Ruins, memory and vibrant matter: imagining future North Korean rural terrains

Winstanley-Chesters, R (2019) 'Ruins, memory and vibrant matter: imagining future North Korean rural terrains.' European Journal of Korean Studies, 19 (1). pp. 87-101. ISSN 2631-4134

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With recent work in mind from the fields of Critical and Human Geography and Philosophy on webs of political life and ruins as lively matters, in process and becoming the paper considers the futures for North Korean non-urban landscapes from a temporal (and spatial) frame beyond that of Pyongyang’s present. Following a change of status quo on the Korean Peninsula in which North Korea as we know now it ceases to exist, how will both state bureaucracy and popular cultural power impact on terrains so heavily transformed by the ideology and political culture of North Korea? Will post-transformation forces consider architectures of ideological memory entirely ruined, attempt to write their own cultures and memories on these spaces, or unwrite previous ones, co-producing new landscapes of memory on the Korean Peninsula? In particular, this paper examines the physical and material futures for two important sites in North Korea. Firstly, the Samjiyon Grand Monument and the Birch Trees of Lake Samji, representative within North Korea’s historical narrative of both military struggles in the area and the first acknowledgement of Kim Il Sung and his first wife, Kim Jong Suk’s relationship. Secondly the paper considers Mt. Paektu and very specifically the Secret Guerrilla Camp below it, and Jong Il Peak, part of the mountain now graced by Kim Jong Il’s signature written in huge Korean script. Both sites, along with North Korea’s wider rural and wild spaces are in a sense ruined by their enmeshing with the political narratives of Pyongyang. However, in their ruination the paper sees the unpicking and untwining of this state, through the processes of time and cultural- political re-configurations.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: North Korea, ruins, memory, Mt Paektu, Samjiyon
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
Divisions: School of Sciences
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Date Deposited: 20 Dec 2019 14:40
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2021 09:53
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