War Trauma, Memories, and Truths

Representations of the Korean War in Pak Wan-so's Writings and in "Still Present Pasts"

Author: Jeon Seung-Hee


The establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Republic of Korea (TRCK) in 2005 marks a turning point in the history of South Korean efforts to understand the truth of the Korean War, a truth that had been remembered only selectively. As essential as the TRCK's fact finding and reparation efforts are in establishing the truth of the war, it is also important to think about the full meaning of the word "truth" at this current juncture. This article attempts to perform this task, first by introducing the concepts of truth proposed by Heidegger and Bakhtin, and then by examining Pak Wan-so's autobiographical novels on the Korean War and the "Still Present Pasts" multimedia exhibit on Korean American memories of the Korean War. Regarding Heidegger and Bakhtin, the author focuses on the fact that, for them, truth is both scientific and aesthetic in nature, hence dialogic and dynamic as well. Pak Wan-so's autobiographical novels are an example of this kind of dialogic and dynamic truth in that they engage in creative and critical dialogues with various discourses on the Korean War, including her own works. "Still Present Pasts" is another example of how space for endless dialogues can be created through multimedia and interactive structures. These two examples suggest that the missions of a TRC can be achieved only when it exists as a permanent institution in which individuals and social groups and entities are provided with an appropriate level of authority and resources and can then creatively collaborate with each other.

Regions: East Asia
Countries: Korea
Topics: Imperialism

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December 2010
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