AAS Annual Meeting

Korea Session 398

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Session 398: Rethinking Anti-Communism in South Korea: Governing the Real and the Imagined

Organizer: Jane S. H. Kim, , Canada

Chair: Henry H. Em, Yonsei University, South Korea

Discussant: Henry H. Em, Yonsei University, South Korea

Anti-communism has been the most dominant and powerful ideology of the South Korean nation-state. Despite the world-wide end of the Cold War, anti-communism in South Korea is still alive and commands persuasive force. Although the continued existence of anti-communism in South Korean society is attributed to its function as the political and legal apology of the state, this panel argues such explanation overlooks the remarkable vitality of anti-communism as social and cultural practices to shape and determine the everyday lives of people. This power to govern the ‘norm’ of the social and cultural realm comes from its ability to create the ‘imagined real’ in order to mobilize antagonism that has in the past, displayed potentials to destroy lives and affect matters within and outside the borders of nation-state. This panel will examine the complex origin of social and cultural discourses and practices of anti-communism in South Korea under the four following themes. First, the post-war coalition and popularization of anti-communism and Christianity. Second, the study of the ‘overt femininity’ within the gender discourses of anti-communism. Third, the image of Communism as constructed through rapid reception and transfiguration of Orwell in South Korea and lastly, the consequence of U.S. anti-communism laws on the diasporic Korean community. By exploring these four themes, this panel hopes to render multiplicity to this most salient ideology to define the landscape of post-colonial Korea and the trans-Pacific region.

Becoming a Saint in Anti-Communist Nation: The Martyrdom of Pastor Son
Jane S. H. Kim, , Canada

This paper examines the popularization of anti-Communism and Christianity in South Korea. Although the coalition of anti-Communism and Christianity existed in Korea prior to 1945, it was not until the arrival of the American Occupation and the establishment of the Syngman Rhee regime that both forces gained ‘recognition’ as national ideologies of South Korea. Using the story of martyrdom of Pastor Son Yangwôn, who was killed by the North Korean forces during the Korean War, this paper analyzes how the Protestant church in South Korea mobilized anti-Communism through its representations of ‘martyrs of faith.’ By personifying the ideology of anti-Communism and Christian faith in the figure of ‘saints’ such as Pastor Son, this paper argues that Christianity and anti-Communism made strong appeals to emotional sensitivities of the war-torn South Koreans. Such methods of mobilization, this paper argues were highly effective means of popularizing ideology from above, as it avoided making complex argument or logics to an audience already weary of post-colonial turbulence and political propagandization. This paper further asserts that such ‘illogical’ and ‘direct’ appeal made it ‘easy’ for the audience to accept the both ideologies without too much resistance. By studying the popularization of anti-Communism and Christianity in South Korea, this paper hopes to find means to explain not only how these two were able to become predominant ideologies of South Korean nation in such short period of time but also, their long duration and deep-rooted appeal even long after the end of the Cold War.

Anti-Communism and Sexuality in Cold War Korea
Deug-Joong Kim, Independent Scholar, South Korea

In the immediate aftermath of the establishment of the ROK, the discourse on Anti-Communism featured the superiority of masculinity. Within the discourse, the women of the Left were seen as ‘cruel women who carried out violent armed struggles’ or as ‘prostitutes who lead men to their corrupt end.’ In the anti-communist line of battle against communism, femininity was seen as weak and masculinity which had realized aggression and violence was understood to possess superior value. Femininity was perceived as negative images that symbolized lies, seduction and instrumentalization of sex. For this reason, the exposure and accusation of female spies were used as important tools of anti-communist propaganda. The male fantasy featured within the anti-communist discourse was not phenomenon unusual to South Korea alone. The creation of negative images with women as its object was also similarly engineered in Germany during the 1920’s with its ‘Freikorps’ and also during the Korean War by the North Korean government with its propaganda as well. This paper will examine how the political process of differentiating the ‘enemy’ from ‘us’ utilized femininity to create negative images of the enemy. Furthermore, by exploring how femininity was represented not only in the anti-communists propagandas but also in the communist propagandas as well, this paper hopes draw attention to the violence underscoring the political logics of 'making the enemy'.

The View from Washington: Political Deportation and the Korean Diaspora in the U.S.
Jane Hong, Harvard University, USA

This paper reads an episode of U.S. domestic anti-Communism – specifically, the political deportation trial of a Korean-born activist named Diamond Kimm – against the backdrop of American containment efforts in Korea during the early Cold War and Korean War years. Kimm co-founded and edited the Korean Independence, a Korean immigrant newspaper based in Los Angeles, during World War II. But it was his writings after the war’s end that invited the scrutiny of FBI, immigration, and U.S. intelligence officials. Between 1945 and 1955, Kimm charged U.S. policymakers with provoking the Korean War, denounced the self-interested and corrupt nature of American occupation policies in South Korea, and at McCarthyism’s height, hailed Stalin and Soviet policies in North Korea as the best future hope for a unified Korean peninsula. In so doing, Kimm’s writings in the Independence constructed a transnational and diasporic critique of the Korean War conflict. Through the pages of the newspaper, Kimm and other Independence writers narrated the story of Koreans’ double victimization – by political opportunists from within and American interventionist policies from outside the peninsula. Drawing upon U.S. legal and HUAC transcripts, Korean immigrant newspapers, and organizational files, this paper will situate Kimm’s legal trial within a transnational history of not only American, but also Korean state anti-Communist efforts. The U.S. state’s legal case against Kimm illuminates the multiple structures of surveillance – both American and Korean – that tracked the political activities of Korean diasporic communities during the immediate postwar years. In so doing, it will gesture – if only preliminarily – toward a broader, international history of anti-Communism during the Cold War.

Reception of Orwell and Visualizing Communism in Korea
Yong-Gyung Chang, Independent Scholar, South Korea

In the aftermath of Korea’s liberation from Japan, when compared with capitalism, communism occupied position of moral superiority due to its uncomproming fight agianst colonialism. At that point, anti-communism consisted of no more than loathing and contempt for the lower class and hostility towards communism for inciting them. George Orwell was the one who provided theoretical framework to what had remained until then anti-communist sentiments. The first foreign translation of Orwell’s Animal Farm was into Korean and his 1984 was almost immediately translated into Korean upon publication in 1948 as well. However, the almost instantaneous translation of two of Orwell’s work was not the result of fair competition within the market of discourses. As part of ‘Fight Against Anti-Communism,’ the U.S. ‘Office of Overseas Intelligence’ paid for the copyright as well as to translate and to circulate his works. However, unlike Friedrich Hayek who wrote The Road to Serfdom around at the same time, Orwell was not someone who could so easily be tamed by anti-communism. In Burma, Orwell was witness to the reality of ‘civilization’ brought by colonial discourses and although he came to question the legitimacy of the actual communism during his fight against anti-fascism in Spain, Orwell nevertheless, did not give up on his belief in the intellectual and ethical activism and potentials of the workers. Orwell’s anti-communism therefore, was part of his overall social critique on colonialism and fascism as well as totalitarian communism. This essay will give due consideration to the following. First, what mechanisms of interventions were at play in the selective translation and circulation (for both English Literature major and public) of George Orwell’s work? Second, after 1948, where did the sanitization take place within the translation of his works, in particular, The Animal Farm? Third, what were the images of communism featured in the ‘tamed’ Orwell and the effect of such images?