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Consuming Korean Tradition in Early and Late Modernity

Consuming Korean Tradition in Early and Late Modernity: Commodification, Tourism, and Performance

edited by Laurel Kendall
Copyright Date: 2011
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    Consuming Korean Tradition in Early and Late Modernity
    Book Description:

    Contributors to this volume explore the irony of modern things made in the image of a traditional "us." They describe the multifaceted ways "tradition" is produced and consumed within the frame of contemporary Korean life and how these processes are enabled by different apparatuses of modernity that Koreans first encountered in the early twentieth century. Commoditized goods and services first appeared in the colonial period in such spectacular and spectacularly foreign forms as department stores, restaurants, exhibitions, and staged performances. Today, these same forms have become the media through which many Koreans consume "tradition" in multiple forms. In the colonial period, commercial representations of Korea—tourist sites, postcard images, souvenir miniatures, and staged performances—were produced primarily for foreign consumption, often by non-Koreans. In late modernity, efficiencies of production, communication, and transportation combine with material wealth and new patterns of leisure activity and tourism to enable the localized consumption of Korean tradition in theme parks, at sites of alternative tourism, at cultural festivals and performances, as handicrafts, art, and cuisine, and in coffee table books, broadcast music, and works of popular folklore. Consuming Korean Tradition offers a unique insight into how and why different signifiers of "Korea" have come to be valued as tradition in the present tense, the distinctive histories and contemporary anxieties that undergird this process, and how Koreans today experience their sense of a common Korean past. It offers new insights into issues of national identity, heritage preservation, tourism, performance, the commodification of contemporary life, and the nature of "tradition" and "modernity" more generally. Consuming Korean Tradition will prove invaluable to Koreanists and those interested in various aspects of contemporary Korean society, including anthropology, film/cultural studies, and contemporary history.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6081-3
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
    Laurel Kendall
  4. Introduction: Material Modernity, Consumable Tradition
    (pp. 1-18)
    Laurel Kendall

    The relics of early Korean modernity appear in museum displays of vintage radios — like the one described in Ch’ae Mansik’s period novel — gramophones, old photographs, magazines, and postcards; their contemporary equivalents, in the high-tech gadgetry that South Korea so adroitly produces for global and domestic markets. Seoul subway cars reverberate to cell-phone renderings of symphonies, Christian hymns, and rock tunes from the Korean wave. Anthropologist Daniel Miller argues that “consumption represents, at the very least, one possible idiom for these larger problems of modernity,” a conscious coming to terms with things not of one’s own making (1995a, 2). But if,...

  5. Part I. Modernity as Spectacle/Spectacular Korea

    • 1 Dining Out in the Land of Desire: Colonial Seoul and the Korean Culture of Consumption
      (pp. 21-38)
      Katarzyna J. Cwiertka

      This chapter examines the culture of consumption of colonial Korea, illuminating the role of the department store as the key icon of a modern urban space where new practices, attitudes, and dreams were being born. Focusing on the dining facilities operated by the department stores, this study aims to uncover the multiple meanings of the “department store experience” and to grasp the rationale behind the immense popularity of the stores during the 1930s and the early 1940s.

      This analysis of the culture of consumption that thrived in Keijō (Seoul) and major Korean cities at the time significantly enhances our understanding...

    • 2 Shrinking Culture: Lotte World and the Logic of Miniaturization
      (pp. 39-64)
      Timothy R. Tangherlini

      Lotte World squats on its huge haunches like a concrete hippopotamus near the southern banks of the Han River in a neighborhood known as Chamsil.¹ Kang Nae-hŭi suggests that “in Seoul . . . all . . . roads lead to Lotte World,” and he is not far off the mark (1995). Major thoroughfares and a large expressway bring thousands of visitors each day by bus and car to its entrances and labyrinthine under-ground parking lots, while Seoul’s subway lines 2 and 8 intersect at a busy transfer station that opens to a subterranean shopping arcade, which in turn feeds...

  6. Part II. Korea as Itinerary

    • 3 Travel Guides to the Empire: The Production of Tourist Images in Colonial Korea
      (pp. 67-87)
      Hyung Il Pai

      Global tourism is often cited as the new colonizing vanguard of modernity, characterized by the search for mythical places, colorful natives, and authentic cultural experiences (Lofgren 1999; MacCannell 1999). Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, the invention of mechanized vehicles such as steamships and trains capable of transporting hundreds of passengers, and the expansion of trading networks by European imperial powers, were the two main driving forces for the launching of transcontinental and ocean voyages.¹ The opening of the two main transoceanic routes, the Suez (1867) and Panama (1914) canals, as well as the development of communications technologies such as telegrams...

