“Who Was Park Chung-hee?” The Memorial Landscape and National Identity Politics in South Korea

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President Park Chung-hee played a predominant role in shaping South Korean history, yet he remains a controversial figure. This paper explores the way this controversy has manifested itself in the memorial landscape and its significance within the context of national identity politics. It is argued that the debate between conservatives and progressives over the memory of Park has complicated the discourse beyond the prevalent focus on ethnic nationalism. The increasing place allocated for Park in the memorial landscape since 2008 is a tangible manifestation of a memory boom that appeared a decade earlier. Thus, the creation of an encouraging atmosphere in this regard can explain the correlation between the establishment of consecutive conservative governments and said trend. The way the memorial landscape has changed has offered an opportunity to think about a form of national identity which is more intricate. However, with the socio-political camps entrenched in their respective positions, the high-profile controversy has reflected the competing agendas and the degree to which the two sides differ on the fundamental components of national identity. The controversy over the memory of Park has thus both reinforced the divide between the political camps and demonstrated the extent to which it is deep.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-288
Number of pages18
JournalEast Asia
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


  • Collective memory
  • Conservatives-progressives divide
  • Memorial landscape
  • Memorial sites
  • National identity
  • Park Chung-hee
  • South Korea

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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