(De)Memorializing the Korean War: A Critical Intervention
Guest Editor Suzy Kim (Rutgers University), 1
The purpose of this special issue is twofold: first, to engage in a critical intervention into the memorialization of the Korean War among the chief participants—the two Koreas, the United States, and China—to disrupt monolithic understandings of its origins, consequences, and experiences; and second, to do so as a necessary step toward reconciliation by placing divergent public memorials in conversation with one another.
China’s Memory and Commemoration of the Korean War in the Memorial Hall of the “War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea”
Keun-Sik Jung (Seoul National University), 14
After confronting each other as enemies during the Korean War, South Korea and China established diplomatic relations in 1992, forty years after fighting had ended. Around this time, the Chinese city of Dandong near the northern border of the Korean peninsula erected a memorial to observe the fortieth anniversary of the Korean War. In the twenty years since, China has become South Korea’s primary economic partner and its largest market for exports. In effect, the memory of wartime hostility has coexisted with the reality of economic cooperation. This article examines how the Korean War, known in China as the “War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea,” is commemorated by the war memorials in China, with a specific focus on the memorial in Dandong. It also discusses how North and South Korea have responded to the contrasting perspectives on the war embodied by these memorials, and it concludes with some reflections about how the memory of war can be restructured to convey a message of peace for the future.
Keywords: China, Korean War, Memorial Hall of the War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea, Dandong, global spectatorship, war memorialization
Nationalist Technologies of Cultural Memory and the Korean War: Militarism and Neo-Liberalism in The Price of Freedom and the War Memorial of Korea
Daniel Y. Kim (Brown University), 40
This article examines the technologies of nationalism that shape how the Korean War is depicted in two museum and memorial sites: The Price of Freedom: Americans at War, a permanent exhibit at the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, and the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul. It shows how the use of traditional historical artifacts in The Price of Freedom and cinematic and digital technologies in the War Memorial generate structures of cultural memory that celebrate both a nationalist militarism and the ethos of neoliberalism.
Keywords: Korean War, cultural memory, memorials, museums, nationalism, neoliberalism, militarism
Specters of War in Pyongyang: The Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in North Korea
Suzy Kim (Rutgers University), 71
While North Korea accused South Korea of starting a “civil war” (naeran) during the Korean War, it has now moved away from such depictions to paint the war as an American war of imperialist aggression against Korea that was victoriously thwarted under the leadership of Kim Il Sung. In this regard, it may be more than a coincidence that the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in Pyongyang was built in the early 1970s, just as the Vietnam War drew to a close with a Vietnamese victory. This article examines the memorialization of the Korean War in North Korea at two pivotal historical points—the end of the Vietnam War in the 1970s and the end of the Cold War in the 1990s—with a particular focus on contemporary exhibitions at the war museum in Pyongyang. Rather than offering a simple comparison of divergent narratives about the war, the article seeks to illustrate that North Korea’s conception of history and its account of the war are staunchly modernist, with tragic consequences.
Keywords: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), North Korea, Korean War, Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum
The Ongoing Korean War at the Sinch’ŏn Museum in North Korea
Sunghoon Han (Yonsei University), 99
This article analyzes the Sinch’ŏn Massacre and its memorialization at the Sinch’ŏn Museum of American War Atrocities in North Korea by placing the massacre within the context of North Korea’s political history. The museum illustrates Pyongyang’s perspective on the Korean War as a “war of liberation” and the museum’s role in the political education of the North Korean people, not simply as victims of American war atrocities but as “martyrs” and model citizens. Within the geopolitics of confrontation between North Korea and the United States since the Korean War, the Sinch’ŏn Museum has served to foster anti-American nationalism in North Korea. While the museum has served this specific purpose within the North Korean context, it should be compared with other examples of war memorialization that serve the function of identity formation for a sense of national unity.
Keywords: North Korea, Sinch’ŏn Massacre, Sinch’ŏn Museum, war memorials, martyrdom, patriotism, anti-Americanism, nationalism
Silenced in Memoriam: Consuming Memory at the Nogŭnri Peace Park
Seunghei Clara Hong (Yonsei University), 126
Tensions abound at the Nogŭnri Peace Park. It is a public memorial, but it originates from one man’s testimonial account. It purports to commemorate and restore honor to the victims of the Nogŭnri Massacre, yet it marginalizes those victims in favor of a “truth” whose validation seemingly rests on the perpetrators. It subverts the hegemonic knowledge of American rescue and friendship, even as it follows a common Korean War-as-6/25 narrative absolving South Korean and American responsibility during the Korean War. Finally, it champions a globalized value of peace that, in turn, risks enabling the consumption of Nogŭnri as commodified culture. By looking at the Nogŭnri Peace Park and the narratives, images, and artifacts exhibited there, this article explores the tensions that complicate constructions of history, community, and nation at the site of memorialization. It examines how the Nogŭnri Massacre is recollected and represented alongside the transitional shift from domestic authoritarianism to global neoliberalism in today’s South Korea. Further, it investigates the limits of the state critique that the Nogŭnri Peace Park performs.
