【by Alex Taek-Gwang Lee, June 2021】
What is South Korea? It is the name of a country in East Asia. However, it is “South” Korea, not simply Korea. We South Koreans usually repeat that “I am from South Korea, not North Korea,” whenever answering the question, “where are you from?” The reality of its terrestrial division constantly cripples the imaginary identification of the nation. Capitalism in the south and socialism in the north have contrasted political regimes, but two Koreas share the ideological uniformity of nationalism in the deeper layer. These political twins seem to stand against each other, yet they have formed symbiotic relationships in the Cold War period. Two regimes shared the historical experience of dictatorship to survive crises as in other de-colonized countries after the Second World War, and South Korea only is successfully democratized and globalized. The complicated aspect of South Korea as a nation-state should be understood by considering this historical background. Today’s Korean wave would be grasped as the symbolic solution to the failure of its national identity.
This Korea-curated sub-issue aims to deal with the rise of Korean cinema, the Internet sub-culture, media eruption, the Korean capitalist mode of accumulation, Korean constitutionalism, and contemporary Korean literature. It is not difficult to see that each contributor grapples with bringing forth the various angles about “Korean-ness” and preserves some insights into “so-called” South Korea.
Alex Taek-Gwang Lee, Kyung Hee University, South Korea