Abstract: Forty years after the people’s uprising and state massacre took place in Gwangju during the spring month of May 1980, what is now widely known as “5.18” remains a contested history. Just these past years, we have seen new facts about the tragedy unearthed, new testimonies made on public record, and old fabrications and fallacies resurfacing in news feeds. In light of the increasing pertinence of people’s rise against social injustices across the globe today, this panel seeks to revisit the structure and semantics of platforms through which the newsreels, photographs, paintings, songs, and revolutionary affect of Gwangju have been documented and transmitted across geographic and temporal boundaries. This history of transmission, as much as the history of representation, is important particularly because the political potential of Gwangju lies not only in the actual event of coalition formation (“absolute community”) in the face of a state massacre, but also in the power of that historical fact as it traveled beyond the initial ten days in Gwangju. If the 20th-anniversary edited volume Contentious Kwangju reassessed the uprising in light of the institution of South Korean democracy in 1987 and the national politics of commemoration in the 1990s, this roundtable expands on the transnational and global aspects of 5.18 and its legacy. With the goal of situating 5.18 within the transnational history of revolution, the presentations highlight the interdisciplinary aspects of social movements and historicization of their potential impact on future revolutions.
PRESENTATION 1 Short-circuiting Seoul, Reaching Afar to Germany, Japan, and the US: The Photographs of Gwangju in 1980
Sohl Lee, Assistant Professor of Modern and Contemporary East Asian Art, Department of Art, Stony Brook University
While the access to the truth of the Gwangju Uprising was limited for most citizens of South Korea, those living in Germany, Japan, and the US could view photographic images and documentary footage from Gwangju almost immediately after the uprising and its resultant massacre. The extent of transnational pathway through which the images of Gwangju travelled is testament to the transnational nature of South Korean pro-democracy movement, a significant aspect too often overlooked. What does the examination of media platforms that carried the message of Gwangju reveal today about the sociocultural significance of the event in the global scale--and the subsequent struggles against dictatorship and for citizenry rights that unfolded in 1980s South Korea? How did the spaces of anti-authoritarian state pro-democracy movement emerge by bypassing the state apparatus? What was the role of overseas Korean populations? Each set of stakeholders outside the peninsula forged distinct relationships with the event and its aftermath, and this diversity compels a reconsideration of the global significance of 5.18.
Sohl Lee specializes in modern and contemporary art and visual culture of East Asia, and her interdisciplinary research interests include aesthetics of politics, activist art, vernacular modernism, postcolonial theory, historiography, and curatorial practice. Her book manuscript tentatively titled “Reimagining Democracy: Minjung Art and the Cultural Movement in South Korea” has received a major publication subvention grant from the Korean Arts Management Service of the Ministry of Culture, South Korea. Her English publications have appeared in Art Journal, Yishu, Journal of Korean Studies, Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, and InVisible Culture, and she has curated exhibitions in both the U.S. and South Korea.
PRESENTATION 2 “March for the Beloved” and the Making of a Counter-Republic in South Korea
Susan Hwang, Assistant Professor, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Indiana University Bloomington
In 1982, a group of writers and musicians gathered in Gwangju to clandestinely perform “March for the Beloved” (Im ŭl wihan haengjin-gok), a song created to honor the “soul marriage” of two activists who had died in the Kwangju Uprising two years prior. Over the following decades, the song emerged as a central piece in South Korea’s repertoire of resistance, resurfacing in March 2017 during months of sustained popular demonstrations that led to the impeachment of Park Geun-hye. And beyond South Korea, the song would become a call to action in various other parts of Asia, including Hong Kong, China, Japan, Malaysia, and Thailand. This paper examines the role that the Gwangju Uprising played in the process of South Korea’s democratization, and argues that “March for the Beloved” was instrumental in transforming the victims of state violence into martyrs and the subalterns of an unlawful republic into political subjects of a morally righteous counter-republic. This paper analyzes the people-oriented cultural practices behind the birth of the song, as well as the performative elements in the making of the song into an anthem of the counter-state. In conclusion, the paper discusses the ongoing controversy over the song as an occasion to think about the reification of Gwangju and the perpetual struggle over its signification in South Korea’s contemporary moment.
Susan Hwang is Assistant Professor of Contemporary Korean Literature and Cultural Studies in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Indiana University. Her scholarship engages with the cultural practices of resistance in South Korea, as well as theories of translation and world literature. She is currently working on her book manuscript entitled “Uncaged Songs: Culture and Politics of Protest Music in South Korea." It is a cultural history of South Korea’s song movement that charts how songs became a powerful component of the struggle for democracy in South Korea during two of the nation’s darkest decades—the 1970s and the 1980s.
