Korean Chinese population, who make up about 60 percent of the entire migrant worker population, have formed “Chosŏnjok streets,” also known as chaina t’aun (Chinatown), in the Karibong District of Seoul. There is a thriving Filipino street in the Daehangno area where Sunday markets attract Filipinos from all corners of the country. Seoul Central Mosque in the Itaewon area of downtown Seoul functions as a religious, social, and communal gathering place for Muslims of various ethnic and national backgrounds. The kind of housing that migrant workers can afford in these racialized neighborhoods is known as pŏljip – “beehives” – or tchokbang, which may be translated as a “sliced room.” While South Korean factory workers were occupants of this type of housing in the 1970s and ’80s, in recent years 80 to 90 percent of “beehive houses” have been occupied by migrant workers. Another type of housing the companies provide for migrant workers is called in Korean konteinŏ; these are metal shipping containers that have been converted into rooms. As in other racialized contexts, the stress and pressure that migrant workers experience is taken out on the members of their own ethnic community, rather than being directed against those who are responsible for their racial degradation, exclusion, and misery. These ethnic ghettos are semicolonial or internal colonial territories, just as Chinatowns and Koreatowns, for example, used to be and continue to be to some extent in the United States. Their ghostly presence in South Korea, both indelible as well as fleeting, brings us back to the former era that has not yet gone by, back to a poem that speaks about colonized Koreans under Japanese rule in a similar fashion by the colonial poet Han Yong-un. The changing history of the Karibong District offers us a very clear example of this process of substituting workers of a formerly peripheral nation, South Korea, with (migrant) workers of currently peripheral nations. It illustrates the racialized surrogacy and serial replaceability of transnational proletarian labor. In Puch’ŏn, where a large number of migrant workers work and live, migrant residents of the city put together their own cultural event, to which they, as hosts, invited the Korean community. The event was named “We, too, Love Puch’ŏn.” Yi Ran-ju, a Korean activist who works with migrant workers, calls this festivity a kind of kŏming autŭ (“coming out”) of migrant workers (Yi 2003). Her use of this term, borrowed from English and used mainly in the context of the South Korean LGBT movement, reveals racialized migrant labor in South Korea to be clandestine. While the South Korean state is actively involved in bringing in migrant labor, the state’s production of migrant workers’ political invisibility, economic disposability, and social segregation simultaneously renders migrant workers and their labor clandestine. As in the U.S. immigrant context, such ethnic enclaves testify to the isolation and segregation of the ethnic population from the mainstream, while such areas become not only economic centers that provide various necessary services, but also communal havens that offer emotional respite and cultural interaction among the ethnicized residents. The racial ghettos of South Korea constitute these clandestine 153

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spaces of a subimperial nation-state, one that is multiethnic, and yet one that refuses to acknowledge its multiethnicity.

Female migrants: manufacturing, service, and sex workers and immigrant brides Male migrant workers have always outnumbered their female counterparts, excluding immigrant brides, but the number of female migrants entering South Korea has been gradually growing. They come to South Korea in search of factory or other service jobs in restaurants or sales. More recently, the percentage of female migrant workers in the agricultural sector in 2012 increased to about 30 percent. Starting in the mid-1990s, Russian and Filipina women have been filling the sex and sexualized service industry jobs in South Korean camp towns, servicing the American soldiers stationed at the U.S. military bases. Over the course of last seventy years, the number of U.S. servicemen and bases has fluctuated, but currently in the mid-2010s, there are about 30,000 American soldiers stationed at 15 U.S. bases in South Korea. As South Korea became more affluent in recent years, these sex and sexualized service jobs in camp towns have been left behind by South Korean working-class women, to be now filled by migrant sex workers from the former Soviet Union republics and the Philippines. These migrant sex workers’ experience of economic hardship, social exclusion, and emotional and physical dangers in contemporary South Korean camp towns has been further multiplied and compounded by a combination of factors, such as South Korean racism and racialization, their migrant – often illegal – status, and the lack of their linguistic skills and cultural knowledge, in comparison to their predecessors, e.g. South Korean working class women of the earlier decades (Cheng 2013). Another group of women migrants/immigrants in South Korea are kyŏlhon ijuja (literally, marriage migrants). In the post-developmental era, South Korea has been experiencing a sharp decline in birth rate, resulting in the nation’s anxiety about the future of its labor force and economy. Since the early 2000s, rural bachelors, facing the particular challenge of South Korean women’s unwillingness to live in rural areas and to work in the agricultural sector, emerged as a demographic group who finds their spouses through the arranged marriages with foreign brides. As of the mid 2010s, roughly ten thousand immigrant brides call South Korea their home. About 40 percent of them are Korean Chinese, while others are from Asian and Southeast Asian nations such as the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Mongolia. Most arrive in Korea through the arrangement of matchmaking services. While the state, the mainstream media, and the immigrant brides themselves and their families both in their home countries and in Korea do make a rather categorical distinction between this group of women and other migrant women, we must acknowledge that they are part of South Korea’s recently imported labor force, as they provide a set of specific labor for the national economy, such as unwaged domestic labor, elderly care, and biological and social reproductive labor in giving birth and raising the next generation of South Koreans. Most often, they also perform waged labor outside the home. This particular population of immigrants has been the most important target of the state’s assimilationist multiculturalist policies, which have included various programs and policies, providing them with social entitlements, language education, vocational education, and counseling for domestic abuse situations and familial conflicts, among others. The state’s official multiculturalist efforts have also targeted the mainstream South Koreans in order to educate them about their new immigrant compatriots and their biracial children. It is due to the state’s perception of biological and familial ties of this group of migrants/immigrants to ethnic Koreans that the immigrant brides have become the most, possibly the only, visible population among the broader migrant/immigrant demographics within the mainstream society. 154

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All sectors of female migrants and immigrants deal with Korean patriarchy and racial hierarchy whose compounding discrimination subjects them to financial exploitation, verbal and emotional abuse, and physical and sexual violence. For example, one Vietnamese female factory worker was beaten to death by her South Korean coworker and boyfriend. Perhaps not surprisingly, many marriages between South Korean farmers and Asian women do not work out, due to a variety of factors, including Korean husbands’ abusive treatment of their wives. Both groups of women – female migrant workers and marriage immigrants – often experience similar kinds of discrimination and violence from their South Korean male coworkers or spouses, who exercise their gendered, racial, class power over these women. The fact that they often suffer varying degrees and kinds of sexual harassment on the job connects these different categories of female labor migration to one another; the fact of race, nationality, and class exploitation is always already compounded and complicated by simultaneous gendered and sexual proletarianization. Since the arrival of immigrant brides in the late 1990s in South Korea, there is a growing population of biracial Koreans, some of whom have now come of age and are already producing and raising the third generation of multiracial Koreans. The mainstream’s increasing awareness of the contemporary biracial population, due to the media attention and the government’s assimilationist efforts, has also led to the mainstream South Koreans’ new recognition of and reflection on the preceding groups of biracial Koreans, the children of camp town unions between South Korean women and American servicemen of different races, as well as the children of South Korean soldiers and workers and Vietnamese women from the Vietnam War era. Until very recently, South Korean official multiculturalism has functioned solely and rather violently as an instrument of assimilation and integration of both the immigrant brides and their biracial children. Having come under criticism from academia and more progressive media and NGOs, the state multiculturalism is marginally adjusting itself to govern this population through less assimilationist policies to promote, hopefully, true cultural difference and diversity.

Organizing migrant labor: Korean subimperial assimilationism vs. pan-ethnic anti-Koreanism Migrant labor activism in South Korea can appropriate both national and transnational structures and networks in order to push for progressive reforms and formulate resistive subjectivities. South Korean activists and migrant worker activists have recently begun to reconceptualize South Korea’s labor importation around issues of immigration, social entitlements, and political representation, that is, matters of citizenship. In making the subject of transnational migrant work a domestic or intranational (rather than international) issue, migrant workers and a small minority of South Korean activists expedite the process of what they perceive as an inevitable outcome of continuing labor migration, that is, the reconfiguration of South Korea into a multiethnic nation. Following Appadurai and Sassen, I argue that certain dimensions of globalization, such as the expansion of cultural and communication networks, the development of migrants’ complex transnational and translocal subjectivities, and the emergence of a “new international human rights regime”(Appadurai 1996; Sassen 1998) operate subversively to counteract the powers of South Korea as a nation-state. While the ideological premise for the dissident struggle was to situate the military dictatorships of the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s in relation to U.S. neocoloniality, and thus to grasp the role of the South Korean working class as serving the interests of the neocolonial, comprador, capitalist structure, the student movement in its scholarly activities and politico-economic activism remained largely and staunchly ethnonationalist, unable, or unwilling, for the most part, to make transnational or international connections. It was in May 2001 that the Democratic Labor Union 155

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(Minju noch’ong) launched a new division for migrant workers, holding a ceremony in the student union building at Yonsei University (Hangyŏre Newspaper 26 May 2001). Those who are carrying on the legacy of the democratization movement of the ’70s and ’80s are now attempting to re-inscribe the very meaning of the famous June Struggle of 1987, endeavoring to recast it from a nationalist struggle against military dictatorships and class polarization to a struggle for broader global peace and antiwar causes and the “guarantee of human rights for migrant workers” (Hangyŏre Newspaper 9 June 2002). Even as South Korean labor activism consciously and assiduously contests the dominant racist and racialist ideologies and policies, we must question whether the racial hierarchy created and maintained by the South Korean state and capital in the labor market might be duplicated, however unwittingly, in the sphere of labor activism. The lessons of the South Korean labor movement of the industrializing era seem to function as ideologies of semiperipheral normalization and subimperialist universalism in their very progressivism. The rhetoric of “autonomy of migrant workers” (chajujŏk ijunodong ja), often and emphatically urged by Korean activists, still leaves us with a sense that the issues of cultural, national, and racial hierarchy, and the potential problem of progressivist subimperial universalism, are far from having been resolved. While separated by ethnic, national, linguistic, and cultural differences, it is migrants’ antiKoreanism – stemming from the contingent and situated basis of their shared experiences of exploitation by, and their rage against, the South Korean government, businesses, and society at large – that unites them and produces them as a pan-Asian, pan-ethnic, anti-subimperial, anti-Korean (panhan) collective. Migrant workers’ resistance takes multiple forms, ranging from efforts at Koreanization and integration into the mainstream society, labor activism, and cultural activism on educating South Koreans to the ultimate acts of protest suicide, as their very sentiments and emotions about Korea are necessarily ambivalent and conflict ridden. In the fall of 2003, in anticipation of an upcoming deadline for the voluntary departure of undocumented migrant workers set by the government, a series of suicides was committed by those who found no alternative to death. The meaning of such deaths cannot be reduced to cases of exceptional desperation. Rather, their suicides necessarily take on a collective political import in the context of exploitation and persecution. Given the fact that illegal work in South Korea has often been made possible by the heavy debt incurred not only by the workers as individuals but also by their family and friends, neither their bodies nor their labor power has been truly theirs to freely dispose of in the first place. And when the opportunity to work and attempt to buy themselves and their labor power back is taken away, they can only release their bodies and discharge themselves of their indenturedness by disposing of the body itself. Their financial and social death is actualized or literalized through their physical death. One of the most immediate goals for the migrant worker community is to acquire the same basic three labor rights as South Korean workers – the rights to strike, organize, and collectively bargain. Migrant workers and their South Korean colleagues have recently won a small victory in the area of political participation by gaining the right to vote in and run for local elected offices. The recent shift in demographics is beginning to interrupt the equation between ethnicity and citizenship, one that has been naturalized since 1945. The illegitimacy of migrant workers’ identity, which the South Korean state and capital have colluded to create, must in turn come to disrupt the legitimacy of the concept of an ethnically and culturally homogeneous Korea. In order for South Korea to move beyond the model of ethnonational community, the concept of citizenship must move toward the postnational citizenship that recognizes economic contributions as a basis for social entitlements and political rights. Though deterritorialized and interstitial, migrant workers nonetheless seek to reterritorialize themselves as members of their adopted national community. While in limited ways migrant workers exercise the flexibility of their 156

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membership in multiple national communities, they simultaneously try to establish themselves as inflexible citizens of their new location in a nation-state, that is, to reclaim a level of isomorphism among their territorial residence, their political rights as legal national subjects, and their social and cultural integration into South Korea.

Multiracialization and re-defining “Koreanness” In the new historical context, in which South Korea has become a multiethnic community, if not yet a multiethnic nation-state, the very determinations of what constitutes “Koreanness” are changing – at least within the small sector of progressives and labor activists. “Koreanness” can no longer be defined by blood, ancestry, or biologistic notions of ethnicity, but by residence occupied, material circumstances shared, and the language and culture acquired by a migrant worker population. In other words, “Koreanness,” beyond its exclusive association with a single ethnicity, must be defined as a social, cultural, economic, and political identity that would include subjects of multiple ethnicities. The intrinsic performativity of ethnic identity is being brought out through a Koreanization of the migrant population and their Korean-born and -raised children. We may call this process the “multiethnicization” of Koreanness. One of the ways in which this multiethnicization of “Koreanness” is illustrated is by a deracialization of language, by which I mean the decoupling of Koreanness from certain concepts and expressions that have been intensely and exclusively associated with Korean identity. Such common words as “hometown” (kohyang), “loss of hometown” (manghyang), “homesickness” (hyangsu), and “foreign (other) place” (t’ahyang) have been closely associated with the hardship and oppression that Koreans as an ethnic collective have experienced since the colonial period and through the periods of industrialization. The discourse of “han” that emerged in the 1970s serves as another example of such a racialized notion. The subtitle of a Korean book of photography on migrant workers, Borderless Workers, is “The Record of Tragic Bitterness of Foreign Workers and Korean Chinese.” This use of “t’onghan” (tragic bitterness) – previously associated with ethnonational tragedies, such as the Japanese colonization of Korea, national division, or the Korean War – to describe the plight of non-ethnic Koreans disrupts the close linkage between the Korean language and the Korean race. The deracialization of the Korean language occurs when common phrases used in the 1970s and ’80s at the height of labor and antidictatorship movement, such as “alienated people” (sowoedoen saramdul) and “workers of this soil” (ittangŭi nodong ja), are applied to the migrant workers of contemporary South Korea. Another key word of that era, minjung (“people”), has expanded its referent now to include multiracial migrant workers residing and working in South Korea. The comparability of the material histories and experiences of various ethnic and racial groups has necessitated the delinking of these concepts and sentiments from their exclusive association with Koreans as an ethnic collective. The deracialization of these concepts points to a simultaneous process of Koreanizing migrant workers, one amply demonstrated by migrant workers and their children who speak Korean, eat Korean food, and act Korean – that is, perform Koreanness. While the performativity of Korean ethnicity, embodied in the acculturation process of migrant workers, unravels the exclusivist notion of Koreanness, Koreanness is simultaneously in the process of being reconstituted as relatively inclusive and heterogeneous, ready to serve the interests of the South Korean state and capital. If Korean ethnic homogeneity was once essentialized for the purpose of postcolonial nation building under the neocolonial circumstances in the earlier decades, this heterogenized, multiracialized Koreanness, differently and differentially essentialized, is starting to prove a more effective strategy in advancing the interests of the contemporary South Korean state and capital. On the other hand, the exclusionary form of Koreanness is not transcended but rather 157

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reformulated as a dominant ethnicity and culture, one that is subimperialist and subuniversalist, in relation to other Asian ethnicities and cultures that become minoritized, racialized, and suborientalized. Vladimir Tikhonov’s pointed critique of South Korean subimperialism notes that South Korea functions as a surrogate power for American, European, and Japanese capital (Hangyŏre Newspaper 11 August 2002). In the U.S. context, “the American Dream” has operated as an ideological apparatus that has promoted the assimilation of immigrants, while functioning as an instrument of racial rehabilitation and creation of an interiorized exclusion of immigrants of color in particular. “The Korean Dream” operates in a similar fashion; the fantasy of “Korea,” consisting of images, stories, and commodities, that fuels migration is the very mechanism of interpellation and discipline by dissimulating and camouflaging the reality of institutionalized racialized labor exploitation.

Transnation and translocality in the globalized South Korea and beyond Contemporary globalization, resulting in an intensified rate and scale of mobility, has changed the very nature of the movement of people from more stable and simple modes – immigration and temporary labor migration – to those less stable and more complex – what some have called “transmigration” (Smith and Guarnizo 2002). In this context, we may conceptualize South Korea not only as a stable immigrant nation-state-to-be, but also as what Arjun Appadurai calls a “diasporic switching point,” stretching out and connected to the larger transnational network (Appadurai 1996). South Korea, like other locations, is part of the “migration chain” (iju sasŭl), in which the hierarchy of national economies causes workers to move up and down and around. Both the material and emotional difficulty of multiple and serial migrations approximates a kind of transnational vagrancy, where migrant labor means the barest kind of survival – one that often risks nonsurvival. Nonetheless, we do want to acknowledge certain empowering dimensions of the transnational mobility of migrant workers, and this further helps us to revise our view of South Korea as not simply an immigrant nation-state, but rather as a “transnation” (Appadurai 1996). Migrant workers’ presence in South Korea is part of their multilocal and multidirectional mobility; the complex routes and trajectories of their diaspora, to some extent, relativize their attachment, hardship, and struggle in South Korea. The potential and actual transnational mobility of migrant workers empowers them and helps destabilize the South Korean nation-state’s immobilizing powers over migrant workers. For Appadurai, translocality refers to the production of subjectivities that are deterritorialized from single national, social, or cultural contexts, through movements, and the use of, and exposure to, “technological interactivities” (Appadurai 1996). Migrant workers’ acquisition and maintenance of social ties, cultural knowledge, political memberships, and economic participation in more than one national location generate a peculiar type of locality that is deterritorialized in the transnationalizing and globalizing cultures and contexts, and yet thoroughly embedded in the local cultures and contexts. The newly formed ethnic enclaves of migrant workers in South Korea, which can be viewed as interiorized neocolonial spaces of a subimperial immigrant nation-state, can also be simultaneously reconceptualized as a site of translocal migrant worker activism, whose resistive agency emerges out of their personal and collective interstitial, transnational contexts. Another example of the production of such translocal subjectivity is the founding of various “migrant workers’ broadcasting stations” (iju nodong ja pangsongguk) since 2005, which include multilingual Internet sites, radio broadcasts, and paper newspapers. Migrant workers interact with one another, with their families and compatriots in their native countries and other 158

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locations, and with mainstream South Korean society, as activists, reporters, and community members, to voice and exchange information, concerns, and opinions. Other kinds of cultural and artistic activities, such as organizing rock bands, writing songs and lyrics, mounting art exhibits, and writing essays and poetry, are also part of the process of production of migrant worker communities’ translocal identities. Transnational mobility and translocal identities, while liberatory with respect to one nation, culture, or location, are bound by another set of specific constraints and determinations. The translocality of their cultural productions is anti-subimperial cultural nationalist, pan-Asian, pan–Third World, subversively (anti-)Korean, and oppositionally global. As we have seen, migrants’ subjectivity in South Korea is necessarily multiple, positional, and nonessentializable; as emigrants, they are their native nation-state’s deterritorialized citizens; as immigrants, they are reterritorialized, assimilated Koreans; as transmigrants, they are translocal subjects situated beyond and between nations.

Conclusion I have explored three dimensions of contemporary South Korea – the state’s power over labor migration and migrants, Korean racism against and racialization of im/migrant population, and labor activism of both migrant worker – activists – in the overlapping and yet divergent contexts of South Korea, both as an immigrant nation-state in the making and as a globalized transnation. While this chapter has emphasized the incipient erosion of South Korea’s mono-ethnicity and its national boundary, I also want to point to the simultaneous hardening of the ethnonational boundary. One of the peculiarities of a subempire consists of the multidirectional flows of migration. In conjunction with the recent influx of migrant workers into South Korea, there is also a continuing outflow of South Koreans to various locations around the globe, to the core countries as well as to the peripheral regions. The diversity of the contemporary South Korean diaspora is a stratified phenomenon. While the elite and upper class of South Korea continue to gravitate toward the metropolitan centers of Europe and North America with increased ease, frequency, and affluence, the South Korean middle class also continues to aspire to catch up with its elite counterpart in its desire for t’al-han’guk (“escaping Korea”); they may accomplish their ambition by travel and tourism, or by so-called “education-immigration,” or by different kinds of study, training, and work overseas. Middle-class businessmen have also made advances into various Southeast Asian locations, such as Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, and the Pacific Islands, in search of the economic opportunities and ventures that developing countries offer.2 In something of a contradistinction to the triumphalism accorded the multinational corporations and their mythic success, the media often portray these overseas small-to-medium-sized businesses in the tradition of pied-noir colonial settlers, all-sacrificing pioneers in the hinterland, educating the natives while selectively participating in their local culture and ultimately becoming patriotic expatriates. South Korean entrepreneurial migrants overseas function as deterritorialized and yet isomorphic subimperializing agents who expand the invisible yet tangible boundaries of South Korea as an economic nation-state. On the other hand, the very bottom sector of the South Korean working class, including day laborers, construction workers, and sex workers, find themselves migrating to the neighboring wealthy nation, Japan, making up one fifth of its migrant labor force (Yi 2003). The deepening polarization of South Korea as a postindustrial semi-periphery has articulated itself in these radically contrasting out-migrations of its people. The recent emergence of South Korea as an economic power has also caused a reverse flow of diasporic Koreans from different locations back to South Korea. The incorporation of overseas ethnic Koreans into South Korean transnational capitalism is a stratified process that takes into 159

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account the economic and cultural standing of their respective nation-states. The idea of panKoreanism conceptualizes the overseas Korean population as part of the larger homogeneous ethnic body, despite, or rather because of, their cultural and linguistic heterogeneity, spanning the globe. The diasporic Koreanness is heterogenized and yet re-essentialized, as in the domestic context. This heterogeneity of homogeneous diasporic Koreans serves the new subimperial Korea. In the era of South and North Koreas’ “economic cooperation” – including, among other ventures, the now-shuttered Kaesŏng Industrial Complex – in which we are facing the strange but real possibility of North Korean workers becoming “overseas” Koreans or “offshore” workers for South Korean capital, North Korea has now been reduced to one of South Korea’s diasporic locations. The global Korean diaspora that has resulted from the peninsula’s domination by a series of foreign powers from the late nineteenth century through the early 1980s has now taken on the new role of contributing to the formation of Korea as a transterritorial or deterritorialized subempire. South Korean governmentality over migrants and diasporics is culturally and temporally multilayered. Considering these two broad groups together, the migrant and immigrant population in South Korea on the one hand and the ethnic Korean diasporic population overseas on the other, we see that Koreanness has become multiracial, multicultural, and multilocal. In both cases, Koreanness is multiply hyphenated for a multiracial parentage, for multiple migrations and for multiple cultural identifications. Within South Korea we have, for example, immigrant Koreans, second-generation Koreans, Filipino Koreans, or Korean Chinese Koreans. And in North America we have Korean residents of Japan, Chinese Koreans, and Korean Chinese, who are now fast becoming part of Asian America. In the context of their overlapping similarities and the singular differences among these groups of various Koreans, some are already imagining and creating connections, interactions, and alliances that might be effective in carving out spaces of resistance to redefine and redeploy progressive, open-ended, and heterogeneous Koreanness vis-à-vis the hegemonic forces organized by the South Korean state, capital, and the mainstream media, despite profound economic, cultural, and historical divides.

Acknowledgment This chapter is an abridged and revised version of the last chapter from my book, Service Economies: Militarism, Sex Work and Migrant Labor in South Korea (University of Minnesota Press 2010), and appears here with the permission of the publisher.

Notes 1 Korean Chinese or Chosŏnjok are descendants of Koreans who moved to China, starting in the late 19th century and throughout the colonial period. Some moved voluntarily in the earlier phase of the colonial rule, while others in the late colonial period did so more forcibly and in an organized fashion under the Japanese authority. 2 Recent years have seen the publication of introductory or handbook types of books on overseas immigration or business ventures. See, for example, U Kil and Han Myŏng-hŭi, Hangugŭl ttŏna sŏnggonghan saramdŭl and Segye 240 naraŭi hangugindŭl: tongasiaŭi kaech’ŏkjadŭl; and Yi Sŏng-u, Tandon 1000 tallŏro imingagi. The cover of this last book lists the following countries in Korean in large letters: Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia.

References Appadurai, A. (1996) Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Cheng, S. (2013) On the Move for Love: Migrant Entertainers and the U.S. Military in South Korea, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.


Immigrant subempire, migrant labor Hangyŏre Newspaper. (1998, 4 May). Hangyŏre Newspaper. (2001, 26 May). Hangyŏre Newspaper. (2002, 9 June). Hangyŏre Newspaper. (2002, 11 August). Hangyŏre Newspaper. (2002, 29 October). Hangyŏre Newspaper. (2002, 13 November). James, J. (1998) The Angela Y. Davis Reader, pp. 61–110, Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishing. Kil, U. and Han, M. (2002) Those Who Succeeded Outside Korea: South Pacific. Seoul: Kumto. ______ (2003) Koreans in 240 Countries: Pioneers of East Asia. Seoul: Kumto. Lie, J. (2014) (ed) Multiethnic Korea?: Multiculturalism, Migration and Peoplehood Diversity in Contemporary South Korea, Berkeley, Institute of East Asian Studies: University of California Press. Lowe, L. (1997) Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics, Durham: Duke University Press. Omi, M. and Winant, H. (1994) Racial Formation in the United States, New York: Routledge. Sassen, S. (1998) Globalization and Its Discontents, New York: The New Press. Seol, D. and Skrentny, J. (2004) “South Korea: Importing Undocumented Workers,” in A. Wayne, T. Cornelius, P. Martin and J. Hollifield (eds) Controlling Immigration: A Global Perspective, pp. 481–513, Stanford: Stanford University Press. Smith, M. P. and Guarnizo, L.E. (2002) (eds) Transnationalism from Below, New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers. Sŏk, H. H., Chŏng, K. S.,Yi, C. H.,Yi, H. K. and Kang, S. D. (2003) Work and Lives of Foreign Migrant Workers [Oegugin nodong jaŭi iltŏwa sam], Seoul: Chisikmadang. Yi, Ran-ju (2003). Malhaeyo, ch’andra [Please Do Speak, Chandra]. Seoul: Salmipoinŭn ch’ang.


10 NORTH KOREA NOW Turning point for a regime of rightlessness? Morse Tan

A metaphor of darkness and light Satellite photos of the Korean peninsula reveal the South lit up like a Christmas tree while the North is a dark void, blending in almost seamlessly with the night. Such pictures serve as metaphors for the dramatic divergence of the two Koreas, which contrast each other in most every way: for example, economically, politically, educationally, technologically, religiously, journalistically, socially, culturally and linguistically – to make the list succinct. South Korea has a thriving market economy embedded in a democracy with the highest percentage of college graduates in the world. North Korea’s economy is in shambles under the most thorough totalitarian dictatorship with an educational system majoring in government propaganda. South Korea has more computer bandwidth per person than any other country in the world, six out of the ten largest evangelical Christian churches in the world, and media that it even exports, such as its increasingly popular dramas, especially prevalent in Asia. Its northern neighbors reserve extensive media and technological resources to its small elite even as it stamps out all perceived competition for allegiance, most particularly Christianity, despite the fact that Pyongyang was formerly considered the center of Christianity for all of Asia. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the formal name for North Korea, organizes its society in a caste system by perceived political loyalty – fifty-three levels that determine all benefits, whether food, clothing, shelter, or educational and work opportunities. The DPRK has even sought to eliminate words with foreign etymologies in order to fashion a “pure” Korean, while the Republic of Korea (ROK) has retained the approximately 40% of its words with Chinese roots, for example. The literal and figurative contrast between the two Koreas is that of light – and much of it – versus an enveloping darkness. This chapter focuses on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which is neither democratic, for the people, nor a republic. Instead, to reflect the utter lack of respect for the rights of its people, this author has coined a neologism to describe the DPRK: a state of “rightlessness.” It also poses a severe security risk with the fourth largest number of military units, including all types of weapons of mass destruction, whether nuclear, biological or chemical. Beyond the direct threat, the DPRK has massively proliferated its arms into additional hands that jeopardize the world. After sketching the human rights and security crises, this chapter will introduce recent developments that seek to address the dual crises, as well as further ideas to consider. Although 162

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by no means guaranteed, the DPRK situation may be reaching an inflection point, one that can lead to major change – whether for the better or worse is yet to be seen. Another Korean conflagration could escalate into WWIII, or on the other hand, peaceful reunification beckons as well. The human rights and security crises are too momentous to ignore and require Solomonic wisdom to restore this divided house to a just peace for the whole peninsula. This chapter aims towards contributing, however imperfectly, in the direction of this aspiration.

A state of rightlessness The government abysmally fails to fulfill the rights of the North Korean people. Whether civil, political, economic, social or cultural, the people of the DPRK have been repeatedly violated. The gross, systematic abuse of their human rights remains terribly banal. The regime acts lawlessly, as if domestic and international laws do not exist – like a criminal syndicate rather than a legitimate government. The concentration camps, as shockingly draconian as those of Mao, Hitler and Stalin, perpetrate a panoply of cruelty and brutality. Beyond other systems, they punish three generations of those who are considered against the regime. So grandchildren find themselves punished for their hereditary relationship with a grandparent deemed an enemy of the state. Kang Chol-Hwan (2005) with Pierre Rigoulot wrote the first book-length account relating his experience in a North Korean concentration camp. In The Aquariums of Pyongyang, he describes how his grandmother, who fervently believed in communism, persuaded her extended family to leave their prosperous life as Koreans living in Japan to help establish what she thought would be a communist paradise in North Korea. His grandfather, a successful businessman, was put in charge of the distribution system in North Korea. When the outspoken grandfather offended members of the government, the regime sent him and the entire extended family into concentration camps. In the concentration camp, Kang’s grandmother apologized every day to her family for bringing them to North Korea. In the concentration camp, Kang witnessed and experienced horrors to which no one should be subjected (Kang and Rigoulot 2005). After escaping North Korea, Kang has written extensively about the DPRK as a journalist. He also leads an organization that seeks to flood North Korea with information that would counter the pervasive propaganda of the government. At the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies conference at which we both spoke, he tried to persuade the U.S. government to sponsor his organization’s efforts to spread information into the DPRK. Afterwards, the U.S. passed the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016, which provides funds for this purpose. The U.S. government now provides an unprecedented level of support to inform North Koreans, which may have a transformative effect on the nation.

Genocide North Korea also commits genocide, a jus cogens or peremptory law offense that applies always to everyone. This genocide happens against all who are not completely of Korean descent and are Christians. This constitutes genocide because it is against an ethnic group (all who are not fully Korean) and a religious group (Christians) as such. In particular, infanticide and forced abortion are common practices against those who, for example, are half-Chinese (for details, see Tan 2015b). Too many narratives of the destruction of offspring in the very presence of the mother haunt the reader. One eyewitness report relays: The first baby was born to a twenty-eight-year-old woman named Lim, who had been happily married to a Chinese man. The baby boy was born healthy and unusually large, 163

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owing to the mother’s ability to eat well during pregnancy in China. Former Detainee #24 assisted in holding the baby’s head during delivery and then cut the umbilical cord. But when she started to hold the baby and wrap him in a blanket, a guard grabbed the newborn by one leg and threw it in a large, plastic-lined box. A doctor explained that since North Korea was short on food, the country should not have to feed the children of foreign fathers. When the box was full of babies, Former Detainee #24 later learned, it was taken outside and buried . . . She next helped deliver a baby to a woman named Kim, who also gave birth to a healthy full-term boy. As Former Detainee #24 caressed the baby, it tried to suckle her finger. The guard again came over and yelled at her to put the baby in the box. As she stood up, the guard slapped her, chipping her tooth. The third baby she delivered was premature – the size of an ear of corn – and the fourth baby was even smaller. She gently laid those babies in the box. The next day she delivered three more very premature babies and also put them in the box. The babies in the box gave her nightmares. (quoted in Tan 2015b) Kim Il Sung instituted the systematic persecution of Christians, destroying the former center of Christianity in Asia. He averred: [We] cannot carry religiously active people along on our march toward a communist society. Therefore, we have tried and executed all religious leaders higher than deacon in the Protestant and Catholic churches. Among other religiously active people, those deemed malignant were all put to trial. Among ordinary religious believers, those who recanted were given jobs while those who did not were held in concentration camps. ( Tan 2015b) Ever y study (whether the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, Open Doors, or Voice of the Martyrs) of the persecution of Christians worldwide over the past couple of decades has found that North Korea is the worst persecutor, bar none. Once called the Jerusalem of the East, Pyongyang features two sham churches run by Party members, and small clusters of underground believers. A number around one million have been executed for refusing to renounce their faith. One representative testimony: The steamroller started up. The ultimatum was offered again: Reject Jesus and live or refuse to deny Him and die. They remained silent. They had made their choice. It was clear that they would rather die than deny the wonderful name of Jesus Christ. The steamroller began to roll toward the pastor, the assistant pastors, and the elders and drove over their bodies. They were immediately crushed to death. Onlookers said that they could hear the sound of the skulls popping as the steamroller ran over their heads. Some of the Christians who knew the pastor fainted when they saw the crushed bodies. ( Tan 2015b) The genocide of all who are even partially not Korean (usually Chinese in part) and Christians fill and overflow the cup of judgment that could come in a future prosecution, which is discussed later in this chapter. 164

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Direct and proliferation threats The DPRK wields the fourth largest military on earth. Besides their massive supply of conventional weapons, their means of attack include nuclear, chemical, biological and cyber. Admiral Gortney, head of the Northern Command of the United States and charged with protecting the U.S. from missile attacks, claims that the road-mobile KN-08 is a nuclear inter-continental ballistic missile. If it has not attained it already, the DPRK military approaches strike capabilities to anywhere in the world. The security crisis then rises from a regional issue to one of worldwide concern. The DPRK also proliferates its weaponry and military know-how to other rogue states and terrorist groups. For example, Libya, Iran and Syria obtained their nuclear materials and information from North Korea. Syria has also obtained tanks, bunker technology and chemical warfare technology. North Korea has also proliferated artillery shells and mortars to groups such as Hezbollah and the Tamil Tigers (Tan 2015a). North Korea provided some four billion dollars’ worth of arms to Iran during the Iraq–Iran War (Gause 2015). They have exported missile components to Iran. They also have a mutual defense pact with Iran and Syria. The U.S. passed the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA), which sanctions any individual, government or private entity who participates in proliferation activities (Tan 2015a).

The cult of the Kims, goals and modus operandi It is a cult because the regime tries to fraudulently claim deity for the three Kims, an unholy trinity if you will. Kim Il Sung is referred to as the Eternal President, Kim Jong-il as the Dear Leader, and Kim Jong-un as the Great Successor. Massive amounts of resources have been spent on statues, memorials and monuments exalting the Kims as divine. For instance, a monument patterned after the L’Arc du Triomphe in France, except even larger, stands in Pyongyang to the glory of the Kims – even as the people are starving. The propaganda foists apotheoses of the Kims unrelentingly, sometimes in utterly ludicrous ways. For example, Kim Jong-il supposedly shot mostly holes in one in the lone round of golf that he played and promptly quit because it was too easy for him. Supernatural legends are spun about the births of each of these Supreme Leaders (Tan 2015b). In the DPRK, if one is escaping one’s dwelling place which is burning down, one is legally required to run back into the burning inferno to rescue pictures of the Kims. In a National Geographic documentary about a foreign doctor performing cataract and other sight-saving surgeries in the DPRK, the first thing that the patients do when their sight is restored is to turn to the picture of the Kims and loudly and almost melodramatically declare their gratitude to the Kims. Not participating in the cult of the Kims carries draconian punishment in the DPRK. In addressing the dual human rights and security crises of the DPRK, one must also understand the major objectives and common pattern of this regime. Over the course of three Kim Supreme Rulers, no decisive evidence has indicated changes in the government’s three primary goals: (1) promote positive sentiment towards the North in South Korea; (2) eliminate the U.S. commitment to defend South Korea through a peace treaty; (3) violently reunify the peninsula through military force. These three goals appear repeatedly in North Korea’s words and actions (Tan 2015b). The patter n of the DPRK is as follows: (1) precipitate a crisis; (2) bring to the negotiation table the parties from which it seeks benefits; (3) gain these benefits through an agreement; (4) swallow these benefits; (5) break the agreement and restart the cycle (Tan 2015b). Understanding these goals and its common modus operandi provides insight into what can otherwise 165

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appear to be an irrational regime. One can readily identify these goals and pattern of saber-rattling brinkmanship repeatedly in the DPRK’s diplomatic history. These are among the materials that the Assistant Secretary of State leading the negotiations during the Six Party Talks received from me when he was visiting the University of Texas as a speaker in 2005.

International humanitarian intervention and responsibility to protect The doctrine of International Humanitarian Intervention (IHI) is based on a simple concept, the defense of others. It is analogous to the defense of others doctrine in criminal law, but operates on a grander scale. The two types of IHI are non-forcible and forcible. Non-forcible includes sanctions and diplomatic efforts. The forcible version must satisfy the classic just war principles: just cause, last resort, good over harm, proportionality, right intention and reasonable prospect. The case of the DPRK meets all of these principles, yet concern about the potentially large cost in lives and resources gives much pause. Legally, a state of war already persists because the DPRK has disavowed the cease-fire (Armistice) both verbally and through its hostile actions. Academic commentators generally think that the UN Security Council would be the proper body to decide on IHI. Whether the threat of forcible intervention should support non-forcible efforts like diplomacy is an important inquiry. The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine is a recent variation on IHI. It may be summarized by its three pillars as follows: (1) sovereign states have the obligation to protect their own people; (2) the international community should support the sovereign countries’ efforts to do so; (3) if the sovereign fails or refuses to protect its own people or worst yet, grossly and systematically violates its own people, then the responsibility to protect devolves to the international community, who must respond in a timely and decisive way. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, a proponent of this doctrine, has managed to obtain broad support for the doctrine (Tan 2015b). Its application to the DPRK is easy to see, yet again, the apprehensions about the consequences of following through on this doctrine in a robust way remain.

