[KS] Now On My Way to Meet Who?

J.Scott Burgeson jsburgeson at yahoo.com
Sun Nov 10 01:19:52 EST 2013

I recently read Christopher K. Green and Stephen J. Epstein's "Now On My Way to Meet Who? South Korean Television, North Korean Refugees, and the Dilemmas of Representation" in the 14 Oct. 2013 edition of The Asia-Pacific Journal, and found it quite illuminating, as usual.

One of the main themes of the essay is the "Otherizing" of North Korean female defectors on the show "Imangap," whereby the North is presented via their personal narratives as a quaint, exotic or pitiable backwater to the "superior" or far more modern, developed South (in a kind of hierarchized relationship). I don't normally watch much TV, Korean or otherwise, but I have seen a few installments of the show when in Southern hotel rooms, as well as odd clips on YouTube, and what struck me was how many of the woman had been thoroughly South Koreanized: Their North Korean accents muted or replaced with standardized South Korean accents, make-up styles overtly South Korean, and fashions as well. Having recently lived in NE China for several years, and interacting with dozens of young North Korean women there (none of them defectors, I should note, but there for various official or state-sanctioned reasons), the South Koreanizing of these women seemed
 obvious to me, and what I am wondering is if this struck anyone else who has seen the show as well? More to the point, is this so-called "South Koreanizing" at odds with the theme of "Otherizing" these women, or is there in fact a double "Otherizing" at work here, in the sense that these women have been encouraged to present themselves according to contemporary South Korean standards of beauty and speech, whether because of the producers or the broader South Korean society in which they now live, and are consequently further alienated from their own original, or primary, North Korean identities? Certainly there seems to be a process of standardizing and homogenizing at work here, and indeed I've also noticed that the American drummer of Busker Busker, Brad Moore, has undergone a similar kind of "South Koreanizing" subsequent to his appearance on the hit TV show "Superstar K": Thick oversized black glasses currently in vogue here in the South, an overly
 whipped South Korean hair style and a fashion sensibility that is distinctly South Korean well -- call it a rather conservative type of "indie preppy," if you like.

In any case, if multiculturalism implies an acceptance and celebration of cultural difference, erasing or downplaying cultural differences would seem to be at odds with the much-heralded rise of "multiculturalism" in South Korea, would it not? Is "Imangap" simply another instance of South Korean "multiculturalism" actually being code for radical assimilation and incorporation into the South Korean collective?  

Scott Bug

On Saturday, November 9, 2013 1:15 AM, Sun Joo Kim <sunjookim1 at hotmail.com> wrote:

Korea Institute at Harvard University is pleased to announce the second Harvard Korean Art History Workshop to be held on December 13, 2013. Please see below for a tentative schedule of the event.
Infinite Interfusion: Buddhist Art in Korea
Date: December 13, 2013
Place: Korea Institute, CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA, 02138
Organized by Korea Institute 
Co-sponsored by East Asian Art History Program and Harvard-Yenching Institute
Session I: Buddhist Iconography, Local Contingencies
Harmony and Conflict in Ch’ŏnt’aeand HwaŏmBuddhism as Seen through a KogyŏAmitâbha Painting
The Shifting Pantheon of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha
Gyeongwon Choe
Discussants: Yukio Lippit, Chin-sung Chang
Session II: Buddhist Worlds in Unified Silla 
Sŏkkuram and Iran: Kuchean Buddhist Caves and their Eighth-CenturyKorean Kin
Minku Kim
A Four‐sided Buddha Land?: A Stupa Valley Sculpture on Mt. Nam in Unified Silla
Sunkyung Kim
Discussants: Eugene Wang, Youn-mi Kim
Session III:  Reading Patronage in ChosŏnBuddhist Painting
Sakyamuni Expounding the Teachingsin the Museum of East Asian Art, Cologne: A Vivid Example of Gold Line Painting in Early Chosŏn
Maya Stiller
Buddhist Activities by Royal Household Members in the ChosŏnDynasty: On the Three Indras Painting of 1483
Discussants: Melissa McCormick, Jaebin Yoo
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