Memory Construction and the Politics of Time in Neoliberal South Korea
In Memory Construction and the Politics of Time in Neoliberal South Korea, Namhee Lee explores memory construction and history writing in post-1987 South Korea. The massive neoliberal reconstruction of all aspects of society shifted public discourse from minjung (people) to simin (citizen), from political to cultural, from collective to individual. This shift reconstituted people as Homo economicus, rights-bearing and rights-claiming individuals, even in social movements. Lee explains this shift in the context of simultaneous historical developments: South Korea’s transition to democracy, the end of the Cold War, and neoliberal reconstruction understood as synonymous with democratization. By examining memoirs, biographies, novels, and revisionist conservative historical scholarship, Lee shows how the dominant discourse of a “complete break with the past” erases the critical ethos of previous emancipatory movements foundational to South Korean democracy.