A confluence of coercive diplomacy: UN Security Council resolutions All manner of diplomatic efforts have failed thus far. The DPRK operates on the basis of force and has generally not been moved otherwise. Hence, coercive diplomacy that concurrently addresses both the human rights as well as the security crises together has the best chance of working. More than ever before, there has been a very recent flurry of legal action taken against the DPRK during this very year, 2016. The United Nations passed its most robust resolution against North Korea. The United States has sanctioned the DPRK more vigorously, both through legislation and Executive Order. The EU has followed the UN sanctions. South Korea has passed the North Korea Human Rights Act and an Anti-Terrorism Act. All of these legal initiatives increase the leverage that can be applied to help resolve the security and human rights crises of North Korea. The main points of the UN Security Council Resolutions 1825 (1993), resolution 1540 (2004), resolution 1695 (2006), resolution 1718 (2006), resolution 1874 (2009), resolution 1887 (2009), resolution 2087 (2013) and resolution 2094 (2013), and resolution 2270 (2016), can be summarized in the following way: (1) they seek to block munitions and military know-how from entering or proliferating from the DPRK; (2) they call for a ban on luxury items entering the DPRK; (3) they try to do nothing to impede legitimate humanitarian, medical, safety, judicial and 166

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diplomatic efforts; (4) they call on the DPRK to abide by its already existing treaty obligations and to return to diplomacy. Resolution 2270 builds upon but then extends further than the prior resolutions in a number of ways, including (1) warns of North Korea’s use of shell companies; 2) restricts the use of gold as a means of sidestepping the resolutions; (3) includes human rights concerns of the people in using language such as the “humanitarian concerns of the international community,” “Expressing deep concern at the grave hardship that the DPRK people are subjected to” and “while DPRK citizens have great unmet needs,” thus joining human rights concerns with security ones for the first time; (4) adds specific individuals and entities that were not included before as sanction targets; (5) includes small arms and light arms in extending existing sanctions to all arms; (6) makes inspection mandatory for both incoming and outgoing vessels; (7) calls for the closing of offices relating to DPRK commerce and for not engaging in business with the DPRK and its entities; (8) expels individuals in violation of these measures; (9) prohibits specialized teaching usable for illicit military purposes; (10) forbids member states from providing vessels for use by the DPRK; (11) bans flights that violate purposes of these resolutions; (12) specifically bans biological and chemical weapons; (13) prohibits the sale of coal, iron, iron ore, vanadium ore, titanium ore, gold, and rare earth minerals (which the DPRK reportedly has over 1 trillion US dollars’ worth); (14) forbids the sale of aviation fuel, including aviation gasoline, naphtha-type jet fuel, kerosene-type jet fuel, and kerosene-type rocket fuel to the DPRK; (15) makes the DPRK asset freeze comprehensive; (16) forbids banking with DPRK banks and opening new branches in the DPRK, and calls for closing bank branches in the DPRK; (17) forbids trade that could support the nuclear or ballistic missile programs of the DPRK; (18) reinforces the importance of state reporting related to these resolutions (UNSC 2016). Enforcement and reporting on past resolutions had been a major problem. The Security Council has been trying to secure much greater cooperation from member states along these lines. Progress has already been made, but much more progress can yet come (Yonhap News Agency 2016).

North Korea sanctions and policy enhancement act of 2016 Galvanized by North Korea’s most recent nuclear test and ballistic launch into space early in 2016, this important legislation antedated UNSC Resolution 2270 by only about a fortnight. They work together to enhance and toughen sanctions against the North Korean government. They both call for CVID, the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of its nuclear weapons programs. It also anticipated Resolution 2270 by incorporating it by definition under “Applicable United Nations Security Council Resolution.” This Act explicitly references the DPRK’s willful violations of multiple UNSC resolutions. It notes the DPRK’s proliferation of nuclear and missile technology to state sponsors of terrorism and the ongoing risk of its proliferation of WMDs (Congress 2016). It mentions the DPRK’s history of money laundering, contraband military exports, narcotics smuggling, counterfeiting of U.S. dollars, cyberattacks, as well as intellectual property piracy against Americans. The Act further recites North Korea’s unilateral disavowal of the Korean War Armistice Agreement, the sinking of the South Korean naval warship Cheonan resulting in the death of forty-six crew members, the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island causing four civilian deaths, the “DarkSeoul” cyberattacks against South Korean financial and communication interests, and the land mine attack in the South Korean side of the DMZ (demilitarized zone) that maimed two South Korean soldiers, which only refer to very recent provocations by North Korea 167

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(Congress 2016). Note that one Korean journal has counted from 1953 to 1996 that North Korea initiated a total of 361 armed attacks, 539 armed incursions, and 687 exchanges of gunfire, aggregating a total of 1,587 incidents (Tan 2015b). The Act briefly mentions the horrors of the North Korean concentration camps and how the DPRK has prioritized military expenditures and luxury goods over the basic needs of its people contra the series of UNSC Resolutions. Along these lines, it forbids aiding and abetting the DPRK in its illicit transactions, citing the UNSC resolutions in this vein (Congress 2016). The Act also cites the DPRK’s destructive cyberattacks, such as the one against Sony Pictures Entertainment (Congress 2016). On a personal and much smaller level, this author’s Facebook page has also been hacked, presumably by the DPRK. Facebook, to its credit, eventually blocked it, noting that its source was in Asia. This cyberattack followed a postcard sent to my faculty mailbox featuring pictures of Kim Jong-un stating that it was “God’s will” for the DPRK to take over South Korea, among other propaganda. Although family members, students and colleagues have expressed concern for my safety, any slight risk I face is negligible compared to the imminent danger faced every day by the North Korean people. Speaking of imminent threat, the Act identifies the danger that the DPRK poses to the U.S. and its allies, the worldwide economy and financial system, members of the U.S. military, global nonproliferation programs, as well as its own people. Along these lines, it identifies DPRK-sponsored acts of international terrorism, such as attempts to assassinate defectors and human rights activists as well as weapon proliferation to terrorists and state sponsors of terrorism (Congress 2016). The four commendable purposes of the Act are to (1) use nonmilitary means to address the DPRK crisis; (2) give diplomatic leverage to necessary changes to the actions of the North Korean government; (3) alleviate the suffering of the North Korean people; (4) bolster the purposes of the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 (Congress 2016). Notably in Section 101, the Act refers to the DPRK as a kleptocracy, defined by Dictionary .com as “a government or state in which those in power exploit national resources and steal; rule by a thief or thieves.” In both Sections 101 and 102, the Act authorizes the executive branch to investigate and sanction specific persons through federal departments and agencies (Congress 2016). Section 103 gives reporting requirements and calls for a complete interagency review of current policies and possible alternatives, including recommendations of legislative and administrative action. Section 104 indicates nine categories for mandatory designation of individuals while providing several additional discretionary designations, including persons indicated in applicable UNSC resolutions. The effect of such a designation blocks that person’s abilities to engage in financial transactions as well as access to that person’s assets. It can also trigger property forfeiture pursuant to Section 105. In Section 201, it noted that the Department of Treasury planned to make new currency with better security features to counteract the DPRK’s supernote counterfeits of U.S. money. It also calls on the President to designate the DPRK as a jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern. This section also urges other countries to more stringently counteract evasive measures attempting to skirt the sanctions. Section 202 notes that 158 out of 193 member states of the United Nations had not submitted reports on implementation of UNSC resolutions 1718, 1874 and 2094. It particularly notes the critical role of China to enforce the UNSC resolutions. It calls for measures to increase the report submission percentage, including by providing technical support. Section 202 mandates greater outreach to the North Korean people as well as support for journalistic, humanitarian and other institutions in the DPRK. This section also addresses both the censorship as well as the human rights abuses by the DPRK regime. Section 203 tries to curtail proliferation while Section 204 prohibits procurement from designated persons. Section 205 seeks to tighten ports and airports and may require 168

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enhanced customs inspections. It even declares forfeiture and allows seizure of violating vessels and aircraft. Section 206 allows the barring of entry of designated persons while Section 207 calls for travel warnings for all U.S. citizens looking to travel to North Korea. Section 208 exempts humanitarian, diplomatic and POW/MIA accounting activities. Section 209 requires reporting as well as the designation of persons undermining cybersecurity. Section 210 keeps Executive Orders punishing those undermining cybersecurity until the President certifies to Congress that the illicit activities have ceased. Section 211 seeks to foster greater cooperation between Japan, South Korea and the United States to address the dual human rights and security crises. Section 301 requires a classified report from the President that contains a detailed plan for making unmonitored mass communications available to the North Korean people, as mentioned above. Section 302 requires the Secretary of State to raise international awareness of the human rights situation in North Korea through a report as well as sustained outreach to other governments, media outlets and NGOs. Section 303 mandates a report from the Secretary of State on North Korea’s concentration camps. Section 304 demands another report from the Secretary of State regarding gross human rights violations and censorship in North Korea – even naming specific governmental entities in North Korea such as the prominent National Defense Commission (Congress 2016). Through Title IV, sanctions and measures under the first three titles may be suspended based on progress made by the DPRK on six fronts. These suspensions may be renewed. The sanctions and measures may also be terminated with significant progress under six conditions as well. These conditions include releasing its political prisoners and CVID of its WMDs. Section 403 authorizes $10,000,000 per annum in funding from 2017–2021 (Congress 2016). Pursuant to this Act, the U.S. State Department added Supreme Ruler Kim Jong-Un to its list of sanctioned individuals. It marks the first time that a North Korean Supreme Ruler has been personally named to a sanctions list.

Executive orders Executive Order 13382 relates to blocking the property of WMD proliferators and their supporters; certain restrictions regarding North Korea and its nationals are the subject of Executive Order 13466. Executive Order 13551 blocks property of specific persons in relation to North Korea; specific transactions connected with North Korea are prohibited by Executive Order 13570. Executive Order 13687 imposed additional sanctions with respect to North Korea and Executive Order 13694 blocked property of specific persons involved in cyberattacks (U.S. Congress 2016). The most recent Executive Order, effective on 16 March 2016, imposes a complete property freeze of DPRK property in the United States. It bans work in any industry of the North Korean economy and prohibits the sale to or from the DPRK of metal, graphite, coal or software. It excoriates involvement, aiding and attempts to engage in human rights abuses, human trafficking, undermining cybersecurity, or censorship (Obama 2016). This Executive Order also forbids exporting to North Korea, investing in North Korea, or financing or facilitating transactions with North Korea, even by a foreign person. This order extends to a prohibition against providing for a person blocked by this order (Obama 2016) not Congress.

EU sanctions Most of the EU sanctions follow the UN sanctions. It additionally bans, for examples, (1) provision of new DPRK banknotes and coins; (2) diamonds; (3) new commitments for grants and loans to the DPRK; (4) restrictions on issuance of and trade in certain bonds; (5) obtaining certain ores and minerals from North Korea; (6) restrictions regarding certain flights involving EU airports and on overflight (EU 2016). 169

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The North Korean human rights act In Appendix I of North Korea, International Law and the Dual Crises, it contains the first translation into English of the then proposed North Korean Human Rights Act (Tan 2015b). This Act passed into law in South Korea in 2016. This law passed subsequent to its analogues in Japan and the United States. This Act broke new ground in the ROK as the first to comprehensively seek the improvement of the human rights situation in the DPRK. Towards these ends, it establishes the Center for Investigation & Documentation on Human Rights in North Korea as well as the Foundation for Human Rights in North Korea (both provisional names). The Center seeks to deter further gross violations of human rights through systematic documentation, which can serve as a basis for future prosecution. It would be housed under the Ministry of Unification and would send its findings to the Ministry of Justice every three months. The Foundation intends to launch projects to improve North Korean human rights through public–private cooperation. This Foundation would engage in research and surveys in regards to North Korean human rights as well as humanitarian aid, develop policies, and support civic and social organizations (Ministry of Unification 2016). The Act would marshal a range of experts across related fields while seeking to produce and implement consistent and systematic policies via the Basic Plan for the Promotion of Human Rights in North Korea, formulated every three years. It would also call for an annual Implementation Plan, reporting both to the National Assembly (Ministry of Unification 2016). Under the Ministry of Unification, the Act creates the Advisory Committee for the Promotion of Human Rights in North Korea. An ambassador-at-large on North Korean human rights within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would work with international organizations, groups and other governments to promote human rights in the DPRK. Through its Article 2, the Act concurrently seeks to enhance human rights even as it seeks peace and the fostering of inter-Korean relations. Article 7 calls for joint efforts with North Korea and for inter-Korean dialogue. Regarding humanitarian aid under Article 8, it calls for compliance with international standards, transparency and aid to reach those who need it most (Ministry of Unification 2016). This Act takes a major step forward for South Korean engagement with North Korean human rights issues. It is a welcome development with auspicious overtones.

ROK Anti-Terrorism Act This Act seeks to actively engage in global terrorism prevention through the Counter Terrorism Center, which resides in the Prime Minister’s office. It looks to focus on counter-terrorism intelligence collection and analysis. It opens the door to criminal investigation of terrorism cases via investigative agencies such as the Prosecutor’s Office and the National Police Agency (ROK Anti-Terrorism Act 2016). The National Counter-Terrorism Council, chaired by the Prime Minister, sets national counter-terrorism policies. The NIS Director has the authority to gather intelligence and investigate terrorism suspects. The heads of related agencies bear the responsibility for protecting important facilities and events. The government may subsidize the owner of potential target facilities to diminish their vulnerability. The Act offers monetary rewards for reporting about terrorism suspects. It also sets aside compensation funds for victims of terrorist attacks. As a counterweight, this Act seeks to preserve the fundamental rights of the people. A human rights supervisor will seek to do so within the Counter Terrorism Committee. This supervisor must be a civilian expert in law and human rights, such as a professor in these fields. The Act establishes penalties for false accusations, false testimony, fake evidence, as well destroying and hiding evidence regarding terror-related crimes (ROK Anti-Terrorism Act 2016). This Act 170

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finally responds to North Korean terrorist acts, which have been numerous over the decades. It establishes legal standards while making supporting institutions to carry out its substance.

China’s central role The DPRK is more dependent on China than any other country by far. Literally most of its economy is tied up with the Chinese economy. China has invested much into the DPRK, most of which would be more accurately considered aid rather than trade. North Korea does reportedly have over one trillion dollars’ worth of rare earth minerals and is wealthier in natural resources than South Korea (Tan 2015b). Although China has been North Korea’s best ally, China has been heavily involved in the passage of the last two UN Security Council Resolutions against the DPRK. China has largely failed to implement the UNSC Resolutions, as trade in 2016 has thus far exceeded trade in 2015. China holds approximately 150,000–200,000 North Korean refugees. China, in accordance with their obligations under the Refugee Convention, must not repatriate these refugees into the DPRK. Since North Korea labels leaving the country as criminal treason, the refugees returned to North Korea typically face torture, time in concentration camps, or even execution. Thus, even if one accepts the Chinese governments categorizing these refugees as “economic migrants,” they still, at a minimum, qualify as refugees sur place because of what awaits them upon their return to North Korea (Tan 2015b). The DPRK government has lashed out against China recently. In March of 2016, the DPRK produced a document calling for all Party members and workers to firmly stand up against China’s hostile schemes against the great Chosun (DPRK) . . . not once has China been sincere towards us when our revolutionary efforts ran into challenges and struggles . . . We must no longer go easy on the Chinese. The title of the document is “All Party members and workers must join us in soundly crushing China’s pressuring schemes with the force of a nuclear storm for its betrayal of socialism.” It is a declaration of enmity with China, formerly its best ally in the world (Kim 2016). It is notable that when the DPRK has engaged in missile tests, China has deployed anti-missile batteries along its border. China now has more reason than ever to do so. President Xi Xinping has met with his South Korean counterpart to discuss what to do about North Korea, which has infuriated the DPRK government. The large and growing trade relationship with South Korea increasingly dwarfs the economic relationship with North Korea (Tan 2015b). China’s largest export market is the United States. China also holds the most U.S. debt of any foreign country, more than one and a quarter trillion dollars’ worth. China has a lot to lose if its relationship with the U.S. sours over North Korea. The DPRK reflects badly on China, which is concerned about its international reputation as a rising superpower. More and more, Chinese interests advise taking decisive action to rein in or seek to transform its recalcitrant neighbor North Korea. The historic reason of China wanting a buffer between it and the U.S.aligned South Korea, of not wanting the United States or U.S.-aligned troops on its border, seems anachronistic, in the sense that the U.S. has remote strike capabilities from anywhere to anywhere. Also, the rising capabilities of China’s military can be seen to obviate this historic reason as well. All in all, China has the greatest ability and increasing reasons based on its own interests to use its clout to make the DPRK change course. Solutions emanating from and lead by China are within reach, if China is willing to do so. A co-led solving of the North Korean 171

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crises with the United States and United Nations is also plausible. China has a historic opportunity; will it take it?

Prosecution The Brookings Institution moderator at a conference (2015) I spoke at said that the North Korean leadership fears nothing more than the prospect of prosecution. Various venues exist that could house such a judicial process. There can be in absentia domestic prosecution in South Korea, as the South Korean government considers North Koreans to be their nationals. The International Criminal Court could proceed on the basis of a proprio motu motion of the Prosecutor. A hybrid tribunal, partially domestic and partially international, could potentially bring the best of both to bear and provide transitional justice. These are three leading possibilities (adjusted but based on Tan 2015b). The prospect of prosecution can powerfully aid diplomatic efforts, not to mention eventually bring redress for the atrocities committed.

Information infiltration The fact that the U.S. government has recently committed to providing the means to flood the DPRK with information countering the massive propaganda that pervades the country should make a massive difference. Many others and I have spoken into North Korea through Radio Free Asia (2015), Free North Korea Radio and other radio stations broadcasting into the DPRK. Leaflets bearing the image of the Supreme Ruler have cleverly brought information to Korea. North Korean security forces who consider destroying it as outside information do not do so because it bears the image of the Supreme Ruler. Sometimes money, including the much-coveted hard currency of U.S. dollars, comes together with the messages. An array of technology is being used to reach the people of the DPRK. When I was recently speaking with the head of North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity (NKIS), NKIS was negotiating with Google about using remote controlled “smart” balloons that could be navigated to reach its target audience. I also spoke with someone at Samsung who was seeking to pour cell phones into the North (Tan 2015b). Flash drives, CDs, DVDs and radios are among the devices being used to communicate with the people of North Korea. The editor of this volume, Dr. Youna Kim, gives an example of even Korean dramas making a difference: In 2005, a 20-year-old North Korean soldier defected across the demilitarized zone and the reason given, according to South Korean military officials, was that the soldier had grown to admire and yearn for South Korea after watching its TV dramas which had been smuggled across the border of China. (Kim 2013: 2)

Savvy humanitarian aid, cultural infusions and exchanges Humanitarian aid organizations have learned to give food that the elite are not interested in because it is considered low-class food, and food that will spoil within a few months so that it would not be stored away as emergency war rations. Barley is a major example of such food. Such food has a much higher chance of making it to the people who need it most. An American college graduate went to North Korea after graduating. Somehow, he managed to gain the position of directing the goat farms in the DPRK. Goats have been touted by the 172

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Kims as the ultimate animal to raise, so such farms are relatively numerous. Another college graduate, whom I had the chance to educate about North Korea before he went there recently, is able to have deep, genuine conversations with people there by swimming laps together with them. His minder does not jump into the pool with him! Indeed, opportunities for family members and friends separated across the DMZ to meet and communicate are very important (Tan 2015b). Sadly, the North Korean counterparts all too often mouth the propaganda that their government expects them to say, leaving too little room for genuine heart-to-heart dialogue. Also, the Korean War generations are increasingly passing away. However, having such exchanges is still better than not doing so. One highly touted example of cultural exchange was when the New York Philharmonic played in Pyongyang (Wakin 2008). Eileen Moon, the Associate Principal Cello, The Paul and Diane Guenther Chair, participated as a Korean American (the cellist to the immediate left of Conductor Maazel in the photograph on the webpage). Eileen happens to have been my former stand partner in the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra when we toured Russia, the Ukraine, Finland and Lithuania. The more that these sorts of cultural infusions take place, the more it may cut against the negative propaganda so rife in North Korea. Athletics can also share common ground. Joint teams with South Korea can compete together more often, for example. Most regrettably though, there are instances where North Korean teams are severely punished, such as the North Korean World Cup team that defeated traditional European powers. The team members found themselves in concentration camps for their “excessive” celebrating (Kang and Rigoulot 2005). In Great Britain, educational, journalism and leadership exchanges have taken place. Great Britain is also home to many North Korean refugees. Lord David Alton and Baroness Caroline Cox (who spoke at my college commencement, Wheaton College, 1997) have been particularly instrumental in such efforts. Their efforts may have contributed to the recent defection of the Deputy Ambassador to Great Britain from North Korea. The President of the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) and the Yanbian University of Science and Technology (YUST), Dr. James Kim, has planted and led these important educational institutions. His amazing story provides a fitting conclusion to this section. Dr. Kim has a remarkable story of his own, which only adds to the symbolic power of PUST. In 1950, at the outbreak of the Korean War, James Kim was just 15 years old when he enlisted and fought for the South against the North. One night on the battlefield, after reading John’s gospel, he promised “to God to work with the Chinese and the North Koreans, our enemies. I would devote my life to their service, to peace and to reconciliation.” Of 800 men in his unit, so he says, just he and 16 others survived. Between the end of the war and the start of the 1980s, Kim travelled the world. He moved between Europe, America and South Korea, working, studying and starting businesses, but he never forgot his promise. When the time was right, he sold his businesses and his home in order to finance the setting up of a university college in South Korea. The project was a success, and by 1992 he was ready to export his model of education to China. There he established Yanbian University of Science and Technology (YUST), which was the country’s first foreign joint-venture university. It was to become a model for his university in Pyongyang. Before PUST could become a reality, Dr. Kim had to return to North Korea. When he did so, he was promptly arrested, accused of being an American spy, and sent to jail to await execution. When ordered to write a will, he told his captors that they could have his body parts for medical research. Stripped as he was of all possessions and property, this was the closest he could come at the time to fulfilling his vow to give everything in the service of the North Korean people. In his will and testament, he wrote to the U.S. government: I died doing things I love at my own will. Revenge will only bring more revenge and it will be an endless cycle of bitter hatred. Today, it will stop here and the hate will not 173

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see a victory. I am dying “for the love of my country and my people.” If you take any actions for my death then my death would truly have been for nothing and no reason. In explaining what then occurred, James Kim told me that “the North Korean government was moved and allowed me to return to my home in China.” He made no public complaint about what had happened and, only two years later, they invited him back to North Korea and “asked whether I would forget our differences and build a university for them like the one I had established in China.” He said yes, but with certain conditions. He was to choose the site of the university; be given full ownership of the land; be allowed to bring in foreign professors to teach; and be authorized to establish a research and development center. His demands were all met and, by unbelievable coincidence or yet another miracle, the site he chose later proved to have extraordinary significance for Korea. On that site had once stood the church built to commemorate the work of the Welsh missionary Robert Jermain Thomas, who was central to the story of Christianity in Korea. The church, which predated the tragic division of the two Koreas, was destroyed by the Japanese during their occupation and was symbolic in many ways of Korean suffering. Dr. Kim believes it was “the hand of God bringing two histories together.” Dr. Kim believes his own experience is evidence that the Korean situation can ultimately be transformed through education – which “has the power to transcend nationalistic boundaries and promote cross-cultural understanding and respect.” Dr. Kim recognizes that change will not happen overnight and “peace comes with a price.” As a childhood friend said of him, “He is neither foolish nor naïve but rather shrewd, precise, resourceful and witty. His appetite and thirst are generated from his ideals and sense of justice” (Alton and Chidley 2013). I had the honor of meeting Dr. Kim on a retreat during which he told the president of a South Korean university who had unjustly spent time in jail, “In order to be great, you must go to jail!” My wife, Dr. Sarah Tan, has former classmates from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST, considered the MIT of Asia), who have played a major role in formulating the curriculum of PUST. I asked them if they tried to eliminate material in the curriculum that could be used for military purposes. They said that they had tried to do so but that at a certain level of abstraction and generality, it would be hard to do so absolutely. UN Security Council Resolution 2270 explicitly restricts specific subjects. I would be interested in asking about how PUST is approaching things in relation to UNSCR 2270 and will have the opportunity to do so shortly after finishing this chapter.

Conclusion Dr. Suzanne Scholte, a long-time North Korea activist, poignantly stated: I am asked all the time: why are you involved in this issue, you are not even a Korean? The fact is this is not a Korean issue, this is an issue that should affect the conscience of the world – no one asks why do you care about the Holocaust, you are not Jewish? Why do you care about Darfur, you are not African? What is happening on the Korean Peninsula is the world’s worst human rights tragedy; no people are more suffering, no people are more persecuted and this is a tragedy that has continued for [over] 65 years – longer than the Jewish holocaust, longer than the Soviet gulags, longer than China’s cultural revolution, longer than the Rwanda genocide . . . I [have come] to know that what is happening in North Korea is breaking God’s heart. (quoted in Tan 2015b) 174

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When speaking at a conference of African attorneys in the summer of 2015, I presented on North Korea. I told them that what is happening in North Korea is like what has transpired in various parts of Africa – yet even worse. As a professor of law that has taught about criminal and human rights violations around the world, I am not aware of a more dire human rights and security crisis than what the DPRK poses. As more and more of the world becomes galvanized about the North Korean crises, and more and more action, whether humanitarian, legal or diplomatic takes place, it is my steadfast hope that this regime of rightlessness, this perpetrator of mass atrocities, this possessor and proliferator of Weapons of Mass Destruction, this land of my ancestry, will again embrace justice and peace. It is not unreasonable to posit that this could happen during our lifetimes, a new era on the Korean peninsula. May the transition of North Korea lead to a peaceful and just reunification of the Land of the Morning Calm!

Further Reading Becker, J. (2006) Rogue Regime: Kim Jong-Il and the Looming Threat of North Korea, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Cha, J. H. and Sojn, K. J. (2012) Exit Emperor Kim Jong-Il, Notes from His Former Mentor, Bloomington: Abbott Press. Davenport, K. (2016a) Chronology of U.S. North Korean Nuclear and Missile Diplomacy, Washington, DC: Arms Control Association. Davenport, K. (2016b) UN Security Council Resolutions on North Korea, Washington, DC: Arms Control Association. Hawk, D. (2012) “The Hidden Gulag: The Lives and Voices of Those Who Are Sent to the Mountains: Exposing Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea’s Vast Prison System,” U.S Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. Kim, M. (2008) Escaping North Korea, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. Republic of Korea (ROK) North Korea Human Rights Act. (2016) do?menuId=2&query=NORTH%20KOREAN%20HUMAN%20RIGHTS%20ACT#liBgcolor0 Tan, M. (2006) “The North Korean Nuclear Crisis: Past Failures and Present Solutions,” St. Louis University Law Journal, 50(2). Tan, M. (2011) “A State of Rightlessness: The Egregious Case of North Korea,” Mississippi Law Journal, 80. Tan, M. (2012) “Finding a Forum for North Korea,” SMU Law Review, 65(4). Tan, M. (2015c) “International Humanitarian Law and North Korea: Another Angle for Accountability,” Marquette Law Review, 98(3). United Nations (2014) United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea, 7 February. Yonhap News Agency (2016a) “N. Korea Continuously Trying to Buy Luxury Goods from Switzerland,” 27 May. 5300315F.html Yonhap News Agency (2016b) “Sanctions Aren’t Short Term Game, Multilateral Approach Matters: U.S. Diplomat,” 1 June. html Yonhap News Agency (2016c) “S. Korea, EU Agree to Keep Pressure on N. Korea,” 8 June. http://english.

References Alton, D. and Chidley, R. (2013) Building Bridges: Is There Hope for North Korea?, Oxford: Lion Books. EU (European Union) (2016) “European Union Restrictive Measures (Sanctions) in Force,” European Commission: Service for Foreign Policy Instruments, updated 7 July 2016, eeas/files/measures_en.pdf Gause, K. E. (2015) “North Korean House of Cards: Leadership Dynamics under Kim Jong-Un,” Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. NKHOC_FINAL.pdf


Morse Tan Kang, C. H. and Rigoulot, P. (2005) The Aquariums of Pyongyang, New York: Basic Books. Kim, G. Y. (2016) “WPK Lays Out Scathing New Approach in Relations with China,” 3 March, www. Kim, Y. (2013) “Korean Media in a Digital Cosmopolitan World,” in Y. Kim (ed) The Korean Wave: Korean Media Go Global, London: Routledge, p 2. Ministry of Unification (2016) “Explanation of the North Korean Human Rights Act,” 3 March, Seoul: Ministry of Unification. Obama, B. (2016) “Executive Order Blocking Property of the Government of North Korea and the Workers’ Party of Korea, and Prohibiting Certain Transactions with Respect to North Korea,” The White House, 16 March. Republic of Korea (ROK) Anti-Terrorism Act (2016). Tan, M. (2015a) “Syria and North Korea: The Underground Connection,” JURIST-Academic Commentary, 31 March, Tan, M. (2015b) North Korea, International Law and the Dual Crises, London: Routledge. United Nations Security Council (UNSC) (2016) “Resolution 2270,” adopted by the Security Council at its 7638th meeting on 2 March. U.S. Congress (2016) Public Law 114122, 18 February, 114th Congress, 130 Stat. 93. Wakin, D. J. (2008) “North Koreans Welcome Symphonic Diplomacy,” The New York Times, 27 February, Yonhap News Agency (2016) “Over 20 Countries Submit Action Plans on How to Enforce N.K. Sanctions,” 3 June, 3500315F.html



Digital Korea


Introduction South Korea (hereafter Korea) has been one of the most networked societies in the world. Since the mid-1990s, Korea has rapidly developed its digital technologies and cultures as some of the most significant areas of the national economy and youth culture with a tech-savvy population. Although Korea is a latecomer to the Internet, it has become a global leader in the realm of the digital. As Korea has advanced its broadband since the late 1990s, Korean digital technologies, such as mobile telecommunications, digital games, and social media, have become the hallmarks of contemporary Korean society. The country leads the world in video games, in particular, online games, as spectator sports, known as e-Sports exemplifies (The Economist 2011). Salient examples that have made Korea notable also include the widespread use of smartphones and portal sites such as Naver and Daum (owned by KaKao) that offer more functions and have a wider influence than similar sites elsewhere. Consequently, Korea has globally become a test-bed “in the deployment and penetration of high-speed Internet access via broadband, as well as an important locus of innovation in mobile and consumer digital technologies and practices, including digital mobile television broadcasting, online gaming, citizen journalism and social networking” (Goldsmith et al. 2011: 71). It is commonly argued that “Japan has engaged in a high profile and official embrace of Digital Japan as a leader of Digital Asia throughout the early years of 21st century” (Goto-Johns 2015: 23). However, with the recent growth of digital technologies and cultures, including broadband, online gaming, and smartphones and relevant applications, Digital Korea has been constituted and well received in many parts of the world. This ideological architecture can be seen relatively clearly in the rapid development of Korea’s tech industries in the late 20th century and then the construction of the digital Korean wave in the early 21st century (Goto-Johns 2015; Jin 2016). Digital Korea indeed represents a phenomenal tour of what a digital life looks like in Korea, covering a broad range of realities, not only several key digital technologies, but also relevant cultural activities, in particular youth culture, new trends in watching television programs and in listening to music online. Only two decades ago, it was almost impossible to envision that Korea would become one of the most significant actors in global digital technologies and cultures. The contemporary reputation of Korea as “a global digital test bed” as well as “a digital powerhouse” seems to have been achieved as an abrupt revelation. 179

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As digital Korea has become part of the fabric of the most networked Korean society, it is critical to understand several key elements, such as information and communication technology (ICT) policy, history, industry, and use of Korean digital technologies. With the rapid growth of digital technologies and cultures, therefore, many scholars in diverse disciplines, such as media studies, sociology, anthropology, and art, have been keen to develop new approaches to digital Korea in order to interpret the convergence of digitization and culture. There are three major approaches – institutional analysis emphasizing government ICT policy, industrial analysis focusing on the role of competition among corporations and the growth of the digital technologies, and the cultural approach investigating both the major sociocultural milieu surrounding the growth of digital society and the implications of the digital Korea phenomenon to digital culture and/or cultural identity. In this chapter, I discuss the recent growth of digital technologies, since the phenomenal growth of digital technologies needs to be analyzed within the overall context of the growth of digital technologies and culture. This chapter addresses the ways in which Korea’s specific history has shaped the growth of digital technologies and culture in the most networked society from several different approaches. Since the major role of the Korean government in reshaping the digital media system is crucial, it addresses how the government has formulated its digital media policy in the midst of neoliberal globalization. It also examines how Korean digital technologies have advanced digital culture, from youth culture to participatory culture. Given that technology cannot be separated from culture, it is critical to investigate the ways in which Korea’s digital technologies, as part of the continuous development of the local digital cultures, have changed people’s daily activities.

How to understand digital Korea: three main approaches Over the last two decades, Korea has been characterized by the rapid uptake of digital technologies and their thoroughgoing incorporation into daily life. As Korea has advanced its own ICTs, the country has invested in several fields of digital technology due to their significant role as a new growth engine for the national economy and culture. Digitization – the combination of digital technologies, their techniques and practices, their uses and the affordances they provide – has been a key feature of the latter stages of the Korea’s “compressed modernity” (Chang 1999, cited in Goldsmith et al. 2011) – a phrase encapsulating the way in which the country has leapfrogged conventional development stages to move from a traditional agrarian society to a paradigmatic information society in just a few decades. (Goldsmith et al. 2011: 70) Digital technologies have created a new media environment that has transformed the way users access, process, manipulate, store, and distribute information. These technologies have enabled people to select, appropriate, create, and disseminate media contents, as well as to have access to a digital media space of communication that extends beyond the constraints of time and space. (Lee, D. H. 2010: 266) As Ahonen and O’Reilly (2007) point out, digital Korea documents how digital technologies would change our lives in ways in which people have never imagined. In a country that has “the 180

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highest penetration of broadband Internet, highest usage of online video gaming, highest penetration of camera phones, highest penetration of 3G advanced cellphones, and the highest adoption of digital TV broadcasts to portable devices,” the exciting processes of convergence are happening as the industries of “datacommunication” (e.g. the Internet), telecommunications (e.g. smartphones), and broadcasting (e.g. Internet TV) are integrated (Sun 2009). There are also several cases showing the form of media convergence between digital technology and content, which has resulted in the new form of Korean culture. For example, the recent growth of Webtoons – meaning comic strips distributed via the Internet originally, but now via the smartphone – in the digital era has shifted the new media ecology. The Webtoon is a combination of cartoon (content) and Web (technology), which is an archetypal case of convergence in digital technology. By merging digital media, manhwa, referring to comics and print cartoons in Korea, is fast becoming an all-encompassing technological regime that affords the user synesthetic experiences along a myriad of functions the media can perform (Jin 2015). Korea manages to retain its competitive edge in the global cultural and technological markets by the versatility of social media and digital technologies (Choi 2015). Therefore, by overviewing and developing three perspectives, such as institutional analysis, industrial analysis, and cultural approach, this chapter maps out the implications of digital technologies in the most networked Korean society. To begin with, several researchers (Lee, K. S. 2011; Oh and Larson 2011) mapped out the increasing role of the Korean government in the midst of neoliberal globalization. What they commonly emphasized was the crucial role of the government, which has developed a state-led interventionism while adopting neoliberal ICT policies, which demands to actualize a small government. When Korea initiated the development of ICTs, several foreign forces pursed involvement in the reforming Korean ICT market and asked the government to undertake a serious neoliberal reform in order to meet global standards. The notable demand came from foreign forces, such as international organizations, including the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and transnational telecommunications corporations. Of course, the major driving force for the opening of the Korean ICT market was the U.S. government, which had a disproportionately heavy influence on ICT reform, as Korea was such a lucrative market and a large trading partner (Larson 1995; Jin 2011). However, the stateled Korean economy has also strongly demanded that the government actualize its own governmental goals in the realm of the ICT sector, which eventually requires the intensifying role of the Korean government. Second, several previous works have focused on the increasing role of ICT corporations and the growth of a few key digital Korea areas. By analyzing the emergence of several digital technologies, such as broadband service, online gaming, and smartphones, they especially emphasized the significant role of chaebol (large conglomerates), such as Samsung, Hyundai, and LG, not only as the major producers and developers but also as major business users (Lee and Jung 1998; Jin 2011). Some scholars (e.g. Lee, J. 2009) also emphasized the crucial influences of digital technologies in the transformation of ICT industries by analyzing concentration and integration across the ICTs industries and the media/entertainment industries. A discussion about the impacts of digital technologies on the ICT industries necessarily includes the debate around the concepts of the digital economy and digital culture. Scholars with more traditional political economy perspectives understand that digitalization is the extension, expansion, and deepening of the capitalist logic of control and domination into the digital realm (Schiller 1999; Fuchs 2009, cited in Lee, J. 2009). They show how digital technologies are ultimately mobilized by big corporate sectors, headed by the financial, information and communications, and cultural industries, and 181

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contribute to the industrial concentration, consolidation and integration. The corollary conclusion about the cultural consequences is a wider spread of the capitalist logic of consumerism. (Lee, J. 2009: 490) What is important is that the growth of digital technologies has been the result of the close relationship between the government and the private sector, in particular with chaebol. Several major conglomerates, such as Samsung, Hyundai, LG, and SK, have substantially invested in the ICT sector, including broadband service, semi-conductors, and smartphones, which has resulted in the growth of digital Korea; however, they are not only players, and the close state–business relationship has a driver. As Kwang Suk Lee (2008: 11) aptly puts it, one of the major drivers of “informatization has been not only the state’s desire to support domestic conglomerates,” which means that there is no doubt that a relationship between the state and the private sector exists in the process of digital revolution. Since the 1980s, “both government and private sectors have exerted concerted efforts to further invest in R&D and secure core telecommunications technologies” (Lee and Jung 1998: 62), and this long-term relationship between the two key players has been crucial in the construction of digital Korea. Third, several scholars emphasized sociocultural aspects of digital Korea, in particular, in conjunction with youth culture, including civic movements in several key issues, as younger citizens mobilized their peers through digital media. From digital politics to civic movements to youth culture, Korea’s growing digital technologies have become a main part of people’s culture and identity. For example, after examining the 2002 Korean candlelight vigils, with a focus on how Korea’s post–Cold War generation collectively defined two Korean girls’ deaths by a U.S. military vehicle as a “national tragedy” and imagined themselves as a collective opponent of perceived Cold War politics, Jiyeon Kang (2009) discusses that the Internet discourse that Korean “netizens” referring to the citizens of the web generated in the wake of the incident shows that Korea’s Internet users interpreted and contested U.S. hegemony by inventing local vernacular discourses: they created a collective identity based on shared feelings, invented criteria for reasonableness, and employed nontraditional forms of civic discourse. (Kang 2009: 171) As Dong-Hoo Lee (2010: 274) also points out, in discussions of digital media culture, one of the most frequently mentioned concepts is digital media users’ activeness, which emphasizes the transformative power of digital media users’ participation, interaction, creativity, and subjective choices. This notion tends to focus on the instrumental usability of digital media, and leaves unexamined the ontological question of changes in everyday life, as well as our perception and understanding of the world. Researchers focusing on cultural realms therefore investigate the ways in which the everyday use of digital technologies has reconstructed, not only ways of enjoying Korean youths’ daily activities, but also means of politicizing their handy digital technologies. The three major approaches discussed thus far in understanding digital Korea are not mutually exclusive, because digital Korea cannot separate technology from culture, nor ICT policy from technology. Admitting the significance of emphasizing a particular perspective, Richardson 182

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(2012: 135) indeed argues that “a heuristic understanding of the nexus of the cultural, organizational, and technological aspects is necessary in order to map out the emergence of new technologies.” Hjorth (2012: 194–195) also points out, “the manner in which technology is deployed is not only a matter of simplistic understandings of technologies and users, but also a matter of conceptualizing the dynamic relationship between the user and their technologies.” As such, digital Korea must be defined based on the sociocultural specificity of the country’s digital technology and culture as a whole (Jin and Schneider 2016). Through this sociotechnical examination of digital technologies and cultures, one may illuminate some of the complexities inherent in investigating digital Korea as they continue to manifest in Korea.

