Personal color, known as a set of colors that harmonize with a person’s natural physical coloring, rose rapidly as a trend among young Korean women in the 2010s. Based on anthropological fieldwork at personal color consultation studios, this study analyzes personal color as an alternative aesthetic makeover practice to plastic surgery in which the body is deemed the source of originality instead of change. Instead of altering the body, improvement through personal color is supposed to be achieved through a change in color consumption, about which the consultant provides guidance as a choice connoisseur. Through the journey of personal color makeover, the customer is encouraged to transform into a better-looking, efficient color consumer and an estimable authentic self with a strong sense of individuality and self-esteem. Deeply related to producing each individual as an attractive and marketable personal brand, the practice erects itself as an alternative means to increase one’s value and chances in life— an option that is seemingly more body-positive than plastic surgery but entails a more ceaseless endeavor of self-government in all aspects of everyday life for the production of a better self.
This paper examines the generalization process of minjujuui (the Korean translation of democracy) to better understand the conceptual history of democracy in modern Korea. We first argue that a proper understanding of democracy’s conceptual history in Korea and other non-Western societies must include an analysis of the initial popularization and standardization of the translated term for what once was a foreign word and concept. Unfortunately, this crucial research area has been largely neglected to date. To fill this academic lacuna, our study divides the generalization process of minjujuui into four periods based on the frequency of the term’s use in Korean print media and then subjects each period to a thorough quantitative and qualitative analysis. As a result of this complementary approach, we find that in Korea, the generalization of the translated word minjujuui was accompanied by ideologicalization, politicization, and temporalization of the concept of democracy itself. We further argue that because the key factors that drove this generalization process derived from internal and external forces in Korea, the intensity of the three other processes was even greater than in the West where the concept of democracy originated.
The present study examines the origins and reformulation of namjon nyeobi (‘superior men, inferior women’) in North Korea. The persistence of namjon nyeobi despite the North Korean regime’s promotion of gender equality should be understood as a consequence of collective male and female service to socialism rather than a product of feudalism, Confucianism, or patriarchy. Historical analyses and interviews with North Korean migrants show that namjon nyeobi was reinforced by communist education in the 1960s and reformulated as standard socialist ethics thereafter. In pre-crisis periods, women functioned as the main instruments of social transformation in their supporting roles as mothers, wives, and daughters-in-law. Such reinforcement of fixed gender roles strengthened through post-crisis times as the imperative of survival further heightened the will to preserve the family for women whose breadwinning duties were executed in close association with men. Socialist namjon nyeobi should be understood as the hierarchies and roles assigned to ordinary men and women within Juche socialism.
South Korea has become another nation in the global statue wars movement. This movement advocates the removal of statues honoring persons viewed as not deserving respect. In South Korea, activists have called for the removal of statues of Korean Japanese collaborators and that of General Douglas MacArthur. At the same time statues have gone up commemorating individuals and social actions for justice. Victims of injustice, to include those of an American military massacre, have been recognized. These transformative changes were made possible by democratization in the 1990s. The country’s previous authoritarian rule restricted the memorialization of the American military experience to a state-sanctioned narrative portraying America as savior. This article will demonstrate how memory sites and monuments from the authoritarian period reflected this narrative. They offered up a militaristic perspective of heroic battles and heroes, and expressed gratitude for humanitarian accomplishments. This is an accurate portrayal as the American military did demonstrate bravery, devotion to duty, and humanitarianism. However, the dark side to this remained hidden and its victims silenced. With the lifting of authoritarian control, preserved memory sites can now provide details to complete our understanding of the American military experience in South Korea.
Based on the results of a survey conducted in the aftermath of Korean local elections held in 2018, we measure the extent of ideological polarization across Korean regions and analyze the relationship between income inequality and several measures of ideological polarization in Korean society. We estimate that Korean regions are polarized to the same extent as Korea taken as a whole. Regionally, we find a positive association between the extent of income divergence from the regional mean and ideological polarization, while surprisingly, the extent of aggregate regional income inequality does not seem to be an important factor. Our empirical results suggest that this relationship is mainly driven by an increased demand for redistribution policies on the part of the economically disadvantaged electorate, and the opposition of wealthier voters to the implementation of such policies. Finally, economic security appears to be an important factor mitigating ideological polarization as we find that younger, better educated, and wealthier voters are more likely to view their political views to be located closer to the ideological mean.
This paper examines the hard work, skill, and social capital of female insurance agents and their success in gwonyu gaip (solicitation subscription) sales, which fueled the rapid growth of the insurance industry in South Korea from the 1960s through the 1980s. Such success is even more striking considering the systemic discrimination female agents faced within the industry, even as male agents got away with actual misconduct. This paper argues that female agents’ high success in solicitation sales facilitated the economic value of the social network in individual insurance sales, and broke down the negative utility of the social network in the male-centered business world. Persistent gender bias in the insurance industry resulted in the feminization of insurance sales, providing much-needed employment opportunities for women from the 1960s to the 1980s, but at a cost: female agents were unfairly viewed as overbearing and unprofessional, which undercut their credibility and led to client mistrust, policy cancellations, and agent resignations.
This paper examines the border as an assemblage of surveillance technologies that exert a contentious claim to algorithmic accuracy based on raceembedded biometric data processing. I offer the term surveillance racism—a regime of normalization in which the technical reification of race for the biometric database configures anti-migration and anti-refugee discourses for the well-being of a population or nation. I put forward the border as a biopolitical enclosure in which biometric monitoring through security and risk calculations of threat to the state generates, propagates, and maintains discourses of racism. A discussion of South Korea’s Integrated Border Management System uncovers the workings of a biopolitical enclosure that is committed to constructing a claim about the survival of the Korean nation pitted against the peculiar racial category of unhealthy immigrants from nonWestern, developing countries.
The royal palaces of the Joseon dynasty in Seoul have long been major tourist spots for foreign visitors to Korea, but these places have been attracting more domestic visitors in recent years. The cultural politics of the UNESCO World Heritage list and the unremitting contestation among East Asian nation-states around the authorship of the past largely account for such newly found popularity of royal palaces among Koreans. This article examines this resurgence of domestic tourism focusing on how certain royal palaces in Seoul are being endorsed and consumed as emblems of tradition and national identity by the government as well as the general public, and how this process has enabled a reconfiguration of the past, especially the experience of Japanese colonialism in Korea. This article also argues that royal palaces are not just sites for collective memory, but sites for contestation and divergence of identities.