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"March for the Beloved" and the Sonic Practices of Protest in Authoritarian South Korea

Speaker

Susan Hwang (UC Santa Barbara)

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In early 1982, a group of underground activists assembled at a remote house in the city of Kwangju. Evading the watchful eye of the Chun Doo Hwan regime, the group clandestinely recorded "March for the Beloved" (Nim ŭl wihan haengjin'gok), a song to honor the "soul marriage" of deceased activists Pak Kisun and Yun Sangwǒn.

Born in a city that had yet to recover from the brutal massacre of civilians staged by the military-authoritarian state in May of 1980, the song moved vastly beyond its original purpose of commemorating those massacred.

Over the decades to follow, the song would emerge as the most powerful and widely sung anthem for counterstate movements in South Korea and beyond, often finding itself at the center of much controversy over how to remember the tumultuous 1980s.

This talk examines the bizarre twists and turns the song has undergone since its original inception, as occasions for thinking about the culture of protest and the politics of memory that shape the legacies of democratization in South Korea.