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  • South Korea's New Nationalism: The End of ''One Korea''? by Emma Campbell
  • Jaehoon Bae (bio)
South Korea's New Nationalism: The End of ''One Korea''? by Emma Campbell. Boulder First Forum Press, 2016. 228 pages. $67.00 cloth.

Emma Campbell's South Korea's New Nationalism: The End of ''One Korea''? is a case study that shows how contemporary young South Koreans conceive of their nation in a way that excludes North Koreans, people who share the same ethnicity. This is a quite unprecedented form of nationalism in South Korea, where minjok, a form of ethnic nationalism that is grounded in ''blood'' and history, has been sanctified above all other forms of nationalism and has provided the absolute rationale for reunification, regardless of the decades-long political division. Campbell contends that this new nationalism is emerging among South Koreans in their twenties and takes the form of a '''globalized cultural nationalism' which is based upon shared cultural values such as modernity, cosmopolitanism, and status influenced by globalization and neo-liberal values.'' Since young people are preoccupied with national reputation and status in the milieu of globalized competition, they are likely to highlight the difference between North Koreans and South Koreans in terms of modernity and the embodiment of cosmopolitan attributes. Predicated upon this expression of different national identities, Campbell emphasizes that the ambivalence toward, and antagonism against, the idea of unification held among young South Koreans has reached unprecedented levels precisely because they are afraid that unification will increase risk and uncertainty in the ''South Korean nation,'' damaging their prospects for the future.

Campbell conducted interviews in 2009 and 2014 with 159 university students and 23 experts, including schoolteachers, journalists, NGO activists, public policy specialists, and an advertising executive. Throughout the collection of qualitative data, she has sought to reveal the ''bottom-up,'' collective voices of young people who expressed thoughts on unification and the national identity in relation to North Korea. She applies an instrumentalist approach that represents nationalism and a national [End Page 285] identity as not based upon history or social interaction but ''a conscious choice to protect their common interests and goals.''

The first two chapters start with a broad review of the history of Korean nationalism, mainly focusing on the aspect of ethnic nationalism. In particular, chapter 2, ''South Korea's Nationalist Student Movement,'' clearly demonstrates how the student movements of twentieth-century Korea, representing themselves as the ''conscience of the nation,'' were successful in mobilizing a wide range of people to advance their nationalist goals, such as independence from colonial Japanese rule and the fulfillment of democracy. Meanwhile, the post-1948 student movements rigorously attempted to proclaim the idea that North Koreans are members of the same nation in the face of an expansive education of anti-communist ideology.

However, the next three chapters demonstrate how the current youth in South Korea have radically changed their attitudes regarding unification and national identity. These young people, who were born in post-1987 democratic South Korea, easily identify South Korea as their nation and they regard unification as a process that threatens the South Korean welfare system and national interests. Reflecting on the dominant image of North Korea as a poor country left behind in globalized competition, chapter 3, ''Changing Attitudes to Unification,'' shows how young people conceive of North Koreans as a different people in terms of stylistics of language, lifestyles, and customs. Not surprisingly, there is a growing number of young South Koreans who explicitly refuse the idea of a unification that might undermine the status quo. Chapter 4, ''New Nationalist Attitudes in Action'' demonstrates how these South Korean youths have developed a ''globalized cultural nationalism,'' which leads them to adopt a condescending attitude toward North Koreans and Chinese Koreans. Taking strong national pride in the economic achievements of the chaebŏl, the massive and globally successful South Korean conglomerates, these young people find more similarities in the cultural capital and ''savoir faire'' of non-ethnic expatriates coming from the United States and European countries than with North Korean immigrants. Chapter 5, ''Globalization and Nation Building,'' analyzes three components of structural forces, such as democracy, banal nationalism, and globalization, which influence...