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Justifying Violence on Korea’s Cold War Frontlines: The Life and Representations of Kim Tu-han

Publisher: , 2023
Link to online store *

The son of a nationalist martyr, Kim Tu-han (1918-1972) rose to prominence as a mobster in 1930s Seoul. As conditions shifted, he deployed his gang first as a construction corps supporting the Japanese war effort, then as a progressive force, and, most successfully, as an anti-communist vigilante group. After narrowly escaping the death sentence for murder, he won election as a legislator.

Mobrand’s intimate exposition of Kim Tu-han’s unusual and contradictory life – and of his posthumous cultural and ideological representations – illustrates with distinct clarity how he has become lionised as a ‘folk hero’ and nationalist icon in contemporary Korean culture. Alongside this, Mobrand also explores how this key figure’s intricate personal history accentuates both the nexus between street violence and the development of modern political systems in East Asia, and broader themes within postwar Korean history, from the layered meanings of ideological struggle, to mobilisation on the emerging Cold War’s frontline, to ethnic nationalism.

Source: publisher’s website


Introduction: Gangster as Narrator
1. Street Violence and Authority in East Asia
2. The General and his Son
3. The “White Terrorist”
4. From Death Row to the National Assembly
5. The Rise and Fall of “Political Gangsters”
6. Unmaking the Politician, Making the Myth
7. The Popular Culture Icon
8. The Daughter and the Dynasty
Conclusion: Violence, the Cold War State, and the Politics of Memory

Entry on here.

* Where the book is available from a number of sources, they are prioritised as follows: (1) Amazon UK site, or for the more recent uploads (2) Amazon US site (3) Other sites in US or Europe, including second-hand outlets (4) LTI Korea, where the title is advertised as available from there (5) Onlines stores in Korea. Links to and Amazon UK site contain an affiliate code which, should you make a purchase, gives a small commission to LKL at no additional cost to you.