Nationalism and the Construction of Korean Identity

Nationalism and the Construction of Korean Identity

Nationalism and the Construction of Korean Identity

Nationalism and the Construction of Korean Identity

Excerpt

Uri nara, Uri mal, Uri minjok--those who study Korea are often struck by the abundance of symbols linked to the nationalist discourses surrounding the construction of Korean identity and culture. The invention, manipulation, and control of these symbols is a hotly contested battleground in the politics and ideology of representing Korea's past and present. Over the years, various groups have attempted to position themselves as the final authority in both what is Korean and what it means to be Korean. Using their particular perspectives--be they Japanese scholars and bureaucrats of the colonial period, anti-Japanese independence fighters, Marxist historians, nation-building politicians, or student protesters among others--these groups have appropriated certain cultural expressions as part of the legitimizing process for their ultimately political projects. The essays assembled here highlight how scholars from different fields (including history, archaeology, language, literature, sociology, religion, folklore, and music) approach topics of Korean nationalism and the discursive battles over the definitions of "Korea" and "Koreanness" as well as the conflicting strategies different groups use to promote their particular view of Korea as the one vested with the most historical and political legitimacy.

Since independence and the division of the Korean Peninsula, the development of Korean Studies in both North and South Korea has been driven by the ideological goals of nationalistic politicians and scholars. Academic fields such as anthropology, art history, ethno-musicology, history, religion, and philosophy are deployed to promote the concept of a unique cultural and national identity of the Korean people, whose innate spirit of artistic, spiritual and racial independence can be traced to their common founding ancestor (sijo), Tan'gun (Yun et al. 1994, RSPJ 1994). Although the two Koreas have been divided physically and politically for the past fifty years and are seemingly opposed in every . . .

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