Keywords: commemoration, globalization, Korean War, memorial, neoliberalism, Nogŭnri Massacre, Nogŭnri Peace Park, peace, privatization, state violence, war politics
Politicidal Violence and the Problematics of Localized Memory at Civilian Massacre Sites: The Cheju 4.3 Peace Park and the Kŏch’ang Incident Memorial Park
Brendan Wright (University of British Columbia), 151
This article examines two South Korean sites dedicated to the remembrance of Korean War–era civilian massacres, the Cheju 4.3 Peace Park and the Kŏch’ang Incident Memorial Park. Specifically, the article explores the sites’ localized, victim-centric epistemology as one that counters nationalist discourses and narratives that privilege the state. While acknowledging that these sites offer a physical mnemonic space for challenging the hegemonic “June 25” (yugio) narrative, the author suggests that, in their narrow spatial and ideological orientation, these sites cumulatively fall short of offering a cohesive narrative of the politicidal, anti-Communist state-building project of which they are a consequence. Though of tremendous value in restoring victims’ honor, critiquing human rights abuses of the Republic of Korea, and giving a voice to marginalized groups, these spaces fail to provide historical clarity to a distorted era of South Korea’s past. In addressing this problematic, the article examines the role of family bereavement associations, narrative constructions, and the silencing of the National Guidance League Incident at these locations.
Keywords: Korean War, civilian massacres, politicide, politics of memory, anti-Communism, Cheju 4.3 Peace Park, Kŏch’ang Incident Memorial Park
Bruce Cumings (University of Chicago), 181
A curiosity of South Korea’s history is the way in which dictatorships incubate memory. From 1948 to 1954 the regime of Syngman Rhee was responsible for a minimum of two hundred thousand deaths through political murder and massacre, of which roughly thirty thousand were killed in the suppression of the Cheju Rebellion. There were many more massacres when the Republic of Korea military, the national police, and rampaging rightwing youth groups occupied the North in October and November 1950, but we have little evidence of those deaths. Seeking any kind of redress for the demise of loved ones—locally, nationally, through the press, or through the court system—was impossible as long as Rhee was in power. Trying to do anything about these atrocities meant jail, torture, and death. Endless blacklists put the families of victims into a kind of living purgatory. When Rhee was finally overthrown in the 1960 April Revolution, a brief window of democracy opened and victims and survivors were able, if only for a moment, to call attention to what happened, seek redress, build monuments to the dead, or send certain perpetrators—like local police—to their own early deaths. Park Chung Hee closed that window in May 1961 and immediately set about destroying whatever monuments, petitions, and shouted memories might have briefly existed.
RECENT RESEARCH ON CHINA
Beggars, Black Bears, and Butterflies: The Scientific Gaze and Ink Painting in Modern China
Lisa Claypool (University of Alberta), 189
The ink brushes of the painters Chen Shizeng (1876–1923), Liu Kuiling (1885–1967), and Gao Jianfu (1879–1951) were employed as tools of the nation in early twentieth-century China. Yet the expression of a radical idealism about the new republic in their ink paintings was tempered early on by a tentative and self-conscious exploration of new ways of seeing. By synthesizing a “universal” scientific gaze with their idiosyncratically trained vision as artists, they created pictures that encouraged their viewers to cross the boundaries and binaries that would come to define the discourse about guohua, or “national painting”: East versus West, oil versus ink, modernity versus tradition, painting versus graphic arts, and elite versus folk. This article explores that extended moment of synthesis and experimentation. It argues that it was through the scientific gaze of these brush-and-ink artists that idealism and learning came to cooperate, and through their paintings that possibilities for news ways of seeing the nation emerged.
Keywords: scientific gaze, modern Chinese painting, Chen Shizeng, Gao Jianfu, Liu Kuiling
“Music for a National Defense”: Making Martial Music during the Anti-Japanese War
Joshua H. Howard (Mississippi University), 238
This article examines the popularization of “mass songs” among Chinese Communist troops during the Anti-Japanese War by highlighting the urban origins of the National Salvation Song Movement and the key role it played in bringing songs to the war front. The diffusion of a new genre of march songs pioneered by Nie Er was facilitated by compositional devices that reinforced the ideological message of the lyrics, and by the National Salvation Song Movement. By the mid-1930s, this grassroots movement, led by Liu Liangmo, converged with the tail end of the proletarian arts movement that sought to popularize mass art and create a “music for national defense.” Once the war broke out, both Nationalists and Communists provided organizational support for the song movement by sponsoring war zone service corps and mobile theatrical troupes that served as conduits for musicians to propagate their art in the hinterland. By the late 1930s, as the United Front unraveled, a majority of musicians involved in the National Salvation Song Movement moved to the Communist base areas. Their work for the New Fourth Route and Eighth Route Armies, along with Communist propaganda organizations, enabled their songs to spread throughout the ranks.
