Contesting Places, Spaces, and Stories
Edited By Ahmet Atay, Yea-Wen Chen and Alberto González
2. (Be)Coming Home: Transformative Places and Koreamerican Identity in Itaewon, South Korea
EUN YOUNG LEE
Central Washington University
Bowling Green State University
The transnational movements of people, information, and economy that have affected South Korean culture on various levels reveal a new transformative space in which Korean identity discourse is increasingly complicated. In communication studies, scholarship on space and place has flourished for the last two decades. Many studies explore how identities are constructed through spatial means of communication (Clark, 2004; Dickinson, 1997; Enck-Wanzwer, 2011; Ewalt, 2011; Gallagher & LaWare, 2010). The symbolic and material elements of spatial rhetoric are articulated in examinations of memorials, museums, and monuments (Halloran & Clark, 2006; Zagacki & Gallagher, 2009). The purview of these rhetorical studies extends to urban sites and landscapes (Clark, 2004; Dickinson, 2015; Fleming 2008; Lee, 2015). Our goal in this study is to reveal urban spaces as socially constructed environments within which intercultural encounters circulate (Lee, 2015). Particularly in an effort to comprehend the changing identity discourses in South Korean culture, we direct our attention to the intercultural urban environment in which a range of identities are performed and interact. We argue that Koreamericans (people born in the U.S. who are of Korean heritage) uniquely valorize and disrupt the notion of Han minjok (one Korean identity) through the transformative spatial and material rhetorics performed in Mexican food restaurants in Seoul. Our focus is Itaewon, the distinctive multicultural district in Seoul, South Korea, known for its global openness and its...
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