Seoul / Aesthetic Constructions of Korean Nationalism: Spectacle, Politics, and History

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Kal, Hong. (2011) Aesthetic Constructions of Korean Nationalism: Spectacle, Politics, and History. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon [England]; New York: Routledge

In this book, the author focuses on the transformation and development of Korea in the 20th and 21st centuries, mainly from perspectives of politics and nationalism. In the chapter “Flowing back to the furture: The Cheonggye stream restoration”, the significance of Cheonggyecheon is addressed, also from similar perspective. It covers both the past and present about the stream, from being a historical stream and a former highway to now a green park, and how in each period of time the Cheonggyecheon is related to aspects like the cultural identity of the citizens and the governmentality of Seoul.

Apart from providing some factual and analytical narratives, the author also reveals his opinion on the Cheonggyecheon restoration project and some related issues, not in a direct way, but through the deployment of certain tones and dictions. For instance, commenting on the statue of “Chun”, supposedly as a memorial of a protestor setting himself on fire and died during a labour movement, located on one of the bridges crossing the stream, he notes, “the statue offers little information about Chun and the labor struggles of the 1970s” and it only “acts as an anesthetic for the bitter memories of the past, reminding the visitors nothing except the fortunate present”, expressing a critical view that certain parts of the restoration project is more of a window-dressing gesture than having real meaning.

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