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South Korea's Minjung Movement

The Culture and Politics of Dissidence

Kenneth M. Wells

Publication Year: 1995

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.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

This volume has its origins in an international conference on the Korean minjung movement held at Indiana University at Bloomington in November 1989. With participation by nearly thirty scholars from both hemispheres, east and west, the conference was the first outside South Korea to attempt to come to terms with ...

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pp. 1-10

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 longawaited “triumph” of the minjung—and troubling questions over the precise direction upon which the subsequent ...

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1 The Cultural Construction of Korean History

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pp. 11-30

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, ...

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2 Contemporary Nationalist Movements and the Minjung

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pp. 31-38

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 ...

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3 Minjung Socioeconomic Responses to State-led Industrialization

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pp. 39-60

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? ...

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4 Confucian Tradition and Nationalist Ideology in Korea

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pp. 61-86

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 ...

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5 Growth and Limitations of Minjung Christianity in South Korea

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pp. 87-104

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 ...

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6 The Minjung Culture Movement and the Construction of Popular Culture in Korea

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pp. 105-118

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 ...

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7 Minjung Movements and the Minjung: Organizers and Farmers in a 1980s Farmers’ Movement

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pp. 119-154

This chapter concerns itself with the interactions between farmers and so-called external forces, or oebuseryŏk, 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 ...

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8 The Iconic Power of Modernity: Reading a Cheju Shaman’s Life History and Initiation Dream

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pp. 155-166

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 ...

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9 Contemporary Korean Literature: From Victimization to Minjung Nationalism

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pp. 167-178

Analysis of a contemporary movement that is still unfolding is a formidable task. The attempt to trace the development of minjung and 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 ...

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10 The Reunification Movement and Literature

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pp. 179-208

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 sustained movement of the people of North and South Korea. ...

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11 The Nation, the People, and a Small Ball: Literary Nationalism and Literary Populism in Contemporary Korea

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pp. 209-220

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 ...


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pp. 221-242


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pp. 243-247

E-ISBN-13: 9780824864392
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824817008

Publication Year: 1995