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Sitings: Critical Approaches to Korean Geography

Timothy R. Tangherlini
Sallie Yea
Copyright Date: 2008
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    Book Description:

    Arranged around a set of provocative themes, the essays in this volume engage in the discussion from various critical perspectives on Korean geography. Part One, "Geographies of the (Colonial) City," focuses on Seoul during the Japanese colonial occupation from 1910–1945 and the lasting impact of that period on the construction of specific places in Seoul. In Part Two, "Geographies of the (Imagined) Village," the authors delve into the implications for the conceptions of the village of recent economic and industrial development. In this context, they examine both constructed space, such as the Korean Folk Village, and rural villages that were physically transformed through the processes of rapid modernization. The essays in "Geographies of Religion" (Part Three) reveal how religious sites are historically and environmentally contested as well as the high degree of mobility exhibited by sites themselves. Similarly, places that exist at the margins are powerful loci for the negotiation of identity and aspects of cultural ideology. The final section, "Geographies of the Margin," focuses on places that exist at the margins of Korean society.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6432-3
    Subjects: Population Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Timothy R. Tangherlini and Sallie Yea
  4. 1 Introduction—Constructed Places, Contested Spaces: Critical Geographies and Korea
    (pp. 1-12)
    Timothy R. Tangherlini and Sallie Yea

    Seen from seven hundred kilometers out in space, the Korean Peninsula is unremarkable. Browns, grays, and streaks of white in the north give way to slightly greener patches in the south, indicating different topographical features, while the deep blues of the ocean on all three sides confirm that it is indeed a peninsula. A satellite image tells the normal person little more than that. Instead, such an image elides hundreds, even thousands of years of human history in the area. Human interaction with the environment and historical, political, and social developments all fall away in the satellite image. Such an...

  5. Part 1. Geographies of the (Colonial) City

    • 2 Respatializing Chosŏn’s Royal Capital: The Politics of Japanese Urban Reforms in Early Colonial Seoul, 1905–1919
      (pp. 15-38)
      Todd A. Henry

      Among his many brilliant observations, Henri Lefebvre once posited the simple but illuminating argument that “schematically speaking, each society offers up its own peculiar space, as it were, as an ‘object’ for analysis and overall theoretical explication” (1991, 31). As a French Marxist sociologist writing in the wake of the student-led protests of 1968, Lefebvre aimed his critical energy at theorizing the spatial forms taken by post-Fordist capitalism. In doing so, he sought to highlight the revolutionary potential of urban inhabitants to remake city space within the realm of what he called everyday life.¹ Although he focused on analyzing an...

    • 3 Demolishing Colony: The Demolition of the Old Government-General Building of Chosŏn
      (pp. 39-58)
      Jong-Heon Jin

      In this essay, I examine the nationwide controversy that occurred around 1993–1995 over the question of whether the historic Government-General Building, formerly the seat of the Japanese colonial government in South Korea (1910–1945), should be demolished or not.¹ After about three years of heated debate, this legacy of the colonial period was finally demolished in 1996. The empirical focus of this chapter is on the diverse historical references of the demolition project, which was intended to restore the “national spirit” through the mobilization of urban rhetoric. Further, I explore the discursive contestation among diverse social groups over the...

  6. Part 2. Geographies of the (Imagined) Village

    • 4 Chosŏn Memories: Spectatorship, Ideology, and the Korean Folk Village
      (pp. 61-82)
      Timothy R. Tangherlini

      After viewing a newly opened display of folk materials at the turn of the century, the French journalist Ernest Allard had occasion to write,

      I stood transfixed there, strongly interested, soon quite touched, especially when in passing by the scene I had in front of my eyes, my thought penetrated into the customs of this life of bygone days; because, alas, it appears that the vertiginous evolution of modern progress is making itself felt even . . . [in] those regions where the good old days seemed intent on lasting forever, demolishing in hurried strokes the ancient edifice of costumes...

    • 5 Blame Walt Rostow: The Sacrifice of South Korea’s Natural Villages
      (pp. 83-98)
      David J. Nemeth

      The concept of a “natural village” appears in Korean, Chinese, and Japanese development literature and is officially a data collection category in many of their statistical yearbooks. TheCheju Statistical Yearbook(Cheju Provincial Bureau of Statistics 1985), for example, uses the term “natural village”(chayon purak)to describe all villages identified as administrative units on that island province. However, throughout Northeast Asia, as on Cheju Island, a “natural village” is informally understood to be a primal settlement, or hamlet, now extinct: an isolated self-governing rural settlement with strong local identity, comprised of inhabitants whose intimate community was characterized by constant...

