AAS Annual Meeting

Korea Session 651

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Session 651: Searching for National Identity in the Age of Globalization: the Korean Peninsula

Organizer: Anna L. Efimova, Independent Scholar, Russia

Chair: Ekaterina A. Pokholkova, Independent Scholar, Russia

The chief objective of the panel is examining how the contemporary processes of globalization induce changes to political, economic, societal and cultural reality of the two Korean states. The panel, composed on a cross-discipline basis, explores the implications of globalization processes with a focus on how the Korean states are constructing their identities, values and norms in course of their response to recent challenges. On the path of their socio-political advancement the Korean states have proceeded with their political and economic development with a focal concern of protecting their national uniqueness. To what extent do distinctive facets of their history and culture adhere to the constantly more interdependent global community? What is the key rationale of being persistent in conserving traditional elements of their unique and dissimilar entities? The panel brings together four presenters, each from a different disciplinary field, whose papers are united by the idea of demonstrating adaptation of the Koreas to ongoing globalization processes. The following arguments are to be discussed: 1) internationalization of South Korean banking sector, 2) ethnic identity expressed through behavioral culture (roots and modern forms of rural festivals and ancestor cults), 3) North Korean political regime stability in the pressing environment, 4) language purification and protectionism in the Republic of Korea.

Language Purification Policy in the Republic of Korea (sunhwa, sunsujueui)
Ekaterina A. Pokholkova, Independent Scholar, Russia

Linguistic purism or protectionism is the definition of one language variety as purer than other varieties, often in reference to a perceived decline from an ideal past or an unwanted similarity with other languages. The language purification may take the form of change of vocabulary, syncretism of grammatical elements, or loanwords. The unwanted similarity is often with a neighboring language(s) whose speakers are culturally or politically dominant. The sunsujueui policy which is mostly conducted by the National Academy of Korean language is mostly aimed at the lexical purification of the Korean language. At the age of globalization the measures of language “protectionism” in search of national identity seem to be rather reasonable. The main measures of language refinement are the compilation of The Big Dictionary of Korean Language (Kyeoremal Sajeon), substitution of Sino-Korean words English loan words with the Korean equivalents, systematization of neologisms, etc. At the age of Internet a number of projects have been conducted through web-sites. The most interest for the linguists is the Internet project “Moduga hamkke-haknun urimal tadumgi”.

Internationalization of Korean banking sector in the late 1990s: losing national identity or reinforcement of financial potential
Andrey Polekhin, Moscow State University, Russia

The disruptive impact of the financial crisis of 1997 on the economy of the Republic of Korea entailed drastic restructuring of the banking sector in particular. After keeping the latter closed to foreign investors with their share below 10% in the total assets for decades, the state authorities took unprecedented steps towards opening the banking industry to international players that in less than 10 years grasped dominating positions with the market share over 70%. Such a fast and radical restructuring of rather conservative and deferred development-ridden sector raised ambivalent feelings in Korean society and among experts. The paper explores the background and consequences of the internationalization of Korean banking system as well as changes in perceiving this phenomenon by the Koreans. A special attention is paid to the role of foreign investors in the introduction of best practices in Korean banking and improvement in corporate government, with a focus on the question whether the input of foreign investors has been crucial in establishing institutionally matured banking sector that has proved to be viable enough to cope with the credit crisis of 2008.

The roots and modern forms of rural festivals and ancestor cults in the ROK
Denis A. Samsonov, , Russia

In modern world with its speedy development of international activities the issue of ethnic identity of a nation and understanding of that identity become more important. This understanding requires study of different ways of traditions – intellectual, religious, behavioral etc. The question of determination of national identity with various forms of its existence and its succession is one of the basic problems to study for ethnography. To study behavioral culture is one of the forms of researching of national identity. It is widely known that in any society many aspects of everyday life – family relations, professional activities, religious and cult practice and relations between different members of the society – are subject of regulations and form a system of behavior. In this report attempts are made to describe some mechanisms and patterns in modern Korean society that are responsible for transmittance and functioning of cultural identity’s tradition on the base of behavior during different activities. For this purpose we will study the roots and modern forms of some rural festivals (ex. miryang baekjung) and some important ancestor cults (ex. chonga chip cherye). The main purpose of this report is to show on examples of above mentioned activities that despite a significant modernization of the society in Republic of Korea, that its tradition of maintenance of national identity is still characterized by relative stability, proved by the fact that many cultural codes remain active even today.

Stability of the North Korean Political Regime: in search of a distinct place in contemporary world politics
Anna L. Efimova, Independent Scholar, Russia

One of the distinctive features of the modern political development is the problem of the States’ capacity to deal with numerous challenges they have to face. A number of countries, including North Korea, remain on the sidelines of globalization, and, subsequently, result marginal to modern International processes. The focal challenge comes from an impending incapacity of the ruling regime to fulfill its functions that may occur in any critical situation – an armed conflict, a natural disaster, death of a charismatic leader - and can lead even to the state’s collapse. Given the problems facing North Korea, it is tempting to suggest that the regime faces an existential crisis able to lead to its abrupt downfall. In fact, the existing indexes of state failure range the DPRK as one of the weakest states in the world. However, explaining the resilience of the North Korean political system has strangely escaped from becoming a pressing issue for analysis in comparative politics. The paper argues that international factors are central in comprehending the endurance of North Korean authoritarianism in the post-Cold war era. With the transformation of the international system, the reshuffle of power in the region of the North-East Asia, new dynamics of regional relations after the collapse of the Soviet union, North Korea had to find an adequate balance between countering external threats, globalization, and internal flexibility through maintaining its forms of effective governance in close relationship to historic and cultural practices.