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South Korea's Minjung Movement

South Korea's Minjung Movement: The Culture and Politics of Dissidence

Edited by Kenneth M. Wells
Copyright Date: 1995
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  • Book Info
    South Korea's Minjung Movement
    Book Description:

    The minjung (people's) movement stood at the forefront of the June 1987 nationwide tide that swept away the military in South Korea and opened up space for relatively democratic politics, a more responsible economy, and new directions in culture. This volume is the first in English to grapple specifically with the nature of a national development that lies at the center of the last three decades of tumult and change in South Korea.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6439-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)
    Kenneth M. Wells

    The five years since the conference on the minjung movement at Indiana University has been a period of considerable historical “density.” The import of the concatenated events following the June 1987 uprising—the long-awaited “triumph” of the minjung—and troubling questions over the precise direction upon which the subsequent South Korean government and, indeed, the majority of the populace have embarked, have necessitated considerable revision of the chapters dealing with the contemporary manifestations of the movement. This introduction sets out the issues addressed in this volume in light of recent developments.

    Much of the conference discussion itself centered on the...

  5. 1 The Cultural Construction of Korean History
    (pp. 11-30)
    Kenneth M. Wells

    In what sense does a cultural idea exist in history? If an idea has a history, then we may say it exists as a subject of historical inquiry, that is, it exists in terms of historical method. But the question of how a notion such as minjung exists in history—or, who the minjung are—presents the historian with a peculiar species of problem, as the idea of minjung is not simply a subject of history but a theory of history. It is, further, a judgment on the present and a prescription for the future. In this sense it belongs...

  6. 2 Contemporary Nationalist Movements and the Minjung
    (pp. 31-38)
    Kang Man’gil

    As one who has been intimately involved in the evolution of a minjung view of Korean history and deeply concerned with finding an approach to the imperative of national reunification that is both faithful to positive indigenous traditions and workable in the contemporary world, my aim in this chapter is to present apractitioner’sperspective on the identity of the minjung. In our historical research we have naturally sought to link the term to those who comprise the leading force of the national movement throughout modern Korean history. To many Western scholars, however, the minjung that emerges from this linkage...

  7. 3 Minjung Socioeconomic Responses to State-led Industrialization
    (pp. 39-60)
    Kim Hyung-A

    One of the most controversial and yet influential issues for the minjung movement during the 1980s was that of self-identification: providing a definition of the key concepts of minjung. Who are the minjung and under what conditions (social, political, economic, religious, and cultural) is an individual person or group categorized as minjung? Generally, the notion of minjung was premised on a putative historical unity of the suffering people of Korea. In this ongoing debate, two prominent academics, Pak Hyŏnch’ae and Han Wansang, have been regarded as the most eminent expositors of the “two types of concepts in regard to the...

  8. 4 Confucian Tradition and Nationalist Ideology in Korea
    (pp. 61-86)
    Chung Chai-sik

    The spread of nationalism on a global scale is a result of the westernization and modernization of non-Western societies.¹ In Korea, too, the awakening and spread of nationalism has been a result of the increasing encroachment of Western military, economic, and cultural power from the beginning of the nineteenth century and the colonization of the country by imperial Japan. Nationalism has emerged as the primary ideological force and stimulant to awaken all Korean people to national awareness and political action during times of momentous sociopolitical transition.

    In Korea, nationalism has undergone several transformations. Starting out as a xenophobic reaction to...

  9. 5 Growth and Limitations of Minjung Christianity in South Korea
    (pp. 87-104)
    Donald N. Clark

    Minjung nationalism in general is a secular phenomenon in Korea. Nevertheless, religious communities are an important part of the movement, Catholics, Protestants, and even Buddhists being visible as minjung activists.¹ This chapter is about the Christian minjung community and the religious ideology it has developed as a call to action in the political and economic spheres. It is concerned in particular with what is called “Minjung Theology,”² its tenets and its development and overall place in the movement.

    Minjung Christianity began in the 1960s as an expression of the concern of Korean Protestants with the plight of the dispossessed in...