Government ICT policies in the era of neoliberal globalization While several major elements contributed to the growth of digital Korea, there is no doubt that favorable government policies were designed to restructure the national economy and “facilitated a major shift from a dependence on manufacturing to an export-oriented, services-based knowledge economy in which creative and cultural industries play a major part” (Goldsmith et al. 2011: 71). Since the early 1990s, the Korean government has initiated its drive to develop ICTs for sustainable economic growth. By historicizing the growth of digital Korea, one of the most significant policy changes in the ICT sector came with the Kim Young Sam government (1993–1998), which launched an information highway project designed to transform Korea’s industrial system, which depended on heavy and chemical industries, towards a more ICTdriven industrial system (Jin 2016). While several major elements contributed to the growth of digital technologies, it is crucial to understand Korea’s new economy, which is based on ICTs and their contribution to the country’s transformation into a digital society (Oh and Larson 2011); therefore, they argue that the swift pace of Korea’s digital development is best explained by the coordinative capacity of successive governments in tandem with the private sector and the endurance of a commitment to building and leading an information society. Kwang Suk Lee (2011) also points out that the rapid growth of information technology focusing on broadband systems has been made possible mainly due to the nexus of the Korean government and ICT corporations in building national infrastructure. More specifically, the government planned to transform the country towards a knowledge-based economy by setting up the Korea Information Infrastructure (KII) in March 1995. The goal was to construct an advanced nationwide information infrastructure consisting of communications networks, Internet services, application software, computers, and information products and services (Lee, K. S. 2011). The KII project can be identified three major historical periods. The first phase (1996–2000) is aimed at laying the foundation for building a national information network, with the government as the forerunner in making the initial investment. The second phase (2001–2005) is geared toward spreading the use of information networks by encouraging individual and industrial end users. Finally, during the third phase (2006–2010), a higher level of information network use is to be promoted. The national information network would interconnect each and every corner of society, reaching out to the global network. (Lee and Jung 1998: 62) Overall, the KII project aimed at building high-speed and high-capacity networks through market competition and private sector investment, as well as government policies (Jin 2011; Lee, K. S. 183

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2011). Back then, “the Korean government was forced to decide whether to remain a member of the second-tier countries under the digital mode of capitalism or to find a way to make a leap forward” (Lee, K. S. 2011: 54). In particular, after the 1997 economic crisis, this techno-nationalistic discourse acquired a stronger voice and underscored overall cultural efforts to implement innovative new media services based on ICTs. While nationwide broadband networks set the key foundation, game and mobile phone industries have crystallized this effort by not only creating new revenue for the national economy, but also affecting everyday cultural practices in Korea, particularly those of young people. (Ok 2011: 322) In the midst of neoliberal globalization, emphasizing a small government in order to support provide sectors, the Korean government has intensified its primary role in the ICT sector. The liberal governments – the Kim Dae-jung government (1998–2003) and the Roh Moo-hyun government (2003–2008) – continued the ICT-led economic policy, considering ICT as one of the most important driving forces to foster growth in the national economy (Jin 2016). There is no exception in the recent conservative governments. Two conservative regimes, Lee Myung-bak (2008–2013) and Park Geun-hye (2013–2018), have substantially initiated the growth of the digital Korea project. As such, the Korean government has continued and intensified its role as a major player in the realm of digital technologies in the midst of neoliberal globalization. In other words, the Korean government has adopted neoliberal globalization emphasizing liberalization, deregulation, and privatization in order to survive in the global markets, which consequently demand a decreasing role of the government. Since the Kim Young-sam government initiated globalization as the most important national agenda in 1994, the successive governments have advanced neoliberal economic policies, including ICT policies, which asked for decreasing the role of the government, while supporting ICT corporations in order to secure their maximum profits. The government has privatized, deregulated, and liberalized the ICT markets; however, the government has never given up its major role in initiating, supporting, and funding them due to the significance of the ICT markets for the national economy. As the Korean economy itself has grown through the state-led developmentalism, the government continues its function while developing neoliberal globalization.

The emergence and use of digital technologies As the Korean government has developed ICTs and related corporation-friendly policies, a few key ICT sectors, including broadband and mobile telecommunications, surged in the overall ICT market. Telecommunications service providers, such as KT, SKT, and LG U+, have rapidly increased their investments in high-speed Internet, which has become the national infrastructure for the growth of Korea’s digital economy and culture. In the mobile sector, a few transnational corporations, including Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, have produced mobile phones – feature phones first followed by smartphones – to become the top mobile device makers in the world. Naver and Daum have also become two major Internet portals, which are some of the most significant symbols representing digital Korea, because Koreans heavily rely on them for news, information, entertainment, and social network sites. These corporations have turned out to be the primary actors in the ICT sector. They are “business users and beneficiaries who desire to participate in and have an influence on crucial telecommunications decision-making” (Schiller 184

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1982: 89). In this section, I discuss the major sociocultural and economic characteristics of three representative digital technologies – broadband, digital games, and smartphones – that have experienced remarkable growth as ICT corporations benefit from favorable government supports.

(1) Broadband revolution as a key infrastructure of digital Korea Digital Korea started its global reputation with the growth of broadband. Although many countries have recently developed their own high-speed Internet service, Korea’s broadband system was the frontrunner in the global broadband technologies. Korea was late in the realm of the Internet and broadband services; however, the country soon recognized the significance of broadband development to the information economy and accordingly advanced the national broadband system (Jin 2005). Broadband service was first made available in Korea in June 1998 during the Kim Dae-jung government, right after the 1997 financial crisis (Kwon 2012). The country has rapidly increased its penetration rate, the highest in the world. Korea also boasts the world’s swiftest average broadband speeds (around 22 megabits per second). In January 2014, the government announced that it will upgrade the country’s wireless network to 5G by 2020, making downloads about 1,000 times speedier than they are now. Rates of Internet penetration are among the highest in the world (The Economist 2014). In the case of wireless broadband, Korea became the first country to pass 100% penetration in 2011. Worldwide wireless broadband subscriptions in OECD countries have shown healthy growth of over 13% in the last six months of 2011, and now total 667 million, up from 590 million in June 2011. Korea has 100.6 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants (Osborne 2012). The rapid growth of broadband in the Korean context has become a key infrastructure for the development of several digital technologies, including Internet use, online gaming, smartphone technologies, and mobile instant messengers, because the early development of broadband provided a necessary tool for these new technologies, resulting in the growth of information economy in the country. In other words, broadband has become an integral part of the information economy, creating jobs and increasing productivity in companies across the economy (Jin 2005). In particular, the rapid spread of high-speed Internet services has expedited the growth of a few socioeconomic infrastructures, including PC bang (room in Korean). In 1998, there were only 1,000 PC bang in Korea, but they increased rapidly due in large part to the growth of broadband services and became very popular, with approximately 23,500 in 2001 (Korea Game Industry Agency 2007). The number of PC bang had recently decreased to 14,700 in 2012; however, the size of PC bang has increased in terms of the number of PCs per PC bang, from about 37 in 2001 to 65.5 in 2012. Therefore, although PC bang itself has declined in numbers, it does not prove that PC bang is in crisis. In fact, during 2012, about 100 people on average per PC bang visited and enjoyed the services provided (Korea Creative Content Agency 2012, 2013). Meanwhile, high-speed Internet has stimulated an increase in the demand for entertainment and network games. Without broadband services, both wired and wireless services, the boom in entertainment-related content (e.g. Webtoons and K-pop) and online games could not be plausible, mainly because these entertainment products and online games need both high-speed and always-on services. Korea has successfully developed broadband services that would serve as the infrastructure for the information economy. Broadband is quickly becoming a major component of the Korean information economy. In Korea, the exploding web culture has spawned new movements that have powerfully influenced almost everything from education to e-commerce (Jin 2005). The wide penetration of broadband services enables Koreans to engage in stock transactions as well as online games. 185

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(2) Digital games: from online games to mobile games One of the major features of digital Korea has been the swift growth of digital games, in particular online gaming, followed by mobile gaming, which has fundamentally changed people’s daily leisure activities and youth culture, as well as the digital economy. The remarkable advancement of digital games, in terms of market size, the size of exports, and the impact on youth culture, is convincing proof of digital Korea that other countries’ policy makers, game designers, and global youth are keen about. While there are several key factors for the growth of Korea’s digital games, as discussed, it is certain that the rapid growth of broadband service has fundamentally influenced the development of digital games and cultures. Broadband provided infrastructure for the early growth of PC cafes, and people started to play online gaming there, resulting in the growth of online games. However, as Koreans have rapidly started to subscribe to broadband service, many of them enjoy online gaming at home as well. As in many countries, in Korea it was not online gaming but arcade games that were popular until 2006. However, online gaming has substantially increased in the Korean game market, from only 8.8% in 2001, to 23.9% in 2006, to 69.6% in 2012. During the same period, arcade gaming, including both arcade games and arcade game rooms, had decreased from 45.3% in 2001 to 1.5% in 2012 (Korea Creative Content Agency 2012, 2013). The Korean digital game market has fundamentally changed, as online gaming has become the most significant form in the game sector. While Korea’s dominance in the global market has decreased since early 2010s because of two major reasons – one is the emergence of the Chinese game industry, and the other is the growth of mobile gaming in the era of smartphones – Korea is still a major force in the realm of online gaming. In 2013, the proportion of online gaming in the domestic market accounted for only 56.1%, while mobile gaming consisted of as much as 23.9% (Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism 2014). Korea has developed online games based on the improved broadband services, and local online games are currently well received in many parts of the world, including by young players. However, with the growth of smartphone use and the rapid development of multi-functional and speedy smartphones, mobile gaming has substantially grown. Other data indicate the phenomenal growth of digital games for the digital economy. In 2002, Korea only exported $140 million worth of games, while importing $160 million worth of games. However, in 2013, the country exported goods worth $1.72 billion, about 90.1% of which consisted of online gaming (Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism 2014). The Korean digital game industry has reigned supreme as the most significant cultural genre in the global cultural market for Korea (Jin 2016). Only two decades ago, the digital game industries were identified as a small cottage house; however, with the phenomenal advancement of domestic online games, followed by mobile game corporations, the digital game sector has become the most significant digital industry, symbolizing 21st-century capitalism. Several game corporations such as Nexon, NCsoft, and CJ are now among the largest ICT firms representing digital Korea, due to their role in the national economy and digital culture.

(3) Smartphones as a converging new digital technology As the most recent phenomenon in the digital Korea context, the country has substantially advanced smartphone technologies and cultures. Korea has developed several digital technologies, including several applications and software pertinent to the smartphone. Mobile technologies are not new for Korea, but the smartphones have recently represented the most networked society in the world. Several corporations, including Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics,


How to understand digital Korea

have rapidly developed their own smartphones and competed with Apple’s iPhones in both domestic and global markets since 2009. Korea has also recently advanced its smartphone technologies and relevant applications (hereafter apps), including instant mobile messengers, such as KaKaoTalk and Line. Korea started its wireless telecommunications service in 1984 when the car phone service began. Back then, there were only 2,658 users (Lee, H. 2014), but the smartphone in the 2010s has changed people’s daily activities. Korea had 53.2 million mobile subscriptions at the end of August 2015. The number of smartphone users spiked to exceed 42.3 million during the same period, consisting of 79.6% of total mobile phone users, up from around 1.6% of total mobile phone users in December 2009 (Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning 2014, 2015). The growth of smartphone users is one of the fastest in the world, and people’s daily activities without smartphones cannot be imagined, because Koreans use the smartphones to talk with friends, play mobile games, take photos with digital cameras, and organize meetings, including social movements. The rapid growth of the smartphone has indeed changed several sociocultural environments. Korea has witnessed a swift growth of mobile games in the 2010s. In 2013, the market value of gaming in Korea, including console/handheld, online, mobile, arcade, and PC games, was as much as $8.06 billion. The online game industry accounted for as much as 67.4% of Korea’s total gaming industry, followed by mobile (28.8%), console, arcade, and then PC games (Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism 2014). Until 2010, console/handheld gaming was the second largest; however, in 2011 mobile gaming surpassed console/handheld gaming to become the second largest due to the phenomenal growth of smartphones. “Mobile technologies are probably the most rapidly updating sector in the Korean techno-sphere; their impacts are immediate and visible as they continuously replace or refurbish old communication and media services” (Ok 2011: 324). Meanwhile, two Internet portals, Naver and Daum, have also developed two mobile instant messengers – KaKaoTalk and Line, which have become platforms for several applications, including mobile games. The smartphone revolution itself was late in Korea; however, it did not take much time for the country to jump onto the smartphone bandwagon. Two major Internet portals, again, KaKaoTalk and Naver, have developed instant mobile messenger applications for free calls and messaging. Consequently, Korea has become the test bed for various technical and social innovations, including mobile television, mobile games, camera phone culture, and locative media (Hjorth and Chan 2009; Lim and Goggin 2014). Digital Korea consists of two major areas – technology and culture – which cannot be separated. Without understanding digital culture and its critical juncture with digital technologies, one cannot claim that he or she understands digital Korea. While it is not the major focus in this chapter, it is interesting to note that North Korea has also developed its digital technology and culture. North Korea introduced its mobile service in the early 21st century, resulting in as many as three million subscribers of 3G cellular service as of November 2015 (Williams 2015). Based on the increasing number of mobile subscribers, social media remains off-limits to virtually all North Koreans, but it started to allow foreign visitors access to 3G on their mobile phones provided by Koryolink – a partnership company between Egyptian telecoms firm Orascom and the North Korean government – in 2013 sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Additional services, like MMS picture messaging, have been common, as subscriber numbers of this particular service passed 2 million users in 2011 (BBC News 2013). Of course, the North Korean government has continued to censor these digital technologies; therefore, North Koreans have to restrict their use of mobile and/or social media.


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Digital culture: a double-edged sword The swift growth of digital society has also been well witnessed in many aspects of people’s daily activities. Korea’s reputation rests in part on statistics that place it at the global forefront in terms of broadband penetration and internet speed – that is, its infrastructural “hardware” – but it is equally in the cultural expression of Korea’s engagement with digital media – its “software” – that the nation evinces characteristics that call for attention. Compressed modernization in Korea has brought about contestation over acceptable behavior, and several recent incidents highlight the thorny negotiation of cultural practice in the Web 2.0 era. (Epstein and Jung 2011: 79) With the case of digital cameras, for example, Dong-Hoo Lee (2010: 274) observes, “the everyday use of digital cameras and digital networks has reconstructed ways of capturing moments and of experiencing place.” Of course, it is certain that the rapid growth of digital technologies and cultures has been made possible primarily due to the swift adoption of them by Korean people, which means that Koreans as either consumers and users play a key role in the growth of digital society. In this regard, Ok (2011) points out: Koreans who are exposed to one of the most technologically saturated environments in the world play a key role in transforming Korea into Digital Korea, both structurally and culturally. The majority of Koreans have been appropriating the latest new media technologies – from broadband Internet to mobile TV. They are major residents and managers of vast online communities, avid gamers who support the world’s largest online game industry, and users of the newest mobile media. Koreans’ roles as early adopters and explorers of new media technologies elevate their position as bearers of future hope: social agents who are compelled to continue future national development in an ever-evolving IT Korea. (Ok 2011: 337) As such, while government policy and competition among ICT corporations, including start-ups, have played a key role, people who quickly adopt new digital technologies, in addition to the social milieu surrounding the development and growth of digital technologies, also played a major role on the early development of broadband services and smartphones. Young people’s engagement in digital technologies suggests that digital technologies have become a symbolic and material resource for their networked lifestyles. Although the majority of studies on youth practices of new media technologies in Korea revolve around the issues of policies and media effects, it is notable that Korean scholars unanimously confirm the centrality of participatory youth culture in the establishment of Korean new media space across every ICT sector. However, as major commercial sites such as portals, digital games, and Internet TV become the center of academic attention, youth practices outside of these commercially established media spaces remain unexplored. In this context, the recent Candlelight Protest demonstrates how young people quickly took over established media spaces through their salient and creative use of new media technologies, though momentarily, to mobilize public opinion. The dramatic transformation of fangirls into “candlelight so-nyeo (girl)” during the Candlelight Protest suggests the further potential of new media technologies in cultivating a new 188

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mode of civic engagement and political communication (Ok 2011: 337–338). Therefore, studies of Korean digital technology practices provide a fascinating lead to further our awareness about the integral role of culture in shaping technological use, by manifesting how the local appropriation of technology prefigures the potential of technology. Meanwhile, Korea has greatly advanced digital literacy so that many people are able to comfortably deal with digital technologies. What accounts for the unique Korean experience is the overarching public discourse on the sociopolitical importance of ICTs, which underscores the strong institutional and systemic push for digital media literacy. In particular, after the 1997 economic crisis, this techno-nationalistic discourse acquired a stronger voice and underscored overall cultural efforts to implement innovative new media services based on ICTs. This industrial effort paralleled the intensified educational policy on digital media literacy. (Ok 2011: 321–322) Consequently, digital storytelling integrated with powerful technology in the Korean context can be an effective tool to enhance teaching and learning in classrooms (Xu et al. 2011). Likewise, many news media, both newspapers and broadcasters, have vehemently developed their strategies to advance digital storytelling in order to attract audiences equipped with digital technologies and digital media literacy. Digitally driven Korean society, however, is not a rosy utopia. With the rapid growth of digital technologies, several significant social problems, such as Internet addiction, digital bullying, privacy intrusion, and digital divide, surge. As Korea has rapidly developed its digital technologies and cultures, digital bullying (or digital Wang-tta in Korean) has become common in both digital games and smartphone-related areas. Based on her own ethnographic field research, for example, Florence Chee (2006: 234) indeed points out that “Wang-tta, which describes isolating and bullying the worst game player in one’s peer group, which is similar to the Japanese term for bullying, Ijime, emerged in Korean gamers.” Chee (2006: 239) argues that the Korean social phenomenon of Wang-tta, which includes the act of singling out one person in a group to bully and treat as an outcast provides additional insight into one of the motivations to excel at digital games and one of the strong drivers of such community membership. Smartphone bullying is also emerging in digital Korea, as several teens use smartphones and relevant apps, such as KaKao Talk and Line, to mentally harm some students in school and corporations. Digital Korea also experiences a couple of additional issues, including addiction to games and smartphones, in addition to the Internet. Although these phenomena are also found in many other countries, the degree of addition is much higher in Korean than in other countries. While the scene on the Seoul subway resembles any other modern underground network: throngs of high school students and commuters, hunched over, aloof to their surroundings, unable to stop playing with their hand-held devices, in Korea, people take their digital habits to an extreme. “A rise in the number of teens at risk for smartphone addiction – a condition that some psychologists formally call nomophobia (for no mobile phone phobia): the fear of being without one’s phone” (Cain 2014). According to a March 2014 National Information Society Agency study, for example, about 25% of Korean high school students are prone to addiction. The study also found that 189

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9% of adults are at risk of smartphone dependency. The average Korean smartphone owner spends more than four hours a day bonding with her device. The Korean government has “aggressively embraced the web as part of its uber-successful development strategy. Korea was the first to roll out the searing LTE-A network last summer. And it already plans to unveil a 5G network by 2017 that will let users download an entire film in one second. But there’s evidence that excessive smartphone use is harming the nation and its youth” (Cain 2014). In fact, a recent study found that in Korea, where 72% of children own a smartphone by the age of 11 or 12 and spend on average 5.4 hours a day on it, about 25% of children were considered addicted to smartphones. The study, to be published in 2016, found that stress was an important indicator of one’s likelihood to become addicted (BBC News 2015). The panacea of new technology, including broadband service and smartphones, may reduce existing social issues to vestiges of the past; however, technology will always be the reality of human hierarchy and domination (Demont-Heinrich 2008). While digital technologies are no longer luxuries for many Koreans, some still suffer from both existing and newly emerging socio-economic problems.

Conclusion This chapter discussed the recent growth of digital technologies and cultures in Korea. Korea was a latecomer in terms of the Internet and broadband; however, the country has rapidly advanced several digital technologies, including broadband service, online games, and smartphones and relevant applications, which make digital Korea. Digital technologies have become some of the most important in the early 21st century, and they have become the most innovative technologies in Korea. The surge of digital technologies and cultures can be explained by addressing the favorable ICT policies, severe competition among ICT corporations, and enthusiastic digital technologies consumers. In fact, digital Korea is about not only the growth of digital technologies but also digital culture, and eventually the convergence of technology and culture. As Epstein and Jung (2011: 78) points out, “Korea frequently is regarded as standing at the vanguard of the digital revolution, and its status as perhaps the world’s most wired society makes it a fruitful case study for considering how digital culture may develop.” The digital Korea phenomenon has offered a relentless opportunity to understand people’s newly emerging changing behaviors, evoking our awareness about the integral role of culture in shaping technological use. Moreover, Korea’s engagement with new media demonstrates how the local appropriation of technology supersedes the potential of technology. It also reveals the heterogeneous constitution of new media culture. (Ok 2011: 320) This implies that it is critical to understand that the double-edged nature of digital technologies, which asks us to contemplate diverse views. Digital technologies, such as broadband, digital games, and smartphones, provide new opportunities for many, but they also have several harmful effects. Digital technologies have continuously transformed Korean society toward networked and socially connected urban space. The remarkable growth of digital Korea, of course, needs to be carefully analyzed because of several negative consequences, such as the digital divide and privacy invasion, in addition to digital bullying and addiction. How to deal with these social issues embedded in digital technologies is a next big step that digital Korea faces. 190

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Modern Korean Literature emerged at a historical intersection: in 1910, the Korean nation was subsumed by the Japanese Empire for what seemed like the foreseeable future. The Korean economy, politics, and society began a process of modernizing transformations that altered the relationships between the individual, the family, and the nation. New realities – including urbanization, the gradual extension of education across classes, the dissemination of print culture among a burgeoning readership, the visibility of women, children, laborers, and dilettantes as subjects of the new nation, and experimentation with the Korean language, which had long existed in a complex duality of vernacular speech and Chinese script – found vivid expression in visual and textual culture. At the turn of the twentieth century, Korean literature identified itself as “new” and “modern” precisely because it was deeply implicated in these new realities taking shape. This chapter seeks to understand the “Korean” in Korean literature by exploring fiction and poetry in the context of a unique history of colonialism, war, postwar reconstruction, authoritarian rule, and the digital age. The chapter will begin with an examination of how Korean intellectuals and writers perceived the challenge of the modern, as well as interrogate how the writing craft responded to a colonial regime that posed a growing threat to the future of Korea as a nation and Korean as a language. Following liberation and division, the chapter will then address how writers responded to authoritarianism and ideological polarization to produce some of the most politically engaged yet ethically ambivalent texts of the period. It will then conclude with a discussion of how Korean literature has had to contend with its developing digital environment. As the most wired nation in the world, Korea’s readers are more connected than ever to cyberspace. Traditional, material-based texts must now compete with multiple visual narratives that vie for readers’ limited attention and time. Webtoons, Korea’s original contribution to online cartoon culture, have emerged as part of the nation’s textual culture, with a unique deployment of literary narrative techniques and cinematic devices.


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“New Fiction” in modern Korea Histories of literature are constructions in constant flux. Their natural end-point, barring our ability to foresee the future, is the present moment. But where to begin is a thorny question. All beginnings carry certain assumptions, that for example, a historical change prompted a break from the past and facilitated the emergence of something “new,” or that a transformation occurred in the hearts and minds of writers, ushering an evolution of form and content. Such, too, is the case of modern Korean literature, which identifies its origins with the turn of the twentieth century. This point of origin serves as a beginning for several reasons. First, this period witnessed the birth of a new genre called sin soseol, which translates literally as “New Fiction.” Second, it was accompanied by meditations on the new role that fiction should play in the emotional, inner life of the Korean people, a role inextricably connected to modernity. And third, the term “Literature,” or munhak in Korean, came into currency in a self-conscious manner during this period, reflecting a desire to ascribe the genre with new importance. Yi Injik’s serialized novel Tears of Blood, published between July 20 and October 10, 1906, opens with an overwrought mother dashing across a field of corpses searching in vain for her daughter Oknyeon (Yi 1989). The First Sino-Japanese War (1894–5), much of which had been fought on Korean soil, serves as the historical backdrop for this story. The drama of Tears of Blood is created by separations and reunions that occur between husbands and wives, parents and children, and between lovers. The novel’s characters undertake a journey that is both physical and emotional, a journey that leads each character from a lower level of development to a higher, more sophisticated engagement with the world. Tears of Blood was dubbed as a “New Novel,” and as such the genre signaled change in several ways. First, it gestured to a new era in East Asia that followed centuries of Chinese cultural and political dominance. According to Andre Schmid, this period witnessed the “de-centering of China,” in which Korean intellectuals sought to construct a national identity oriented away from the Middle Kingdom (Schmid 2002). Second, it located a young girl, Oknyeon, as the central protagonist, a rather atypical fictional choice for the time. In the novel, Oknyeon moves from Korea, to Japan, to the West, and back to Korea, tracing a trajectory both geographical and ideological in nature. While she does so, she evolves from filial daughter into loyal wife, and in the process narrates the birth story of the modern Korean family (Yang 2014: 113). As Yoon Sun Yang explains, the women of this novel are marked by an incipient form of citizenship to the extent that they are no longer perceived as belonging to a particular status of families but unvaryingly to the Korean nation where each and every home regardless of social status is given an equal standing among the others. (Yang 2014: 109) This novel, and others like it, came to represent a genre of fiction that pointed to changes in the relationships between home and nation, private and public, interior life and exterior world. In the words of Paik Nak-chung, “it becomes possible to postulate that the ‘modern period’ of our literary history began when our literature became conscious of the historical demand that Korean literature be by its very nature ‘national literature’” (Paik 1993: 560). It is important to note, however, that the modern in Korean literature in this period manifested itself in more than just plot. What was at stake at this transitional moment was the role that literature needed to play in the transformation of the hearts of its readers. Kwon Bodeurae explains that the concept of yeonae, or love, appeared around 1910 as an emotion that represented a new strategy for the elevation of the interior, private space that remained outside institutional control 194

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(Kwon 2005). None advocated for the virtues of emotion in literature as vehemently as Yi Gwangsu did in his 1916 essay, “What Is Literature?” (Yi 2011). Yi remains a highly controversial figure in Korean literary history for his move from nationalism to an enthusiastic embrace of the Japanese empire. In this essay, he weighs in on the difference between “old” and “new” literature, as well as the definition of literature as that which “embodies human emotions and thoughts in specific forms” (Yi 2011: 294). He goes on to say that literature is derived from emotions and therefore “should not be subordinated to politics, morality, or science; rather, it is an autonomous entity connected to our lives on a deeper level than knowledge and will” (Yi 2011: 297). He applied these views in his canonical full-length novel The Heartless, which he began to serialize in 1917 (Yi 2005). The question of emotion and affection is at the heart of this novel, and to this day, it is regarded as Korea’s first modern piece of fiction. Indeed, as Hwang Jeongyeon explains, Yi Gwangsu’s contribution to the development of modern Korean literature as a new aesthetic form lay in the distinction he made between literature and scholarship and in his belief that unfettered emotion was the driving force of literature (Hwang 1999). “The restoration of human body and sensibility that [Yi Gwangsu] attempted,” Hwang argues, “brought to an end to man’s status as an agent of some abstract ethics and made him a desiring subject bearing the spectacle of nature within himself ” (Hwang 1999: 30). What made emotion such a powerful driving force was the fact that it was neither a slave of cognition nor was it subject to politics or science. Yi held the view that literature could be established as independent and autonomous, with the capacity for feeling as the very source of morality (Hwang 1999: 30). The written language was the medium, of course, and Yi Gwangsu, alongside others like Choe Namseon and Kim Dongin, strove to write fiction in the Korean vernacular in a manner that more closely approximated the spoken idiom. They also strove to create a space of interiority by distancing the narrator from the objects of his narration, and they did so through insertions of third-person pronouns and new verb endings that had not been used in the past (Kwon 2012). Yet while the Korean vernacular was the vehicle, and emotion the target, the ultimate ambition was to create an awakened national subject. Thus, at the dawn of modern Korean literature, the bond between language, literature, and the nation was forged.

Writing colonial subjectivity The colonization of Korea in 1910 marked the demise of the Chosun dynasty, which had spanned over 500 years, and it cast a long shadow over Korea’s future. For the next thirty-five years, family life, the community and workplace, the countryside and cities, and the relationship between the individual and the nation all underwent dramatic change. Perhaps most significantly for literature, the very spoken and written language of the Korean people was placed under new scrutiny even as Korean was being undermined by its displacement in favor of the colonizing language of Japanese, which was called officially the “national language.” All these cast the relationship between literature and politics in new light. One significant change at this time had nothing to do with language at all – at least the spoken and written language. The change came in the field of visual culture, and more specifically, it came in the form of the introduction of photography. Janet Poole draws a parallel between the history of photography in the Korean colony and writers’ evocation of minute detail and elaborate description. She argues, “the visual training that arose with photography and practices of sketching is equally implicated in the production of a certain kind of subjectivity” (Poole 2014: 19–20). Powers of observation, such as the kind that Poole traces in the works of colonial writers, developed through photography and were practiced by an increasing number of people with access to these technologies. Here, the term “power” also gestures to the mechanisms of colonial 195

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power that organized things in hierarchy of importance and value, making some things visible at the expense of others. Theodore Hughes engages with this point as well, stating, “the relation between the verbal and visual was central to the formation of the notion of literature in the colonial period and to the colonial history of identifications” (Hughes 2012: 2). For Hughes, the ability to visualize – not just conceptually but concretely, through technologies of photography and film – changed the concepts of space and time. Examples of this abound in colonial fiction, among them the 1934 short story by Kim Dongin titled “The Photograph and the Letter” (Kim 1998). In it, a jealous lover engages in extensive grooming for his sweetheart after glimpsing a picture of her “husband” on the wall. His hubris is revealed at the end of the story when he discovers that her husband is actually a homely fellow, and that she had deceived her lover with a photograph of “a Chinese actor, or maybe an aristocrat” (Kim 1998: 86). He is incensed less by her betrayal of his affections and more by his humiliating defeat by a photograph of a man he never even had a chance of besting. Such stories challenged the extent to which new technologies made the world more knowable, and cast into question the ability of word and picture to capture the world. Indeed, the knowability of the world and the possibility of capturing it in language was a central concern of the writers of the colonial era. On this topic, Christopher Hanscom (2013), Nayoung Aimee Kwon (2015), and Sunyoung Park (2015) provide rich and compelling accounts. For Hanscom, the most productive way of engaging with fiction by modernist writers – those of the pure literature school and whose writing confounded any facile political interpretation – is the concept of the “colonial double bind.” To explain this, Hanscom draws on colonial discourse scholarship (for example, Homi Bhaba’s The Location of Culture) and on other interdisciplinary work from philosophy and cultural studies, to explain the split nature of colonial discourse that seeks to assimilate the colonized on the one hand, while maintaining an essential and unassailable difference on the other (Hanscom 2013: 55). The writers from this era faced the following question: how can one write meaningfully when words cannot signify the objects that they indicate, when the very representability of reality is thrown into question? This conundrum, he argues, drove much of the fiction of this era, including the canonical 1934 text, “A Day in the Life of Kubo the Novelist” by Pak Taewon (Pak 2010). In this novella that follows a narrator-writer in his hysterical navigation of a bustling colonial city, the lack of commensurability between things and their fixed meaning manifests itself in the narrator’s inability to know his own desires, and in a confounding tentativity embedded in the language of the text (Hanscom 2013: 70). Kwon ascribes these contradictions to what she calls “colonial intimacies,” in which the politics of language play a central role. She views those Korean colonial writers who wrote for Japanese imperial audiences as those who wrote “in an attempt to participate in the imperial discursive space” (Kwon 2015: 15). See, for example, Kim Saryang’s story, “Into the Light” (Kim 2011), in which a young boy’s crisis of identity reveals itself to be shared by the narrator, thus exposing the ambiguity of those relationships as framed by colonial and imperial regimes of language and identity (Kwon 2015: 59–79). At the same time, Janet Poole (2014), who writes about many of the same writers examined by Hanscom and Kwon, identifies the origins of the crisis of representation less in the colonial double bind or the ambiguity of colonial intimacy and more in the impending sense of a disappearing future – the future of the Korean nation and the Korean language – that was a part of the everyday experience for Korea’s writers who worked in the shadow of the second Sino-Japanese War (1937–45) and the Pacific War (1941–1945). Poole argues that the presence of details and unruly “things” in colonial narratives disrupted the very marker of modernity: linear, forward moving time that promised to carry the colony into a future more developed than the past or present. It was the unruly details, such as those in Yi Sang’s 1936 short story, “Wings,” 196

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that expose the state of mind of the narrator, a state of mind that is revealed not by a rational voice but through his obsessive focus on details, and whose lack of coherence forces the readers to make their own logic. For instance: My wife’s room has always been lavish. In contrast to the simplicity of my room, where not a single nail protrudes from the walls, there are hooks all around her room just below the ceiling, gorgeous skirts or blouses hung on each one. The varied patterns are pleasing to the eye. From snatches of her skirts I conjure again and again the whole of my wife’s body and the various poses it can strike, and then my heart always misbehaves. ( Yi 2005: 69) Such details exposed the ways in which daily life was “contested and transformed by historical forces large and small” with a vitality that exceeded the limitations asserted by imperial narratives of progress (Poole 2014: 50). The lasting impact of leftist culture on colonial fiction is also attested to in the work of Theodore Hughes and Sunyoung Park. Park (2006) argues that realism as a literary device, which was espoused by many leftist writers, referred not just to a mimetic writing style. “Depicting the real,” Park explains, “meant, more than anything else, to expose the exploitative colonial social order, which the colonizer veiled by the rhetoric of gradual reform” (Park 2006: 186). For writers like Kim Namcheon, author of “Barley” published in 1941, a focus on the everyday disrupted the depoliticized commercial culture of the colony. The everyday was saturated with politics, and for this reason, the everyday could reveal deeper structures and offer a less schematized and doctrinal approach to literary production (Kim 2010; Park 2009: 868). “Barley” describes the angst of Mugyeong, a young woman whose lover, Sihyeong, has been jailed for his leftist convictions. Despite parental objections on both sides, Mugyeong devotes herself toward his release at great personal and financial costs. When he is released, however, Sihyeong reveals himself to be quite the thankless lover, having undergone a “complex psychological transformation” during his two years in prison (Kim 2010: 202). The defiant spirit that got him in jail in the first place has now been replaced by a new resolve to return to Pyeongyang, his hometown, and “abuse and sacrifice all that belonged to my past on the road to a new future” (Kim 2010: 205). A new tenant in Mugyeong’s building, Yi Gwanhyeong, flirts with her and shares his philosophy: “Human life is like barley. If you are not sown in the earth to germinate there, what does it matter? In the end you are milled to become bread. You should instead pity those who are not milled straightaway” (Kim 2010: 227). Faced with this analogy, Mugyeong is challenged to create meaning in her life in an age of reduced agency. Does she give herself to the mill, since she is destined to be ground anyway, or does she fight to sow herself and allow even a short moment of bloom? The author gestures to the importance of this dilemma through the story’s title, thus prompting the reader to consider the totality of meaning and value in the characters’ lives in the context of their individual decisions and circumstances. In the colonial era, then, the very act of writing challenged the limits of expression established and policed by the colonial regime. Close attention to the play of language and nuances of narrative reveals that literature was a site of negotiation and exploration often in an unexpected way. Ji-Eun Lee, for example, shows how women, long absent from public discourse, except as recipients of knowledge on wifely and motherly duties, grew increasingly visible through women’s magazines and critiqued Korea’s modern transformations (Lee 2015). Children’s literature, a new genre born in the early twentieth century, demonstrates how the child was evoked as a utopian space where dramatically opposed views of what it means to be human could play out (Zur 2012). 197

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Korean fiction from the colonial era reveals the ways in which writers and poets negotiated censorship and the very real prospect of the disappearance of their language and nation. Ultimately, it provides access to deeper appreciation of the nuances of language, referentiality, and meaning under contradictions born of colonial capitalism.

