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Beyond Death: the politics of suicide and martyrdom in Korea

From the publisher’s website:

Suicide and martyrdom are closely intertwined with Korean social and political processes. In this first book-length study of the evolving ideals of honorable death and martyrdom from the Chosŏn Dynasty (1392–1910) to contemporary South Korea, interdisciplinary essays explore the changing ways in which Korean historical agents have considered what constitutes a sociopolitically meaningful death and how the surviving community should remember such events.

Among the topics covered are the implications of women’s chaste suicides and men’s righteous killings in the evolving Confucian-influenced social order of the latter half of the Chosŏn Dynasty; changing nation-centered constructions of sacrifice and martyrdom put forth by influential intellectual figures in mid-twentieth-century South Korea, which were informed by the politics of postcolonial transition and Cold War ideology; and the decisive role of martyrdom in South Korea’s interlinked democracy and labor movements, including Chun Tae-il’s self-immolation in 1970, the loss of hundreds of lives during the Kwangju Uprising of 1980, and the escalation of protest suicides in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Charles R. Kim is Korea Foundation Associate Professor of Korean Studies at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. Jungwon Kim is King Sejong Assistant Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University. Hwasook Nam is an independent scholar who previously served as the James B. Palais Endowed Associate Professor at the University of Washington. Serk-Bae Suh is associate professor of Korean studies at the University of California, Irvine. The other contributors are Jung-hwan Cheon, Ho Kim, Sun-Chul Kim, Yerim Kim, George Kallander, Franklin Rausch, Youngju Ryu, and Young Chae Seo.


List of Tables

PART I: Changing Practices During the Late Choson Era

  1. Yŏl: Chaste Martyrdom and Literati Writing in Late Chosŏn Korea (1392-1910) JUNGWON KIM
  2. Politics and the Discourse of Virtuous Sacrifice in Late Chosŏn Korea: Chang Yagyong’s Discussion of Righteous Killing HO KIM; translated by SIXIANG WANG
  3. Resurrecting Ch’oe Cheu: Tonghak Martyrdom in Late Chosŏn Dynasty Korea GEORGE KALLANDER
  4. Choosing to Die: Catholic Voluntary Martyrdom in Late Chosŏn Korea FRANKLIN RAUSCH

PART II: Colonial-Postcolonial Transition in South Korea

  1. A False Martyr’s Wager: Yi Kwangsu and Colonial Collaboration SERK-BAE SUH
  2. The Political Dynamics of Sacrifice and the Sacrificial Narrative in Modern Korea: The State and the Historical Ontology of Student Soldiers YERIM KIM

PART III: Democracy and Labor Activism in South Korea

  1. Reading Chun Tae-il: Making Sense of a Worker Self-Immolation in 197os South Korea HWASOOK NAM
  2. The Construction of Martyrdom and Self-Immolation in South Korea SUN-CHUL KIM
  3. Untimely Death and Martyrdom after May 1980: Suicide in the South Korean Democracy Movement Seen through the Case of Pak Sŭnghŭi JUNG-HWAN CHEON
  4. The Birth of an Ethical Subject: The 1980s and South Korean Literature YOUNG CHAE SEO; translated by YOUNGJU RYU
  5. From Martyrdom to Apostasy: Kim Chiha and the Politics of Death in South Korean Democratization YOUNGJU RYU


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