Kim Chi-ha and the Politics of Death in South Korean Democratization


Thursday, October 11, 2018, 4:30pm to 6:00pm


Thomas Chan-Soo Kang Room (S050), CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Korea Colloquium

Youngju Ryu
Associate Professor of Modern Korean Literature, University of Michigan

Youngju Ryu is Associate Professor of Korean Literature at the University of Michigan. Her first book, Writers of the Winter Republic: Literature and Resistance in Park Chung Hee's Korea, was named Best Books of 2016 by Foreign Affairs and received the 2018 James H. Palais Prize of the Association of Asian Studies. She is the editor of Cultures of Yusin: South Korea in the 1970s, forthcoming from the University of Michigan Press, and is currently at work on a project that investigates South Korea’s podcast revolution.

Chaired by Si Nae Park, Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University

An icon of resistance during South Korea’s authoritarian era, the poet and playwright Kim Chi-ha is now an apostate, a martyr who has outlived martyrdom. Around him unfolds a complex tale of a society deeply divided about how to remember, narrate, and sacralize the sacrifices that were exacted in the process of its “compressed modernization.” Entering this tale through two controversial pieces of writing that Kim Chi-ha produced on the topic of death in 1970 and 1991, Youngju Ryu’s talk will address the role that death, both actual and symbolic, played in the process of South Korea’s democratization. Within the politics of death that shaped both the terrain of resistance during South Korea’s authoritarian era and the configuration of competing narratives that delimited how the era would be remembered after its end, Kim Chi-ha is a singular presence “that grows more painful with each additional probing.”

Generously supported by the Sunshik Min Endowment for the Advancement of Korean Literature at the Korea Institute, Harvard University.