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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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Chapter 4: The Structure of Patriotism 175


175 Chapter 4: The Structure of Patriotism Clearly the most emotional rhetoric found at the various memorial sites is the one related to patriots and patriotism. Tangible history, free of the limitations that are imposed upon academic writing, is a major vehicle for transmitting emotional images and messages. Together with school textbooks, which are another central arena for conveying such messages, the role of tangible history is to cast the required dose of passion and emotion that complement (the preferred) historical knowledge. The present chapter explores the emotional terrain of patriotism by demonstrating the language of patriotism prevalent in South Korean tangible history, and by focusing on who the selected patriots are and how they are represented. These historical figures are the manifestations of the somewhat elusive and abstract notion that patriotism is, manifesta- tions that function as identifiable anchors for the targeted audience. I will attempt to show here that patriots from the colonial period have been the most conspicuous figures in tangible history since the late 1980s. This, I argue, is an offshoot of the trend demonstrated so far in this study regarding the absorption and advent of colonial memory since the early 1980s. At the outset I will clarify the term “patriotism” and its relationship with “nationalism” in order to fully understand the critical contribution of patriotism to national and tangible histories. Then I continue by demonstrating the images that dominate the language of patriotism, and, finally, I deal with patriots in three parts according to the...

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