In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Introduction
  • Hijoo Son (bio) and Jooyeon Rhee (bio)


This special issue of Cross-Currents, titled "Diasporic Art and Korean Identity," is the fruit of a two-day conference on "Korean Diaspora and the Arts" held at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in May 2017. The contributors explore new delineations of the political, social, cultural, and emotional landscapes inhabited by Koreans living in diaspora. Korean diasporic artists investigate the meaning of "Koreanness" through their paintings, political cartoons, theater, film, documentary, photographs, and multimedia art. The topic of diaspora—which Gabriel Sheffer defines as "ethnic minority groups residing and acting in host countries while maintaining material and sentimental ties to their homelands"—has received impressive scholarly attention in the humanities and social sciences, and Korean diaspora studies has been part of this trend (Sheffer 1986, 3).

Seven million Koreans currently live outside the Korean peninsula, making them the fifth largest diasporic population at a time when 250 million people worldwide live outside their homelands. This special issue on Korean diasporic art presents creative expressions of a shared history of trauma, suffering, or displacement, affectively reconstructed or nostalgically reimagined, produced in China, Cuba, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, and the United States. The contributors demonstrate how artists are particularly able to captivate audiences and innovate ways of articulating the multiple [End Page 1] aspects of the everyday condition of diasporic existence in situ. In this sense, art possesses the potential to lead us beyond dichotomies. In particular, Korean diasporic artists' experiences and expressions pose questions about the North and South Korean states' efforts to manage and understand cultural belonging that have, in turn, worked to homogenize Korean identity. Such efforts can backfire on state policies and strategies concerning overseas Koreans and displaced communities as they marginalize certain diasporic individuals or groups and, even more, reify others. Thus, state promotion of a "national identity" and definitions of cultural belonging pose a serious challenge to grasping the complexity of Korean diasporic identity (Smith 1991, 16–18).

In response, this issue has three specific objectives: (1) to comprehend the contingencies of diasporic subjectivity from a multisite perspective, especially as "re-diasporizations" occur more often and to more people; (2) to convey the importance of diasporic artists and their art's agency by incorporating macro, meso, and micro levels of understanding and analysis; and (3) to interlink, and thereby reduce, the distance between scholarship produced in Korean- and English-language publications. The contributors to this issue investigate Korean diasporic subjectivities formed according to temporal and spatial realities. These subjectivities attend to the ways diasporic agencies manifest themselves in artworks and creative processes that enable us to apprehend and ground Korean diasporic identity within lived experiences.


During the last two decades, studies of Korean diaspora have experienced significant development in both Korean- and English-language publications. Why has there been an expanding interest in diaspora studies, especially in the Korean language (Sŏ and Yi 2014)? One way of answering this question is to ponder the various positions concerning diaspora, especially their approaches to and treatment of the growing community of overseas Koreans. South Korea's approach has been to seize and capitalize on the growing "co-ethnic" people power for economic, cultural, and political gains. The most salient examples include Chŏnnam University's Research Center for Overseas Koreans Business and Culture (Chŏnnam taehakkyo segye hansang munhwa yŏn'gudan), created to mobilize Koreans abroad as economic [End Page 2] and political resources;1 Yi Kuhong's (1975, 1979, 1990) and Lee Kwanggyu's (1983–2006) cultural incorporation of Koreans abroad as future resources (mirae ŭi chasan) and extended kin (tanil minjok); Han'guk imin chaedan (Korea Immigration Service Foundation 2016a, 2016b), No Yŏngdon's (2003), and Yoon In-Jin's (2004, 2005) continued work on policy and legal ramifications in state formulations of overseas Koreans; Kim and Ma (2011) on the meaning of expanding diaspora for the Christian mission, among many other examples of the growing Korean Christian diaspora;2 repatriation efforts for those living in diaspora (Kookmin taehakkyo Han'gukhak yŏn'guso 2003a, 2003b, 2003c; Yi 2004); and the recognition of overseas Koreans and their struggles...


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pp. 1-18
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2020
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