This paper examines the Seoul Pride Parades of 2016 and 2017 to understand how Pride organizers and participants negotiate nationalism, developmentalism, and global human rights discourses to reconstruct citizenship and queerness in Korea. In particular, I focus on how self-affirmations of LGBTQ inadvertently intersect with, collude with, and traverse international liberal politics and Korean developmentalism in LGBTQ Koreans’ interactions with Euro-American embassies, antigay protesters, and the Korean government. Euro-American embassies have engaged with Korean LGBTQ movements by participating in recent celebrations of Seoul Pride. By contrast, antigay protesters have interrupted the parades by arguing that homosexuality ruins national development. For its part, the government has been reluctant to support LGBTQ rights. In this context, by relying on “proud of myself as LGBTQ” and using the embassies’ support, organizers not only oppose heteronormative nationalism but also produce what I call queer developmental citizenship. Through this form of citizenship, LGBTQ Koreans seek to cultivate the self and others to catch up with and align with Euro-American citizenship models, but they are less critical of liberal politics and developmental hierarchies between Korea and Western countries. I also consider how LGBTQ Koreans can nevertheless disrupt liberal developmental hierarchies by creating social relationalities and coalitions.
The characters in Leesong Hee-il’s films dream of and desire a queer utopia and a completely new world. Awakened to their own singularity through gay shame, they are compelled to reconsider the norms and expectations of the established gay community, which they see as trying to assimilate them into the supra-communal state. Through this gay shame, they come to stand as singular beings in the face of an absurd society. They then rise in revolt against the identity that the gay community imposes on them, while expressing their dis-satisfaction with restricted freedoms provided by the state. Ultimately, they end up as queer anarchists in pursuit of social freedom through the ethics of personal relationships. Their gestures to escape regulations and control push them forward with affective resistance in their relations with others, which is the only future left for them after all else is lost. Finding themselves alone and at an impasse, they encounter their own utopian bodies. In a desperate queer dance, they lose themselves and transform their bodies to establish a utopia of the here and now.
Recent queer Korean cinema radically questions the efficacy of normative family structures and envisions a more radical type of kinship that is not reducible to the marriage-based family. Refusing simply to celebrate public recognition and marriage equality, films showing this new trend are more concerned with intimate relations that bind various social others together. This shift in film production expands the concept of queer Korean cinema to encompass its evolution as a mode of critique regarding both hetero- and homonormative assimilation to mainstream society. This article specifically focuses on E J- yong’s Jugyeojuneun yeoja (The Bacchus Lady, 2016), and its engagement with theories of queer kinship and temporality. By portraying the quandaries of an aging prostitute involved in a series of assisted suicides and in caregiving of a national “other,” the film troubles life-producing kinship structure that demands marriage, bi-parental rearing, and heteronormative relations. By analyzing the formation of alternative kinship and its relation to queer temporality in the film, this article argues that the issue of life and death no longer functions as a narrative trope of developmental logic, one that presupposes normative life cycle. Rather, the film foregrounds it as a critical tool to problematize normative kinship structure that buttress the Korean nation-state.
This paper compares the Seongmisan community in Seoul and the Qinghe Y community in Beijing from an action-theoretical perspective. For this, we distinguish leaders and residents as two actor groups, and consider how they become engaged in neighborhood community reconstruction in terms of push and pull factors. Push refers to “because of” forces such as frustration and anxiety, whereas pull refers to “in order to” forces like ideology and dreams for a better life. The most important finding of this study is that the path-dependent development of community reconstruction in Seoul and Beijing can be explained by the role of leadership and the interaction between leaders and residents. Seongmisan community has been led by a distinctive group from the “386 generation” who are deeply engaged in people-oriented activities. In contrast, the Qinghe Y community has been led by a group of expert sociologists from Tsinghua University. This paper also shows what concrete outcomes have been produced through community reconstruction in each case, and how the leading group and community residents have interacted to bring about change. Based on analysis of these findings, the two cases are compared with respect to their relative strengths and weaknesses. In this paper we also assess the significance of the comparative case study methodology as adopted for this study.
This article analyzes social and cultural adaptation of Korean youth in the former USSR in 1920s–1930s. After the March First Movement in 1919, the Korean youth were cruelly prosecuted by the Japanese gendarmerie. Thousands of young Koreans were forced to leave their homeland and seek shelter in Manchuria or the Russian (Soviet) Far East. The adaptation of Korean youth to economic, political, and cultural life in Soviet Russia had several stages, as they sought to obtain legal status and find a niche in the production chain sufficient to sustain their long-term existence in a strange land. Each turning period in Russian history transformed the mentality and sense of national identity of Korean youth, and consequently Korean culture and language underwent transformation. With each transition period, the Korean migrants’ native language was used less and less in public places, and over time, it was spoken only among family and friends. Thus, the Koreans gradually became integrated into Russian culture and the Russian language became their primary language of communication.