PRESENTATION 3 Smoke Signals: Framing the Gwangju Uprising in North Korea
Douglas Gabriel, Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute of Korean Studies, George Washington University
From May 18, 1980, news of the Gwangju Uprising dominated the North Korean media. Finally, it seemed, South Korean students had taken up Kim Il-sung’s call to “thoroughly defend the interests of the workers and peasants, go deeply among the masses of workers and peasants and fight in close unity with them.” In turn, North Korean cultural producers—including painters, illustrators, filmmakers and documentarians—began mythologizing the event through representational reconstructions. On the surface, these works asserted a correspondence between the actions of the protestors at Gwangju and the vision of reunification sponsored by the North Korean state. Images of South Korean youth activists functioned chiefly as a means of bolstering government policies by framing the southern half of the peninsula as an illegitimate puppet state of the United States. In the process, however, visual artists employed peculiar compositional framing devices aimed at keeping viewers at bay, often presenting the unruly figurative content of their works as dream images detached from the immediate circumstances of North Korean audiences who, it was implied, had no reason to revolt against their own government. Perhaps paradoxically, North Korean artists’ representations of the uprising had the effect of acknowledging and modeling ways of acting politically that exceeded the ideological lens through which they otherwise viewed the world.
Douglas Gabriel is a 2020-21 Korea Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at GW. Douglas received his Ph.D. in art history from Northwestern University in 2019. His current book project, Over the Mountain: Realism Towards Reunification in Cold War Korea, 1980–1994, examines connections between the visual art of the minjung democratization movement in South Korea and the work of state-sponsored artists in North Korea. Previously, he was the 2019-20 Soon Young Kim Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University. Douglas’s research on North and South Korean art and architecture has appeared in the Journal of Korean Studies and Hyŏndae misulsa yŏngu [The Korean Journal of Contemporary Art History]. His work has been supported by the Fulbright Program, the Harvard Korea Institute, and the Northeast Asia Council of the Association of Asian Studies.
Moderated by Paul Chang, Associate Professor of Sociology, Harvard University
Tian Li Korea Foundation-Korea Institute Postdoctoral Fellow, Korea Institute, Harvard University (Ph.D. in East Asian Studies from the University of California, Irvine)
Before joining the Korea Institute as a Korea Foundation-Korea Institute Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard, Tian Li was a lecturer at Stanford University teaching Asian Screen Cultures. She received her Ph.D. in East Asian Studies from the University of California, Irvine. She specializes in Korean and Chinese film, media, and cultural studies. Her articles appear in such journals as Telos, China Perspectives, and Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies. Her current book project Screen-capitalism: Transnational Korean Screen Culture in Postsocialist China investigates the shifting paradigms of cultural dynamics within Korean and Chinese screen media, at their intersection with affect, aesthetic, gender, and ideology.
Chaired by Alexander Zahlten, Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University
Abstract: The cultural phenomenon known as Korean Wave (Hallyu) has flourished in the Chinese mainland since the 1990s, both officially and unofficially, despite looming political conflicts and cultural boycotts. Although the term Hallyu was initially coined in the Chinese context and the phenomenon has reshaped the contours of Chinese pop culture, Sino-Korean screen media relations have received little attention in the English-language scholarship. This project theorizes South Korean screen culture’s transnationality through the concept of what I term screen-capitalism—a system of visual relations that foregrounds the negotiation of boundaries via affective and sensory co-experiences. It does so by scrutinizing the (re)localization of Korean screen culture, namely Chinese remakes of Korean variety television programs, Sino-Korean film and television co-productions and co-consumptions, and the deployment of screen-capitalism in Chinese screen cultures following Hallyu’s transformation into an Amnyu (undercurrent) in China. This talk will show how Korean screen media has been transplanted into different cultural, ideological, and linguistic communities, through mimicked and incorporative modes. By demonstrating the compatibility of screen-capitalism’s logic with both capitalist and (post)socialist societies, I contend that this mechanism, insofar as it is fluidly transplantable, ideologically permeable, and transnationally gendered, circulates a shifting cultural paradigm both on and off screen.
