Memory Construction and the Politics of Time in Neoliberal South Korea

by Namhee Lee
Duke University Press, 2022
Cloth: 978-1-4780-1634-2, Paper: 978-1-4780-1898-8, eISBN: 978-1-4780-2361-6, OA eISBN: 9781478092797

In Memory Construction and the Politics of Time in Neoliberal South Korea Namhee Lee explores memory construction and history writing in post-1987 South Korea. The massive neoliberal reconstruction of all aspects of society shifted public discourse from minjung (people) to simin (citizen), from political to cultural, from collective to individual. This shift reconstituted people as Homo economicus, rights-bearing and rights-claiming individuals, even in social movements. Lee explains this shift in the context of simultaneous historical developments: South Korea’s transition to democracy, the end of the Cold War, and neoliberal reconstruction understood as synonymous with democratization. By examining memoirs, biographies, novels, and revisionist conservative historical scholarship, Lee shows how the dominant discourse of a “complete break with the past” erases the critical ethos of previous emancipatory movements foundational to South Korean democracy.

Namhee Lee is Professor of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Los Angeles, author of The Making of Minjung: Democracy and the Politics of Representation in South Korea, and coeditor of The South Korean Democratization Movement: A Sourcebook.

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