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Monuments, Memory, and Identity

Constructing the Colonial Past in South Korea


Guy Podoler

Between 1910 and 1945 Korea was subjected to Japanese colonial rule. Monuments, Memory, and Identity investigates ways how postcolonial South Korea commemorated this difficult past in light of changing political and social conditions, and against the background of the divided nation. By analyzing museums, memorial halls, parks and monuments, the author deciphers and maps the South Korean commemorative landscape. He analyzes the layouts of the country’s well-known «sites of memory» and explores the on-site plaques, exhibits, and photos as well as the booklets and publications. This book underpins the shifts and trends in recollecting this important historical period by addressing the following questions: How has postcolonial South Korea been constructing and reconstructing its colonial past? Why were certain narratives and images chosen at different times? What debates, controversies, and challenges were involved in this dynamic process? Furthermore, the author discusses the South Korean case within the broader context of the postcolonial discourse.


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Acknowledgements 7


7 Acknowledgements Research for this project began in 2000, when I arrived in Korea as a Ph.D. candidate for the purpose of improving my language skills and conducting an initial fieldtrip. In the visits that were soon to follow, I further collected the data that was essential for writing and completing my dissertation, which this book derives from. As every person engaged in research knows from firsthand experience, the road leading to the final version of a study is boggy and bumpy at some times, and smooth and paved at other times. This makes the challenging and rewarding travel frustrating and exhilarating, alternately. For me, arriving at the end of the current road could not have been possible without the support I received from the following people and institutions. Among the people whose help has been invaluable, I owe gratitude to Michael Robinson and Ben-Ami Shillony who guided and assisted me through significant stages of this research. I thank them for their professional critique, and, equally important, for always finding time to listen, read, and respond. In addition, I thank Don Baker for his hospitability and, together with the Centre for Korean Research at UBC, for providing me with access to the university’s resources as I started the process of revising my dissertation in Vancouver in the summer of 2005. Special thanks also go to my colleagues at the University of Haifa, Nimrod Baranovitch, for his support and advice, and Rotem Kowner and Shakhar Rahav who commented on my work...

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