Thomas Chan-Soo Kang Room (S050), CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, MA 02138
Kim Koo Forum on Korea Current Affairs
Suk-Young Kim Professor of Theater and Performance Studies; Director of the Center for Performance Studies, UCLA
Suk-Young Kim's research interests cover a wide range of academic disciplines, such as East Asian Performance and Visual Culture, Gender and Nationalism, Korean Cultural Studies, Russian Literature and Slavic Folklore. Her publications have appeared in English, German, Korean, Polish and Russian while her research has been acknowledged by the International Federation for Theatre Research's New Scholar's Prize (2004), the American Society for Theater Research Fellowship (2006), the Library of Congress Kluge Fellowship (2006-7) and the Academy of Korean Studies Research Grant (2008, 2010, 2015-2020), among others. Her first book, Illusive Utopia:Theater, Film, and Everyday Performance in North Korea (University of Michigan Press, 2010), the winner of the 2013 James Palais Book Prize from the Association for Asian Studies, explores how state-produced propaganda performances intersect with everyday life practice in North Korea. Her second book, DMZ Crossing: Performing Emotional Citizenship Along the Korean Border (Columbia University Press, 2014), focuses on various types of inter-Korean border crossers who traverse one of the most heavily guarded areas in the world to redefine Korean citizenship as based on emotional affiliations rather than constitutional delineations. In 2015, DMZ Crossing was recognized with the Association for Theater in Higher Education Outstanding Book Award. In collaboration with Kim Yong, she also co-authored Long Road Home (Columbia University Press, 2009), which investigates transnational human rights and the efficacy of oral history through the testimony of a North Korean labor camp survivor.
Sponsored by the 2014-15 ACLS/SSRC/NEH International and Area Studies Fellowship, she recently published K-pop Live: Fans, Idols, and Multimedia Performance (Stanford University Press, 2018). This project traces the rapid rise of Korean popular music (K-pop) in relation to the equally meteoric rise of digital consumerism — a phenomenon mostly championed by the widespread development of high-speed Internet and the distribution of mobile gadgets — and situates their tenacious partnership in the historical context of Korea from the early 1990s to the present day. She is currently working on several book-length projects: Media and Technology in North Korea, Korean Language Theater in Kazakhstan and Russian Theatrical Costumes and the Vestige of Empire.
Kim served on the editorial board of the Routledge Handbook of Sexuality Studies in East Asia and is currently at work as a senior editor for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature. She also sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Korean Studies and serves on the advisory committee for the Hong Kong University Book Series Crossings: Asian Cinema and Media Culture.
Kim previously taught at Dartmouth College and UC Santa Barbara. She received her Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Theatre and Drama with a Certificate in Gender Studies from Northwestern University in 2005 and her Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literature from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2001.
Chaired by Alexander Zahlten, Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University
Abstract North Korea might be known as the world’s most secluded society, but it has witnessed the rapid rise of media technologies in the new millennium. While the North Korean state is anxiously trying to catch up with the world standard of communication technology, it is also faced with the need to block free influx of outside information by allowing only intranet to its people. In a country where smuggling foreign media still can be punished by public execution, how do North Koreans manage to access outside information? This project explores how the expansion of new media technology complicates the country’s seemingly monolithic facade mired in entangled networks of technology and surveillance, intellectual property and copyrights, and the way for millennials to live creatively with censorship.
15th Tsai Lecture; Sponsored by the Tsai Lecture Fund at the Harvard University Asia Center; co-sponsored by the Kim Koo Forum on Korea Current Affairs at the Korea Institute, Harvard University
The Honorable Kathleen Stephens, Former U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea (2008-2011); President and CEO of the Korea Economic Institute of America
Introduced by Sun Joo Kim, Harvard-Yenching Professor of Korean History; Director, Korea Institute, Harvard University and James Robson, James C. Kralik and Yunli Lou Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations; Victor and William Fung Director, Harvard University Asia Center
Special Panel Discussion; jointly sponsored by the Harvard University Asia Center, the Kim Koo Forum on Korea Current Affairs at the Korea Institute, the Program on U.S. Japan Relations, and the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies
Andrew Gordon, Lee and Juliet Folger Fund Professor of History, Harvard University Carter Eckert, Yoon Se Young Professor of Korean History, Harvard University Gi-Wook Shin, William J. Perry Professor of Contemporary Korea, Stanford University
Gi-Wook Shin is the William J. Perry Professor of Contemporary Korea in sociology and a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. He established Stanford’s Korea Program in 2001, and has been directing the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford since 2005. His research concentrates on social movements, nationalism, development, and international relations, with focus on Korea and broader Asia. Shin is the author/editor of over twenty books and numerous articles, including Divergent Memories: Opinion Leaders and the Asia-Pacific War, One Alliance, Two Lenses: U.S.-Korea Relations in a New Era, Cross Currents: Regionalism and Nationalism in Northeast Asia, and Ethnic Nationalism in Korea. Shin’s current research initiatives include GlobalTalent Flows and Rise of Populism and Nationalism. Before coming to Stanford, Shin taught at the University of Iowa and the University of California, Los Angeles. He holds BA from Yonsei University in Korea and MA and PhD from the University of Washington.