Fiction in postwar Korea Liberation from Japan finally arrived in Korea on August 15, 1945. Japan’s surrender and swift evacuation from the colony did not, unfortunately, signal much-awaited liberation. Soviet forces occupied the area north of the thirty-eighth parallel and the United States occupied the southern half, a division that quickly became entrenched. What was intended to be a temporary border turned into the most heavily fortified boundary, which, following the destructive Korean War (1950–1953) that took over a million lives and laid waste to the peninsula, remains in place today. Besides the physical destruction, the Korean War left another legacy in its wake: a staunch anti-Communist regime in South Korea lead by strongman Syngman Rhee. Some writers migrated north to join what appeared to be a sympathetic, revolutionary regime of the people. Those remaining in the South had only just begun to celebrate their newfound liberty when they discovered that they were to be subjected to a new system of censorship that demanded uncompromising dedication to anti-Communism. In light of these conditions – division, war, and limited expression – one view can Korean literature written in the postwar era as products of these circumstances. This era saw the emergence of some of South Korea’s most potent literature-astestimony, as writers and poets turned unspeakable experiences of trauma and imposed silences into narratives. Famous among these was the prolific Hwang Sunwon, whose 1953 short story “Cranes” opened not with the deafening roar of cannons but with a sinister silence: Beneath the high, clear autumn sky just north of the 38th boundary the village was quiet and alone. In the empty houses, there might be just a white gourd on the dirt floor between rooms, leaning against another white gourd. Old people met by chance would turn aside, pipes held behind their backs. And children, being children, turned away at some distance. Everyone’s face was marked by fear. (Hwang 2007: 305–312) Against this eerily silent, vacuous space and turned backs emerge two young men, Seongsam and Deokjae. Once childhood friends, they are bound by an enmity born of the war and held in place by an arbitrary line in the ground. History has been kinder to Seongsam, who abandoned his aging parents and young family in the North for a better future in the South. Deokjae has been less fortunate – his decision to stay in the North (“Where would a farmer go, and leave the farming?” he explains) resulted in his capture. Now southerner Seongsam leads his northern prisoner toward what at first seems like a site of execution. But at the last moment, Seongsam reminds Deokjae of their shared memory of catching a crane – a symbol of longevity and of the Korean people – and setting it free. At the end of this short story, it is unclear if he actually allows his friend make his way back North, for the final gaze in this story is turned not to the horizon but up toward several cranes soaring into the autumn sky with outstretched wings. Ideology occupies the horizontal space, so Hwang manages to provide instead an image of hope in the form of cranes reaching vertically for a boundless sky that, in Korean lore, looks ever higher in autumn. “Cranes” offers an optimistic glance upward at a time when there would have been little to look up to. But other fiction from the postwar era, such as The Square published in 1960, works 198

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out either what could not be spoken, for the horror, or what could not be expressed, for censorship (Choe 1985). The Square is a dark novella narrating the journey of a tortured young man named Myeong jun from the South to North and then to a third space beyond the two irreconcilable ideological extremes. It is a journey driven by war and displacement that Hughes has described as a critique of leftist and rightist ideologies that prevent the development of the protagonist’s Ego into a “meaningful, autonomous engagement with the social” (Hughes 2012: 168). The novel is also a journey that traces Myeong jun’s own unmoored moral compass, as a character who exhibits his worst behavior when he is most politically empowered. Tackling the masculinization of politics at the same time, this novel has come to be recognized as representative of the “Division System.” This term, coined by Paik Nak-chung, points to a complex system that reproduces itself on the one hand, but emphasizes the responsibility and agency of each individual in overcoming the system on the other (Paik 2011; Ryu 2010). One of the most interesting examples of testimony literature to emerge in the postwar era was The Dwarf, a novel of twelve linked short stories rooted in the grim reality of Park Chung Hee’s authoritarian Yushin regime of the mid-1970s (Cho 2006). It was penned by Cho Sehui, an employee of a small publishing company who had given up on his aspirations to become a writer, but was inspired to pick up his pen by an eviction of an impoverished family he happened to witness (Ryu 2015a: 99–100). The linked stories move seamlessly between reality and fantasy, as well as between temporal modes. They demonstrate the interconnectedness between different members of Park’s Yushin regime: the squatter Dwarf and his family eking out a life as disposable pegs in Park Chung Hee’s economic engine; Shinae and her family who find themselves wedged, both physically and metaphorically, between a downward moving class of laborers and an infuriatingly close, upward moving class of government collaborators; and the wealthy, whose lives are decked in the spoils of their exploitation but whose spirits are contaminated by the violence on which their existence is predicated. Young ju Ryu describes it as “a book of profound political commitment and moral vision” that “took up the task of arresting the regime’s discourse of development, so as to enable thought that breaks free of the capture of collective mesmerization” (Ryu 2015a: 134). Like ants on the Möbius strip who traverse the entire length of the strip without realizing that they have crossed sides, Cho’s characters move between moral planes and are also unable to see and judge their own actions or to perceive the confounding connectedness between the opposite sides of the strip. But not so the readers. As Ryu states, the writers working under the oppressive authoritarian regime of the 1960s and 70s, known also as the Winter Republic, used their craft to engage with the realities of their time and expose inherent connectedness and ethical quandaries that were part and parcel of social life in this time. The Japanese defeat in 1945 and consequent evacuation of its Korean colony was supposed to inaugurate the long-awaited decolonization of the peninsula. Instead, the peninsula was divided and laid to waste by war. In the postwar era, the region continued to witness contestation between the two countries vying for legitimacy as the rightful heirs of the Korean nation. Reading Korean fiction through the lens of historical developments reveals the testimonial power of fiction: it offers intimate, subjective experiences framed in words at a time when words were largely coopted by ideology. At the same time, care must be taken to avoid treating fiction as a straightforward archive. At its best, fiction’s stable fabric is constantly threatened by competing voices and interests of its own making, as language both represents and resists stable signification. But as Young ju Ryu notes, fiction can come to the rescue when history remains deadlocked (Ryu 2015b: 640). Ryu proposes that fiction is uniquely positioned to move readers beyond questions of absolute truth, and closer toward reconciliation that emerges out of a recognition of the multiple stories that bolster our lives. 199

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Storytelling in the digital age The late 90s brought significant political transformations to South Korea. The country’s first democratically elected president took residence in the Blue House, enabling initial steps toward reconciliation of Korea’s troubled past. Writers who went north, known as wolbuk jakka, were finally permitted entry into the pantheon of South Korea’s literary history. Today, it is unimaginable to think what Korean literature would be without the inclusion of writers like Pak Taewon, Yi Taejun, and Kim Namcheon. And while economic and political strife continued to plague South Korea, the fact that it has now grown into a relatively stable democracy with one of the largest economies in the world means that the relationship between literature and history has also changed. Colonization and authoritarianism drove many of Korea’s writers to direct engagement with their political and social environments, and their works are some of the most powerful tools of testimony and public conscience to be found. What have the consequent years of relative freedom and prosperity meant for the craft of fiction? Economic development since the early 2000s, particularly in the electronics sector, has brought about an extraordinary and utterly unique development of connectivity in Korea. Nowhere else in the world can one commute to work on the subway, drive through tunnels, and go off to the sea and never lose Internet access. In Korea as elsewhere this connectivity has threatened more traditional forms of text. With the number of smartphones outnumbering its population, virtually no Korean, regardless of age and gender, can be found too far from his or her handheld device. Korean narratives have had to catch up to that reality. In this environment of ubiquitous connectivity and competition for attention, Webtoons have emerged as one of Korea’s fastest-growing writing platforms today. Webtoons, or Internet comics, have ridden the entrenched success of manhwa comics, whose popularity is well documented in scholarship. Kyu Hyun Kim demonstrates how, far from providing frivolous entertainment, manhwa in fact “illustrate[s] complex and ambivalent interactions among the signifiers of ethnicity, nation, and social identities” that demonstrate “the fundamental instability and fluidity of ‘Korean’ identity as constructed through nationalist discourse” (Kim 2014: 35). Webtoons rely on the visual storytelling mode of manhwa, combining digital technologies and content to become one of the major cultural forms of youth culture in Korea since the widespread introduction of smartphones (Jin 2015: 193–194). They evolved from picture diaries in personal home pages that attracted viewers who commented on, modified, and circulated them (Jin 2015: 196). In the early 2000s, writers like Kang Pul could attract millions of viewers with his Webtoon “Love Story” and as of August 2014, about 6.2 million people visited Naver Webtoons (Jin 2015: 199) to read series like Noblesse (in its 395th episode) and The Sound of Your Heart (in its 165th episode). English translations have also become increasingly available. For example, an English-only Webtoon platform is available for download through a Naver smartphone application, and Huffington Post is serializing Yun Taeho’s award winning Webtoon Moss translated by Bruce and Ju-Chan Fulton in collaboration with the online platform “Spottoon” (The Huffington Post 2015). Dal Yong Jin attributes the success of Webtoons in Korea to their easy accessibility, diversity in genre, speed of publication, and optimization for mobile devices, which are cornerstones of contemporary Korean society (Jin 2015: 199). Jin notes their high-quality craft of both script and art, as well as their skilled use of cliffhangers that sustain readers’ interests. The popularity of Webtoons often gains a second and third life through television shows or feature films, as in the case of Kang Pul’s Crush On You (2003), and Hun’s Secretly, Greatly (2010). Similar to other literary genres that have been discussed in this chapter, Webtoons can also be read as windows into Korean society, particularly as expressions of contemporary subjectivities 200

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that resist easy categorization. Popular comics like Sound of Your Heart and Life of Narm feature utterly mundane, everyday interactions that on their own seem to have little literary significance. For example, Seo Narae, the author of Life of Narm, often draws domestic scenes with her siblings and parents, or snippets of conversations with friends. Narm does so through a combination of abstract and cartoon art that blurs the line between realism and fantasy. Her family members are often depicted with minimal lines and bold colors: Narm’s mother is pictured wearing an olivecolored, floor-length skirt, a green long-sleeve top, and sporting a bushy, brown mane that signals the permed hairstyle preferred by middle-aged women. Hands and feet are not drawn, and facial features are minimally sketched – two eye slits and a mouth, no nose. When non-family characters are introduced they are often drawn as basic shapes, such as a circle perched on top of a thin rectangle, colored in light grey, blue or brown. Her chapters rarely exceed four frames, and in them Narm captures the dynamics of home and the workplace that strike a chord with readers for their utter familiarity. She speaks to the experiences of twenty-something single women in Korea trying to balance work and life. All the while, her minimalist artistic style and endearing depictions of her family members create a sense of intimacy with her audience. By contrast, serials like Moss by the popular artist Yun Taeho take advantage of the Webtoon medium to combine cinematic angles, lighting, and temporal shifts to create a complex tapestry that touches upon many of the themes explored by Korea’s contemporary writers through dichotomies of city and country, ethical dilemmas that result from Korea’s rampant capitalism, and tensions between the individual, family, and the community. Readers of Moss are drawn into a murder mystery that unfolds over multiple temporal planes and that is explored through various perspectives. The artist relies on common gangster tropes – stark shades of black, grey, and white, close-up snapshots of eyes that communicate extreme fear and anger, and a deployment of photojournalistic aesthetics that lend the story a dose of realism. Korea’s Webtoons occupy a space that straddles literature and film, providing an immersive sensory experience that is accessible to anyone with a smartphone and that can be consumed, from start to finish, on a typical commute. One Webtoon in particular captures the fraught relationship between history and fiction, demonstrating the possibilities inherent in this visual/textual medium. Over a period of five months in 2006, Kang Pul, one of South Korea’s most renowned comic artists, published thirty-three installments of a series entitled 26 Years that tells a fictional account of an assassination attempt on the life of former president Chun Doo Hwan (Kang 2006). Chun, the South Korean general who took over the KCIA following Park Chung Hee’s assassination, ruled South Korea between 1980 and 1988 and continued the Park legacy of repressing political opponents and pro-democratic movements. In May of 1980, when a student uprising began in Gwang ju, Chun gave an order to the military troops to fire on the demonstrating crowds, killing thousands in what has become known as the Gwang ju Massacre. Chun was jailed for a time and was even sentenced to death for his role in the massacre, but he was pardoned and released by democratically elected Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung. The title 26 Years refers to the time that has passed between those fateful ten days in Gwang ju, when so many young men and women lost their lives, and the fictional present in which four now-grown children of fallen victims are brought together to avenge their parents’ wrongful deaths and to free themselves from the trauma that has consequentially gripped them throughout their lives. In a high-paced drama that pits the perpetrators and the children of their victims in a second web of violence, 26 Years explores the ethical dilemma surrounding revenge and the role of fiction in re-living and relieving trauma, all the while questioning the possibility of ending Korea’s violent past through truth and reconciliation. The question of revenge and retribution remains a subject of keen interest among writers and filmmakers in South Korea today, and a mention of some of the contested philosophical debates 201

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over revenge can help illuminate the question that is at the center of 26 Years. To an extent, philosophers agree that there is a compelling, intuitive feature to retributivism – the idea that perpetrators of a crime deserve to be punished equally, even if the punishment will produce no further good. Kant argued that punishment must not only fit the crime but be equal to it, famously arguing in “The Philosophy of Law” that even if society as we know it were to be dissolved, the last murderer in prison must be executed. He writes, There is no Likeness or proportion between Life, however painful, and Death; and therefor there is no Equality between the crime of Murder and the retaliation of it but what is judicially accomplished by the execution of the Criminal . . . the last Murderer lying in the prison ought to be executed. . . . in order that every one may realize the desert of his deeds, and that bloodguiltness may not remain upon the people; for otherwise they might all be regarded as participators in the murder as a public violation of Justice. (Kant 2000: 223, italics in original) Hegel, too, argues for the restoration of the law through punishment that annuls the original crime. Hegel’s ultimate concern is harm to society rather than individual harm, and so punishment in Hegel’s view works to compel the individual to impose the law on himself thus facing up to the actions he freely undertook and restoring the social good: It is the reconciliation of the criminal with himself, i.e. with the law known by him as his own and as laid for him and his protection; when this law is executed upon him, he himself finds in this process the satisfaction of justice. (Hegel 2000: 227) Both Kant’s and Hegel’s view of retributive justice drive the dilemma at the center of 26 years, namely the question of the validity of retributive justice for a man responsible for countless deaths considering the price that a few individuals – and indeed, society at large – must pay either in seeing it to its end or by allowing the injustice to continue. In 26 Years the relationship between crimes against individuals and crimes against society converges when four unrelated youngsters, each of whom carries a personal grudge toward the former president, are brought together by a corporate CEO, whose motivations for planning the two-decade-long strategy of revenge are at first unclear. Slowly, the web connecting the four to their benefactor comes to light. Their parents had made a pact of friendship on their dying day while the corporate CEO, a clueless and terrified young soldier at the time, is revealed to have been directly responsible for one of their parent’s deaths. For him, the assassination is a way to seek forgiveness for his unforgivable crime. The assassination seems doomed to failure, yet as the plan evolves, it turns out that almost every character is in some way implicated by this traumatic event. A crime lord is revealed to have suffered his entire life from the shame of having waited out the massacre un-heroically in his room under a blanket; a seasoned police officer turns out to have been a one-time torture artist, whose contact with a religious thought-crime victim made him realize the farce of his work; and the head of the presidential security service is found to have built his life on the premise that by following directions and now protecting the orchestrator of that massacre, he was contributing to the making of history. So while the characters act out of the need for retribution to a personal wrong – the death of a parent, debilitating shame, survivor’s guilt – together they pose the question of how we are to think about the massacre, Chun’s subsequent release and continued impunity, and the historical narrative that has since made sense of 202

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its meaning. In episode 29, during the showdown between the architect of the assassination and the head of presidential security – who are revealed to have stood side-by-side during the massacre and thus share equal responsibility for civilian deaths – the security chief grapples with his own role in the killing of so many innocents and his justification for protecting the mastermind of the massacre. “It was a chapter in history! This man made that history! That is why I must protect him! If he was wrong . . . then my entire past has been wrong! I must protect him!” These sentences are delivered in breathless staccato, punctuated by multiple exclamation marks and highlighted by bold fonts against white, star-shaped speech bubbles whose sharp edges dig into the image behind them. The security chief, who until that moment is portrayed as reserved and collected, is depicted in a highly agitated state, with eyes propped open, mouth gaping and emitting steam, and screams so emotively powerful that they have obliterated his background, which faded into angry shades of red and black. It is here that this Webtoon actualizes its potential. It is a story-telling mechanism that can capture complex reality and the psychological state of its characters without having to commit to one particular narrative voice. Even with minimal text, Webtoons give us access to the inner state of a wide variety of characters through suggestive images, for example, the terror of a phone call that is conveyed through background colors of blood red and black. The words of the victims – “aren’t you ashamed?” – invoke a sense of haunting cacophony by reducing line spaces so that they are compressed, superimposed on each other by sheer force of impact. Even the sinister self-indulgence of Chun is captured effectively by picturing him mostly as a menacing shadow who famously stands by his claim to have never ordered the killing of civilians and to have no more than three hundred dollars in his bank account. The medium also enables the use of double exposure that can reveal, for example, the true identity of an old man by superimposing his image on top of the younger image introduced earlier, or which can evoke moments from the past without the use of a single word of text. This economy of feeling is also facilitated through the use of sound effects, such as the echo of footsteps or pouring rain, which heightens the emotional drama without need for textual explanations. Kang Pul’s frequent use of muted pastels instead of vivid colors and thicker, more abstract lines rather than detailed realism allows this particular work to straddle the liminal space between reality and imagination in which the reader can develop his or her own relationship with the facts of the past. For all its use of familiar melodramatic techniques – tears trickle from the eyes of characters at key moment to stand in for unspoken truths, and an affection built between the female sniper and the gangster prevents her from shooting Chun at the appropriate moment – the Webtoon ultimately refuses to succumb to easy resolution of what Koreans refer to as han, or resentment. In the end, it is unclear where this Webtoon stands on revenge, except that those who pursue it do so at a high personal price. Most significantly, 26 Years touches upon the place of individual agency in the grand scheme of South Korean history and threatens the neat closure placed on that chapter of history. Episode 24 includes one of the only photorealistic images, that of the pithy section on the Gwang ju Massacre taken from a high school textbook. In writing about the Korean War, Young ju Ryu argues that “Truth without reconciliation and reconciliation without truth testify to the realities of the Korean peninsula” (Ryu 2015b: 659). Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung may have granted the perpetrator his freedom, but as Kang Pul’s powerful Webtoon seems to indicate, working out the role of the individual vis-à-vis grand historical narratives must still take place in order to restore dignity to the lives of History’s victims. A student of Korean history might do well to turn to fiction and poetry as a refracting lens through which to appreciate the events of the twentieth century. The very coining of the term “New Fiction,” as we saw earlier in the chapter, was formed by the re-conceptualizations of the individual, family, and nation, all of which was taking place not only on the level of content but 203

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also through experimentations with language. All these transformations were implicated in the political and historical situation of the time. Japan’s colonization of Korea also left its stamp on literary production as censorship dictated what could and could not be said. The crisis of representation was felt deeply by the men and women of letters, whose very medium of communication could no longer be taken for granted. In the postwar era, this crisis of representation continued, this time because of the Division System – an erasure rooted in the colonial period yet cultivated in the postwar era in the service of the political and economic developmental plans of the authoritarian regimes. Since democratization in the late 1980s, fiction and poetry has been tasked with capturing moments refracted through multiple lenses of development and rampant capitalism, cutthroat competition in education, changing gender roles, an aging population, and Korea’s volatile geopolitical position. From flash fiction to poetry to Webtoons, Korean literature continues to challenge the limits of form and content to provide rich and challenging responses to today’s complex realities.

References Cho, S. (2006) The Dwarf, Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. Choe, I. (1985) The Square, Barnstaple: Spindlewood. Hanscom, C.P. (2013) The Real Modern: Literary Modernism and the Crisis of Representation in Colonial Korea, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Hegel, G.W.F. (2000) “Punishment as Self-Chosen,” in R. Solomon and M. Murphy (eds) What Is Justice? Classic and Contemporary Readings, pp. 225–7, New York: Oxford University Press. The Huffington Post (2015) “Moss,” 16 December. b_7838418.html Hughes, T.H. (2012) Literature and Film in Cold War South Korea : Freedom’s Frontier, New York: Columbia University Press. Hwang, J. (1999) “The Emergence of Aesthetic Ideology in Modern Korean Literary Criticism: An Essay on Yi Kwang-su,” Korea Journal, 39(4): 5–35. Hwang, S. (2007) “Cranes,” Azalea, 1: 305–12. Jin, D.Y. (2015) “Digital Convergence of Korea’s Webtoons: Transmedia Storytelling,” Communication Research and Practice, 1(3): 193–209. Kang, P. (2006) 26 Nyeon, Seoul: Munhak Segyesa. Kant, I. (2000) “A Retributivist Theory of Punishment,” in R. Solomon and M. Murphy (eds) What Is Justice? Classic and Contemporary Readings, pp. 221–4, New York: Oxford University Press. Kim, D. (1998) “The Photograph and the Letter,” in C. Kim and B. Fulton (eds) A Ready-Made Life: Early Masters of Modern Korean Fiction, pp. 81–8, Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. Kim, K. (2014) “Fisticuffs, High Kicks, and Colonial Histories,” in K.H. Kim and Y. Choe (eds) The Korean Popular Culture Reader, pp. 34–54, Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Kim, N. (2010) “Barley,” in S. Park (ed) On the Eve of the Uprising and Other Stories from Colonial Korea, pp. 197–234, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Kim, S. (2011) “Into the Light,” in M. Wender (ed) Into the Light: An Anthology of Literature by Koreans in Japan, pp. 15–38, Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. Kwon, B. (2005) “The Paradoxical Structure of Modern ‘Love’ in Korea: Yeonae and Its Possibilities,” Korea Journal, 45(3): 185–208. Kwon, B. (2012) Hanguk Kuendae Soseol Ui Kiweon, Seoul: Somyeong Chulpan. Kwon, N. (2015) Intimate Empire: Collaboration and Colonial Modernity in Korea and Japan, Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Lee, J. (2015) Women Pre-Scripted: Forging Modern Roles through Korean Print, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Paik, N. (1993) “The Idea of a Korean National Literature Then and Now,” Positions: Asia Critique, 1(3): 553–80. ——— (2011) The Division System in Crisis: Essays on Contemporary Korea, Berkeley: University of California Press.


Modern Korean literature and identity Pak, T. (2010) “A Day in the Life of Kubo the Novelist,” in S. Park (ed) On the Eve of the Uprising and Other Stories from Colonial Korea, pp. 145–94, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Park, S. (2006) “The Colonial Origin of Korean Realism and Its Contemporary Manifestation,” Positions: Asia Critique, 14(1): 165–92. ——— (2009) “Everyday Life as Critique in Late Colonial Korea: Kim Namch’ŏn’s Literary Experiments, 1934–43,” The Journal of Asian Studies, 68(3): 861–93. ——— (2015) The Proletarian Wave: Literature and Leftist Culture in Colonial Korea, 1910–1945, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Poole, J. (2014) When the Future Disappears: The Modernist Imagination in Late Colonial Korea, New York: Columbia University Press. Ryu, J. (2010) “On National Literature and the Division System,” Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 11(4): 552–65. Ryu, Y. (2015a) Writers of the Winter Republic: Literature and Resistance in Park Chung Hee’s Korea, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. ——— (2015b) “Truth or Reconciliation? The Guest and the Massacre That Never Ends,” Positions: Asia Critique, 23(4): 633–63. Schmid, A. (2002) Korea between Empires, 1895–1919, New York: Columbia University Press. Yang, Y.S. (2014) “Enlightened Daughter, Benighted Mother: Yi Injik’s Tears of Blood and Early Twentieth-Century Korean Domestic Fiction,” Positions: Asia Critique, 22(1): 103–30. Yi, G. (2005) Yi Kwangsu and Modern Korean Literature: Mujŏng, New York: Cornell University Press. ——— (2011) “What Is Literature?” Azalea, 4: 293–313. Yi, I. (1989) “Tears of Blood,” in C. Chung (ed) Korean Classical Literature: An Anthology, pp. 159–221, London: Kegan Paul International. Yi, S. (2005) “Wings,” in B. Fulton and Y. Kwon (eds) Modern Korean Fiction: An Anthology, pp. 66–84, New York: Columbia University Press. Zur, D. (2012) “Children’s Literature in Late Colonial Korea,” Azalea, 5: 347–53.


13 SOUTH KOREAN CINEMA STORY IN THE DIGITAL AGE 21st-century success on a 20th-century medium? Kyung Hyun Kim Overwired cinema In an era where Google and its partner YouTube have taken over the global media industry, it is tempting for us to think that the age of cinema is all but over. In some sense, the transformation of what used to be called ancillary markets, such as television (ABC/Disney), cable (HBO, Showtime), DVD distributors (Netflix), and even Internet companies (Amazon, Hulu, etc.) that now seek to boost their production capabilities of original series and to upgrade their cinematic contents, so that they have afterlife on on-demand services and the Internet, have debunked the notion that theatrical release is the primary platform for cinema. The formerly known entity as “secondary market platforms” is now the “primary market platforms.” Computer screens and mobile phones are increasingly replacing movie screens, and people are less likely to spend their money on movie tickets since they already pay for their high-speed Internet, cellular phone data fees, on-demand contents, and other streaming subscriptions. So, it is probably not an exaggeration when someone claims that the recent development of digital technologies and the Internet revolution have transformed the way in which film is produced, distributed, and received. The digital era not only has removed the dependence of cinema on photorealism and photographic credibility, but it has also challenged movies as the dominant medium of visual entertainment. It was Anne Friedberg who in her essay, “The End of Cinema,” published in 2000, prophesied that the end of the cinema is near because of the rapid ascendance of the Internet, which has become the modus operandi of the everyday life (Friedberg 2009). Around the same time, when some of the traditional film studies scholars were turning hostile against cinema, other theorists on digital media and culture were also publishing their assumptions about cinema’s inevitable death. Cultural critic Kevin Robins questioned as early as 1995: “Shall we allow cinema to die (and learn to live without it)?” (Robins 1995: 145). Perhaps we ought to mull over this point a little more. Is cinephilia truly dead, forcing all of us to now accept that the new buzzwords in film and media studies, such as “post-media aesthetics” (Manovich 2001) or “afterimages” (Rodowick 2010), are here to stay? As I will later argue, Korean cinema has had astounding success since the turn of the last century. Hye Seung Chung and David Scott Diffrient argue, “[t]hings have changed significantly over the past two decades,” as the volume of Korean films available on Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu has become increasingly larger (Chung and Diffrient 2015: 240). Yet, if one looks beyond the 206

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commercial market and cautiously browses the academic field in English language, it still is difficult to find more than just a short blurb on Korean cinema, even in the latest introduction to cinema textbooks that are widely adopted, such as Mast and Kawin’s A Short History of the Movies (Mast and Kawin 2011). Would it be an exaggeration to say that Korean cinema remains as the tabula rasa to most people in film and media studies scholarship today? Though one can now find on Amazon’s website several English-language books on Korean cinema, it is still difficult to spot one single title of Korean cinema placed among the list of the world’s great films. Also, the New Korean Cinema is not discussed in the same breath as the most innovative world film movements, such as the French Nouvelle Vague, New German Cinema, post-war Japanese cinema, the Cuban Third Cinema, or the Chinese Fifth Generation.1 So, why is it that this particular national cinema that is setting a milestone in world film history is not receiving the kind of notice that it deserves in contemporary film and media scholarship? In this chapter, I explore the question of whether Korean cinema is invisible in American film and media studies because its success takes place in the 21st century, when cinema itself is predicated on ideas and values flouted during the 20th century. Even if this projection of a “21st-Century Success” on a “20th-Century Medium” theory turned out to be true, the paradox still remains with Korea’s case, because not only does South Korea register the highest moviegoing rate in the world, it also defends the title of the most overwired nation in the world—ever since the meaning of “wired” changed from electricity and steel to DSL and 4Gs. Seoul, particularly, has also been called the bandwidth capital of the world and leads the number of DSL connections per head worldwide. So, what I would like to posit as a premise in this chapter is the idea that one could have an interesting and dynamic national cinema that is not an anachronistic medium reluctantly straddling the old century and the new 21st century and does not obstruct the development of the Internet or new technologies. In other words, Korean cinema presents a possibility for a national cinema to be both productive and complementary to the emergent new media, and not one that is asphyxiated because of it.

South Korean cinema finding success Over the past decade and a half, Korean cinema has been booming. It has been performing beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. The South Korean film industry now boasts a moviegoing rate per capita that is among the highest in the world at around 4.2 per capita,2 protects its domestic production with an overwhelming majority of the audiences voluntarily choosing to watch local products over Hollywood’s, and has shot through the ranking among the largest local box offices and exports in the world. Korean cinema impressed both its local fans and Hollywood producers interested in remakes and global talents by taking less than a decade to go from a perilous state to one of the sturdiest local film industries in the world. With an estimated US$1.74 billion grossed in 2013, which was a banner year even in Korea (before registering US$1.6 million gross in the subsequent year) (Kim 2014), only the box offices in the United States/Canada, China, and Japan are decisively higher in recent years than those of Korea (see Table 13.1). On the dual fronts of both digitization and globalization in the 21st century, which have posed challenges to all national cinemas operating outside Hollywood, Korean cinema has cleared the hurdle by developing and incorporating indigenous technology of computer-generated images (becoming the regional leader of the VFX technology that exports to China and Hong Kong) and modifying and appropriating Hollywood genres such as thrillers, disasters, courtroom dramas, Westerns, and comedies for its own blockbuster productions and releases. It has also adopted Hollywood’s wide release marketing strategies in the recent years. Korea, in other words, has not shied away from experimenting with spectacles and vertical integration in which distributors 207

Kyung Hyun Kim Table 13.1 Largest markets by box office Rank


Box Office (billions) World

Box office from national films


$36.4 2014


United States Canada

$10.4 2014



$6.78 2015

55% (2015)



$2.0 2014

58.3% (2014)



$1.8 2014

33.3% (2013)


United Kingdom

$1.7 2014

22.2% (2013)



$1.7 2014


South Korea

$1.6 2014

48.0% (2014)



$1.3 2014



$1.2 2014

18% (2013)



$1.0 2014

3.5% (2013)



$0.9 2014

10.8% (2013)



$0.8 2014

16.9% (2013)



$0.8 2014

30.4% (2013)



$0.7 2014

13.9% (2013)



$0.3 2014

19% (2013)

Source: Theatrical Market Statistics (2014).

practice monopolistic behaviors. Also, the routine invites of filmmakers such as Park Chanwook, Kim Jee-woon, Lee Chang-dong, Bong Joon-ho, Kim Ki-duk, and Hong Sang-soo in major film festivals around the world strongly suggest that Korean cinema has put together a masterful stretch during the first thirteen years of the 21st century that may stand the test of time. The fact that Korea’s moviegoing admissions surpassed the 200 million mark (212 million to be exact) in 2013 became noteworthy news for not only domestic Internet news sites, but also for international trade magazines (Lee 2013b). This “surpassing of the 200 million admissions” announced by the Korean Film Council (KOFIC) in December 2013 attracted foreign reporters’ interest, because South Korea’s population is only about 50 million, which makes Korea’s annual moviegoing rate per capita the highest in the world (Conran 2013). This means that Koreans go to movies at a higher clip than Indians, Americans, and the French. Also, with about 127 million among the estimated 212 million total admissions sold on Korean films, the market share of homegrown movies in Korean theaters is set at approximately 60 percent – also one of the highest in the world outside the U.S. In 2013, for instance, most of the big-budget Korean films, Miracle in Cell Number 7 (dir. Lee Hwan-kyung), The Berlin File (dir. Ryu Seung-wan), Cold Eyes (dirs. Jo Eui-seok and Kim Byung-seo), The Tower (dir. Kim Ji-hoon), Hide and Seek (dir. Heo Jeong), Secretly Greatly (dir. Jang Cheol-soo), 90 Minutes of Terror (dir. Kim Byung-woo), Snowpiercer (dir. Bong Joon-ho), and The Attorney (dir. Yang Woo-seok), posted box office figures that either have met or exceeded expectations. In 2014 and 2015, The Admiral: Roaring Currents (Myeongryang, 2014, dir. Kim Han-min), Ode to My Father (Gukje sijang, 2014, dir. Yoon Je-kyoon), and Veteran 208

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(2015, dir. Ryoo Seung-wan) each were placed among the top three best-selling films in Korean commerce history. Over the past three years, the only conspicuous flop in the Korean domestic box office, Mr. Go (2013, dir. Kim Yong-hwa), the first Korean film to be shot fully in 3-D, was given a reprieve in other Asian markets. In China’s box office, for instance, the 3-D movie that features a Chinese circus gorilla with a killer baseball swing that becomes a star in Korea’s MLB – co-produced between Showbox (Korea) and Huayi Brothers Media Corp (China) – pulled in a figure close to US$20 million (Cremin 2013). It was difficult to imagine that South Korean cinema would be this successful merely a half decade ago. During the first decade of the 21st century, the South Korean film industry’s primary concern was no different from the rest of the world: the protection of its domestic films from Hollywood. South Korea had a hard time making films that would rival or match Hollywood’s popularity since its Golden Age of Korean Cinema came to a screeching halt in the early 1970s.3 International success meant not a commercial one, but one that would garner critical accolades in international film festivals. Throughout the first decade of the 2000s, Korean filmmakers and actors would often congregate in town squares to pressure the government to renew or strengthen the quota policies (Maxmovie 2003). Despite the vocal protest made by local moviemakers, in 2006 the South Korean government, not unlike those around the world who also faced pressures from the U.S.’s Motion Picture Export Association, was forced to significantly decrease the number of days that cinemas would be required to screen domestic films: from 146 to 73. Table 13.2 Annual box office admissions in South Korea Korean Films

Foreign Films

Admissions (million)

Market Share

Admissions per capita∗

1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013

12.59 21.72 22.71 44.81 50.82 63.91 80.19 85.44 97.91 79.39 63.54 76.47 69.40 82.87 114.61 127.29

25.10% 39.70% 35.10% 50.10% 48.30% 53.49% 59.33% 58.71% 63.80% 50.00% 42.13% 48.77% 46.60% 51.86% 58.80% 59.70%

0.29 0.50 0.41 0.96 1.07 1.32 1.65 1.75 2.00 1.61 1.28 1.54 1.37 1.63 2.25 2.49





Admissions (million)

Total Admissions

Admissions per capita

Market Share

Admissions per capita

37.59 33.00 41.91 44.55 54.31 55.56 54.98 60.08 55.49 79.38 87.29 80.32 79.78 76.78 80.28 86.06

74.90% 60.30% 64.90% 49.90% 51.70% 46.51% 40.67% 41.29% 36.20% 50.00% 57.87% 51.23% 53.48% 48.14% 41.20% 40.30%

0.81 0.70 0.89 0.94 1.13 1.15 1.13 1.23 1.13 1.61 1.76 1.61 1.58 1.52 1.58 1.68

50.18 54.72 64.62 89.36 105.13 119.47 135.17 145.52 153.41 158.77 150.83 156.79 149.18 159.72 194.89 213.35

1.10 1.20 1.30 1.90 2.20 2.47 2.78 2.98 3.13 3.22 3.04 3.15 2.92 3.15 3.83 4.17






∗ In 2010, total population of South Korea stood at 49 million. Source: Based on date from KOFIC (2009, 2014)


Kyung Hyun Kim

The South Korean government needed to protect the U.S. sales of Hyundai automobiles, Samsung mobile phones, and LG refrigerators more desperately than to secure the health of the domestic film industry. Once known for its draconian measures of import and screen quotas, Korea’s protectionist policy on cinema became a toothless one, and the conventional wisdom was that domestic films would steeply decline or die. Despite the South Korean government’s decision to leave its film industry fully exposed to Hollywood’s onslaught, strange things happened. During the first four years after the implementation of the dramatic decrease of the days required for the theaters to screen domestic films (2007–10), the Korean film industry predictably did show some pain of adjustment (see Table 13.2). The record set in 2006 for the tickets sold for Korean films in domestic theaters (98 million) went tumbling down in 2008 (63.5 million). It had lost more than a third of its domestic audiences, while foreign film (over 95 percent comprised of American films) audiences enjoyed an all-time high of 87 million tickets sold that same year. However, in the ensuing decade, Korean cinema showed that it had still a lot of life left. Korea’s success over the past four years is ironic, because among the top 10 countries (India, Nigeria, United States, China, Japan, United Kingdom, France, South Korea, Germany, and Spain) that routinely produce about 200 titles per year in the 21st century, South Korea’s population at 48 million is one of the smallest4 (see Table 13.3). After 2011’s and 2012’s encouraging numbers in the domestic box office, 2013 turned out to be a phenomenal year in Korean cinema, with the number of domestic film releases, overall theatrical box office sales, and the average rate of investment return all setting records. The numbers from 2014 were slightly down from the record-setting pace of the previous year, but still the aftermath of decreased days for quota initiated in the late first decade of the 2000s was no longer felt. With the continued rise in popularity of movie theaters in Korea, it looks as if Korean cinema’s commercial success is here to stay. Table 13.3 Number of national feature files produced, 2011 Country 1. India 2. Nigeria 3. USA 4. China 5. Japan 6. UK 7. France 8. South Korea 9. Germany 10. Spain 11. Italy 12. Russia 13. Argentina 14. Brazil 15. Canada 16. Indonesia 17. Switzerland 18. Philippines 19. Iran 20. Vietnam

1,255.00 997.00 819.00 584.00 441.00 299.00 272.00 216.00 212.00 199.00 155.00 140.00 100.00 99.00 86.00 84.00 84.00 78.00 76.00 75.00

Source: UNESCO, 2013


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Despite all of these recitations that signal success of Korean cinema, something remains missing. If Korean cinema – within the span of 20 years – has moved swimmingly beyond the limbo between tradition and modernity and splashed into a postmodern, global pool, why is it still difficult to say with unequivocal certainty that there must be something universal in the works of Korean cinematic arts that render an “understanding” by consumers beyond the Asian market? Despite the fact that Korean cinema is achieving success in the domestic and Asian markets, its export numbers in other regions is negligent. According to the 2014 Annual Report published by KOFIC, Asian market’s share of the entire Korean film export is near 80 percent, whereas the North American market share of Korean films hovers only around 10 percent. So, despite all of the raised visibility of Korean films in North American Internet sites, compared to the successes Korean films had in the Asian markets, its exports to the U.S. remains just a small drop in the bucket. Many of the projects that have aimed to improve on this status – including co-production films between the U.S. and South Korea – have turned out to be box office disappointments both in Korea and in America.

