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Producing Political Landscape on the Korean Peninsula: Divided Visions, United Vista

Fri, March 27, 8:30 to 10:30am, Chicago Sheraton Hotel & Towers, Floor: Lobby, Level 3, Parlor D


Myths of national construction and accompanying visual representations are often deeply connected to political narrative. The Korean peninsula may be unlike other political space due to the ruptured relations and sovereignty on its territory since World War II, North and South Korea. Nevertheless, both nations construct inverse ideologies with the common tools of the pen and lens and both produce highly coded, politically-charged national, visual and narrative mythologies rooted in their physical landscape.
Following Geographers Denis Cosgrove and Noel Castree in recognising landscape and environment as vital to the construction of symbolic national/political space(s) and adopting rhetorical and methodological strategies derived from communication studies’ approach to visual culture, this paper focuses on the “Saemaul” movement, a political project of then 1970s focused on upgrading rural infrastructure and landscape in South Korea, which was both enacted by and connected to President Park Chung-hee. At the same time, Kim Il Sung and North Korea, , manifested a charismatic political urgency on its own landscape through the “Ch’ollima” movement.
Comparing and connecting both of these acutely political projects, this paper seeks to examine the relationships between the visual productions of the Saemaul and Ch’ollima campaigns as well as the literary, rhetorical and narrative strategies embedded within the campaigns’ visual output. Critically and particularly this paper examines strategies and representations of forestry management either side of the DMZ, juxtaposing these representations within the opposed states and revealing processes through which physical landscapes and their representation function to both divide and unite the Korean peninsula.