    • 4 Guests of Lineage Houses: Tourist Commoditization of Confucian Cultural Heritage in Korea
      (pp. 88-104)
      Okpyo Moon

      One early summer day in 2004, Kim Won Kil, the primogenital descendant of a well-known Andongyangban(noble) lineage, demonstrated a simulated Confucian ancestral rite at the persistent request of a tour group, the local branch of a national women professionals’ organization. With subsidies from the Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the members of this group regularly organize events that usually involve experiences of Korean traditional culture such as the tea ceremony, how to properly wear Korean traditional dress (hanbok), or traditional knot tying (maedŭp). On this occasion they would view a Confucian ancestral rite in ayangbanhousehold...

    • 5 Crafting the Consumability of Place: Tapsa and Paenang Yŏhaeng as Travel Goods
      (pp. 105-126)
      Robert Oppenheim

      Consumption is about objects and about transactions. What is perhaps most unusual about travel as a consumptive activity is the way that it irreducibly blends the two. It is not simply a scene where objects are transacted; transactions with the world are themselves the ultimate “objects” consumed in traveling. This makes travel a limit case for consumption studies, but such cases can at times reveal otherwise unseen dynamics.

      This chapter focuses on two South Korean “off the beaten track” travel genres.Tapsa,ortapsa yŏhaeng— field study travel — has long been a term associated with the academic practice of taking...

  7. Part III. Korean Things

    • 6 The Changsŭng Defanged: The Curious Recent History of a Korean Cultural Symbol
      (pp. 129-148)
      Laurel Kendall

      They stand in the American Museum of Natural History’s Hall of Asian Peoples, a pair of Korean “devil posts” (changsŭng), imposing, with bulging eyes, deeply contoured faces, and Dracula mouths full of pointed teeth.¹ Bearing their ideographic inscriptions — “Male General under Heaven,” “Female General under the Earth” — they loom over a case filled with diverse charms, masks, and statues from different corners of Asia, a case anachronistically devoted to “animism” and intended to illustrate “some of the good and bad animistic spirits which Asian peoples acknowledge.” (The viewer can only imagine whether these leering “devil posts” are benevolent or malign.)²...

    • 7 The “Kimchi Wars” in Globalizing East Asia: Consuming Class, Gender, Health, and National Identity
      (pp. 149-166)
      Kyung-Koo Han

      Kimchi, Korea’s characteristic relish of pickled vegetables, garlic, fermented fish or seafood paste, and red chili pepper, is celebrated today as the central element of Korean cuisine, said to be universally palatable, delectable, nutritionally beneficial, and environmentally correct. Kimchi has been hailed as Korea’s original health food and as a possible preventive for SARS and “bird flu.” Kimchi has successfully overcome its prior identification as a smelly and combustible food and emerged as a potent symbol of national identity in a rapidly globalizing world (Han 2000). But even as kimchi’s virtues are extolled as a source of national pride, South...

  8. Part IV. Korea Performed

    • 8 Blurring Tradition and Modernity: The Impact of Japanese Colonization and Ch’oe Sŭng-hŭi on Dance in South Korea Today
      (pp. 169-194)
      Judy Van Zile

      To many people, Korea’s modernization in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has meant Westernization. For some dancers, turning away from the sedate dances of the court and the satirical stories of village masked dance-dramas in favor of thepointeshoes of European ballet or the contraction-release technique of US modern dancer Martha Graham has been the path to modernity. For other dancers, becoming modern has not meant creating a dichotomy between what had been traditional and what was being done in the West. Instead, a tension developed between reconciling the past and the present. The dilemma became, How can one...

    • 9 Kugak Fusion and the Politics of Korean Musical Consumption
      (pp. 195-216)
      Keith Howard

      For the last one hundred years, the dominant music culture in Korea has been Western. Nonetheless,kugak,traditional Korean music, stands for “Korea” in tourist brochures and on countless Internet sites, in historical films and TV dramas, and in the great majority of academic articles and books by musicologists and ethnomusicologists.¹Kugakhas become the soundworld of an Appaduraian ideoscape, through which Koreans slot themselves into global music flows.Kugak,though, has not gone through a process of commoditization. Hence, its iconicity does not match the deterritorialization of postcolonial theory that Appadurai wrote about, but remains, more, an agent of...

  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 217-244)
  10. Contributors
    (pp. 245-246)
  11. Index
    (pp. 247-261)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 262-262)