Impossible postmodernization What this chapter argues is that it is possible to have an interesting and dynamic national cinema that complements and mutually strengthen the new media. One of the ways in which we like to think about a culture – whether national, transnational, or global in origin – is to accept the premise that it naturally progresses from the archaic, traditional, and inward-bent ones towards the modern forms. This is more than just an invariable move towards “the modern architecture,” “the modern literature,” “the modern music,” etc. and perhaps the discernible law of cultural dynamics. It then is quickly gobbled up by the capitalist enterprises that govern and profit from the products of this very cultural dynamic of the modern Enlightenment-derived notion of subjectivity that may have protested against the capitalist socio-economic infrastructure. Still, the progress toward the modern forms is perhaps an undeniable one. When Paul Willemen, a progressive film critic, visited Korea as late as 1997, about fifteen years before he passed away in his home in London, and spent a semester at the Korean National University of the Arts, he noted his observations in an essay called “Detouring through Korean Cinema” (Willemen 2002: 173). He said that post-war Korean cinema up to that point could not be released from the “blockage” that had prohibited much of its films from reaching a truly global market. He reasoned how this “blockage” arose from Korea’s “impossible tension” between modernity and tradition. Willemen argued at the time that Korean cinema was caught between modernity, which is desirable but impregnated with the cautionary tales of the past Japanese colonial rule and the U.S. military occupation, and tradition, which also is desirable but hijacked by North Korea. This bewildering situation where both tradition and modernity must be embraced is summed up by Willemen’s term of “impossible modernization” as they block Korean cinema’s entry into the global arena. Too much attention paid to patriarchy, dogmatism, and authenticity of the tradition featured in the films by Im Kwon-Taek or Lee Jang-ho had blocked Korea’s smooth passage towards the modern form. Since these observations were made largely when Willemen had visited Korea in 1997, I think it’s safe to say that Korean cinema, roughly two decades later, is perceived as having moved beyond the bewildering quagmire of “impossible modernization.” As argued above, Korean cinema is one of the most successful national cinemas that operate outside Hollywood today. What I am hoping to raise as a possibility is that Korean cinema suggests a modular form of “impossible postmodernization” that now is trying to embrace both cinema (a modernist medium) and the Internet boom (a postmodernist platform), which directly challenges Ann Friedberg’s assumption that the 211

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end of cinema is near because of the popularity of Internet. As communications theorists such as Mark Poster have argued, the Internet revolution brought about massive changes in communications systems that rearticulated the global, postmodern society, which accommodated a new consciousness for both the producers and consumers. The traditional consumption and societal interactions that were previously defined by “arm’s length distance” attitude of the “face-to-face encounters” had to be altered in the postmodern era that gave way to the era of YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook (Poster 2006). In order to watch films, you had to visit movie theaters during the modern era. However, with the technological transformation that ushered in the era of social media, consumers could now view movies in the comfort of their homes without even taking a short walk to their neighborhood video stores and thus avoid the contact of a physical copy of the film and the interaction with a human clerk. Now with just click of a few buttons on computer screens or mobile phones, a desirable visual content can easily be downloaded. Arguably the most important transformation is when consumers could easily reinvent him- or herself as a producer by editing the images of existing movies, providing their own subtitles, commentaries, and effects, and then re-transmitting them through their social media platforms. This technological breakthrough that regenerated postmodern culture and putatively threatened cinema elsewhere did not necessarily derail Korean cinema’s success; instead, it may have profited by it. More and more Korean film fans create their own blogs and mash-up videos, which has actively encouraged the viewership of blockbuster local films in their own language rather than discouraged it. As I was scrambling to answer these questions on “Korean cinema’s prominence precisely at a moment when cinema has lost its immanence” (one is likely to find more students enrolled these days for courses on K-pop or K-drama than on Korean cinema), I was particularly struck by Stephen Crofts’s essay, “Reconceptualizing National Cinema(s)” (Crofts 2009). In Crofts’s essay, which attempts to create seven taxonomies that can best provide groupings for national cinemas operating outside of Hollywood (see Table 13.4), I was able to identify possible reasons behind Korean cinema’s obscurity in the Anglophone film studies. Using the corollaries as a set of indexes in evaluating Korean national cinema, I ascertained that Korean cinema’s problem is that it can neither find a seat comfortably in any one of Crofts’s taxonomies, ranging from European-model art cinemas to Third Cinema, nor can it create complete mismatches with any

Table 13.4 Stephen Crofts’s national cinema models 1. Eurpean-Model Art Cinemas 2. Third Cinema 3. Third World and European Commercial Cinema 4. Ignoring Hollywood (India and Hong Kong) 5. Imitating Hollywood (Anglophone cinemas) 6. Totalitarian Cinemas (films produced during the Dictatorship) 7. Regional/Ethnic Cinemas (Catalan, Quebecois, Welsh, African American)


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one of these categories. In other words, Korean cinema is “all of the above” as well as “none of the above.” This paradox of “belonging and unbelonging” in traditional national cinemas is perhaps the very reason why Korean cinema still receives very little attention in film scholarship in the U.S. I cite some examples here for Korean Cinema in order to illustrate how Stephen Crofts’s model of national cinema can be applied in understanding Korean cinema’s relationship. For instance, directors Kim Ki-duk, Hong Sang-soo, and Lee Chang-dong, who are the darlings of world cinema’s film festival circuit today, actually could insist on themes and styles that pay homage to filmmakers that are closely associated with European-model art cinemas (model 1; for all models, see Table 13.4). Kim, Hong, and Lee all made their directorial debuts in the mid-1990s (1996 for both Kim and Hong, 1997 for Lee). All of them born within ten years of the Korean War’s cease-fire (1953); they are of the generation that grew up experiencing Korea’s post-war economic poverty and political suppression. The violence of the 1970s and the 1980s, taking place during their formative years, left deep impacts in their work. Kim, Hong, and Lee have made films that are relevant to a society that bear both the fruit and the waste of intense industrialization achieved under the military dictatorship. By intimately focusing on the different levels of characters’ crises that move from the political landscape to a more private one, their works render styles and themes that remind the viewers of those of the post-war European art cinema, such as Italian Neo-realism or French Nouvelle Vague. Third Cinema (model 2) also has been both the case of deterritorialization and reterritorialization in Korean cinema, where the critique of bourgeois individualism and neoliberal capitalism can be found as the continual sociopolitical process that returns to the center (Hollywood or American cultural dominance, internalized colonial mentality) while re-inscribing the yearning to decenter it. By defeating Hollywood on its own turf year after year, Korean national cinema quite possibly is the most successful commercial cinema operating right now outside Hollywood and raises the ante for Crofts’s model of Third World and European commercial cinema (model 3).5 Here, I use the term “national cinema,” following the footsteps of Andrew Higson. He once argued that “national cinema has almost invariably been mobilized as a strategy of cultural (and economic) resistance . . . in the face of (usually) Hollywood’s international domination” (Higson 1989: 37). If it indeed is national cultural autonomy that is at stake in constructing a “national cinema,” there is probably no better example than the films of Im Kwon-Taek, whose filmography includes Sopyonje (1993) and Chunhyang (2000), that can be suggested as a form of Korean national cinema (James and Kim 2002). Korean cinema also excels in both ignoring Hollywood and imitating Hollywood, which would align it as both model (4) and (5). Its ability to attract Hollywood producers looking for remake contents and directorial talent makes Chungmuro cinema that has figured out its game of imitating Hollywood, but it also is one that now ignores Hollywood for its local products outsell Hollywood almost now by a factor of two to one. Moving to model (7), Korean films also regionally trail Chinese and Japanese cinemas – both in terms of market size and population. It can be argued that Korean cinema has always been and always will be a regional cinema within the Pacific Rim – as long as Korea maintains its minor language status right next to the major languages of Chinese, Japanese, and Russian. With its long history of dictatorship that lasted three decades, Korea can also be perceived as a country that still suffers from the vestiges of dictatorship (model 6). Censorship still remains an issue, even in South Korea. The maverick director Kim Ki-duk’s 2013 film Moebius created


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a headache for the film industry administrators when it was censored by Korea’s ratings board by forcing him to excise 80 seconds from his film (Lee 2013a). Also, the recent conflict between the leadership of the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) and Busan’s conservative mayor Suh Byung-soo, which began in 2014 when then-director Lee Yongkwan approved the screening of the anti–Park Keun-hye documentary The Truth Shall Not Sink with Sewol, means that Korea is still a country where complete freedom of speech has yet to be gained (Lee 2016).

Localizing global One of the advertisement lines for recent commercials of Hyundai Capital, which is a South Korean consumer finance company that deals primarily with credit card and automobile loans and home mortgage products, acknowledges that consumer finance companies usually have trouble finding success beyond domestic borders. So, instead of “exporting capital,” Hyundai claims, it “becomes local.” In other words, in China, Hyundai Capital morphs into Chinese capital; in Britain, into British capital; and in the U.S., into American capital. This “localizing global” ad series line for Hyundai Capital may suit also the “localizing global” paradigm for Korean films.6 Rather than exporting Korean films to other markets in Asia or North America, the Korean film industry, realizing that its domestic market is too small to sustain growth, is attempting to morph into another local cinema. So intense is this effort to “localize Korean cinema” that not only are some Korean films trying to abandon Korean as the primary language in which dialogue is delivered, but they are also abandoning Korean actors and the cultural flavor of Korea. Retained then are only Korean directors, Korean key crew members, and the original script in Korean. The success of Korean cinema is tempered by the fact that only a little more than 75 million people in the world speak Korean. Exclude 25 million North Koreans who cannot legally consume capitalist South Korea’s cultural products, and you have only about 50 million people left in the world who are primary target consumers of Korean language movies. No country within the top ten world’s theatrical markets boasts a language base this small (see again Table 13.1). Far more people, of course, speak English, Chinese, Japanese, French, Hindi, Spanish/Portuguese, or German than speak Korean. The film with a biggest price tag during the first decade of the 2000s was The Good, the Bad, the Weird (dir. Kim Jee-woon), which cost US$25 million.7 In only the first four years of the new decade, three films, Mr. Go, Snowpiercer, and My Way (2011, dir. Kang Je-gyu), all cost more than US$30 million to make. The 2014 blockbusters, The Admiral: Roaring Currents (Myengryang) and Ode to My Father (Gookje sijang), also cost around US$20 million to produce and to market. With the price of producing and publicizing an average domestic blockbuster film climbing from $2 million in 1999 (Shiri) to more than $10 million in recent years, the producers’ ambition to find and explore foreign markets that are willing to exhibit Korean films has grown even more. One could perhaps even argue, despite its success, that the cultivation of several reliable foreign markets is the only way Korean cinema can survive in the new century. A Wedding Invitation (2013, dir. Oh Ki-hwan) is quite possibly the first-ever Chinese language film originally scripted, directed, and financed by Koreans. A joint venture between Huayi Brothers (China) and CJ Entertainment & Media (Korea), this weepy comedy – anachronistic by Korean standards – became one of the biggest hit films Korea has produced by raking in US$31.3 million in the Chinese box office, despite the fact that it only sold twenty thousand tickets in its own domestic box office. It was successful because the film, although directed and originally scripted by a Korean, was re-written by a platoon of Chinese 214

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screenwriters, was set in China, and starred Chinese and Taiwanese actors Bai Baihe and Eddie Peng. In this tearjerker that revolves around a fake wedding planned by a successful-yet-diagnosed-with-terminal-disease chef to impress the girl he really wants to marry, no Korean element is contrived. Because A Wedding Invitation was so successful in the Chinese box office, which has proven to be much bigger than the South Korean one, South Korean film companies headed by CJ E&M is developing eight to ten more projects there to be released in the next couple of years (Frater 2013). Not only are Korean exhibitors and distributors trying to open the doors in China, but so are Korean film technicians, such as visual effects supervisors and digital animators. They are finding bidding wars in China against Hollywood personnel to be more propitious as the clock continues to tick tock. Bigger budget blockbusters in China and Korea mean heavier reliance on digital characters and motion captures, presenting auspicious opportunities for the Korean film industry, which has been investing heavily in computer graphics and visual effects. It has also already established decades of work experience through the labor-intensive subcontracting work for Americans since the days of The Simpsons, which began its first broadcast in the late 1980s. Though Chinese (US$6.8 billion) and South Korean (US$1.6 billion) box office revenues (even if you were to throw in Taiwan and Hong Kong, which estimates around US$200 million and US$100 million each) together still fall below the size of theatrical markets of the top four Anglophone countries (United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia), a Sino-Korea alliance represents a market size and market share of homegrown movies that is respectable enough to compete against even the English-language films. The combined China and South Korea theatrical box office market totals more than US$8 billion, and proceeds are expected to grow exponentially in the next two decades. In a global film culture where the size of capital investment, because of ever-rising cost of visual graphics and other film technological means, determines the taste and preference of moviegoers, the Chinese market represented by its 1.4 billion population cannot be underestimated. This both attracts and strains its neighbor, the Korean film industry, which shares its cultural and linguistic heritage, but risks losing its own identity by completely morphing into Chinese. Does the intensification of “localizing global” strategy of Korean cinema, which needs to forego Korean cultural and linguistic identity in order to appeal to a bigger Chinese audience market, mean that the “Korean” of the “Korean cinema” will be weakened? It’s one thing when banks, mortgage loans, and credit card companies chose to forego their national identities, but it’s another matter altogether when a massive number of cultural products ends up having to delete its national characters or origins to appeal to a neighboring market. Has late capitalism reached a point in history that even significant cultural artifacts such as movies need to erase national histories, culture, language, and heritage in order to survive in today’s world, which has globalized into several hegemonic blocs such as EU, America, and China? I do not have an answer to this, but this I must say. Fortunately, as long as the South Korean theatrical market remains and Korean moviegoers continue to find Korean films – even the ones shot primarily in English with an American cast, such as Snowpiercer – intriguing, the short-term future for Korean-language films doesn’t look as bleak as for those in other countries. Production of sci-fi films that originate in Korea might only be possible in the future in the English or Chinese languages in order to recoup its big costs, but all other genres could still be shot in Korean. Big budget comedies, court dramas, thrillers, disaster spectacles, sports movies, and period pieces top the list of domestic movie materials that are still being planned for the next holiday seasons in Korea.8 Is the current condition of Korean cinema displaying what I have earlier called an “impossible postmodernization”? South Korean cinema boasts a national cinema that has no auteurs who are 215

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as visible as the auteurs of the glory days of arthouse cinema of the 20th century. The output of Korea’s current roster of directors, Hong Sang-soo, Lee Chang-dong, and Kim Ki-duk, probably ranks lower than that of the historical triumvirate of De Sica, Rosellini, and Visconti of 1940s Italian cinema or Truffaut, Godard, and Rohmer of the 1960s French Cinema. But Korean cinema’s ascendance in the 21st century will not be remembered for its auteurs, but its commercial renaissance that ended up influencing Chinese cinema. The partnership forged between Korea and its neighbor certainly allow for a better forecast for Korean cinema, which merely several years ago could afford to shoot only B-comedies, introspective melodramas, and horrors – in no language other than Korean. Koreans may be lucky to not have to worry about literally counting the days of screen quota with empty theaters just to protect their national film industry. Whether this would eventually mean an end to the Korean national identity stamped into South Korea’s own films is actually a subset of a larger question that asks whether a culture of minor language can survive in the 21st century.

Notes 1 Though the Criterion Collection does not hold copyrights to all of the masterpieces of world cinema, it is assumed that it has many. Only two Korean films, the 1960 version of The Housemaid and Lee Changdong’s Secret Sunshine, are currently distributed by the Criterion. 2 According also to the 2014 annual report of the Korean Film Council (KOFIC), only Iceland boasts a higher moviegoing rate per capita in the world at 4.28. South Korea recorded 4.19 in 2014. 3 To find out reasons why the Golden Age ended, please see my chapter, “Korean Cinema and Im KwonTaek” in James and Kim (2002: 26–9). 4 Only Spain is slightly smaller at 47 million, but Spanish is a language that is spoken by more people outside Spain than inside. 5 For a deeper analysis of their work, please see my chapters on Hong Sang-soo and Lee Chang-dong in Kim (2011). 6 See the Hyundai Capital commercial here: 7 This excludes D-War [2007, Shim Hyong-rae], an animation feature that was made largely on a phony finance account. 8 Korean audiences are in many ways more fortunate than other audiences in the world who cannot anticipate blockbuster films made in their own language or recreated by their own actors.

References Chung, H. S. and Diffrient, D. S. (2015) Movie Migrations: Transnational Genre Flows and South Korean Cinema, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. Conran, P. (2013) “Korean Industry Crosses 200 Million Admissions for 1st Time,” KOFIC News, 18 December. jsp?pageIndex=1&blbdComCd=601007&seq=1600&mode=VIEW&returnUrl=&searchKeyword= [Accessed on 14 May 2015]. Cremin, S. (2013) “Mr. Go Hits Home Run at China Box Office,” Film Business Asia, 20 July, http://www. [Accessed on 1 March 2014]. Crofts, S. (2009) “Reconceptualizing National Cinema(s),” in L. Braudy and M. Cohen (eds) Reconceptualizing National Cinema(s) in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, pp. 853–64, New York: Oxford University Press. Frater, P. (2013) “Jeong Tae-sung: International Executive You Should Know,” Variety, 30 October, http:// [Accessed on 1 March 2014]. Friedberg, A. (2009) “The End of Cinema: Multimedia and Technological Change,” in L. Braudy and M. Cohen (eds) Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, pp. 802–13, New York: Oxford University Press. Higson, A. (1989) “The Concept of National Cinema,” Screen, 30(4): 36–46. James, D. E. and Kim, K. H. (2002) Im Kwon-Taek: The Making of a Korean National Cinema, Detroit: Wayne State University Press.


Cinema story in the digital age Kim, J. (2014) “Korean Film Industry Records USD 1.74 Billion Revenue in 20130,” KOFIC News, 10 February, Cd=601007 [Accessed on 1 March 2014]. Kim, K. H. (2011) Virtual Hallyu: Korean Cinema of the Global Era, Durham: Duke University Press. Korean Film Council (KOFIC 2009) 2009 Hanguk yonghwa yongam, [2009 Korean Film Annals]. Seoul: Korean Film Council. Korean Film Council (KOFIC 2014) 2014 Hanguk yonghwa yongam, [2014 Korean Film Annals]. Seoul: Korean Film Council. Lee, H. (2013a) “Kim Ki-duk Cuts Incest Scenes in ‘Moebius’ After Korean Rating Board Ban,” The Hollywood Reporter, 18 June, [Accessed on 28 March 2016]. Lee, H. (2013b) “South Korea Breaks Record 200 Million Admissions,” The Hollywood Reporter, 17 December, [Accessed on 1 March 2014]. Lee, H. (2016) “Battle for Busan Festival: South Korean Filmmakers Threaten Boycott,” The Hollywood Reporter, 21 March, [Accessed on 28 March 2016]. Manovich, L. (2001) The Language of New Media, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Mast, G. and Kawin, B. (2011) A Short History of the Movies, Boston: Pearson. Maxmovie Magazine (2013) “Ungdaphara 2003” [Respond 2003], December: 93. Motion Pictures Association of America (2014) Theatrical Market Statistics 2014, wp-content/uploads/2015/03/MPAA-Theatrical-Market-Statistics-2014.pdf Poster, M. (2006) Information Please: Culture and Politics in the Age of Digital Machines, Durham: Duke University Press. Robins, K. (1995) Into the Image: Culture and Politics in the Field of Vision, London: Routledge. Rodowick, D. N. (2010) Afterimages of Gilles Deleuze’s Film Philosophy, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2012) Emerging Markets and the Digitization of the Film Industry: An Analysis of the 2012 UIS International Survey of Feature Film Statistics, movie-statistics.aspx Willemen, P. (2002) “Detouring through Korean Cinema,” Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 3(2): 167–86.



This chapter provides an overview on how the technological diffusion of digital media has influenced the development of democracy in South Korea (hereafter Korea). In doing so, it first takes a historical look at online media’s influence on political communication by highlighting the significant moments at which online media played a role in the evolution of democracy. It then examines how digital technologies have changed the media landscape in Korea, with a focus on public access channels and alternative media. This is followed by a discussion of some of the emerging issues on the role of digital media in political communication and the changing media landscape. Citing Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1835), Plattner states that three domains – political parties, media and civil society – provide the channels through which the opinions of the people are formed and transmitted. Modern democracies cannot work without them and they have profound effects upon the quality and sustainability of democracy (Plattner 2012: 67). The major changes in the development of the wider society inevitably have an impact on the character of these institutions. This has been particularly true with the case of Korea, where digital media have rapidly transformed the way in which people access and disseminate news and information, and where the strong coalition of civil society, political parties and the media has strengthened political parallelism, reflecting their dominant ideology. In order to understand how the technological diffusion of digital media – the Internet and social media applications – has influenced the development of democracy in Korea, it is therefore logical to explore the extent to which digital media have affected each of the three contending forces and how they responded to digital media.

Development of state–media relations since 1988 Mass media in Korea, a country that has experienced 28 years of democratic rule since 1988, have tested the limits of their freedom and independence. Under democratic rule, the relationship between the state and the media has undergone a revolution. Prior to 1988, all newspapers were conservative, with their daily operations closely controlled by the military regimes and, in turn, their businesses protected by those regimes. Watchdog journalism was not possible, because all media outlets protected their interests and influence by supporting the military-backed ruling conservative party. Under the protection of military-backed governments, existing Korean newspapers and broadcasters were shielded from competition. 218

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After 1988, the major newspapers maintained their market dominance. The launch of Hankyoreh in 1988 marked a turning point in Korean journalism, in that this new media outlet broadened the ideological spectrum by providing counter-conservative views. Founded by a group of dissident journalists who had been sacked under the previous military regimes, the new paper made it clear that it would be different from existing newspapers. With its three slogans – Minjok (Nation), Minjung (Grassroots Class), Minju (Democracy) – the left-leaning Hankyoreh has been seen as “progressive” because it favored Korean reunification and took a more conciliatory line toward North Korea than had any other South Korean newspapers (Heuvel and Dennis 1993: 14). Their “progressive” – also meaning “reform-oriented” – stance in economic issues and labor disputes meant accommodating and voicing diverse ideologies which had been either neglected or marginalized in the mainstream conservative newspapers. Since the late 1990s, media engagement in watchdog journalism has been significantly affected by changing media economies and the political sea change stemming from 1988. During the 1997 East Asian economic crisis, some corporations collapsed, and the media’s advertising revenue dropped. Mainstream newspapers acquired huge external debts, making them even more vulnerable to declining advertising income. Reliant on advertising for 70 percent of their income (KPF 2010), newspapers were forced to change their business strategies. Most visibly, they have increased their page length in order to maximize profits from advertising. The power shift from a conservative to a reformist government in 1998 saw a major confrontation between different ideological and political interests in Korea. Despite a number of measures put in place by the government – such as a tax audit, change of law and control of news sources – conservative newspapers refused to reach a compromise with progressive governments. The influential conservative newspapers – Chosun, Dong-A and JoongAng – maintained their support for the conservative party, while Hankyoreh together with Kyunghyang, another left-leaning paper whose editorial stance dramatically shifted in 1998 after a change of ownership, followed a progressive line. While both print and broadcast media undoubtedly became freer than they had been under conservative governments, partisan press coverage in the major national newspapers has been the norm ever since. The relationship between the state and the media, in fact, even worsened when Roh Moo-hyun (2003–2007) won the 2002 presidential election. A long-time critic of conservative newspapers, Roh distrusted the media, and this distrust surfaced when he imposed a series of media reforms, thus widening the gap between government and the media. In 2008, the nation saw the triumphant return of the conservative party after a decade of rule by reformist governments, and the same party continued to hold power after its candidate Park Geun-hye won the 2012 presidential election. Political shifts, regardless of which party holds power, have not altered partisan journalism practice.

Online media in historical context in the 2000s The Internet in Korea has emerged against a backdrop of concerns about apparently declining public engagement in politics, weak institutionalization of political parties, and heightened levels of skepticism about politicians and mainstream media. The question of the political impact of online media in the process of democratization is particularly salient with regard to the role of the political parties as they function as mediator between the government/state and the general public. Since political parties play a vital role in the democratic process, their institutionalization – an important concept in gauging the stability and effectiveness of political parties as agencies for public representation (Lee 2009) – is seen as an indicator of democratic consolidation. In the case of Korea, however, the political parties and party systems have remained largely under-institutionalized. 219

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Weak institutionalization of political parties also means that they have been limited in their function as a mediator between the government and general public (Choi 2008). This argument can be further supported by the fact that political parties in Korea have not received a reasonable level of trust from the general public. A number of public trust surveys have consistently shown that political parties have been one of the least trustworthy groups in Korea, while business companies and government institutions receive a high level of trust ( JoongAng Daily 2009; KDI 2006; Park 2009). The weak political party system in Korea has allowed the civil organizations to emerge as an influential force to fill the gap between the government/state and the general public, expanding their boundaries to political issues. Civil society has been an essential element in the process of democratization in Korea (Koo 2002). While civil society groups perform valuable functions, they do not seek to gain power (Gershman 2004). In Korea, however, this has not always been the case. Lacking coherent policy platforms that would provide the institutional basis for a strong party system, Korea’s political parties were ineffective in representing public interests and in offering alternative policies. . . . Under these circumstances, advocacy oriented NGOs have risen to take on a quasi-party function in representing public interests and dictating policy. (Lee 2005: 122) The lack of public trust was also found in the mainstream media. A compelling feature noted in the transitional process under Kim Dae-jung’s presidency was the growing antagonism between the state and the media. The three major conservative newspapers have been in line with the conservative Grand National Party (GNP), while the progressive papers, e.g. Hankyoreh and Kyunghyang, and two national broadcasters, KBS and MBC, have sided with progressive political parties and the government (Nam 2009). With these clear-cut ideological boundaries, the differences existed in the way in which each paper framed and reported the news on reunification/North Korea (Lee 2003; Lee 2007). In this sense, the mainstream media failed to enhance the quality of news, quite often reflecting their own political/ideological and economic interests. It was within this context that the independent online newspapers – papers available online only providing general news – emerged as an alternative source of information at the time when the polarized mainstream media, to a varying degree, have been less enthusiastic in the online business. The online newspapers, although they were less influential than mainstream media, have been well received by the Korean readers, young readers in particular, whose opportunities in accessing information that deal with the diverse spectrum of ideologies have been limited (Park 2001). Unlike the mainstream media which have shown a high level of political parallelism, the online newspaper industry has been from the outset dominated by reform-oriented Internet newspapers, such as OhmyNews and Pressian. The launch of the online newspapers has been welcomed and supported by the Kim Dae-jung government. The relationship between the reform-oriented online newspapers and government continued throughout another reformist Roh Moo-hyun (2002–2007) government. Prior to the emergence of the Internet, political information has been disseminated through traditional media, such as television, radio and newspaper. The Internet has met people’s demand for political information in a more convenient form (time and space) and at a lower cost (price) than traditional media. As the barriers to political participation have come down, there have been attempts to make the voters and political party member get involved and engaged in political activities in more direct way. One of the examples was the launch of an Internet-based political 220

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party. Korea saw the first Internet-based political party in 2002, when Rhyu Si-min organized the People’s Reform Party ahead of the 2002 presidential election to help Roh Moo-hyun run successfully. Although the party was dissolved after Roh won the election, it showed the possibility that a political party can operate online through people’s voluntary participation, making traditional way of political activities, e.g. organizing and mobilizing the members, less attractive. Under the slogans of bottom-up participatory democracy, anti-corruption, Internet-based party and national unity, the new party collected required information, such as the rationale of the new party, policy draft and selection of committee members, through exchanges of ideas and discussions through the Internet. Within three weeks, more than 20,000 people joined the membership of the new party (Kang 2005). After Roh Moo-hyun won the 2002 presidential election, the Internet-based party decided to dissolve in October 2003 when the original members of the party formed a new party, Uri Party (Uri literally means “we or us”), as separate from the ruling Democratic Party. Through online voting, the party voluntarily disbanded the online-based party and joined the newly created Uri Party. The Internet’s impact on political participation was first noted during the 2000 parliamentary election campaign, when the Citizens’ Alliance for the 2000 General Elections (CAGE) launched a nationwide campaign to discredit unfit National Assembly candidates. The civil organizations utilized the Internet for effectively networking nationwide organizations, and eventually formed a network of hundreds of grassroots citizens groups. On its homepage, the CAGE revealed a blacklist of 86 unsuitable candidates based on criteria such as their involvement in corruption, immoral behavior, association with past military-led governments and the like before the election, each with pages of details and background. At the same time, through online and offline campaigns it urged voters not to cast ballots for those on the blacklist. As a result, the CAGE, a collective of about 470 NGOs, managed to defeat fifty-nine of the eighty-six candidates it judged incompetent, corrupt or too lazy to hold office (Korea Herald 4 April 2000). The 2000 parliamentary election showed that without cyber-networks, the impact of the civil society on the political process would have been limited. Boosted by the magnitude of the support and influence the CAGE demonstrated during the election, a number of citizen groups with different interests emerged, and in the following year the number soared to more than 20,000 NGOs (Hankook Daily 12 June 2001). The 2002 presidential election demonstrated the Internet’s victory over conservative newspapers – Chosun, Dong-A and JoongAng – in the battle to influence young voters. In presidential elections until 1997, newspapers played an influential role in shaping public opinion that supported conservative governments. The influence of conservative newspapers, which had been weakened in the 1997 presidential election, proved to be weakened further in the 2002 presidential election when Roh Moo-hyun, a reformist, became the president, beating his conservative opponent Lee Hoe-chang, who was supported by the conservative newspapers. It was a clear indication that the online media had gradually been challenging the mainstream newspapers’ role in shaping opinion. It is worth noting that in 2002 Korea was ranked first in the world in terms of the penetration rate (21.3 per 100 inhabitants) of high-speed broadband, and second after the United States in terms of the number (10 million) of high-speed Internet users (ITU 2002). In 2002, nearly 90 percent and 70 percent of the young voters in their 20s and 30s, respectively, used the Internet. They were the most active users of technologies such as Internet and mobile phones. The impact of the Internet was highlighted before the 2002 election when a fan club (called Rohsamo), utilizing community on the Internet, supported reformist underdog Roh Moo-hyun and eventually made him win the election. For example, the members of Rohsamo communicated with each other exclusively via the Internet and posted nonstop video and text reports on 221

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OhmyNews to deliver and promote Roh’s policies and information on election strategies (Yun 2008b). During the campaign, they also organized the voluntary distribution and collection of online fundraising for Roh (Yun 2008a). On the election day, OhmyNews unfolded events online and via web-link mobile phones, and when conservative candidate Lee Hoe-chang started edging ahead at the exit polls, many of Rohsamo members sent thousands of SMS text messages to others asking them to vote and support Roh (Cho 2009). Indeed, former president Roh himself fully acknowledged the Internet: “I couldn’t think of my political life without online media. The Internet saved me” (Chosun Daily 27 February 2007). The technological development (high penetration rate of high-speed Internet) and political advancement (democratization) in Korea have allowed a number of studies to examine if there exists any interrelation between the Internet and political development; the impact of the Internet on the political process, elections or political parties. Amongst them, several studies examined the role a particular political fan club (Rohsamo) and Internet newspaper (OhmyNews) played during the 2002 presidential election, and suggested that the Internet can be a new tool for political mobilization (Joyce 2007; Kang and Dyson 2007; Shin 2005). These studies support the proposition that the 2002 election reaffirmed the Internet’s potential to serve as a catalyst for change. The key question was whether the influential role the Internet played in the 2002 presidential election can be repeated in the following presidential election. Unlike the 2002 presidential election, when the online media were dominated by young voters who eventually played a vital role in making underdog candidate Roh Moo-hyun the president, the 2007 presidential election showed that the Internet was no longer a dominant factor in influencing voters. Since the 2002 presidential election, when the Internet played an important role in exchanging and dissemination political information, online media has further developed with the introduction of new tools such as Web 2.0, UCC (User Created Contents), and weblogs. Indeed, the paradigm of Web 2.0 – with its prioritizing functioning of participation, openness and sharing – made it possible to create blogs, mini homepages and UCC promoting individual participation. Such individual media and participatory contents provide the platform for a wide range of individual experience and statements and make them accessible to a broad cross-section of the public (Chang and Yun 2008: 381). In this way, these new technologies have changed the foundation of the Internet, from a traditional form of a community that mediates homepages to a social network based on individual media (Chang and Yun 2008: 390). With these newer technologies, there has been a greater expectation that the use of the Internet would be more vitalized during the election campaigns. Lee Myung-bak’s victory in the 2007 election marked the triumphant return to power of the conservative GNP, ending a decade’s rule of two progressive governments. The CEO of Pressian, one of the influential progressive online newspapers, observed that “The Internet attracted enormous attention in the 2002 election. And it was possible because the progressive party dominated the Internet, and at the same time there was a significant setback of the mainstream newspapers. This won’t happen again” (Media Today 26 April 2007). Underlying this statement is that the conservative GNP and the mainstream newspapers, having witnessed an influential role the Internet played in the 2002 election, would seriously consider the maximum use of the Internet. Two major factors contributed to the less potent role of the online media in the 2007 presidential election: GNP’s resurgence on cyberspace, and the change of online media landscape. Normalization hypothesis implies that just as the major parties dominate the sphere of everyday domestic politics, so they come to dominate cyberspace (Margolis et al. 1999). This thesis runs counter to the notion that the Internet provides the means for minor parties and interests on a more or less equal basis in cyberspace. The Korean experience of the 2007 election partly supports this hypothesis. 222

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After experiencing bitter defeats in the 2002 presidential election and the 2004 parliamentary election, the GNP vigorously adopted and utilized the Internet. With its “i-Hannara (Hannara, Korean name of GNP, literally means “one nation”) Plan,” the GNP established an online network through which all regional GNP branches and all party members were linked, and real-time information was shared (Cho 2009). An analysis of the number of visitors to the homepages of the political parties in 2007 showed that netizens visited the GNP homepages more than other political parties. In November 2007, when the presidential election campaign was at its height, for example, the GNP had 240,000 visitors while the ruling Uri Party (which changed its name in July 2007 to form the Grand Unified Democratic Party) had only 105,810 (Yun 2008a: 209). The GNP’s lead was also noted in the number of visitors who accessed the presidential candidate’s websites. Throughout 2007, the homepage of Lee Myung-bak, the presidential candidate from the GNP, continuously attracted the highest number of visitors, while the number of visitors to other candidates’ homepages hardly matched Lee’s (Yun 2008a). Earlier the GNP’s strong push for adopting the Internet was also noted in its policy, which encouraged its Members of Parliament (MPs) to have his/her own blogs and mini homepages. As a result, in 2006, amongst 180 MPs who used their homepages and blogs regularly, 105 were with the GNP, while 64 were from the ruling Uri party (Segye Ilbo 22 January 2006). Furthermore, nine GNP MPs were listed in the top twelve politicians who had more than 50,000 (in accumulation) visitors of their mini homepages or blogs (Segye Ilbo 22 January 2006). Another major change noted in the second half of the 2000s was the decline of reform-oriented online newspapers and the emergence of conservative online newspapers. The reform-oriented online newspapers that were launched in the beginning of the 2000s developed as alternative media and provided diverse views and news, broadening the ideological spectrum in journalism. In 2002, these newspapers outnumbered their conservative counterparts. On daily average in 2004, 64 percent of the total (1.1 million daily) netizens who clicked online newspapers visited reformoriented online newspapers, while only 3 percent visited independent conservative online newspapers, such as Independent Newspaper and UpKorea (Yu 2007). Since then, the growing number of conservative online newspapers – e.g. Dailian, FreeZoneNews, New Daily and NationKorea – emerged to counter reform-oriented ones. As a result, the reform-oriented online newspapers could no longer maintain their dominance in 2007. For example, the number of daily visitors of OhmyNews – the most popular reform-oriented online newspaper – dropped to 161,524 in June 2007, from 382,659 visitors in the 2002 presidential election (Dong-A Daily 28 July 2007). In sharp contrast, the number of visitors to Dailian, a conservative online newspaper, jumped to 800,000 in August 2007, from 100,000 in March 2004 (Song 2007). In a similar vein, the conservative netizens’ participation in online activities became more visible. In 2001, 145 discussion boards on Daum, one of the largest portals, were operated by the netizens who support the reformist party, whereas only four were by those who supported the conservative party. In 2006, however, the number of conservative-operated discussion boards soared to 311, exceeding that of the progressive ones (234) (Chosun Daily 8 May 2006). Participatory democracy has been again highlighted in people’s candlelight rally in June 2008. During his state visit to the US in April 2008, President Lee announced the signing of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Korea and the US. He added that as a result, Korea would resume the import of US beef, which originally had been suspended in 2003 due to safety concerns over mad cow disease. This sparked public anger, as it could imply that the import beef from the US would affect the health of the Korean populations. The situation became worse on April 30, when PD Note, MBC’s flagship current affairs program, aired that if the beef from the US was older than 30 months, they could contain mad cow disease, which is vital for human health. This program triggered the candlelight protests. The 223

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Internet played an important role in connecting and mobilizing people. Agora, the online community in Daum, one of the largest portals in Korea, functioned as a key channel through which people could get information and exchange their views about the import of US beef and its harmful effects. Updated information and suggestions then were spread to other communities. Clearly demonstrating its influence on the net, Daum’s Agora quickly emerged as a hub of online debates about candlelight vigils against the import of US beef. Unlike past protests, the majority of the participants in the 2008 vigil were not activists affiliated with civil organizations but self-motivated individuals. The vigil, largely led by netizens, teenagers, women and street journalists armed with computers and digital cameras, were highly visible and influential. Personal media played a central role as the venue for citizen journalism. Africa TV, a personal broadcast site, for example, covered the candlelight vigils live 24 hours a day, attracting more than eight million visitors to watch them (KPF 2008). This was a clear illustration of the mobilizing power of online communities (e.g. blogs, chats, cafes, discussion boards) that eventually led to street demonstrations against the government policy of the approval of the FTA with the United States. When the issue of US beef emerged as major public concern, the then loosely integrated networks soon transformed and functioned as a powerful political network, with their strong bonds and high degree of sharing. The vigil also brought a sense of solidarity to citizens, who had been politically inactive, with various identities (Hong 2009). Large banners, headbands and steel pipes, which had been the symbols of violent labor strikes and street demonstrations, were replaced by candles, posters, music and dance performances. Faced with mounting pressure, President Lee apologized that the government should have put more effort into finding out what the public wanted on the issue of importing beef from the US. But, he soon ordered to clamp down on the protestors, as the rally became violent. The genuine, peaceful and voluntary nature of the vigils, however, has been gradually overshadowed by the political motives of the progressive political parties – New Progressive Party, Democratic Labour Party – and progressive civil organizations such as Korean Confederation of Trade Union, Korean Teachers and Educational Worker’s Union, and Korea Cargo Transport Workers Union (Choi 2009). While the vigil demonstrated that Korea has advanced in establishing participatory democracy, it begs the question as to the nature of the vigils. While the candlelight vigils were triggered by the public concern about the terms of the beef deal with the US, the major driving force behind the rally lied with people’s dissatisfaction with the Lee administration, which have been accumulating since the launch of the Presidential Transition Committee in January 2008 (Byeon 2009; Kim 2009). Most of the Committee’s moves, including growth- and construction-oriented policies, privatization, and education policies that urged competition, were the sources of discontent. In this sense, the candlelight vigils offered the public an opportunity to express their anger and frustration. The vigils have been criticized as “populism” – an expression of a “desperate life crisis,” and the tendency of thinking in which people directly raise demands from everyday life (Hong 2009: 130). The 2008 vigils failed to provide the public sphere for a rational, open space for every citizen, particularly those who do not agree with the demands participants in the vigils raised – actually the participants in the vigils have shown their aggressiveness toward opposing voices. In the middle of the vigils, the progressive civil organizations together with opposition parties tried to politicize the vigils by mobilizing the participants for a more organized protest for the candlelight demonstrations under their control. The nature of the vigils greatly changed. Previous slogans like “No to US beef ” were replaced by a new version, “Out with Lee Myungbak.” On June 20, the People’s Committee against Mad Cow Disease, an alliance of 1,700 civil groups, officially launched a campaign to make Lee Myung-bak resign (Choi 2009). 224

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The 2008 vigil was an important turning point when Korean people began to voice their demand on daily life issues. Unlike the previous protests which were ideological in nature based largely on the turbulent relationship between the state and the civil society, the major concerns of the protesters in the 2008 vigil were health and food safety. As Choi (2008: 148) aptly puts it: People began to voice their opinion regarding specific socio-economic policy issues which directly linked to their daily livelihood. It is an important turning point given that the Korean political parties in the post-democratization period, apart from their ideological leaning whether conservative or progressive, failed to put forward an alternative economic and social policy directly relevant to citizens’ day to day life.

