Nationalism is a double-edge sword
1. One of the characteristics in the evolution of South Korean society in the second half of the last century was the symbiotic relationship
between authoritarian rule and developmentalist drive. According to Cho Hee-yeon, the anticommunist regimented social condition in the wake of the
Korean War served as a primary condition for the emergence and reproduction of developmental regimes. How did the Cold War mentality intertwine with
authoritarian developmentalism? How did it shape South Korean society politically, economically, and culturally?
2. Peppermint Candy recounts South Korea’s recent history via Young-ho’s personal history. Given the importance of Young-ho’s personal memories
(more precisely, collective history inscribed in the course of his personal life), it would be important to take a close look at the Young-ho
character and the development of his personality (from a young innocent factory worker to a soldier who accidentally kills a school girl during the
Kwangju massacre, to a cop that rounds up student activists, to a successful businessman, and finally to a man left with nothing but despair and
disgust at the world. Challenging here, however, is that he is neither good nor evil, that is, not easily reducible to the good/evil binary.
Perhaps some viewers find him distasteful; on the other hand, one may feel sympathetic for him at some points in the film. What do you make of his
personality? What implications can you notice in retelling South Korea’s history through Young-ho’s eyes?
3. The issue of international adoption urges us to move beyond such established narratives as nationalism, humanitarianism and multiculturalism.
International adoptees live a paradox; they are often viewed as either abandoned children or privileged cosmopolitans, loss or gain, victims or
lucky flexible citizens, “our adoptee” (ibyangin) or “our stranger” (ibangin), and so on. How can we understand adopted territory somewhere between
nations and irreducible to the simple logic of inclusion and exclusion? How do they pose challenges to established categories of nationhood? You
may want to take First Person Plural as an occasion to explore those questions.
4. Scholars have pointed out that nationalism is a double-edge sword (Samuel Kim and Shin Gi-wook). Why is it double-edged? What validity does
it have in the era of globalization when the significance of the nation-state seems to be increasingly shrinking? What problems are immanent to
nationalism? When/how does national consciousness becomes “repressive” or “valid”? Is the global necessarily contradictory to the local? If not
(as Shin Gi-wook argues), what is your take on the dynamic of global and local?
5. In The Good, the Bad, the Weird, collective imperatives (or grand narratives) such as national independence are often evoked, but play little
role. For instance, main characters (played by most popular movie stars) show little interest in such issues as national independence. Can we say,
then, that it testifies to, for instance, the demise of grand narrative or the decline of nationalism? Or does it speak to the increasing desire to
recast national identity or redefine Koreanness? How can we make sense of the imagery of stars, which is neither quite foreign nor quite Korean?
How could it be “acceptable” and “enjoyable” to the Korean audience to put a duster-clad bounty hunter in the wide-open desert areas of colonized
Manchuria, when it is hardly truthful to Korean history and culture?
6. Hallyu (the Korean Wave): an essay that expands on your presentation.
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