Keywords: Anti-Japanese War, Li Jinhui, Liu Liangmo, Lu Ji, Mai Xin, mass song, National Salvation Song Movement, New Fourth Army, Nie Er, United Front, Xian Xinghai
The Tangdan Copper Mines and the 1733 Earthquake: A Mining Community before the Boom in the Far Southwest of Qing China
Nanny Kim, (Heidelberg University), 285
In the official records, copper mines in the southwest of the Qing empire seem to suddenly appear in the late 1730s. In part, this impression is an effect of government attention. Copper, which was the most important metal for casting cash coins, became a pressing concern when imports of Japanese copper dwindled. The government responded by developing domestic resources. Seemingly overnight, Yunnan mines reached impressive levels of productivity and replaced imports. For several decades, the Tangdan mines in northeastern Yunnan supplied most of the copper consumed by the centrally important metropolitan mints. The sudden boom is remarkable and not entirely plausible. This article reassesses the history of Qing-period mining by examining a particular case study. It explores an essay about the Dongchuan earthquake of 1733 that provides a glimpse at the empire’s leading copper mines on the eve of the recorded boom. A close analysis of figures, mining technology, and organizational structures reveals that the mines had been developed by mining entrepreneurs and migrant workers for a considerable period of time outside government attention, operating in a gray zone of unlicensed exploitation. The studied case permits a new assessment of the role of the state and of nonstate players in the industry. Moreover, it throws a new light on the image of Qing society and economy created by the official emphasis on agriculture and the actual role of the nonagrarian sector.
Keywords: China, Yunnan, Qing period, mining, social history, economic, history, nonagrarian sector
Civil War, Revolutionary Heritage, and the Chinese Garden
Tobie Meyer-Fong, (Johns Hopkins University), 309
The Chinese garden now symbolizes timeless national, cultural, and aesthetic values. But as real property in the past, gardens inevitably were subject to the vicissitudes of their times. This article focuses on gardens and the Taiping Civil War (1851–1864). During the war, many gardens were reduced to tile shards and ash. Surviving gardens functioned as objects of longing and nostalgia, sites of refuge (physical and emotional), or a means to display status under the new regime. In the postwar period, gardens served as status symbols, places to commemorate loss or celebrate restoration, and venues for renewed sociability. This article uses a series of case studies to explore the multiple meanings associated with gardens, the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, and the Qing dynasty—in the past and today.
Keywords: Chinese gardens, Suzhou, Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, Yangzhou, Hangzhou, Qing dynasty, Nanjing, cultural heritage, tourism
“Chinese Children Rise Up!”: Representations of Children in the Work of the Cartoon Propaganda Corps during the Second Sino-Japanese War
Laura Pozzi, (European University Institute), 333
During the War of Resistance against Japan (1937–1945), children were a major subject of propaganda images. Children had become significant figures in China when May Fourth intellectuals, influenced by evolutionary thinking, deemed “the child” as a central figure for the modernization of the country. Consequently, during the war, cartoonists employed already-established representations of children for propagandistic purposes. By analyzing images published by members of the Cartoon Propaganda Corps in the wartime magazine Resistance Cartoons, this article shows how portrayals of children fulfilled symbolic as well as normative functions. These images provide us with information about the symbolic power of representations of children, and about authorities’ expectations of China’s youngest citizens. However, cartoonists also created images undermining the heroic rhetoric often attached to representations of children, especially after the dismissal of the Cartoon Propaganda Corps in 1940. This was the case with cartoonist Zhang Leping’s (1910–1992) sketches of “Zhuji after the Devastation,” which revealed the discrepancies between propagandistic representations and children’s everyday life in wartime China.
Keywords: Second Sino-Japanese War, War of Resistance, history of childhood, cartoons, propaganda, Cartoon Propaganda Corps, Zhang Leping
Engendering Children of the Resistance: Models of Gender and Scouting in China, 1919–1937
Margaret Mih Tillman (Purdue University), 364
In the 1920s and 1930s, Chinese adapted scouting, which had originally been developed to masculinize British youth as future colonial troops. While Chinese families and teachers valued scouting as a form of outdoor recreation, Chiang Kai-shek and the Guomindang after 1927 connected scouting to preparation for military training. In addition to fostering masculinity among boys, the Chinese Scouting Association also directed Girl Scouts with new models of patriotic girlhood. The Guomindang promoted the distinct femininity of the Girl Scouts and channeled girls’ patriotism into nursing. As China entered World War II, Girl Scouts became significant symbols of patriotism in an increasingly militarized children’s culture. The Guomindang showcased Yang Huimin, a Girl Scout and heroine in the Battle of Sihang Warehouse, as a spokesperson for the Nationalist cause, but it could not fully control her public image.
Keywords: Girl Scouts, scouting, gender roles, China, World War II