Digital technologies and changing media landscape Online media, which changed because of political events, have affected both political parties and civil society, and eventually played a major role in advancing democracy in Korea. It is, however, equally important to understand how the digital technologies have transformed traditional media, namely newspapers and television, and changed the contemporary media landscape. The mainstream media have extended their traditional editions with online newspapers and Web-TV channels to provide more diverse information. Although the conservative newspapers in Korea started online business as early as in the middle of 1990s, their attitude has been rather passive, as it was regarded as a different type of dissemination of their off-line service, providing the same content. However, as noted earlier, after experiencing an embarrassing setback with the emergence of the reform-oriented online newspapers in the 2002 election, major changes were noted with the mainstream conservative newspapers, namely Chosun, Dong-A and JoongAng. These newspapers vigorously adopted online media and developed it as major business, significantly increasing and updating the contents. For example, they established new departments that specialized in online service, and provided self-produced online video news. The reporters’ blogs and online communities were promoted as key content channel (KPF 2009). As a result, their online service has attracted more visitors than reform-oriented online newspapers. Television broadcasters have diversified their distribution and transmission by providing live streaming main news programs on portal sites. For example, JTBC, one of the comprehensive programming cable channels, started a live streaming service of its news programs to Naver, Daum and YouTube in 2013. Other broadcasters soon followed. The digitalization of television broadcasting made it technically possible to allocate more broadcasting spectrum space for non-commercial purposes, providing undiluted political and public forums in which citizens can express ideas and concerns (Wilhelm 2000). In the process of the digitalization of television, the notion of “public access” has been highlighted as a key element in strengthening “media democracy” – by using digital technologies to empower individual citizens and to promote democratic ideals through the spread of information (Exoo 2010). The digitalization of television has allowed terrestrial broadcasters to include more audience-participatory programs in the programming. Public access to information allows people to access information on political and social issues and engage in exchanges of ideas with other people, and eventually be better informed on the major issues of the day. In this way, the level of people’s participation in political activities can be improved. The television channel that performs this role in Korea is NATV (National Assembly Television). It is a government public access channel that provides live coverage of proceedings and committee meetings, parliamentary hearings and other events within the legislature through live streaming, without editing, commentary or analysis (NATV 2016). By showing a balanced 225

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presentation of points of view, NATV shows Korea’s democratic process and encourages Korean people’s involvement in the democratic process. Launched in 2004 to improve public perception of political activities of the National Assembly of Korea, NATV channel is available on cable, satellite and IPTV. Another public access channel is KTV (Korea Television) which is owned and operated by the National Audio Visual Information Service, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. Originally established as a government information office in 1949, KTV provides forums where public policy is discussed. The general public can access information on public policy issues and through the call-in program convey their opinions to government officials and other decision makers. The state-owned and state-operated nature of public access channels in Korea is in stark contrast to the public access channels in the US, Canada and Australia, where they are privately owned and independently operated. In the US, for example, C-SPAN (Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network) is funded by cable, satellite and telecommunication companies which distribute its channels to their video customers ( In Canada, the CPAC (Cable Public Affairs Channel) is owned by a consortium of cable companies to preserve an independent editorial voice ( Similarly, A-PAC (Australia’s Public Affairs Channel) is fully funded and produced by FOXTEL – Australia’s largest Pay-TV operator – and it is an editorially independent channel free of commercial or political consideration ( Another way of promoting the notion of “public access” is to allow the general public to have access to digital technologies and eventually create their own content in diverse media platforms. Content can be provided by local organizations, grassroots civil organizations and concerned citizens. This kind of engagement provides them with opportunities to show diverse views and thoughts, and widens the circle of formal and informal participation. Founded by the Association of Korean Independent Film & Video in 2012, MediAct has supported independent film and video makers, media policy development, lifelong media education and public access. In order to access the diverse range of media platforms, MediAct has provided an infrastructure focusing on the potential of creating a public media sector based on both shifting technological possibilities of access to the media and ongoing political democratization processes taking place in Korea (MediAct 2016). By providing training and education for a range of social groups – such as women, teachers, elderly, migrant workers, people living in rural areas, etc. – on the use of digital technologies, it encourages public participation in program production. The role of digital media in improving democracy can also be found in the way the digital technologies have met the growing demand for investigative journalism neglected by the mainstream media. Indeed, most fearless watchdog journalism has been performed by alternative independent and non-profit entities – such as Newstapa, Kukmin TV and Fact TV – that are devoted to investigative journalism. They have filled a gap in the current Korean media landscape where partisan politics, partisan journalism and commercial pressures have made it difficult for the media to perform a watchdog function. Prior to these entities, a podcast Naneun Ggomsuda (which literally means “I am a petty-minded creep”) has dramatically transformed Korea’s media and political landscape and dynamism of civil society for over a year. It started in 2011 by three men – a former MP, a former radio PD and an online political activist – as a news program, but later it took the form of a talk show. It provided information on current affairs that people could not see in mainstream media. While its tone was explicitly opposed to conservative ideologies, the leaders of both ruling and opposition parties have been guests on the show. With its record of 10 million downloads per episode, its podcast episodes were ranked number one in iTunes in August 2011 and April 2012 (Lee 2012). 226

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Amongst alternative media that have emerged in the 2010s, it’s worth mentioning the KCIJ (Korea Centre for Investigative Journalism), the first non-profit online investigative reporting organization in South Korea. The Centre launched Newstapa – an online news website that presents watchdog journalism in video form. “Tapa” means “overthrow,” and Newstapa seeks to provide an alternative to mainstream news in Korea. It was established in early 2012 by a group of veteran broadcast journalists, most of whom have been forced to resign or were sacked during the Lee Myung-bak regime (2008–2012) due to their critical reports against the Lee government. The Centre is funded entirely by regular donations from the public (35,272 members registered, as of 18 June 2015, every_news), and does not accept advertising or any other forms of sponsorship. It operates independently and free from any business interests or partisan political influences ( It produces in-depth investigative report covering a wide range of important issues related to social injustice and corruption of business and government. One of the major stories the Centre, the sole Korean partner of the ICIJ’s (International Consortium for Investigative Journalism) global project “Secrecy for Sale: Inside the Global Offshore Money Maze,” discovered was Koreans’ illegal activities in offshore records. In May 2013, in close cooperation with the ICIJ, the KCIJ discovered how family members of business leaders in Korea are linked to secrecy-shielded companies and accounts in offshore jurisdictions. It revealed that 245 Koreans, including business tycoons and corporate executives, have paper companies and assets in tax havens, including the British Virgin Islands and the Cook Islands (The Korea Times 23 May 2013). As soon as the names were revealed, both ruling and opposition political parties urged the Korean Taxation Office to investigate Koreans’ activities in tax havens.

Issues and discussions This chapter attempted to show how the technological diffusion of digital media has influenced the development of democracy in Korea, by looking at its influence on three key domains – political parties, civil society and the media – that have profound effects upon the quality and sustainability of democracy. While the 2002 presidential election and 2007 presidential election demonstrated the influence of online media in a particular political context, it would be difficult to say that online media directly contribute to the political outcomes of the elections. In contrast to the 2002 presidential election, when the Internet and online media functioned as a revolutionary force led by civil society, the existing dominant political forces (GNP) used their power resources and advantage to adopt and adapt the Internet in the 2007 presidential election. An obvious question to be raised here is to what extent can we generalize the impact of online media from a particular context. With the development of more sophisticated, mobile technologies, the digital media landscape changed, and so has the behaviour of media users. Since the 2007 election, more advanced and sophisticated Internet-based social networking services, such as Twitter and Facebook, have developed. Politicians have been quick to use Twitter to establish their online visibility and interact with the electorate (Park et al. 2011). With the emergence of smart phones, more and more media outlets distribute their news through Twitter. Some newspapers already launched interactive news services that utilize video, graphics and multimedia in a new type of storytelling (KPF 2010). It becomes more difficult to identify the relationship between the newer digital technologies and political communication. For example, in the 2012 parliamentary elections, amongst 128 most followed opinion leaders on Twitter, 116 (90.6 percent) were supportive of progressive 227

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candidates with 7.54 million followers, while only 12 were pro-conservative leaders with 0.3 million followers (Park, Y. S. cited in Media Today 8 December 2012). However, the progressive candidates’ dominance on Twitter did not lead to a positive outcome, as the conservatives won the majority in the 2012 parliamentary elections. A similar result can be found in the 2012 presidential election, when Park Geun-hye had far fewer followers on Twitter than did Moon Jae-in, the opposition candidate (Monthly Chosun July 2013). It would be interesting to assess the extent to which the development of digital media would influence political communication in upcoming elections. The second part of the chapter showed how digital technologies have changed the media landscape, with a focus on the development of public access channels and alternative media. It argued that public access channels (NATV and KTV), utilizing digital technologies, have improved the quality of the public’s information environment and provided more space and opportunities for public participation in the democratic process. These channels, however, have been susceptible to bias and unbalanced information mainly because they are owned and operated by the state (National Assembly and the government). This is particularly true of KTV, whose main role has been to promote government policy on various issues and enhance effective communication with the general public. It is therefore fair to say that the “public access” function of these channels has been somewhat limited. Another issue noted in Korea’s changing media landscape is the future role of alternative media. Due to its relatively uncontrolled, multimedia nature, the Internet has enabled alternative media to perform investigative journalism by transmitting via online sources such as podcasts and videos. The main challenges they face is how to maintain independence and financial sustainability. Some of the influential alternative media, e.g. Newstapa, Kukmin TV and Pressian, have adopted a non-commercial, non-profit model such as a cooperative, membership-only system or regular donations from readers. It is, however, yet to be seen if these models will succeed in the highly competitive media market.

References Byeon, Y. (2009) “2008 Candlelight Vigil and News Report: The Gatekeepers Never Returned the Camera,” Korean Journalism Review, 3(1): 185–9. Chang, W. and Yun, S. (2008) “How User-Generated (UGC) Campaign Changes Electoral Politics?,” Korea Observer, 39(3): 369–406. Cho, S. (2009) Internet and Democracy in Korea (in Korean), Paju: Korean Studies Information Co. Choi, J. (2008) What is Wrong with Democracy in Korea? (in Korean), Seoul: Thinking Tree Publishing. Choi, W. (2009) “008 Candlelight Vigil and News Report: Recording Defining Moments in History,” Korean Journalism Review, 3(1): 174–7. Chosun Daily (2006) “Conservative Cafes Soared from 4 to 311,” 8 May. Chosun Daily (2007) “Internet Saves Me, Says President Roh,” 27 February, data/html_dir/2007/02/27/2007022700743.html (accessed 25 November 2011). Dong-A Daily (2007) “Internet Election Again?” 28 July, p. A14. Exoo, C. (2010) The Pen and the Sword: Press, War, and Terror in the 21st Century, California: Sage. Gershman, C. (2004) “Democracy Promotion: The Relationship of Political Parties and Civil Society,” Democratization, 11(3): 27–35. Hankook Daily (2001) “A Glimpse of Civil Organizations in Korea,” 12 June, p. 12. Heuvel, V. and Dennis, E. (1993) The Unfolding Lotus: East Asia’s Changing Media, New York: The Freedom Forum Media Studies Center. Hong, S. (2009) “Candlelight Vigil and Public Sphere in the Korean Society: With an Emphasis on Deliberative Democracy and Republicanism,” Korea Journalism Review, 3(2): 109–36. ITU (2002) Top 15 Economies by 2002 Broadband Penetration, Geneva: International Telecommunications Union.


Digital media and democratic transition JoongAng Daily (2009) “Public Trust Survey on the Power Structure in Korea,” 1 July 2009, http://article. (accessed 5 March 2010). Joyce, M. (2007) Internet & Democracy Case Study Series: The Citizen Journalism Web Site ‘OhmyNews’ and the 2002 South Korean Presidential Election, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. Kang, J. and Dyson, L. (2007) Internet Politics in South Korea: The Case of Rohsamo and Ohmynews, 18th Australasian Conference on Information Systems, 5–7 December 2007, Toowoomba. Kang, W. (2005) “Information, Party Politics and Representative Democracy,” Korea and International Politics (in Korean), 21(3): 127–49. KDI (2006) Report on Social Investment (in Korean), Seoul: Korean Development Institute. Kim, J. (2009) “2008 Candlelight Vigil and News Report: Between Calm and Passion,” Korean Journalism Review, 3(1): 178–81. Koo, H. (2002) “Civil Society and Democracy in South Korea,” The Good Society, 11(2): 40–5. Korea Herald (2000) “NGOs: A Powerful Force for Political Reform,” 4 April, http://www.koreaherald. com/view.php?ud=20080205000029 (accessed 25 April 2011). The Korea Times (2013) “Newstapa Rocks Nation,” 23 May. KPF (2008) Media Audience Survey 2008 (in Korean), Seoul: Korea Press Foundation. KPF (2009) Media Management and Analysis (in Korean), Seoul: Korea Press Foundation. KPF (2010) Future Strategy for the Korean Newspapers (in Korean), Seoul: Korea Press Foundation. Lee, J. (2003) Political Economy of Reporting North Korean Issues, Proceedings of Korean Society for Journalism and Communication Studies Conference (in Korean), 659–81. Lee, S. (2005) “Democratization and Polarization in Korean Society,” Asian Perspective, 29(3): 99–125. Lee, S. (2012) “Heydays of Podcasts,” Weekly Hankook, 26 April, sisa/201204/wk20120427090534121390.htm (accessed 26 May 2016). Lee, W. (2007) “Ideological Disposition and Assessment of the Government Policies Appeared in Media Reports on the Subject of Inter-Korean Issues,” Korean Journalism Review, 1(2): 88–112. Lee, Y. (2009) “Democracy without Parties? Political Parties and Social Movements for Democratic Representation in Korea,” Korea Observer, 40(1): 27–52. Margolis, M., Resnick, D. and Wolfe, J. (1999) “Party Competition on the Internet in the United States and Britain,” The Harvard International Journal of Press Politics, 4(4): 24–47. MediAct (2016) “MediAct Info,” (accessed 24 February 2016). Media Today (2007) “Growth in Quantity. Trust Is the Key,” 26 April, p. 7. Media Today (2012) “Twitter’s Influence on Voting Rates,” 8 December, news&act=articleView&idxno=106461 (accessed 27 March 2014). Monthly Chosun (2013) “SNS and Korean Politics,” asp?ctcd=A&nNewsNumb=201307100010 (accessed 8 March 2016). Nam, S. (2009) Crisis of Journalism and the Responsibility of the Journalists, A Paper presented to Breaking the (Ideological) Wall conference, Korea Press Foundation, 26 November, Seoul. NATV “Introduction of NATV,” (accessed 22 February 2016). Park, J. (2009) Global Barometer: A Comparative Survey of Democracy, Governance and Development. Working Paper Series No. 49 – Political Discontents in South Korea, Montreal, Canada: International Political Science Association. Park, S. (2001) “The Potential of Internet Newspapers as Alternative Media,” Korean Journal of Journalism & Communications Studies (in Korean), 45(2): 117–55. Park, S., Lim, Y., Sams, S., Nam, S. and Park, H. (2011) “Networked Politics on Cyworld: The Text and Sentiment of Korean Political Profiles,” Social Science Computer Review, 29(3): 288–99. Plattner, M. (2012) “Media and Democracy,” Journal of Democracy, 23(4): 62–73. Segye Ilbo (2006) “60% of MPs Have Blogs and Mini Homepages,” 22 January, main/read.nhn?mode=LSD&mid=sec&sid1=100&oid=022&aid=0000143050 (accessed 7 May 2011). Shin, E. (2005) “Presidential Elections, Internet Politics, and Citizens’ Organisations in South Korea,” Development and Society, 34(1): 25–47. Song, K. (2007) 17th Presidential Election and Online Media, A paper presented at the special forum on The Media Coverage of 17th Presidential Election (in Korean), Organized by Citizens’ Coalition for Democratic Media, Korea Press Foundation, 9 October 2007, Seoul. Wilhelm, A. (2000) Democracy in the Digital Age, New York: Routledge.


Ki-Sung Kwak Yu, Y. (2007) Real Name Regulation Shrinks the Netizens’ Activities, A paper presented at the special forum on the 2007 Presidential Election Report (in Korean), Organized by The Media Union for 2007 Presidential Election, Korea Press Foundation, 11 December 2007, Seoul. Yun, S. (2008a) “Main Features of the On-Line Campaign during the 17th Presidential Election,” Journal of Korean Politics (in Korean), 42(2): 203–30. Yun, S. (2008b) Political Participation via Internet and Democracy: The Case of 2008 Candle Light Vigil, report submitted to the National Assembly, Seoul.



The world’s number one wired country Korea ranked first in terms of the ICT Development Index among 167 countries surveyed by the International Telecommunication Union in 2015. The index is regarded as comprehensive, as it covers not only ICT access but also ICT skills and use. For ICT specialists, the news is not so new. Korea is well known as a country where the diffusion of high-speed Internet connection has long been number one globally, as a country that gave birth to the world’s first social media “Cyworld,” and also as one that makes Samsung phones and other fancy electronic gadgets. However, not as many are aware of what is behind these records. Although the Korean government would very much like to boast of policy triumphs in the area of ICT infrastructure and the public adoption of digital media, policy initiatives can only do so much. As Postman (1992) has pointed out succinctly in his book Technopoly, technology can open doors but it is only we who decide to walk in or not. The next logical questions are why Koreans have had such a craving for high-speed Internet connection and networking online in the first place and how the emergence of digital media has impacted Korean society. This chapter, based on empirical evidence found in studies conducted in Korea, explores some of the social and cultural factors that have influenced Korean society as it is now in terms of the use of digital media and its consequences. The impact of digital media in transforming Korean society is especially striking, because the traditional communication culture that still functions as a dominant social organizing principle in contemporary Korean society is exactly the opposite of what digital media afforded. The possibilities of horizontal networking and the alternative sociality were too radical and fascinating for ordinary Koreans to ignore. Koreans’ absorption into the world of digital media was an opposite attraction, which resulted in changes as if a self-fulfilling prophecy had come true. The number of Internet subscribers skyrocketed from about 10 million in 1999 to 24 million in 2001, that is 56.6% of the total population aged 7 and up (and 93.3% if we limit the age group to 7–19), in just two years (KISA 2012). A unique business, the “PC-Bang” (literally, “room for PCs” in Korean), flourished throughout early 2000s. PC-Bang is a commercial place for highspeed Internet connection and high-end PCs and large monitors, which offered interim facilities for Internet use, mostly games, before people’s homes were equipped with broadband. Some game companies found a way to charge for access to their games by indirectly charging the 231

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PC-Bang owners who in turn could lure more customers who liked to play a specific title, which exactly mimics the industrial structure of movie distribution. The high rate of broadband subscription went hand-in-hand with the increase of Internet users and the diversification of services that became available on the Internet. In part, the popularity of Internet games and PC-Bangs reflect the dearth of entertainment options for Korean youths at the time. At the same time, Korean Internet culture started with a heavy entertainment orientation.

Discovering “you” and discovering “me” on the Internet Looking at the ultra-modern-looking urban areas in Korea, particularly metropolitan Seoul, one can hardly imagine that Korea is still under the heavy influence of Confucianism. But it still is and some even say that the hold of Confucian ideas and culture is much stronger in Korea than in China (despite the fact that the great Confucian teachers were Chinese!). Traditional Korean communication culture is distinctive in several aspects. First, hierarchical order in relationships is important. Oftentimes, what can and cannot be said and the manner of expressing opinions and feelings is determined according to gender, age, and various social ranks. Second, maintaining formalities in social interactions and being courteous, sometimes to the point of obedience, is considered well mannered. Third, Korea is typically a high-context culture, and abiding by the implicit rules governing social interactions is important. Fourth, talkativeness used to be less respected than being silent and reserved (as in the Korean proverb “silence is gold”). Being reserved is often equated with being sincere, while outgoing and talkative people carry the impression of being vulgar or lower class. Overall, collectivism as opposed to individualism is firmly rooted as the cultural base. Belonging to a group is the essence of one’s life and knowing the right people is a key asset for social success. It is similar to the Chinese Guanxi. One study revealed that your hometown and the school from which you graduated (being connected as alumni) matters more in Korea by 3 times than in China and by 1.5 times than in Japan as an influential factor for promotion in the company you work for (Lee 2005, cited in Jang 2008). Therefore, following the group norm and favoring, if possible, the in-group members are often more important than individual expression and respect for individuality (Chung 2007). Deep-rooted collectivism explains why group-based social media and messenger services are much more popular than individual-based ones. Social media that have open subscription structures by which anyone can follow anyone, such as Twitter, are less prevalent than ones offering message exchanges among closed group members whose membership is often rooted in social circles in reality. The world’s first social media, Korea’s very own Cyworld, was devised for interactions among close groups of friends called “Il-chon.” “Chon” is a unit word applied to human relationships. Il-chon, literally meaning one unit of chon, refers to family members who are the closest. Cyworld (now no longer in business) was such a huge success that during its heyday almost half of the entire Korean population was using it. Although there are signs of these cultural characteristics fast disappearing and changing, they still run through the Korean cultural DNA. In a nutshell, the communication culture Koreans experience in reality is collectivist, hierarchical, and full of formalities to navigate. Chung (2007) emphasized that the cultivation of a healthy individualism in Korea still has a long way to go. Most Koreans’ social experience has been shaped by following the orders and group norms according to one’s rank in the mandatory army (used to be 3 years for all men) and the hierarchically structured workplace. Even schools have a culture by which seniors get to have a say in almost everything relating to their junior members. Such communication culture was made famous by being features as “Korean-cockpit-culture” in Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point (2006). He attributed the Korean airplane crash in Guam in 1997 to the hierarchical 232

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communication culture by which the second pilot was obliged to be deferential toward the superiors. In this cultural terrain, a primary impact of the diffusion of digital media for Koreans is that it offered opportunities of becoming “somebody” who could be heard and responded to and of discovering fellow citizens on a more individual basis. The Internet was practically the first place that people could experience self-efficacy, feeling that “if I say something people will listen to me.” Of course, the capacity of the Internet granting people awareness of their own competence and autonomy (Shirky 2010) is not unique to Koreans. However, due to the predominant hierarchical and collectivist communication culture, the gap between what one experiences online and in reality was phenomenal. Through the use of the Internet and mobile connections in everyday life, Koreans were able to gradually rehearse and practice individualism. Small experiences accumulated to create little cracks in the hierarchical and collectivist communication order that has entrenched Korea for centuries. Digital media encourage people to turn their eyes horizontally toward their fellow citizens. For many Western societies, where the tradition of individualism is deeply rooted, the emergence of digital and networked media was referred as the “information” revolution. For Koreans, it was more of a realization of the existence of fellow citizens. Through interactions with fellow citizens came a revelation of one’s own individual subjectivity as connected individuals, not as members of a given group.

Online political discussions Demand for democratization has been strong due to the long military regimes throughout the 1980s. However, the demand for more democratic relations throughout the life-worlds other than political governance has spread like fire since the 2000s, which coincides with the period of Internet diffusion. The presidential election in 2002 was recorded as the first election in which Internet public opinion made a real impact in Korea. Many attributed the surprising victory of President Roh to the power of online activities. Online deliberation and cyber-politics covered newspaper headlines, became popular research topics, and entered street conversations for many years afterwards. The empirical research of sociologists, political scientists, and communication scholars have noted enhanced political self-efficacy as a mediating factor on Internet use, especially on political opinion exchanges and political participation (Rhee and Kim 2006; Park 2009). The accumulation of the enhanced political efficacy of individual Internet users soon gave rise to the aspiration for an alternative sociality, a less hierarchical and less authoritative communication structure, and hence political reform. The dreams of a citizens’ deliberative democracy became widespread in the early 2000s. “Agora” was a name for the political discussion board of one of the biggest Internet portal services, Daum. People had a strong hope for a renewed public sphere. But soon, some turned away from the optimist outlook after witnessing discussion boards filled with the hate speech of extremists and online spaces turning into an ugly electronic battleground. The researchers noted that not all online discussions result in uniformly positive consequences. The contrast between Internet hopefuls and pessimists called for empirical study, searching for the conditions that make online discussion create a socially desirable outcome. Rhee and Kim (2006) conducted a unique field experiment in which Internet users engaged in political discussions in varying experimental settings. They wanted to understand the optimal conditions under which the quantity and quality of discussions improved and the participant’s perception of political efficacy increased. The conditions under which political efficacy was enhanced after the 233

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online discussions were the display of a participant’s social identity and the visibility of the evaluation of the activities. That is, when discussion quantity and quality are controlled, efficacy increases when identity is revealed, compared to when it is not, and when the participatory activities were scored and displayed. The results show that online is a social space where people become conscious about their activities being on display for others. When identities such as gender, age, and geographic location are displayed, they become more involved and activated. As a result, people appreciate the value of the discussions and hence perceive heightened efficacy of participation. Another strand of communication research has focused on specific online communication acts and the disparate effects they exert. As acts of speaking and listening constitute conversations in reality, online discussion is made up of writing and reading. Even though users participate by being message producers simultaneously engaged in writing and reading, the two acts are functionally disparate activities that can be lumped as a single communication activity. Participatory culture (Jenkins 2006) and the smart mob (Rheingold 2002) arguments have emphasized the message-producing capabilities of individual media users as “produsers.” The act of reading as opposed to writing online increased tolerance towards different opinions and attitudes. It was an interesting finding that online reading and online writing activities, when analyzed separately, both contributed to deliberation online but in disparate ways. Writing contributed to increasing political efficacy, while reading to enhancing the level of tolerance (Rhee and Kim 2006). They found that Internet users do read others’ opinions rather attentively and speak out when they feel necessary to do so, contrary to the popular description of Internet users as “assertive but not responsive.” The research has also found that communication activities all together increased the intention to vote. In Korea, online writing produced more “opinionated” citizens, while online reading created harmonious citizens (Chang and Lee 2010). The reason Korean scholars have paid so much attention to what it means to become readers of others’ opinions can be attributed to Korean political culture. Korea is a divided country, and ideological polarization has contributed to the civic culture notorious for low tolerance toward opposing ideological views, even to the level of animosity. This problem has been regarded as the biggest stumbling block to a more mature level of democracy. Academic research and newspaper articles on the potential of online deliberative democracy flourished, which, in hindsight, had the Korean public, Internet users and non-users alike, to have overly high hopes for the Internet’s capacity to increase democracy in Korea. However, people soon realized that online talks revealed the differences and enlarged the conflict as much as they promoted mutual understanding. More recent studies tend to focus on delineating specific conditions that can make the Internet a civilized gathering place. Internet use behaviors construct cultural and regulative conditions that work along with technological and structural factors to characterize the nature of the Internet. For example, Lee and Choi (2012) focused on dividing the types of online reading and writing into opposing view reading, critical reading, logical writing, and convergent writing and found differing effects of these acts on the level of tolerance, trust, and social solidarity. Another study differentiated simple reading and simple writing from reading upon writing and writing upon reading, reflecting the transactional nature of communication (Jeong et al. 2015).

Connected individuals transforming Korea Although the nature of the service might not exactly fit to the contemporary concept of social media, a service called “iLoveSchool” launched in 1999, predating Cyworld. iLoveSchool let those from the same school and/or same class form a separate community and conduct interactions. The popularity of the service made every day a homecoming day, enabling old friends to 234

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get together, share silly jokes, catch up on the days gone by, and coordinate actual gatherings and common activities. Such types of meetings and activities abound in reality, so people immediately welcome the idea of easy coordination and convenient information sharing. Having iLoveSchool has not created a new experience but made something that people are already accustomed to more convenient and fun. The geographical compactness of Korea played a part in making iLoveSchool such a hit. Almost half of the Korean population lives in the Seoul metropolitan area and most towns can be reached from anywhere within, at most, five hours in South Korea. “Bung-gae” (an abbreviation for “Bung-gae meeting,” literally meaning a meeting arranged in lightning speed within hours or a day) became a popular buzzword, since iLoveSchool users often arranged various face-to-face meetings. Real and online meetings stimulated each other and created a solid bonding experience. Having attended the same school, being from the same hometown in addition to kinship define the three most important sources of social networks for Koreans. The quick success of iLoveSchool reflects how Koreans value such relationships and the social resources they generate. iLoveSchool transformed the school relationship from a source of formal social networks into a small intimate network experience. Active participation in smaller intimate groups of his/her choice, other than family, has provided a newer kind of pleasure to be “someone,” and to connect and be accepted as an individual. The pleasure of connecting in small intimate networks and presenting the self was further reinforced and popularized by Cyworld. Cyworld, the world’s first social media predating Facebook, coined the term “mini homepy [home page].” Users set up their own home pages, decorated them with avatars and many paid “items” of decorations, often with background music. The Cyworld home page provided an online base to enlarge personal networks and revive forgotten relationships, and added a personal and fun aspect to extant relationships. Using Cyworld enlarged personal networks and diluted the hierarchical nature and formalities governing interactions in reality. Cyworld was truly phenomenal during the mid-2000s, surpassing a membership count of 20 million in 2007 (in 2007, the total population of South Korea was 48 million). Using Cyworld de facto trained even those in their 40s and 50s in online self-presentation and self-expression and connecting over the traditional lines. It prepared a large portion of the Korean public, regardless of age, to be individual messengers in a digital age. The popularity of Cyworld was immediately followed by the popularity of blogging during the mid-2000s. Blogging’s major appeal was not that it was a space for knowledge and information, but that it was a space for expressing individualism, whether one was famous or not, expert or not, highly educated or not. Self-presentation and -expression were major motivations for blogging (Lee and Ihm 2006; Seol 2011). Self-presentational blogs expanded the opportunity for empathic experiences. Self-disclosure has been long regarded as a key factor contributing to building intimacy and trust in an interpersonal relationship. Practices of self-presentational blog writing and reading enhance the perception of the social presence of generalized others in the community. The term “wifelogger” was invented in Korea during mid-2000s, combining the two words wife and blogger. They are bloggers usually blogging around the topics of cooking, home decorating, child rearing, and education. Several successful ones went on to publish best-selling cookbooks or interior self-help guides or become TV celebrities, which ultimately resulted in financial rewards. Housewives are the most influential consumer group, and wifeloggers soon became the major target group for consumer marketing. One famous example is an Internet community called “remonterrace” (reads as lemon-terrace), which was opened in 2004 by a wifelogger and has close to 3 million subscribers (as of May 2015). It started as an individual blog focusing on home interior but now its content extends to cooking, wedding planning, pregnancy and child rearing, and beauty. 235

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The broad popularity of wifelogging can be attributed to a few sociocultural factors unique to Korea. Its gender inequality made a global news story when the World Economic Forum’s gender gap index was published in 2015 reporting women’s status in South Korea as 117th among a total of 142 countries, trailing behind United Arab Emirates and Qatar and coming a bit ahead of Nigeria (USA Today 2015). Belief in separate and unequal gender roles is still prevalent, which impedes the economic status of Korean women. According to the OECD Better Life Index, 54% of Korean women have paid work while 75% of Korean men do. Notwithstanding such labor statistics, Korea is a country famous for its high educational aspirations – 82% of adults aged 25–64 have completed upper secondary education, 87% for men and 78% for women. Another issue on the Korean gender gap is an income disparity. Female workers are paid about 64.5% of what their male colleagues earn (Wall Street Journal 2011). What these statistics tell us is that Korean women, particularly those that are highly educated and married, suffer not only from low employment opportunities and discriminatory conditions but also from cultural discriminations pressuring women, with or without outside job, to be the sole home caretaker. The lack of childcare and welfare protection aggravates the situation. Wifeloggers circumvented these structural blocks to explore alternative opportunities on the Internet. Although commercially successful wifeloggers are one in a million, such a turnaround would not have been possible without the digital technologies that have opened up. Wifeloggers not only exchange information and life tips but also share empathic experiences and exchange social and emotional support (Kim 2014). Kim (2014) found that the characteristics of women bloggers interviewed in the study overlapped with core concepts in feminine leadership, such as relationship orientation, hierarchical communication, and caring. Digital connections provided Internet users a way to circumvent the institutional and cultural conditions of reality. They are not only mobile in a physical sense but also mobile in terms of networking and imaginations. Information exchange, relationship building, and decision making do not have to be made following the pre-established organizational or regulative structures. Individuals move around constantly, making and renewing their connections, which ultimately construct the society. Connected individuals in Korea did not stop at online activities but also extended their solidarity to participate in actual social movements. Kim (2010) coined a term, “empathic public sphere,” to differentiate the phenomenon from the public sphere based on communicative rationality. Kim conducted a qualitative study on how Internet community members talked, thought, and acted together leading up to coordinating themselves to participate in a “candlelight demonstration” in 2008. According to Kim (2010), what flows among these connected individuals is among other things emotions, feelings, and the perception of co-presence, which is proactive in a sense that emotion triggers actions. The communication of emotion involves multi-sensory symbols, sometimes mixing verbal and non-verbal communication. With ambient awareness of the presence of others in the community and intermittent yet continuing conversations, not only thoughts and opinions but also passion and beliefs are shared and accumulated to make a stronger solidarity ready to trigger actions. The energy exerted from such a group activity, shown in the recent street demonstrations, partly explains the explosive spurt of power of the Korean people, otherwise known as very obedient and conformist to authority and the given social order. Rifkin (2009) attributes the meaning of human existence to enlarging the empathic circle, which drives people to go out of the familiar boundaries of intimate social networks to extend caring to the communities and the world. He noted that dramaturgical self-presentations found on the Internet can either pave the way toward cosmopolitan global consciousness or a narcissistically absorbed self. An empirical study (Chang et al. 2012) confirmed that whether one attains empathic experience determines whether online blogging may result in increased interpersonal 236