Moderated by Susan Pharr, Edwin O. Reischauer Professor of Japanese Politics; Director of the Program on U.S.-Japan Relations of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University
Abstract The rise of populist nationalism is a global trend in the 21st century, from the United States and European countries to South American and Asian states. Japan and South Korea, where nationalism is deeply ingrained within and throughout the society, have become more vulnerable to the ferocious spread of populism, which could harm their democratic institutions and strain foreign relations. In his talk, Professor Gi-Wook Shin will explain the historical context and political nature of the widespread populist nationalism in South Korea and how it has strained its relations with Japan and could potentially put its young democracy at jeopardy. He will also explore how to cultivate rational liberalism in the face of rising nationalism, populism, and extremism, so as to promote reconciliatory relations between Japan and South Korea. Two historian-panelists, Carter Eckert and Andrew Gordon, will then engage in a critical conversation with the speaker to further discuss the perils of populist nationalism.
Thomas Chan-Soo Kang Room (S050), CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, MA 02138
Kim Koo Forum on Korea Current Affairs
Monica Kim Assistant Professor of History, New York University
Monica Kim is Assistant Professor in U.S. and the World History in the Department of History at New York University. Her book, The Interrogation Rooms of the Korean War: The Untold History (Princeton University Press, 2019), is a trans-Pacific history of decolonization told through the experiences of two generations of people creating and navigating military interrogation rooms of the Korean War. She has published work in journals such as Critical Asian Studiesand positions: asia critiqueconcerning U.S. empire, war-making, and decolonization. She is also a member of the Editorial Collective for Radical History Review. Her research and writing have been supported by fellowships from the Institute for Advanced Study, the Wolf Humanities Center at University of Pennsylvania, and the Korea Foundation.
Chaired by Nicholas Harkness, Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University
Abstract Through the interrogation rooms of the Korean War, this talk demonstrates how the individual human subject became both the terrain and the jus ad bellum for this critical U.S. war of ‘intervention’ in postcolonial Korea. In 1952, with the US introduction of voluntary POW repatriation proposal at Panmunjom, the interrogation room and the POW became a flashpoint for an international controversy ultimately about postcolonial sovereignty and political recognition.
The ambitions of empire, revolution and non-alignment converged upon this intimate encounter of military warfare: the interrogator and the interrogated prisoner of war. Which state could supposedly reinvent the most intimate power relation between the colonizer and the colonized, to transform the relationship between the state and subject into one of liberation, democracy or freedom? Tracing two generations of people across the Pacific as they navigated multiple kinds of interrogation from the 1940s and 1950s, this talk lay outs a landscape of interrogation – a dense network of violence, bureaucracy, and migration – that breaks apart the usual temporal bounds of the Korean War as a discrete event.
The Korea Institute acknowledges the generous support of the Kim Koo Foundation.
Bowie-Vernon Room (K262), CGIS Knafel Building, 1737 Cambridge Street
Weatherhead Center Program on U.S.-Japan Relations Presentation; co-sponsored by the Kim Koo Forum on Korea Current Affairs at the Harvard Korea Institute
Ben Bartlett Postdoctoral Fellow, Program on U.S.-Japan Relations, Harvard University
Dr. Bartlett holds a B.A. in Computer Science from Earlham College, an M.Sc. in Computer Science from the University of Toronto, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California at Berkeley. He is a recipient of fellowships and grants from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), Waseda University, and the Center for Japanese Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. His working papers have addressed measurement of power and capabilities in cyberspace; Japan’s industrial policy and cybersecurity; and territorial conflict and disputes. During the 2018-19 academic year, Dr. Bartlett will conduct research on Japan's cyber security promotion efforts in Southeast Asia.
Chaired by Susan Pharr, Edwin O. Reischauer Professor of Japanese Politics, and Director, WCFIA Program on U.S.-Japan Relations, Harvard University
The Korea Institute acknowledges the generous support of the Kim Koo Foundation.
Belfer Case Study Room (S020), CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street
Panel Discussion Organized by Professor Arunabh Ghosh; co-sponsored with Kim Koo Forum on Korea Current Affairs at the Harvard Korea Institute, Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University Asia Center, Reischauer Institute for Japanese Studies, and Mittal South Asia Institute ...