  10. 6 The Minjung Culture Movement and the Construction of Popular Culture in Korea
    (pp. 105-118)
    Choi Chungmoo

    The preparation of this volume on Korea’s minjung nationalism coincided with one of the most dramatic moments in recent world history, the massive counterrevolution in Eastern Europe where, from Poland to Romania, socialism was effectively challenged. As a result of the changes there, the major strongholds of socialism are now found in the Third World. In addition, the unification of Germany left Korea as the only divided country, and nationalism in Korea focuses intensely on the unification issue.

    Korean minjung nationalists hold that the incorporation of multiple nations into a state with artificial borders, such as India, South Africa, and...

  11. 7 Minjung Movements and the Minjung: Organizers and Farmers in a 1980s Farmers’ Movement
    (pp. 119-154)
    Nancy Abelmann

    This chapter concerns itself with the interactions between farmers and so-called external forces, oroebuseryŏk,various support institutions and individuals, in the microworkings of the Koch’ang Tenant Farmers movement from 1985 to 1987. The movement was a protest calling for the distribution or sale of the tenant plots of the Haeri landlord estate, ornongjang,to its tenant farmers; a purchase agreement was reached in September 1987. The Haeri Estate in the Koch’ang district of the North Chŏlla province dates back to the Japanese colonial period, when a large-scale land-reclamation project was undertaken by the family of Kim Sŏngsu and...

  12. 8 The Iconic Power of Modernity: Reading a Cheju Shaman’s Life History and Initiation Dream
    (pp. 155-166)
    Kim Seong Nae

    “Aih, it hurts! Whenever I think about it, my heart aches severely,” Kŭn Simbang lowered her voice, drawing close to me. After a pause, she blew out cigarette smoke as if sighing. Her sons and their wives were in another room across the way.

    Kŭn Simbang volunteered to relate her life story to the cassette tape. She asked me to write a personal statement applying to the government for reconsideration of her veterans’ pension on behalf of her dead husband. The pension was stopped twenty years ago, but the government recently announced that it would reimburse lost or unclaimed pensions...

  13. 9 Contemporary Korean Literature: From Victimization to Minjung Nationalism
    (pp. 167-178)
    Choi Hyun-moo

    Analysis of a contemporary movement that is still unfolding is a formidable task. The attempt to trace the development ofminjungand other nationalist movements within South Korean literature after Korea’s liberation from Japan in 1945, through all their manifold political, social, and cultural permutations, involves numerous hazards stemming from the incomplete nature of these movements. Further, if we follow Marcel Granet’s classification of historical diversity into “dense” and “not-so-dense” periods of development, then the history of Korea since the liberation in 1945 is a period of unparallelled density, crammed with complex problems, rapid turns of events, and dynamic and...

  14. 10 The Reunification Movement and Literature
    (pp. 179-208)
    Paik Nak-chung

    Although one may have reservations about an overly cavalier use of the word “movement,” I have decided to use it because it seemed important to raise once again the obvious fact that, at least where reunification is concerned, this can only be achieved through a sustainedmovementof the people of North and South Korea. That is to say, as with “democratization” or “attaining autonomy,” so too “reunification” is a historical process involving all manner of vicissitudes, not some once-and-for-all event that can be simplistically conceived in terms of whether it will or will not take place. What the content...

  15. 11 The Nation, the People, and a Small Ball: Literary Nationalism and Literary Populism in Contemporary Korea
    (pp. 209-220)
    Marshall R. Pihl

    National literature(minjok munhak)is defined by contemporary Korean criticism as a literature based upon a thorough understanding of the nation as a whole, in terms both of its historical conditions and its current realities. It embraces the whole of national life and imparts meaning and value to the individual lives of those who constitute the nation.

    The broad genre referred to as “national literature” dates back to the era of sudden social change that characterized the late nineteenth century. Fueled by the enlightenment movement, “new” literature in the early twentieth century began to look beyond the life of the...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 221-242)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 243-247)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 248-248)