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and social trust. In other words, blogging self-presentational messages for anonymous others increased the level of social trust only when the blogger experienced the empathy. Self-presentational blogs without such experience remain just a shout-out for one’s own self, and such online activity does not contribute to a socially desirable outcome. The study is unique in the sense that it empirically confirmed the mediating effect of empathy to which Rifkin (2009) alluded. Practices of presenting private experiences and emotions provide opportunities for people to enlarge their social circle to exchange empathy, which ultimately expands the empathic circle. Of course, online participatory culture in Korea does have its negatives. For example, social issues are fiercely discussed through comments on news, but the process and the outcome of discussions are never close to the concept of citizen deliberation. Various issues are simultaneously just burst out in a short period of time, and attacks towards those with differing ideological standpoints dwarf reasoned opinions and analysis (for example, Kim et al. 2012). While online political discussions in some cases result in opinion polarization and heightened conflicts, the sharing of mundane everyday experiences through personal blogging not only contributed to empathic experiences but also brought socially desirable outcomes, such as social trust and participatory actions. In terms of the influence of empathy on interpersonal and social trust, the affective aspect of empathy turned out to be more influential than the cognitive aspect such as perspective-taking (Chang et al. 2012). Horizontal and informal yet involved message exchanges on the Internet provided a venue for Koreans to conduct rehearsals to be an individual communicator experiencing self-efficacy. Small talks and everyday encounters, which at the time seemed trivial practices, accumulated to change what people expect from fellow citizens and organizations and institutions that they live with. The collective aspiration for a new sociality was born out of everyday interactions in and out of digital media, much as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Imagining a new sociality The accumulation of experiences of individuality on digital media may not only raise perceived efficacy and possibly personal aspirations for change on a personal level, but also trigger people to imagine a totally different sociality, which can lead to demands for political and social reforms on an aggregate level. As the notion of an empathic public sphere (Kim 2010) shows, individual experiences and empathy shared through online networks provide building blocks to mobilization and action. In this way, digital media have influenced how people perceive fellow citizens, not as competitors but as collaborators in the participatory actions to achieve a common goal. Such a change of perspective affected the level of social trust. Scholars view trust as a source of social capital because trust facilitates coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit. Favoritism based on personal ties is one of the most important social and cultural characteristics (Park 1994; Chung 2007). In-group favoritism observed in Korea is not known to be compatible with social capital for the larger society. Strong in-group favoritism hinders the accumulation of general trust. Corruption in government agencies and public institutions negatively affects the level of institutional trust that is deeply related to general social trust. The gap between particular interpersonal trust and social trust has been conceptualized as trust gap. In-group interpersonal trust was measured as the trust given to family members, neighbors, and acquaintances. Out-group interpersonal trust was of strangers, people with different religions, and foreigners. Trust gap is highest in China, followed by Egypt and Vietnam, with Korea ranked at seventh based on the World Value Survey statistics. Compared to other nations that have a comparable economic development status with Korea, it suffers from a high trust gap and a low level of general trust (Yang and You 2014). There are signs of age-old in-group favoritism crumbling 237

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among young people, who are also likely to be heavier digital media users. Social trust and tolerance measures are going up in spite of declining levels of political and institutional trust. Because increased online communication would enlarge the size of the network and increase people’s involvement in communities and civic life, the diffusion of digital media contributed to or expedited the process. Online networking and communication resemble what is characterized as “the third place” as discussed by Oldenberg (1989). He analyzed a uniqueness in Paris street cafes, London pubs, and local bookstores in the United States. These places are conceptualized as the third place because they are not a place for labor and work, nor a place for family. Oldenberg (1989) underlines the importance of such places in producing everyday pleasure and relational capital. The third places are where anybody, with no particular membership constraints and no obligatory burden to participate, can come just to have a good time and to mingle and converse with others with a diverse array of backgrounds and experiences. The participants are always in flux, some already familiar and some new. Since these places function like a hub where new people can come to get acquainted with the community and old timers to enjoy bonding time, they play a role in providing stability and sustainability for the community. The Internet is like a third place. Anybody can come and join most of the groups as long as one actively participates regardless of class or education. Unlike a traditional community or bureaucratic organization, there is neither pre-determined center nor periphery. By providing a venue where many-to-many communication takes place, it proffers people the positive experience of talking to “general others,” objects of general social trust. So the point is that many people come and go and you get to talk to a diverse range of people that you normally cannot encounter at work or at home, where similarity is bound to rule. The enlarged network and experience of diversity is a key. Nam et al. (2012) found that the types of leisure activities that involve socializing with others, such as team sports, volunteering, and cultural activities, enable people to associate and communicate with each other, thus cultivating social participation and solidarity. It is an interesting finding that leisure activities, which may have been regarded as private and trivial in the traditional literature on social capital, enhance the level of happiness of people as they satisfy personal interest as well as the public social benefit. It is also important to note that not all leisure activities bring about such positive consequences, but only those activities that involve socializing. The evidence clearly supports the major argument of Gauntlett (2011). He argues that, through making things and sharing and talking about the experiences with others, people connect to one another and engage with the world. He emphasized that individuals have to make things on their own, during which process thinking, devising, making, adapting, expressing, and listening to others iterate. And by making and connecting to other fellow citizens, one can truly get involved in the world that one lives in. He particularly notes the significance of online message and content production and sharing, such as is found on YouTube, as they are comparable experiences to craft making in traditional communities. It is human nature to want to be acknowledged as an autonomous individual and to enhance self-identity and perceived competence (Shirky 2011). Making and sharing news, personal messages, and videos online provides people a way to engage with the larger public, while expressing their own ideas and listening to others. The relationship between Internet use and the level of social trust has been a relatively popular subject for social scientific research. However, previous studies on the relationship mainly focused on differentiated effects of the kinds of Internet services such as news, entertainment, community, etc. Popular questions were about how online news reading affects public opinion formation or how participating in online communities affect quality of life, and so on. Such a frame of enquiry 238

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replicates the perspective of the mass media era focusing on the (disconnected) individual media user being exposed to certain type of content that was assumed to generate “effects.” However, users now access information and entertainment through the networked media. Therefore, “with whom” to communicate is as important as “what” is accessed and consumed. The Internet is no longer “watched” but “used” to connect with people, to express, converse, make, and share. Kim et al. (2012) tried to test whether social interactions performed online contribute to social trust, focusing on the “with whom” question. They argue that with whom users exchange information and communicate matters more than what type of content they are exposed to. They reasoned that online interactions with only those already in the close social circle in reality would not affect the level of social trust, but online interactions with a much larger group of people with diverse backgrounds would increase the level of trust. Empirical evidence based on survey research confirmed such a prediction. Interacting with only those with whom one is familiar harms the level of social trust controlling for demographic characteristics, Internet use time, and the kinds of services used. In contrast, online interactions that involve communication with more open and diverse partners resulted in not only increased levels of netizen trust, but this trust in netizens was also extended to affect the level of general social trust. A similar pattern was also confirmed among Korean digital natives. Communication with offline-based friends had no impact on civic competencies, but communication with online-based friends contributed to netizen trust, bridging the network and a new type of participation and civic engagement (Yang and Kim 2014). Na’s (2007) research on the use of the Internet for political information and talks tried to systematically assess the effects of online network diversity on trust, tolerance, and participation. She divided the collective level (online communities and websites) and individual level (individuals with whom one has gotten acquainted online) diversity, which is measured as perceived heterogeneity. Individual conversations with people with diverse backgrounds and beliefs resulted in increasing the level of involvement and conversation but had little effect in terms of increasing the level of tolerance. On the other hand, frequent visits to communities and websites that contain diverse opinions increased trust and tolerance. The diversity offered by the Internet matters, but the effects differ depending on the type of diversity. Internet use for political discussion purpose does not bring about socially desirable results for everyone, because it is not the Internet use per se but exposure to diverse networks, hence diverse range of opinions, that leads to increasing social capital. Lee’s (2006) comparative study of the institutional and social trust of U.S. and Korean youth shows that the patterns of the two countries’ youths are disparate. In contrast to the American youths whose institutional trust is high but social trust is on the decline, the social trust of Korean youths was on the rise although their institutional trust was low. He speculates that the result is related to the Korean youths’ online experiences. According to a survey study on Korean youths, networked individualism was higher and the level of social trust higher in adolescents who frequently engaged in online activities and who demonstrated greater digital media literacy (Park et al. 2014). Online activities and skills influence the ways adolescents connect to one another and perceive their social connectedness. Empirical evidence on the social effects of the Internet shown above is especially meaningful for Korean society, because the low level of general social trust and still widespread in-group favoritism have hindered the cultivation of a civic mind and social development in Korea. Online interactions made people enlarge the social circle and maintain a large network with less cost. The bigger the size of the network, the higher the diversity of the network. In order to communicate with people who are new or unknown, one has to be more attentive and observant. The process of communicating with diverse people tends to increase the level of cognitive complexity 239

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in human relationships. Being more open to diverse values is an important civic virtue that Koreans have long felt that they were lacking.

The cost of a hyper-connected society While the direction of change seems positive overall, not all digital media uses are the same. It all depends on how the media are actually utilized and on various social and cultural situations. The positive effects of digital media in Korea are not without the negativities it is facing now. One of the negatives is that opinion polarization is more visible online. Korea is a mono-ethnic and mono-language society. Its homogeneity essentially hinders Koreans from having a generally high level of social and cultural tolerance towards groups that are deemed different from them. They are not particularly adept at dealing with differences. Low tolerance toward different political opinions has plagued Korean politics for a long time. Han et al. (2013) tried empirical validation of popular conjectures concerning representativeness and polarization on social media Twitter in the U.S. and Korea. The comparative study confirmed that Korean Twitter users were particularly polarized in terms of their followership pattern, limiting their exposure to opposing views. When using the legislators in the respective countries as a baseline, the results also revealed that Korean Twitter users were more polarized than their political elites, whereas this pattern was reversed in the case of the U.S. The Internet surely increased the diversity of information sources, viewpoints, and attitudes, but how users utilize the capacity is another story. Superficiality or inauthenticity of human relationships maintained online is another issue. Online relationships are not uniform. Some online relationships are fulfilling and some are not. And maintaining the level of social media activities requires time and energy, which can cause feelings of helplessness and fatigue without substantial social support or pleasure earned in return. Several Korean scholarly studies have recognized the phenomenon called “social media fatigue,” “digital fatigue,” or “relational fatigue” (Kim et al. 2013; Jeong 2015). According to Kim et al. (2013), social media fatigues stem from information overload, concern for privacy, opportunity cost (mostly of time, distraction, and effort), and reputational concern. Jeong (2015) noted that the adoption of social media has peaked and people have begun to disconnect. According to the study, those who disconnect from social media felt that the costs, in terms of efforts required to maintain the relationships, to manage the positive impressions of different audience groups, to filter information, and to defend privacy leaks, are too high for the quality of relationship and information gained. The online relationship itself can vary depending on different online situations. Huang and Kim (2013) analyzed relational maintenance strategies of bloggers and blog users and found that they used “positivity” and “avoidance” the most among relational maintenance behaviors. This shows that as far as the pure online relationship is concerned, they would prefer just keeping up the present state of the relationship, ignoring differences or concerns in order to avoid conflict. The relationship in which conflicts and differences are intentionally ignored cannot develop into the next stage of intimacy, therefore staying just at a certain level. Such results suggest that pure online relationships often involve just pep talks. Pep talks are mostly brief and emotional talks to encourage one another and to confirm the relationship. The exchange of such pep talks surely gives people energy to carry on everyday life but only to a certain extent. Han (2012) criticized the overload of positivity in online talks and relationships, pointing out that they are not true relationships. Rampant cyber-bullying emerged as another social problem that Korea suffers from. Peer exclusion (“wang-tta” in Korean) is defined as a behavior that intentionally excludes victims from


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friendship circles and activities. Online peer-exclusion commonly takes place in messenger services. While cyberbullying shares characteristics with face-to-face bullying, the uniqueness of online interaction makes it more pervasive and the impact longer lasting (Park et al. 2014). The fact that the perpetration is revealed instantly to so many users (peers) adds to the agony that the victim suffers from. Park et al. (2014) showed that frequent users of the Internet and social networking sites are more likely to engage in, become victims of, and witness cyberbullying behavior. Studying online, netiquette, and communication time with parents were negatively correlated with cyberbullying behavior. Cyberbullying occurred more often on certain types of social media. It was more frequent on social media that mainly support bonding networks rather than on those supporting bridging networks (Lee and Lee 2013). Reaping the benefits of digital media is not guaranteed by the technology itself. The activities performed on the digital media are real in a sense that they make us perceive ourselves and our peers from different angles and to envision an alternative society. That is exactly how the Internet has made an impact in Korea. Of course it would be too naïve to believe that the media are a prime cause for a social and cultural change without considering other sociocultural factors conducive to the change. However, the emergence of the Internet and digital devices changed people’s mindset toward the self and social organizing principles so that changes in the connective structure of the social organizations were triggered from “within.” The change will surely take a long and turbulent time, because a new kind of sociality does not just replace the old one, but rather they co-present and compete with each other.

References Chang, H.M., Kim, E.M. and Rhee, J.W. (2012) “The Effects of Blog Writing for Self-Presentation and Preference toward Others’ Blog Writing for Self-Presentation on Interpersonal and Social Trust: Focusing on the Mediating Effects of Empathic Experiences of Blog Use,” Korean Journal of Journalism & Communication Studies, 56(2): 48–71 [in Korean]. Chang,Y.J. and Lee, E.J. (2010) “Effects of Reading, Writing, and Opinion Diversity in Online Discussion,” Korean Journal of Journalism & Communication Studies, 54(2): 277–298 [in Korean]. Chung, S.B. (2007) Cultural Grammar of Koreans, Seoul: Saeng-Gak-Ui-Na-Mu Publishing Co. [in Korean]. Gauntlett, D. (2011) Making Is Connecting: The Social Meaning of Creativity, from DIY to Knitting, Cambridge: Polity. Gladwell, M. (2006) The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Boston: Little, Brown and Company. Han, B.C. (2012) Fatigue Society [Translated into Korean from German, Mudigkeitsgesellschaft], Seoul: Moonji Publishing Co. Han, K.S., Park, J.Y., Lee, D.J. and Lee, H.L. (2013) “A Test of Representativeness and Polarization in Twitter Followership: A Cross-National Assessment of Legislators’ Twitter Followers in the U.S. and South Korea,” Journal of Cyber Communication Academic Society, 30(1): 295–336 [in Korean]. Huang, J.W. and Kim, E.M. (2013) “Relation Maintenance Behaviors Using Blogs,” Korean Journal of Journalism & Communication Studies, 57(5): 368–395 [in Korean]. Jang, S.C. (2008) “The Cause of Korean Network Society and Social Trust,” NGO Research, 6(1): 37–70 [in Korean]. Jenkins, H. (2006) Convergence Culture, New York: NYU Press. Jeong, I.K. (2015) “Critics Against Optimism for SNS Use to Develop a Better Research Design Appling to the Light Users and the Discontinuing Users of SNSs,” Communication Theories, 11(4): 77–107 [in Korean]. Jeong, I.K., Yang, J.A., Lee, J.H. and Choi, Y.J. (2015) “Factors Affecting the Results of Internet Discussions,” Korean Journal of Broadcasting and Telecommunication Studies, 29(5): 209–241 [in Korean]. Kim, E.M., Chung, I.G. and Bae, Y. (2012) “Interaction on the Internet and Social Trust On Differing Effects of Limited or Open Interactions,” Korean Journal of Broadcasting and Telecommunication Studies, 26(5): 44–77 [in Korean].


Eun-mee Kim Kim, E.M., Yang, J.A. and Lim, Y.H. (2012) “User Participation and Attribute (Cognitive and Affective) Agenda-Setting in the Online News Environment,” Korean Journal of Broadcasting and Telecommunication Studies, 26(3): 94–134 [in Korean]. Kim, J.H. (2014) “Power-Blogs of Married Women: Expression of Opinion Leadership by Blogging,” Media, Gender & Culture, 29(2): 5–40 [in Korean]. Kim, K.D., Kim, H.J. and Bae,Y. (2013) “Exploring the Concept and Determinants of SNS (Social Network Service) Fatigue,” Information & Society, 26: 102–129 [in Korean]. Kim, Y.R. (2010) “Affective Public Sphere: Woman Communities Feel, Speak and Act,” Media & Society, 18(3): 146–191. Korea Internet & Security Agency (KISA) (2012) Annual Survey on the Internet Use, Seoul: KISA. Lee, C.H. and Lee, K.S. (2013) “An Exploration of the Impact of Social Media Use on Cyber Bullying by Youth: A Focus on Network Characteristics,” Studies on Korean Youth, 24(3): 259–285 [in Korean]. Lee, D.H. and Ihm, S.H. (2006) “The Motivations and Consequences of Voluntary Self-Disclosure by Blog Users,” The Korean Journal of Advertising, 17(5): 227–240 [in Korean]. Lee, J.H. (2006) “Trust and Civil Society Comparative Study of Korea and America,” Korean Journal of Sociology, 40(5): 61–98 [in Korean]. Lee, J.H. and Choi, Y.J. (2012) “An Analysis of Deliberative Internet Discussion Model: Focus on Critical Reading and Convergent Writing,” Journal of Cyber Communication Academic Society, 29(1): 87–126 [in Korean]. Lee, W.K. (2005) “A Comparative Study of Nepotism between 3 East Asian Countries,” in Y. Kwon (ed) About Corporate Cultures of Korea, China, and Japan, pp. 81–111, Seoul: Ihaksa [in Korean]. Na, E.K. (2007) “Democracy Based on Difference: Multi-Faceted Relationship between Diversity and Civic Attitudes, Depending on the Different Level of Perceived Online Social Network Heterogeneity,” Korean Journal of Journalism & Communication Studies, 51(6): 163–189 [in Korean]. Nam, E.Y.,Yee, J.Y. and Kim, M.H. (2012) “Do Leisure Activities Make People Happier?: The Role of Social Capital and Social Leisure,” Korean Journal of Sociology, 46(5): 1–33 [in Korean]. Oldenberg, R. (1989) The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Community Centers, Beauty Parlors, General Stores, Bars, Hangouts, and How They Get You through the Day, New York: Paragon House. Park, S.H. (2009) “A Study on the Effect of Portal News’ Using Motive Influence Internet Self-Efficacy, Political Trust, Political Cynicism and Political Participation,” Korean Journal of Journalism & Communication Studies, 53(5): 153–175 [in Korean]. Park, S., Kim, E.M. and Na, E.Y. (2014) “Online Activities, Digital Media Literacy, and Networked Individualism of Korean Youth,” Youth & Society, 47(6): 829–849 [in Korean]. Park, S., Na, E.Y. and Kim, E.M. (2014) “The Relationship between Online Activities, Netiquette and Cyberbullying,” Children and Youth Services Review, 42: 74–81 [in Korean]. Park, S.K. (1994) Visible Faces and Invisible Hands: Communication Structures of Korean Society, Seoul: Jeonyewon [in Korean]. Postman, N. (1992) Technopoly, New York: Alfred A. Rhee, J.W. and Kim, E.M. (2006) “Effects of Online Deliberation on Political Discussion Efficacy,” Korean Journal of Journalism & Communication Studies, 50(3): 393–423 [in Korean]. Rheingold, H. (2002) Smart Mob: The Next Social Revolution: Transforming Cultures and Communities in the Age of Instant Access, New York: Basic Books. Rifkin, J. (2009) The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis, New York: Penguin. Seol, J.A. (2011) Social Media and Social Change, Seoul: Communication Books [in Korean]. Shirky, C. (2010) Cognitive Surplus: How Technology Makes Consumers into Collaborators, New York: Penguin. USA Today (2015) “S. Korea Reflects Lag in Gender Equality: Column,” 14 May, http://www.usatoday. com/story/opinion/2015/03/14/womens-inequality-south-korea-park/70165200/ Wall Street Journal (2011) “Korean Men Willing to Tend Home, Survey Finds,” 25 April, http://blogs.wsj. com/korearealtime/2011/04/25/korean-men-willing-to-tend-home-survey-finds/ Yang, J.Y. and You, M.S. (2014) “The Effect of Group Participation on the Trust Gap between Ingroup and Outgroup,” Conference Proceeding of The Korean Sociological Association, 529–532 [in Korean]. Yang, S. and Kim, E.M. (2014) “Who Are They Communicating with: Connected Youth’s Development of Competencies of Civic Life,” Korean Journal of Journalism & Communication Studies, 58(1): 5–38 [in Korean].



Global Korea


Kim San (or Chang Chi-rak) was one of the few Koreans to gain attention in the Anglophone world during Japanese colonial rule (1910–45). Told to and shaped by the radical journalist Nym Wales (Helen Foster Snow), Kim’s life history is a stirring tale of an ethnic Korean who joins the Chinese Communist Party (Kim and Wales 1941). We learn not only about his natal Korean countryside and culture as well as his wide reading and learning but also about the events and ideas that transformed a peace-loving Tolstoyan into a rifle-wielding revolutionary. His love for freedom and equality is part and parcel of his desire for Korean independence, which in turn overlaps with the international struggle of communism of which he has become part. Kim’s life is symptomatic of Korean diaspora: important for Liberation and national independence, but elided in homeland nationalist discourse. In point of fact, he is virtually unknown, as Korean diaspora has been marginal to both North and South Korea. Kim’s transnational life and global reach are also emblematic of the far-flung diaspora, but disparate diasporic communities know little of one another as they do of Kim. Whereas some Zainichi (Koreans in Japan) regard Song of Ariran as the bible of the Korean diaspora (Lie 2008), many other diasporic – or North or South – Koreans have never heard of the book. In an essay on Korean diaspora, it may seem tempting or even incumbent to begin at the beginning. Yet when did the Korean nation begin? Nationalist discourse often projects a singular ancestry and genealogy from the distant past to the present (Lie 2004, 2015a). In the case of Korean primordial nationalism, it manifests itself in the Tangun mythology – the fantastic tale of a bear copulating with a human being to generate the first ethnoracial Korean – in chauvinistic North and South Korean historiography (it is not an accident that Kim Il Sung hails from Mt. Paektu, the putative locus of the Tangun miracle). More casually, North and South Koreans speak of the five thousand years of Korean history (and textbooks frequently go farther back, sometimes even before the appearance of Homo sapiens). Although it is possible to identify intermittent articulations of proto-Korean identity in the distant past, the reality is that “Korea” did not exist as a widely shared popular national or cultural identity until much more recently. Not only was traditional Korea deeply fragmented, often into warring polities, but also strict status hierarchy hindered any inclusive notion of peoplehood (that is, the elites and the peasants constituted distinct “races” of people). The infrastructural integration of the Chosun polity – the dynastic rule that lasted over five centuries – was underdeveloped and its population control largely decentralized. The predominantly agrarian population was divided into strict status hierarchies and for the 245

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vast majority who were peasants their identification was largely local. Popular Korean national identity was at best incipient and inchoate in the premodern period. Needless to say, what is true for Korea is true for the rest of the globe. In a world dominated by major nation-states (often as empires), national belonging is a modal and common form of identity: one is French or German, Japanese or Korean. The reality is that these seemingly natural identities were far from self-evident in the premodern world. Lack of national integration spelled the proliferation of distinct dialects and languages, as well as local and regional identities. Only when they ventured abroad would Florentines and Neapolitans realize their Italian identity or the yangban (traditional Korean elite) their Korean identification. Modern peoplehood identity is moreover predicated on status equality or democratic integration. In premodern, status-based orders, the landlords and the peasants, or the yangban and the peasants, constituted qualitatively distinct sorts of people, thereby weakening any inclusionary sense of being Italian or Korean. The weakness of cultural or status integration renders premodern diaspora as usually religion- or occupation-based. Furthermore, given the irrelevance of national identification at a time when modern passports or nationalist labor policy did not exist, it would be possible for an ambitious would-be scholar from the Korean peninsula to take a civil service examination in China (and become a “Chinese” imperial bureaucrat) – as Kim San joined the Chinese Communist Party as a patriotic Korean – or a wayward “Korean” fisherman to become part of transnational pirates. It should not be surprising that Korean identification remained less than robust in the premodern period when “Koreans” would assimilate to the dominant local or regional identification or sustain their status background. The weakness of premodern national identification accounts for the irrelevance of Korean diaspora in the premodern world. Nevertheless, the weakness of premodern Korean identity should not be taken as the absence of Korean civilization or identification. Put differently, Korea is a significant locus of traditional eastern Asian crosscurrents of commerce and culture. To take but one example, the first compilation of “Japanese” poetry – the redoubtable ninth-century Man’yōshū – includes many poets who allude to their origins in the Korean peninsula. Indeed, Alexander Vovin (2002), among others, has suggested that some of the poems were composed in medieval Korean, not Japanese. More generally, it would take a chauvinistic and anachronistic Japanese nationalist perspective to deny the profound influence of Paekche, Silla, and other “Korean” influences on Man’yōshū in particular and on early Japanese history and culture in general (Kajikawa 2009; Ueda 2013). Any adequate account of Japan – or East Asia in general – requires some understanding of Korean civilization. To the extent that we can identify Korean people and culture in the distant past, they have always been transnational and multicultural. In an area that long accepted its subservience to classical Chinese culture, only to be replaced by Japanese colonial rule and by informal rule of the United States for South Korea and the Soviet Union and China for North Korea after Liberation, national and cultural autonomy must perforce be articulated in the optative, not the descriptive. The ferocity of Korean nationalist discourse is in part the flip side of the weakness of traditional Korean autonomy and identity. What unites the otherwise vitriolic enmity between the North Korean and South Korean regimes – or, for that matter, the governing party and its “progressive” oppositions in South Korea in the mid-2010s – is the pervasive power of chauvinistic nationalism. Yet, as I have suggested, premodern Korea was neither well-integrated in terms of culture or status, and the expression of proto-Korean identity was often articulated simultaneously as respect for or subservience to neighboring powers, such as the Chinese empires or the modern Japanese empire. It is not surprising that the post-Liberation discourses of national autonomy and even uniqueness should be expressed in stentorian and dogmatic ways. Lacking a usable past, it had to be exhorted didactically. 246

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Rather than tracing the place of the Korean peninsula and its people from the misty past, this essay will focus on modern diaspora from the Korean peninsula (from the mid-nineteenth century) and the constitution of modern Korean peoplehood identity. Indeed, modern Korean history cannot be told apart from Korean diaspora. The very idea of the modern Korean nation is in large part a diasporic construct; Korean nationalism is diasporic nationalism. That is, the priority of the nation over the diaspora is not at all clear. Yet powerful nationalist sentiments in both North and South Korea have occluded the role of the diaspora in their conflicting reckoning of modern Korean history and culture. Korean diaspora is ubiquitous and significant around the world, but in the two Koreas they barely register and exist as something of an afterthought. Furthermore, the globally far-flung diaspora is not substantially integrated or unified, perhaps not surprisingly for a nation that remains divided into two barely interacting polities. Although it had a profound impact on the politics of the peninsula – the anti-colonial, independence struggles, most importantly – early diasporic populations created their own distinct diasporic nationalism. That is, there is no unified Korean diasporic identity or culture; the disparate fates of diasporic communities prevented the creation of a common identity and organization. For instance, Korean language or culture did not dominate in many Korean diasporic populations. Korean diaspora lacks a lingua franca or a common consciousness.

Modern Korean diaspora Human beings first entered the Korean peninsula about 30,000 years ago, and human movements into and out of the peninsula have continued. We have their traces – as the Man’yōshū case exemplifies – but to count as Korean diaspora requires a more or less coherent sense of being Korean and more importantly systematic records of Korean immigration and emigration. There are many individuals who moved from the Korean peninsula to China, Japan, and elsewhere in the early modern era, but the first systematic and recorded movements occurred in the mid-nineteenth century (see Lie 2013a). Barring some exceptions – usually elite lineages – earlier migration has assimilated into local national identification. Descendants of “Korean” Man’yōshū poets are Japanese, but descendants of colonial-period Korean immigrants into Japan usually remain identified in some way as Korean. After the 1860 Convention of Peking rendered Imperial Russia and Chosun Korea contiguous, ethnic Koreans – readily definable against ethnic Russians – streamed into the Russian territory. To be sure, it is unclear whether farmers from Hamgyŏng province had any meaningful sense of self as Korean. Be that as it may, what is more certain is that the peasants who sought to flee a series of famines in the 1860s found in Russia a fertile land of promise. Imperial Russia, with its ambition in the Far East, was relatively welcoming to ethnic Koreans. After Japanese colonial rule in 1910 and the Russian Revolution in 1917, the Soviet Union would also become an attractive destination for political radicals, primarily anti-Japanese in character. The relatively favorable environment turned decisively negative in 1937, however. As part of Stalin’s Great Purge, about 180,000 ethnic Koreans in the Soviet Far East were forcefully relocated to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and other central Asian Soviet republics. The trauma of ethnic cleansing or enforced relocation became the defining event for Koreans in the Soviet republics. In spite of suffering numerous deaths and profound dislocation, their success in agriculture and education rendered them as a “model minority” of the Soviet Union. The Soviet policy of national and racial equality vitiated the force of official discrimination and in so doing assimilated the ethnic population, so that few third-generation “Koryo Saram” – as they belatedly came to be known – by the turn of the millennium were fluent in the Korean language or in any sense bound to traditional Korean cultural practices. A sizable number of Koryo Saram have left the former 247

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Soviet central Asian republics, however. Along with those who arrived in Sakhalin during the colonial period and thereafter, ethnic Koreans (often children of intermarriage) can be found throughout the former territory of the Soviet Union. Slightly to the west of the Russian Far East, ethnic Koreans began their emigration to China in 1875 when the Qing Empire allowed non-Manchu immigration into present-day Dongbei (formerly Manchuria). The decline and collapse of the empire made the area relatively open to Korean agricultural expansion. The colonial convulsions in the Korean peninsula – agricultural commercialization, incipient industrialization, and infrastructural development – generated a significant rural exodus. After the establishment of Manchukuo, the puppet polity under Japanese rule, the population of Koreans increased rapidly, owing in large part to Japanese policy to populate the vast region. Hence, the population of ethnic Koreans in Manchuria reached over two million by 1940. The end of Japanese colonial rule did not immediately lead to the repatriation of ethnic Koreans, for many of whom Manchuria had become their homeland. The People’s Republic of China’s relatively friendly multicultural policy, in addition to the convulsions of the Korean War and the relative poverty of North Korea, sustained a large ethnic enclave in Dongbei. In Jilin province, the Chinese state established Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in 1955. Thus, Jilin was for long the largest concentration of ethnic Koreans outside of the Korean peninsula (most likely that distinction belongs to Los Angeles in the early 2010s). The preponderance of co-ethnics and ethnic schooling led to a remarkable persistence of Korean language and culture in Dongbei. The post-Deng economic reforms, as well as a shift in Chinese policy, have shaken the ethnic enclave, leading at once to greater assimilation to the mainstream norm and to notable exodus across China and also a substantial outflow to South Korea. Japanese colonial rule also unleashed a massive influx of ethnic Koreans into the Japanese archipelago. Largely voluntary at first, many of them sought employment opportunities in urban areas, but by 1940, the enforced migration of ethnic Koreans as miners or prostitutes occurred. As part of the significant population movements within the Japanese archipelago, ethnic Koreans often lived in ethnic enclaves next to Okinawans, Burakumin, and other migrant workers and their families. By the end of Japanese colonial rule, there were well over two million ethnic Koreans in the main Japanese islands. Although two-thirds returned to the peninsula, the outbreak of the Korean War ensured that the longer-term residents in Japan would remain there. Many ethnic Koreans who had come more or less voluntarily in the 1920s and 1930s had not only settled in Japan, but their children were often fluent only in Japanese. Here, imperial Japanese policy of enforced assimilation had succeeded in transforming many Koreans into linguistically and culturally assimilated Japanese subjects. The resulting Zainichi – as ethnic Koreans in Japan are often known – population faced ferocious unemployment and other forms of discrimination in the post–World War II period. Their solidarity of the diaspora was frayed by conflicting allegiances to the two Koreas. At first, the pro-North ethnic Korean organization proved powerful and did much to promote ethnic education and solidarity– paradoxical given the Japanese government’s exclusionary policy – but except for one major effort around 1960, there were no large-scale attempts at repatriation to the Korean peninsula. One irony of the exclusionary and discriminatory policy and environment was that many ethnic Koreans became successful entrepreneurs, professional athletes, and entertainers. With the relaxation of Japanese discrimination, especially after the 1980s, the ethnic Korean population has become culturally assimilated to the mainstream Japanese population, so much so that some people discussed the disappearance of Zainichi from Japanese life. The South Korean state remained largely indifferent to the diasporic population until the early 1990s – with the onset of internationalization policy of the newfound democratic regime – but it had done much to promote South Korean emigration. Most explicitly in the 1962 emigration 248

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policy, it sought to alleviate population growth and poverty (and thereby political pressures) in South Korea and sending the “excess” population abroad by concluding a series of treaties with foreign governments. Consequently, there were overseas adoption of South Korean orphans and unwanted babies as well as “guest worker” programs in Germany, Brazil, and elsewhere. Although some of them proved to be permanent settlers, the main source of the diaspora was the voluntary decision of South Koreans to escape pervasive poverty, authoritarian polity, national insecurity, and other unfortunate features of South Korean life. Hence, the direction of emigration was dictated in large part by opportunity around the world, such as the post-1970s pro-Asian immigration policy of Australia. The ambit of the diaspora was global, with the partial exception of the African continent (though there too Koreans could be found). In the Middle East, for example, there were perhaps 25,000 ethnic Koreans in Iran in the late 1970s though the Revolution there resulted in their exodus. There was also a massive influx of construction and other workers in various Middle Eastern cities, especially in the 1970s, though they too would disperse after the construction boom ended. From the 1960s on, then, more or less voluntary, economic (and in some instances political and cultural) migrants dominated the South Korean diaspora in Canada (about 220,000 ethnic Koreans in the early 2010s), Australia (125,000), the Philippines (115,000), Vietnam (85,000), Brazil (48,000), and elsewhere. Many of these emigrants would often move again and even return to South Korea, thereby creating complex circuits of transnational diasporic peregrination. In spite of the global reach of the South Korean diaspora, easily the most desired and significant destination was the United States. As a virtual colonial power over South Korea, it loomed large as not only a powerful and attractive destination but also, particularly after the 1965 Hart-Cellar Act, a welcoming country for South Koreans. Especially in the 1960s and 1970s, what was truly remarkably was the high economic and educational status of South Koreans arriving in the United States, which laid the basis for their children to be dubbed the “model minority.” To cite just one example, over half of the prestigious Yonsei Medical School graduates from the 1950s to 1970s were to be found in the United States by the 1990s. South Koreans congregated in larger cities throughout the United States, at times creating ethnic enclaves both in terms of residence (Flushing in New York, for example) and of occupation (green grocers or dry cleaners) in the course of the 1970s and 1980s. The diaspora became distinctive – as would South Korea itself – for the high concentration of Christians. Perhaps 1.7 million ethnic Koreans resided in the United States by the early 2010s. The 1992 Los Angeles riots did much to announce the less-than-perfect situation of Korean Americans, but South Korean emigration continues not just to the United States but also to virtually around the world. It is clear that contemporary South Koreans, in spite of their fervid nationalism, are not bound to the land of their ancestors. Among OECD countries, at least, South Korea boasts usually the highest proportion of people professing interest in emigration. In contrast, North Korea has not been a major source of the Korean diasporic population. In spite of pursuing an aggressive policy of courting and organizing overseas Koreans in the 1950s and 1960s, its increasingly militarist and authoritarian polity has accentuated its hermetic, inward-looking character. The partial exceptions are labor migrants to Sakhalin, China, Eastern Europe, Africa, and elsewhere, though only in trickles until the recent increase of northern North Koreans streaming into Chinese border areas. North Korea also remains largely ethnically homogeneous, in striking contrast to South Korea, which has incorporated an increasing number of non-Koreans since the 1990s (Lie 2015a). The largest group is, however, Chosunjok, or ethnic Koreans in China. Although Korean diaspora may have featured ethnic Koreans from the northern provinces (in the case of the diaspora to China and Russia) or the southern areas (in the case of the diaspora to Japan), the return home 249

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(motherland or fatherland) for diasporic Koreans usually means a visit or settlement in South Korea today. Here the global expansion of large businesses or export-oriented popular culture makes South Korea the more visible and attractive of the two Koreas. To talk of Korean diaspora in the early twenty-first century is nearly coterminous with talking about South Korean diaspora.

