Book Talk: Memory Construction and the Politics of Time in Neoliberal South Korea

When and Where

Friday, January 20, 2023 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm
315 Bloor Street West
Toronto, ON, M5S 0A7


Book Talk: Memory Construction and the Politics of Time in Neoliberal South Korea (Duke University Press, 2022)

This book explores the nexus of neoliberal governance, politics and culture by examining memory construction and history writing in post-1987 South Korea.

Coinciding with the global end of the Cold War, the extensive economic restructuring ushered in by globalization and neoliberalism, South Korea’s much-celebrated democratic transition soon became synonymous with the process of neoliberal reconstructing not only in the economic sphere but in all aspects of society. The radical and massive changes gave rise to pervasive discourses marking the paradigm shifts: from the minjung (people) to simin (citizen), from the political to the cultural, from the collective to the individual. The shift ushered in primacy of the notion of citizen as rights-bearing and rights-claiming individuals, reconstituting people as exclusively homo economicus in both public discourse and social movements.

Analyzing wide-ranging texts such as memoirs, biographies, literary works, and scholarly literature, this book provides analyses of these profound transformations that also gave rise to the narrative of discontinuity—the transition as a complete break from the past, with any critical ethos from the previous emancipatory movements effectively erased and subsumed into the new era, what I call politics of time. From the Park Chung-hee syndrome to New Right scholarship, in vociferous and contentious historiographical debates that have become irreparably internecine, this book explores the intellectual, historiographical, as well as political implications of the politics of time as neoliberal disavowal in post-1987 South Korea.


Author's Bio:

Namhee Lee is Professor of modern Korean history and Director of the Center for Korean Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Her publications include The Making of Minjung: Democracy and the Politics of Representation in South Korea (Cornell University Press, 2007), The South Korean Democratization Movement: A Sourcebook (co-edited with KIM Won, Academy of Korean Studies, 2016), and Memory Construction and the Politics of Time in Neoliberal South Korea (Duke University Press, 2022).


Co-organized by the Centre for the Study of Korea at the Asian Institute, Munk School, University of Toronto and the Korean Office for Research and Education (KORE) at York University, which is funded by the Academy of Korean Studies. Co-sponsored by the Dr. David Chu Program in Asia-Pacific Studies at the Asian Institute and the Department of East Asian Studies and the Department of History, University of Toronto.