Collective Memory and Commemorative Space: Reflections on Korean Modernity and the Kyŏngbok Palace Reconstruction 1865–2010

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Abstract

The Kyŏngbok Palace has been the site of continual reconstruction ever since the Taewŏn'gun's efforts in 1865 to the recent unveiling of the new Kwanghwamun in August 2010. No other location in Seoul has undergone so much intense reconstruction efforts at such a prohibitive cost. This study examines the 150 year history of this reconstruction effort and focuses on two key themes that have not been fully examined in previous works on this topic. The first is the interplay between the palace grounds and Korea's encounter with modernity. Korea's modern transformation has reconfigured this site multiple times, and there is a need to explore the multiple ways that modernity has imparted visual symbolic significance to this location. The second is the intensity of public debate over this urban site, which heralds the gradual historical emergence of a public culture of commemorations. From this perspective, the palace reconstruction can reveal far more than an effort to display Korean nationalism and past traditions. For the site can offer some important insights into the development of modern Korea's civil society and public culture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-95
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Area Studies Review
Volume13
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Jan 1

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collective memory
modernity
reconstruction
Korea
nationalism
civil society
history
costs

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

Cite this

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title = "Collective Memory and Commemorative Space: Reflections on Korean Modernity and the Kyŏngbok Palace Reconstruction 1865–2010",
abstract = "The Kyŏngbok Palace has been the site of continual reconstruction ever since the Taewŏn'gun's efforts in 1865 to the recent unveiling of the new Kwanghwamun in August 2010. No other location in Seoul has undergone so much intense reconstruction efforts at such a prohibitive cost. This study examines the 150 year history of this reconstruction effort and focuses on two key themes that have not been fully examined in previous works on this topic. The first is the interplay between the palace grounds and Korea's encounter with modernity. Korea's modern transformation has reconfigured this site multiple times, and there is a need to explore the multiple ways that modernity has imparted visual symbolic significance to this location. The second is the intensity of public debate over this urban site, which heralds the gradual historical emergence of a public culture of commemorations. From this perspective, the palace reconstruction can reveal far more than an effort to display Korean nationalism and past traditions. For the site can offer some important insights into the development of modern Korea's civil society and public culture.",
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