Diasporic nationalism In the extant literature on Korean or any other diaspora, the priority of the nation (or homeland) is taken for granted. It is precisely because there is something called Korea and Koreans that there is Korean diaspora. In point of fact, the flow of construction is often the other way around. In the case of Israel, for example, few would doubt the salience of the Jewish Diaspora in the making of the modern Israeli state. Even in the case of Korean nationalism, however, we should not underestimate the priority and power of the diaspora. It is not an accident that the heads of the two Koreas after Liberation spent much of their adult lives beyond the Korean peninsula: Manchuria and China in the case of Kim Il Sung, the United States and elsewhere in the case of Rhee Syngman. This is no less true for the hagiographic reconstruction of North and South Korean nationalism, and we can see the salience of Koreans outside of Korea – though not necessarily diasporic Koreans – who formed the idea of Korean nationhood in Japan, China, and elsewhere. Perhaps the first significant Korean nationalist was Philip Jaisohn, who would die as an American; the first important national historian was Shin Chae-ho, who would spent almost his entire adult life outside of the Korean peninsula. The idea of the nation becomes imagined in the language and concepts of the colonizers, and it is precisely these exogenous-derived ideas – and even external struggles – that become central to modern nationalist discourse and politics. The genealogy of the modern Korean nation is largely coeval with modern Korean diaspora and counter-colonial struggles (Lie 2008). Exiled and diasporic ethnic Koreans imagined an independent Korea and staged epic struggles to achieve an independent nation. Kim San is merely one among many. Hence, even in the most nationalistic of history books, the central formative event was the March First Movement of 1919, conceived and executively largely by Christianinfluenced and Japanese-educated intellectuals. Nor should we forget the formation of the Korean National Congress in Vladivostok the same year. Indeed, the centrality of the external and the diasporic is far from unique to the Korean case, as any conspectus of counter-colonial, national struggles, whether we think of Léopold Sédar Senghor of Senegal or Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam. Nevertheless, nationalist historiography and commonsense have squelched the undeniable salience of the external and the diaspora in the making of the modern Korean nations. The elision of diaspora is especially curious in the case of South Korea. If we consider the crucial decade of the 1960s – the proverbial take-off period of South Korean industrialization – diaspora was crucial. Whether we think of Koreans in Japan who provided investment and technology for nascent South Korean light industries or Koreans in the United States who supplied know-how and networks for initial South Korean exports, the development of South Korean political economy cannot be told apart from the crucial role of the diaspora (Lie 1998). The same sort of conclusion can be drawn for North Korea. In spite of its isolationist nationalism, regime survival cannot be understood apart from the steady financial and political support of the Zainichi population loyal to the regime. In any case, if we trace the concrete struggles of North and South Korea – befitting a division born of the global Cold War – we would encounter at every turn contests that involved external or diasporic Koreans, such as the abduction of the later president Kim Dae-jung in Tokyo or the Zainichi assassination attempt on Park Chung Hee. The relative insignificance of 250

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the diasporic population can be gleaned from the almost complete absence of struggles by either the North or the South to control them (and secondarily by the paucity of scholarship in the two Koreas, at least until very recently). The absence of North–South diasporic political struggles is remarkable, because North and South Korea did in fact fight over picayune matters, and all over the world to boot. Korean nationalism may in part be Korean diasporic nationalism, but it would be misleading to believe in the existence of a unified diasporic Korean consciousness or ideology. Although the North Korean state made an intermittent effort to organize “overseas Koreans,” the reality is that neither it nor the South Korean state succeeded in organizing the far-flung diaspora. Indeed, states lack the infrastructural power or political legitimacy to organize and control the far-flung diaspora. After all, many diasporic people become naturalized citizens of their destination country, thereby coming under the jurisdiction of other nation-states. After a generation or two, concrete ties to homeland wane or disappear altogether, as does the language and custom of the Korean peninsula. Even in the case of a highly politicized diasporic group, such as the Jewish Diaspora, the perceived unity is largely external and nominal. In spite of the shared history and religion, the Jewish Diasporic populations have no obvious common lingua franca, as Hebrew largely existed as a “dead” language of the Holy Scriptures. Much the same can be said for the Korean case, for there is no lingua franca. English is just as likely to be used as Korean as the convenient language of communication among diasporic Koreans. Furthermore, most of the extant diaspora have become citizens of another nation-state, whether ethnic Koreans in Russia or China, Germany or the United States. Although some yearn to return to their putative homeland, the supposed descendants of the Korean people who do return to South Korea may just as likely to be “fake” Koreans who come for economic motives (Freeman 2011). Thus, Korean diasporic nationalism exists only as a potential identity. Korean diasporic communities are separated by language and culture, history and citizenship status, and therefore do not possess a unified organization or consciousness. Although we can conveniently talk about Korean Americans or Korean Russians, it is difficult to adduce any substantive commonalities even among national diasporic communities. Differences in when they arrive, how long they have resided in the new country, divides of regional and class origins, and economic ambitions and political orientations separate any national diasporic community from achieving easy consensus or common identification. The significance of diasporic nationalism for Korean nationalism does not imply the existence of unified Korean diasporic nationalism in the contemporary world.

The plurality and diversity of the diaspora My major claims in this essay – the global reach of modern Korean diaspora, the significance of diaspora and diasporic nationalism, and the plurality and diversity of Korean diaspora – can be substantiated by considering cultural production. In its relentless drive for export growth and soft power, the South Korean state has sought to expand South Korean cultural presence around the world, especially since the 1990s (Lie 2016). To be sure, it would be misleading to ignore earlier South Korean efforts – the export of Taekwondo, for example – or North Korean attempts at global influence, but no one can gainsay the recent efforts, whether to provide subvention for translation and publication of South Korean literature, chiefly via the Literature Translation Institute of Korea, or to promote global academic interest in South Korean studies, mainly through the Academy of Korean Studies (Lie 2013b; Rao 2016). What characterizes these efforts is the insistently nationalist 251

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mindset that threatens to exclude not only North Korea from the ambit of Korean literature and Korean studies but also the elision of the diaspora. It is as if Korean literature or South Korean literature is a monolingual phenomenon taking place only in the (southern half) of the Korean peninsula. The inward-looking, monoglot nationalism faces the recalcitrant reality of the expansive, polyglot diasporic literature by ethnic Koreans. Diasporic Korean writers have produced significant literary works in Russian, Chinese, Japanese, French, German, and other languages. To take up but several examples, Anatoliĭ Kim (1984) from Kazakhstan has become a preeminent Russian writer, particularly known for Belka [Squirrel], in which four men are turned into animals. The novel is often read as a sharp criticism of the Soviet art world at the time in particular and of the Soviet Union in general. Anna Kim’s (2012) Anatomie einer Nacht [Anatomy of a Night] is a bracing exploration of a spate of suicides in eastern Greenland. Neither author’s major texts deal with the state of the diaspora or even its abstract articulations, such as national identity. In contrast, some of the recent ethnic Korean writers from China have written not only in Korean but also about issues that depict the diasporic Koreans there and their return to South Korea, such as Geum Hee’s Sesang e ŏmnŭn na ŭi chip [My Home without the World] (2015). To be sure, the bilingual writer peppers the prose with Chinese and local diasporic phrases that are opaque to native South Korean readers. The same thematic focus on the diasporic population is common among Zainichi writers, though they write almost exclusively in Japanese. Yet the similar linguistic and thematic terrain does not squelch diversity: the world of Kim Sok-pŏm’s first-generation ethnic Koreans has almost no overlap with the third-generation Kaneshiro Kazuki, whether the broad cultural and political background or the reception of mainstream Japanese people and the attitude to homeland. Much the same sort of diversity can be seen in the wide array of works by Korean American writers, with their diverse interests, though written almost exclusively in English. Younghill Kang may evoke the land of his birth as an impoverished and decaying – perhaps dying? – land in The Grass Roof (1931), but the same land around the same time period becomes a locus of heroic struggle for the if-not-exactly diasporic but certainly wandering writer An Su-gil (1972) in his epic Pukkando [Manchuria] (1959–67). The generally positive portrayal of ancestral land and culture in the pioneering Zainichi writer Kim Dal-su (1977) finds an almost equally negative portrayal – the ugly Korean – in the contemporary Korean-Chinese writer Jin Wenxue (2005). In any case, should diasporic Korean writers meet, there would be no obvious lingua franca. What would emerge clearly from collecting their writings, however, is not only the sheer diversity in written languages but also the wide array of themes, attitudes, and temperaments. As the An Su-gil example suggests, diasporic and transnational motifs were important to colonial-era Koreans. It is difficult to avoid the existence of constant trans-border flows of ethnic Koreans in such canonical works of modern Korean literature as Yŏm Sang-sŏp’s 1922 epic Mansejŏn [Before the March First Movement] (Yŏm 1948). Indeed, what is striking is the preponderance of poems and stories, such as Kim Tong-hwan’s 1925 Kukkyŏng ŭi pam [The Night at the National Border] or Im Hwa’s 1938 Hyŏnhaet’an [Genkai Sea] that involve Tumen River, Genkai Sea, and other traditional limits of the Korean peninsula even in homeland Korean literature (Kim 1991). The insistently nationalist discourse in both North and South Korea has narrowed the geographical focus and elided the transnational and global reach of the Korean people. In so doing, we misapprehend the past and present of the Koreans and Korean diaspora. Nevertheless, the recent South Korean effort to unify the diaspora has some obvious achievements, most clearly in the world of business where names like Samsung and Hyundai have become globally recognized. More squarely in the realm of culture, the export-oriented South


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Korean popular culture – usually known as the Korean Wave or Hallyu – has disseminated South Korean-made serial television dramas and popular music across the world. The renewed reckoning of Koreanness via South Korean business and popular culture is visible across the global Korean diaspora. In keeping with the themes of this essay, there is little question that South Korean popular-culture success has a great deal to do with the mobilization of the global diaspora. For example, Korean Americans or South Koreans who have spent time in the United States bring the latest from US popular music to invigorate K-pop (Lie 2015b). The idea of Koreanness in globalizing South Korean discourse remains very much a figment of South Korean government and business interests. Whereas the 1980s leftist discourse of Koreanness stressed the long tradition of suffering (han) of the Korean people, the new upbeat expressions of Koreanness by Samsung or K-pop project a positive disposition of Korean peoplehood, such as technological prowess or musical talent. Whereas the hyper-nationalistic discourse and policy of President Park Chung Hee in the 1960s and 1970s led to the expulsion of the Chinese minority population in South Korea or the exclusion of the diaspora in the reckoning of Korean nationhood, the expansive and globalizing discourse in the 2010s stress the multicultural constitution of South Korea and the valence of the diaspora. In spite of the global triumph of export-oriented South Korean popular culture, we should not forget that even in the realm of popular music diasporic Koreans have played significant, though largely ignored, roles across the world. Sawada Kenji (especially in his capacity as the leader singer of The Tigers) in Japan, Viktor Tsoi in the Soviet Union, and Cui Jian in China can reasonably claim to be the pioneering rock musician of their respective countries. Certainly, their popularity – as unlikely as it may seem – cannot be gainsaid. Perhaps their outsider status as diasporic Koreans may have had something to do with their pursuit of rock music, but it is difficult to discern any obvious impact of their Korean origins or Korean cultural influences on their music. Be that as it may, my simple point is that the Korean diaspora has an interesting and influential history that should not be excised in the latest globalizing drive of contemporary South Korea. Any adequate understanding of modern Korean cannot be achieved if we ignore Korean diaspora.

References An, S. (1972) Pukkando, 2 volumes, Seoul: Samjungdang. Freeman, C. (2011) Making and Faking Kinship, Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Geum, H. (2015) Sesang e ŏmnŭn na ŭi chip, P’aju: Ch’angbi. Jin, W. (2005) Choulou de Hanguoren, Jinan: Shandong renmin chubanshe. Kajikawa, N. (2009) Man’yōshū to Shiragi, Tokyo: Kanrin Shobō. Kang, Y. (1931) The Grass Roof, New York: Scribner’s. Kim, A.A. (1984) Belka, Moscow: Sovetskiĭ pisatel’. Kim, A. (2012) Anatomie einer Nacht, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Kim, D. (1977) Waga ariran no uta, Tokyo: Chūō Kōronsha. Kim, S. and Wales, N. (1941) Song of Ariran, New York: John Day. Kim, T. (1991) Kukkyŏng ŭi pam, Seoul: Miraesa. Lie, J. (1998) Han Unbound, Stanford: Stanford University Press. ——— (2004) Modern Peoplehood, Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ——— (2008) Zainichi (Koreans in Japan), Berkeley: University of California Press. ——— (2013a) “Korea, Migration Late 19th Century to Present,” in I. Ness (ed) The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration, Oxford: Blackwell. ——— (2013b) “South Korean Literature in the Age of the Korean Wave,” Korea Observer, 4: 647–673. ——— (ed) (2015a) Multiethnic (South) Korea?, Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley.


John Lie ——— (2015b) K-Pop, Oakland: University of California Press. ——— (2016) “Global Korea,” in M. Seth (ed) Routledge Handbook of Modern Korean History, pp. 357–367, London: Routledge. Rao, M.G. (2016) “Can a Big Government Push Bring the Nobel Prize in Literature to South Korea?” New Yorker, 28 January. ner/can-a-big-government-pushbring-the-nobel-prize-in-literature-to-south-korea Ueda, M. (2013) Torai no kodaishi, Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten. Vovin, A. (2002) “An Old Korean Text in the ‘Manyoshu’,” in F. Cavotto (ed) The Linguist’s Linguist, volume 2, pp. 455–460, Munich: Lincom Europa. Yŏm, S. (1948) Mansejŏn, Seoul: Susŏnsa.



Comparatively little work by Korean American women was published before the last few years of the 20th century. The double impact of U.S. race discrimination and Japan’s colonization of Korea effectively limited the growth of Korean American communities for six decades. At the same time, Korean patriarchy and U.S. racism, which mitigated against family and community formation for Asian laborers, meant that until the 1970s the majority of Koreans in the U.S. were men, as were of course the most prominent writers – Younghill Kang (The Grass Roof, 1931; East Goes West, 1937) and Richard E. Kim (The Martyred, 1964; The Innocent, 1968; Lost Names: Scenes From a Korean Boyhood, 1970). Kang’s immigrant characters are men who inhabit an immigrant “bachelor society” forged in the crucible of the Japanese occupation, and Richard Kim’s is an exclusively male military world at the time of the Korean civil war. In the typical war narrative, if women are mentioned at all, they are objectified as prostitutes and victims.1 Ty [Tae-Yong] Pak belongs to Richard Kim’s generation and, like him, may have been deeply affected by his war experiences. Pak’s collection of short stories, Guilt Payment (1983), consists of mostly male-centered war and adventure tales, with women often described as seductive objects of male desire and others as female avengers – shrieking shrews, shamans possessed by spirits, and frightening vampires bent on exacting payment for male insensitivity and selfishness. In story after story, Pak imagines the woman’s body raped, tortured, maimed, and mutilated. The wife in “Guilt Payment” dies with the jagged end of a beam “rammed through her chest” (17). In “Possession Sickness,” George’s wife Moonhee is unable to pass stool for a week, so that “[h]er clammy skin oozed and stank” (24). After she is possessed by spirits, a crowd gathers to spit and throw stones at her, knocking her to the ground bleeding. In “A Second Chance,” the protagonist embraces a casual lover so hard that her bones “crackle” as she moans “in pained delight” (117). Faced with a woman offering her body in exchange for her husband’s freedom, this man thinks of her as “inert and yielding, like a lump of mud.” Then he recalls “the body of a woman he’d seen near Hwachon with a stick driven up her vagina, half submerged in a swampy rice paddy and festooned with a ring of floating feces” (122). While some readers might find Pak’s action-oriented stories exciting, others might find the vividness of the accounts compromised by the various manifestations of misogyny in them. Punishment of the Korean female body can be found in later work by Korean American male writers. Although Lelia’s white body is passionately desired and worshipped by the Korean American male protagonist in Chang-Rae Lee’s Native Speaker (1995), the Asian and Korean 255

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women characters are dead (Henry’s mother), used as nameless domestic servants (Henry’s father’s new “wife”), battered (John Kwang’s wife), and abused (the room salon hostess). Lee’s other novel featuring a Korean/Korean American, A Gesture Life (1999), depicts not only the rape and sexual enslavement of the Korean comfort woman but also Franklin’s voyeuristic and pedophiliac obsession with his adopted mixed race daughter’s body. Until the last decade of the 20th century, published Korean American writers were predominantly male. The ratio of Korean American females to males was not balanced until after immigration quotas were changed in 1965. Whereas 90 percent of the immigrants to Hawaii at the turn of the century were men, now more women are emigrating to the U.S. from Korea than are men. Today there are now so many works published by writers of Korean descent in the U.S. that it is difficult to keep track of them. The proliferation of Korean American women writers in particular during recent decades prompts questions about representations of gender and female subjectivity. How do these writers place women in history? How do they imbue women characters with agency, voice, and self-determined sexuality? The 1907 Gentlemen’s Agreement enabled the immigration of several thousand Japanese and Korean (because of Japan’s colonization of Korea) women as supposed non-laboring brides of sugar plantation workers at the beginning of the 20th century. But while students of Asian American history might be familiar with the perspective of the bachelors waiting at the docks clutching photographs of the women whose passage to Hawaii they had paid with their hardearned wages, relatively little has been passed down to us from the viewpoint of the women.2 In “Living Near the Water” from Frameless Windows, Squares of Light (2003), Honolulu-born Chinese Korean poet Cathy Song, who is herself “descended from that moment of regret,” imagines the grandfather scanning the “cargo of brides.” She also hints at what the women might have felt as they . . . bowed before the grim life held out to them; sucking in their breath at the vision of their own faces caught like orange blossoms in the sad hands of laborers. (“Living Near the Water,” 15) Many of the poems in Picture Bride (1983) contain images of almost suffocating restriction: sunless rooms, a pressing against mesh screens like barbed wire (“Waialua,” 11), a mother who sleeps in tight blankets (“The White Porch,” 24) and peers almost fearfully through gray curtain of rain, fencing her children’s playground with her skirt hems, keeping them “under cover” within the “safe circumference” of the house (“Leaving,” 14). There are women “as if in a fish bowl – hemmed in” (“A Dream of Small Children,” 55), “handcuffed” to China by jade bracelets (“Lost Sister,” 52) or “squinting” in hot, still rooms, like Japanese dolls “encased in glass boxes/ displayed like shrines,” their legs tucked under them, their world the piece of cloth they hold in their seamstress hands (“The Seamstress,” 81). In Hawaii-born third generation Korean American Willyce Kim’s 1970s erotic adventure novels, Dancer Dawkins and the California Kid (1985) and Dead Heat (1988), “Ta Jan the Korean” escapes from the claustrophobic world described in Picture Bride, re-inventing herself when she leaves Hawaii for San Francisco, carrying a suitcase full of marijuana. She rejects Penelope, her baptismal name, because all that this ancient Greek namesake ever did was wait and “weave, weave, weave.” In San Francisco, Ta Jan creates a woman-centered world, helping young lesbians rescue their friends from danger while operating an all-night 256

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diner where she serves drinks named after Martina Navratilova and desserts named after Gertrude Stein. In Ronyoung Kim’s Clay Walls (1983), self-determination for Haesu coincides with the Korean independence movement. The book opens with Haesu quitting her job cleaning house for a demanding white woman because she chafes at “demeaning work for cheap pay.” Her husband admonishes her not to be so proud, but Haesu longs for a way to work for herself. At the same time, she wants to be an activist against the Japanese occupation of Korea. Eventually, she successfully carves out a self-determined identity in America, participating in the overseas Korean independence movement and earning her living by sewing. Haesu’s sexual subjectivity is seen in her attraction to and desire for the handsome Japanese ship captain, a deliciously forbidden possibility for her as a Korean nationalist and as a married woman at the time, as well as in her revulsion at her husband’s clumsy groping as he forces himself on her. Afterwards, as Haesu lies awake in the dark, “humiliation crawled over her like damp moss,” and she vows never to respond to his sexual advances in the future (30). While Clay Walls inserts a woman into the male-dominated Korean independence movement, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s DICTEE (1982) complicates the gendering of nationalism by troubling the male narrative of colonization, partition, and war. You stand on your tanks your legs spread apart how many degrees exactly your hand on your rifle . . . you are fixed you cannot move you dare not move. You are your post you are your vow in nomine patris you work your post you are your nation defending your country from subversive infiltration from your own countrymen . . . you don’t hear. You hear nothing. You hear no one . . . you see only prey . . . you close your eyes to the piercing the breaking the flooding pools bath their shadow memory as they fade from you your own blood your own flesh as tides ebb, thorough you through and through. (86) Cha suggests that nationalism does not have to be masculinist. Almost all of the historical figures in DICTEE are women: the narrator, the “diseuse,” the muses, the daughter of Zeus, the woman taking dictation, the film viewer, the woman receiving communion, the martyred child leader against Japanese colonization,Yu Guan Soon, the mother in Manchuria, the daughter who writes her from South Korea decades later, the wife. The female narrator speaks simultaneously from a multiplicity of unevenly interpellated female subject positions, whether as postcolonial subject or as racialized U.S. immigrant, incorporating Korea’s geography into her body as she equates each “organ artery gland pace element, implanted, housed skin upon skin, membrane vessel, waters, dams, ducts, canals, bridges” (57). Using lived experience and the embodiment of History, the non-linear narrative of DICTEE brings the invisible – the lost Korean nation, the female, and the body – into view, creating a space for justice as well as difference. To the other nations who are not witnesses, who are not subject to the same oppressions, they cannot know. Unfathomable the words, the terminology: enemy, atrocities, conquest, betrayal, invasion, destruction. They exist only in the larger perception of History’s recording, that affirmed, admittedly and unmistakably, one enemy nation has disregarded the humanity of another. Not physical enough. Not to the very flesh and bone, to the core, to the mark, to the point where it is necessary to intervene, even if to invent anew, expressions, for this experience, for this outcome, that does not cease to continue. (32) 257

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Masculinist nationalism subordinates and sidelines women at best and renders them victims of gendered violence at worst. Wars are fought over the bodies of women. Ongoing survival of the trauma of institutionally sanctioned wartime sexual violence is the theme of Nora Okja Keller’s Comfort Woman (1997), which connects Korean and Korean American women and establishes the centrality and subjectivity of lower class females – the mother a raped prostitute and the daughter a mixed race incest victim, who as such are “illegitimate.” Comfort Woman celebrates female lineages and networks. The women in Keller’s novel saturate each other at various moments, as when the mother, Soon Hyo, thinks of herself as her dead friend and the daughter becomes her mother. Ultimately, the mother kills her husband to protect her daughter from his sexual abuse. Comfort Woman echoes DICTEE’s insistence on embodiment and the need for a new language. After her mother’s death, the daughter changes the name Soon Hyo, or “obedient filiality,” to a homonym that means “pure language.” In Comfort Woman, female selfhood is reclaimed through the language of the body. Forbidden to speak, the women in the comfort stations learn to communicate with each other with their bodies – their eyes, their posture, the tilt of their heads. Men’s language robs a woman of her body by naming it as detestable or desirable (132). Soon Hyo tries to protect her daughter from her lustful husband by intervening when he tries to speak to her. She touches the infant all over every evening so that she will “recognize that all of what I touch is her and hers to name in her own mind, before language dissects her to pieces that can be swallowed and digested by others not herself ” (22). She wants her daughter to have her own body and thus her own subjectivity. In the U.S., the Korean War is called “the forgotten war,” perhaps because Americans did not “win” the war and American heroism could not be easily extrapolated from it. However, the narrative goes, although they were unable to save all the Korean people from communism, Americans worked valiantly to rescue the prostitutes and adopt the orphans. Many decades later, the prostitutes and orphans are finally speaking back from the imperial center. In The Women Outside (1994), directed by J. T. Takagi and Hye Jung Park, Korean women relate how they were lured or sold into military prostitution. With minimal voice-over narration and some framing comments from military spokespeople, feminist scholars, and Korean activists, the filmmakers bring forth the perspectives of the women working around U.S. military bases in Korea or in the U.S., where they work in bars and massage parlors after having been abandoned by their U.S. servicemen husbands. Thousands of Korean children were adopted by mostly white American families during the past seven decades. Until recently, the adoption story has been one of white American generosity, compassion, and largesse. But now, adoptees – not all but mostly female – have grown up and have begun to speak back in English, in anthologies like Seeds From a Silent Tree, edited by Tonya Bishoff and Jo Rankin (1997), in memoirs such as Jane Jeong Trenka’s Language of Blood (2003) and Fugitive Visions (2009) and Sunee Kim’s Trail of Crumbs (2008), and in films that include Kim Su Theiler’s Great Girl (1993), Me-K Ahn’s Living in Half Tones (1994), and Tammy Chu’s Searching for Go-Hyang (1998). In these written and visual texts, the adopted women themselves represent in various ways how they have experienced transnational adoption and how they struggle to understand their place in America’s racial hierarchy and the relationship between their adoption and Korean patriarchal attitudes and practices. Some adoptee texts retrieve the figure of the birth mother from the social death to which she is relegated in the narrative of Western “rescue” of children from “bad mothers” in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, whose only crime is poverty. Deann Borhsay’s First Person Plural (2000) and In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee (2010) challenge the popular narrative in both the receiving and the sending countries that adoption is a kind of rescue that snatches a child destined for a tragic life and places her into a place of plenty and therefore 258

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happiness. There is no room for the adoptee in a story that refuses to recognize what she has lost – not only her natal family, but also her language, her heritage, and her country. In the first decades of the new millennium, global capitalism has dramatically narrowed the social and cultural distance between South Korea and the U.S., giving rise to the export of South Korean “soft power” popular culture and spurring global migrations, all of which contribute to the diversification of readership and the proliferation of Korean American literary production. Examples of today’s Korean American women’s writing include memoirs, such as Jid Lee’s To Kill a Tiger (2010), which traces the development of the writer’s feminist consciousness as she grows up in Korea, and Margaret Cho’s I’m the One That I Want (2001), which speaks frankly about body shaming in Korean, Asian American, and mainstream communities and eulogizes, in a very humorous way, mother’s love; the historical novel, such as Eugenia Kim’s The Calligrapher’s Daughter (2009), about a young woman’s life during the Japanese colonial period; immigrant family stories, like Sonya Chung’s Long for This World (2010), about two branches of one family, one in the U.S. and one in South Korea, coming together in South Korea, and Catherine Chung’s Forgotten Country (2013), about estranged sisters in the U.S. who come back together in Korea when their father returns there to die; urban mysteries, like Angela Mi Young Hur’s The Queens of K-Town (2007), about suicide disrupting young Korean American women’s attempts to forge identities in New York away from their families; books for children, such as Linda Sue Park’s tales set in ancient, medieval, and colonial Korea, like When My Name Was Keoko (2002); young adult fiction like Frances Park’s When My Sister Was Cleopatra Moon (2001), about the bond between sisters and young women’s not so pleasant sexual experiences, An Na’s A Step From Heaven (2001) about domestic violence, Wait for Me (2006) about interracial love and lying to parents, and The Fold (2008) about plastic surgery, and Paula Yoo’s Good Enough (2008) about parental pressure on their teenage daughter; plays by Julia Cho and Jean Young Lee; poetry by Cathy Park Hong, Suji Kwock Kim, and others; and humorous non-fiction like Annie Choi’s Happy Birthday or Whatever: Track Suits, Kim Chee, and Other Family Disasters (2007) and Shut Up, You’re Welcome: Thoughts on Life, Death, and Other Inconveniences (2009). Although it addresses all kinds of readers, most of this work – many of Jean Young Lee’s plays being exceptions – centers on Korean or Korean American women characters struggling for voice and visibility. At the present moment, Korean American women writers are not especially diverse: they are likely to have been born in the U.S. or Korea between the late 1960s and the early 1980s to educated, urban, middle-class immigrants who migrated in the 1970s under the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service’s Professional and Technical Preference or were sponsored by Korean women married to U.S. servicemen. Often unable to find work in the U.S. commensurate to their South Korean education and experience, many of these immigrants operate small businesses. They are more familiar with the requirements for American success than were earlier immigrants. Their children, unlike earlier U.S.-educated Korean American women writers like Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Nora Okja Keller, Myung Mi Kim, Patti Kim, Ronyoung Kim, Willyce Kim, Helie Lee, Mary Paik Lee, and Margaret Pai, who lived in California or Hawaii (except for Patti Kim, who grew up in Maryland) and attended public universities, most of the new writers of this century grew up in East Coast and are graduates of the U.S.’s most elite private colleges, including Amherst, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Stanford, the University of Chicago, Wesleyan, and Yale. Some are even products of private secondary schools like the Philips Andover or Exeter Academies.3 Reflecting the young age of most of the writers, most of the protagonists are young women. There are many coming-of-age stories as well as family stories centered on generational conflicts of values or that attempt to imagine the parents’ youth in Korea. Mothers are very often critically important figures in what are mainly daughters’ narratives. Romantic love, sexual experiences, 259

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sibling rivalries, and complicated friendships figure in, and protagonists often grapple with racist micro-aggressions in daily life and confusion or frustration about gender and culture. Some characters traverse the boundaries between the U.S. and South Korea or elsewhere. Set in the American expatriate community in Hong Kong, Janice Y. K. Lee’s The Expatriates (2016) revolves around social class and to some extent race and ethnicity anxieties: after having grown up in a tiny apartment in Queens, that “land of immigrant dreams” where her parents had settled, Mercy Cho manages to get into Columbia University. Sometimes, she wishes she hadn’t attended a “fancy college with the fancy kids who showed her a different world.” In college and even afterwards, she thinks she is like them, but they think she’s different from them, more obviously after graduation, when they land high-paying jobs while she finds only temporary work. She recalls that once, when she had offered to bring Indian takeout to a classmate’s group dinner, the doorman told her to use the delivery entrance. She tried to joke about it at the party, but “it was kind of uncomfortable, as if they all knew it was a little too close to possible [and that] Mercy was just one step away from doing these types of jobs” (19). Mercy tries to expand her options by moving to Hong Kong to find work. There, she finds herself immersed in the American expatriate community, which resembles 1950s America, with its attitudes towards women, its all-white dinner parties, and its entitled and demanding “ugly Americans” living in a world neatly divided into the servers, who are mostly Asian, and the served, who are mostly white. Mercy’s Ivy degree has not helped her bridge the wide chasm between the two. The expatriates go on exotic vacations at Asian resorts that resemble “small empires” where they can enjoy the role of the ruler, with locals running to obey every whim like feudal servants (141). At home, helpers or servants “just clean up and keep their mouths shut” (76). Notions about Asian female servility circulate among expatriate wives, who talk about men who “take to Hong Kong the wrong way”: spoiled by secretaries and maidservants who anticipate their needs, bringing their espressos just the way they like them and ironing their boxers and socks without talking back, they do not want to return to taking out the trash and helping with the dishes, so they leave their families for Asian women: “. . . why not change it up? Why not trade up? Or down, and have some fun?” (98–99). As a Korean American, Mercy occupies a liminal position in the expatriate world. The novel’s chapters alternate between her and two white women whose lives she interrupts. To Margaret, she is a kind of servant, and to Hilary she is a husband-stealer. When Mercy’s mother comes to visit her in Hong Kong and decides to take a food service job, and while Mercy is helping her at an expatriate party, she knows that she is being mistaken for a local servant. In the end, Mercy discovers that she has carried her diasporic identity with her like a kind of mobile home. Exhausted from “traveling back and forth from these different kinds of people . . . [trying] to straddle viewpoints, to be the translator and the mediator and never know what you yourself should be thinking” (306), Mercy accompanies her mother to a Korean church in Hong Kong to be with “her other kind of people.” There, she finally feels at home: The place is filled with tacky calendars from small Korean businesses and cheap ugly chairs, and while Mercy would have scoffed at it a year ago, it appeals to her now. It’s so comforting. . . . She looks around at all the Koreans in the room. . . . She recognizes these people – the middle-aged women with the perms and sensible shoes, the stylish young moms, the salaryman bankers. She knows them. They know her. . . . This could be a Korean church gathering anywhere on the globe . . . surrounded by Koreans in a foreign land. It’s not so bad. (286–287) 260

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As the novel ends, Mercy is rooted once again with her mother in her diaspora community. She ruminates about how everyone worries about what people think of them when in fact “Only you are thinking about yourself, usually. You or your mother” (323). What we thought was cosmopolitan freedom through transnational travel turns out to be a return to the Korean diaspora community, which provides Mercy with the best possible escape from the pain caused by class difference. Sitting next to the sons and daughters from rich and powerful families in wood-paneled classrooms with stained glass windows at Princeton, Casey Han, the protagonist of Min Jin Lee’s Free Food for Millionaires (2007), becomes acutely aware of how shabby her parents’ Elmhurst apartment is, with its blue Dacron carpeting and bulletproof glass windows. When her father criticizes her for not finding a job after graduation like her more privileged classmates, whose networks are built at expensive private secondary schools and their parents’ exclusive country clubs, Casey screams at him: “Do you know what it’s like to . . . make and keep friends when they think you’re nothing because you’re from nowhere? I’ve had kids step away from me like I’m unwashed after I tell them you manage a dry cleaner” (11). Remembering her parents’ drinking Taster’s Choice with Coffee Mate powdered creamer, Casey savors $10 cups of coffee. She craves “every bit of luxury” and fears never having any more. With her wealthy friends, she had eaten at some of the most expensive restaurants, private clubs, and homes in New York, but she is terrified that this life could slip from her grasp: . . . inside, she believed that she could be asked to leave at any moment, and what would she say but leave quietly with the knowledge that this was what happened to girls like her. (290) Casey believes that it is possible to “know” a person through her possessions (20), so she tries to empower herself through the style of her clothing and accessories. She admires the most Sabine, the self-made Korean immigrant businesswoman, and the stylish possessions her success enables her to display. To Casey, Sabine is a surrogate mother, mentor, and role model. Casey believes that clothes have the magical power to “cast spells” (40) and make a person feel “legitimate” in shifting environments. Although she is deep into credit card debt, she buys costly clothes so that she can “curate” her identity with them: . . . tonight, in this dress, she was a girl who’d gone to Andover and not Stuyvesant, and a girl who’d lost her virginity at the Gold and Silver in New York, not at a roller rink in Elmhurst. (216) At the same time, part of the reason Casey fusses over her clothes is that she is concerned that people might think she is a Japanese tourist, a nanny, a mail order bride, or a nail salon girl (69). White men are free to “be themselves,” she muses, while she must use clothes as her armor, not knowing what it would be like to “never want to look like anything at all – instead, to come as you are” (216). Her white boyfriend, Jay, is not from a wealthy or powerful family, but his whiteness and maleness make him confident that he can win anyone over, including Casey’s immigrant father. Jay feels no compunction about forcing himself on her parents, who had refused to meet him, almost bullying them into an introduction because they were “nothing” socially. Casey decides to leave Jay when she realizes that “he had never really understood what it was like to be her” (151). At the same time, Casey does not blame him: “They were 261

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brokenhearted Koreans – that wasn’t Jay’s fault . . . how was he supposed to understand their kind of anguish?” (151). Although Casey understands and feels protective of her parents, she disdains and wants to be nothing like them. She is tired of her father’s monologues about having been stranded in South Korea with the rest of his family in the north and about his struggles to survive eating garbage, sleeping on the street, and working as a peddler or factory worker before getting to the U.S. . . . she didn’t want to hear about it anymore. His losses weren’t hers, and she didn’t want to hold them. She was in Queens, and it was 1993. But at the [dinner] table, it was 1953, and the Korean war refused to end. . . . Yes, yes, Casey wanted to say, war was brutal and poverty cruel, but enough already. She’d never suffer the way he did. Wasn’t that the point of them coming to America, after all? (8) Compared with writings published in previous decades, little concern about history or social issues can be found in Free Food for Millionaires. The novel takes place in the 1990s, when Korean American lives were profoundly affected by Black–Korean tensions in East and West Coast cities and the rapid economic and social changes and spectacular labor struggles in South Korea after the establishment of the constitutional government. But somehow none of the characters in Free Food for Millionaires show any interest in what is going on in the local community, the country, or the world beyond their own personal spaces. Casey readily accepts economic inequality, class stratification, gender discrimination, and white male privilege. Certainly she does not resent rich people; she simply wants what they have (289). She easily forgives white men for their race and gender privileges, including Hugh for wanting to have sex with her after watching a porn video featuring an Asian woman with white men. “Men had their fetishes, she knew that” (536). Rather than critiquing Hugh’s racial fetishization of Asian women or the pornography’s sexual exploitation, she is disgusted that the Asian woman in the video looks “too old.” In a sense, Free Food for Millionaires, like The Expatriates, ends with the protagonist coming “home” to ethnic identity and the diaspora community. We assume that Casey will live happily ever after because she finds a boyfriend from a wealthy Korean family her parents might approve of. Unlike Jay, Unu will know why her parents are brokenhearted and understand “what it is like to be her.” Nami Mun’s Miles From Nowhere (2009) also begins and ends with “home” in the diaspora, but it’s a very different New York story, tracing the harrowing journey of Joon, who runs away at 12 after her father deserts the family and her mother becomes mentally ill. Unlike some other books about runaways, Miles From Nowhere is a novel, not a memoir, although episodic fragments are strung together and related more randomly than chronologically, approximating the way we remember our experiences. Told without shame or regret, the novel follows six years of Joon’s life in 1980s New York as she moves from homeless shelter to prostitution and drug addiction. The descriptions are understated but almost excruciatingly detailed. For instance, her first sexual experience takes place in an escort club, where she hopes to make enough money to pay for a room in a seedy hotel. She is chosen by an older Japanese American man named Eugene, whom she describes as having “guppy eyes, a moon face, and a basketball for a stomach” (43). Hairs sprout from his ears and there is a cluster of acne under his chin. Joon has never even had a date, let alone performed fellatio, so Eugene grabs her neck and forces her head down between his legs: I couldn’t breathe, and the smell of him choked me. . . . My eyes swelled, something warm slid from my nose, and no matter how much I pushed to get away, I couldn’t [so] 262

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I gave in. It seemed logical. To get him off as fast as I could . . . He let out a cry. He pinched my ear, twisted it, stuck a finger inside it and cried some more, and a couple of times he whispered his own name, until finally, he let out a long wail and slackened his grip. I turned my head and spit. I coughed and spat and coughed again but all I could taste was sourness. Bitter milk. Spoiled fungus rice. (68) Much later, when she has already become an addict, she describes her experience in vivid detail. Two days of speeding, bagging, drinking crème de menthe, and snorting procaine, and now it was daylight, and the worms were already digging into my skin. The guy sitting next to me bit into a soggy taco. The smell of wet beef made me want to vomit. (93) Joon’s world is gritty, bleak, and populated with edgy characters who flit in and out of her life. Joon feels enormous empathy for some of the downtrodden people she encounters on the streets and in abandoned buildings. Some of them affect her profoundly, like Wink, who teaches her important survival skills. Sometimes she benefits from random acts of kindness from others as well, such as a friend who offers her a place to stay and offers to go to Narcotics Anonymous meetings with her. Joon sees the world through the eyes of a teenager, upsetting the reader with her bad choices. But she is compassionate, imaginative, and keenly observant, somehow seeing and conveying beauty in the midst of tragedy and despair. When she is aboard a bus that crashes into a station wagon, she observes: The asphalt was a lace of sparkling diamonds – a beautiful, jagged doily for the crushed picnic basket, the soggy bib, the map stuck to the pavement with sticky blood. (95) Miles From Nowhere offers no resolution, no happy ending. But it ends with a sliver of hope when Joon learns a little about love. Returning to her ruined family home, she encounters an old neighbor whose beloved wife had left him, and she envies his grief. I hadn’t loved my mother the way he had loved his wife. I had left her when she needed me the most . . . He had no idea that grief was a reward. That it only came to those who were loyal, to those who loved more than they were capable of. (285) Missing her mother even when she was mentally ill, as her neighbor missed his wife, is for Joon something to hold onto, “a place to begin.” Homelessness is an undercurrent in the stories in Krys Lee’s Drifting House (2012), a title that suggests a home that one carries with her, wherever she happens to live – in Korea, in America, in a state of suspension between Korea and America. In many ways, the short story seems the perfect vehicle for focusing on different facets of transnational and diasporic Korean lives. U.S. publishers are often reluctant about short stories, on the lookout instea