  7. Part 3. Geographies of Religion

    • 6 Auspicious Places in a Mobile Landscape: Of Shamans, Shrines, and Dreams
      (pp. 101-120)
      Laurel Kendall

      The following story falls somewhere between a field anecdote and a fairy tale.¹ As anecdote, it is reconstructed from field notes, transcripts, and memory without conscious embroidery, elaboration, or fabrication. As a fairy tale it resembles a genre of stories sometimes attributed to Buddhists or Taoists, where illusions are at play and a lesson may be learned by confronting them. Such tales were very much with me as these events unfolded.

      In the summer of 1994, I was making the rounds of commercial shaman shrines(kuttang)in the mountains surrounding the city of Seoul, attempting to survey the changes in...

    • 7 Kyeryong Mountain as a Contested Place
      (pp. 121-140)
      Je-Hun Ryu

      Kyeryongsan (Kyeryong Mountain) rises alone out of the otherwise flat countryside that surrounds it, giving it a somewhat mystical appearance. Numerous peaks form an elongated ridge resembling a dragon with a rooster’s comb—not surprisingly, the name “Kyeryongsan” means Rooster Dragon Mountain. The striking shape of the mountain has captured the imagination of people for years. Along the peaks and in the deep valleys that cut across the mountain, many places lure both shamans and their clients. Today it is known in the area as the most important mountain for shamanists. They visit it to pray and perform ceremonies. These...

    • 8 Kyŏngju Namsan: Heterotopia, Place-Agency, and Historiographic Leverage
      (pp. 141-156)
      Robert Oppenheim

      Namsan means, simply enough, “South Mountain,” and there are Namsans south of several cities in Korea. The Namsan of Kyŏngju—a city that as the site of the ancient Silla capital has more recently been a magnet for archaeology and tourism—has two main peaks with heights of 468 and 494 m and spans roughly 8 km along its north-south axis and 4 from east to west. The terrain is craggy and mostly wooded, scenic with gnarled pines, although sunlight breaks through in frequent clearings, and from some spots one can see a long way. On Namsan, several functioning Buddhist...

  8. Part 4. Geographies of the Margin

    • 9 The Seoul Train Station Square and Homeless Shelters: Thoughts on Geographical History Regarding Welfare Citizenship
      (pp. 159-172)
      Jesook Song

      This chapter attempts to make sense of homelessness and homeless policy in South Korea following the Asian debt crisis by examining the transformation of two symbolically charged physical spaces in Seoul: the Seoul Train Station Square (henceforth the Square or the Seoul Square) and the former Pangnim Factory (henceforth the Factory). I treat the Square and the Factory as spatial loci for evolving homeless policy and as sites for liberal and neoliberal historicity. Through the observation of changes in the spatial construction of these spaces, I trace neoliberal welfare ideology in relation to policies regarding homelessness and unemployment during the...

    • 10 Cyberspace and a Space for Gays in South Korea
      (pp. 173-185)
      Michael J. Pettid

      Culture in contemporary South Korea seems in a state of continual change and reassessment due to the influx of new or outside value systems and of a reevaluation of what are thought to be traditional values. As a part of this process, many individuals are seeking to either establish or redefine both personal and larger, group-orientated identities. Of course, formulation of identities and creating spaces for personal exploration is not a matter free from criticism, and further, it is an area that individuals are constantly reconfiguring and adjusting. One particularly important stage of contention has been understandings of sexuality, especially...

    • 11 Marginality, Transgression, and Transnational Identity Negotiations in Korea’s Kijich’on
      (pp. 186-204)
      Sallie Yea

      Kijich’onare US military camp town areas in South Korea (hereafter Korea). They are “foreign spaces,” rarely bridged by Koreans apart from those who live and work there or who are born there. By “foreign spaces,” I refer to both the inhabitants of thekijich’on—who are primarily transnational labor migrants, including foreign female “entertainers” and US military personnel—and the physicality of the townships, which are more internationalized (specifically Americanized) than virtually any other towns or suburbs in Korea. In this chapter, I suggest thatkijich’onoffer opportunities for the migrants who dwell there to engage in transnational identity...

  9. Works Cited
    (pp. 205-228)
  10. List of Contributors
    (pp. 229-230)
  11. Index
    (pp. 231-239)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 240-240)