National Heroes and Monuments in South Korea: Patriotism, Modernization and Park Chung Hee’s Remaking of Yi Sunsin’s Shrine


June 14, 2010

National Heroes and Monuments in South Korea: Patriotism, Modernization and Park Chung Hee’s Remaking of Yi Sunsin’s Shrine
National Heroes and Monuments in South Korea: Patriotism, Modernization and Park Chung Hee’s Remaking of Yi Sunsin’s Shrine

Volume 8 | Issue 24 | Number 3

Article ID 3374

National Heroes and Monuments in South Korea: Patriotism, Modernization and Park Chung Hee’s Remaking of Yi Sunsin’s Shrine

Saeyoung Park

With “history’s bloodiest century” growing distant, twenty-first century scholars have become preoccupied with the fraught moral and political dimensions of memory.1 ‘Memory wars’ have become commonplace in discussions over postwar compensation or in anxious debates over national identity in an era of shifting geopolitical realities.  In East Asia, one only needs to look at the sore points of Korean-Japanese relations—contested sovereignty over the Dokdo islands, textbook treatments, questions of official visits to the Yasukuni shrine—to realize the centrality of memory in articulating deeply divergent national narratives.2

As servants of collective memory and as guardians of the dead, shrines have served as one focal point for this emerging terrain of historical enquiry. Like museums, statues and other sites of commemoration, shrines exemplify the exercise of power over the past through the state’s symbolic possession of space.  However shrines, and in particular East Asian shrines, often have an early modern genealogy that distinguishes this kind of memorial from other commemorative platforms.  In the imperial Chinese and early modern Korean Confucian traditions, for instance, shrines have long served as venues for state-building and postwar commemoration and reconciliation.3 Such developments suggest that the monuments of today did not emerge in a barren commemorative landscape.  This paper proposes that by analyzing the transformation of shrines into national monuments in the twentieth century, we can begin to dissect the claims of historicity and authenticity that have made shrines such effective agents within the cultural politics of remembrance. To this end, this article examines the remaking of a Hyŏnch’ungsa, a Chosŏn (1398-1910) shrine honoring a sixteenth century Korean admiral, Yi Sunsin (1545-1598) in the twentieth century.

Since the twentieth century, there has been a steady stream of films, fictional works, television dramas, statues, postcards, museums, children’s books, self-help works, postage stamps, business leadership texts, and various souvenirs dedicated to bringing people closer to Admiral Yi.4 The flourishing of the ‘Yi Sunsin industry’ is a testament to his enduring popularity and near limitless potential for both statist and commercial exploitation. Yet the sixteenth century admiral that we know is very much a product of the twentieth century, revealing how the politics of remembrance remains thoroughly embedded in the concerns of the present.

While Hyŏnch’ungsa had been one of many Chosŏn sites of memory celebrating Yi Sunsin, President Park Chung Hee’s (Pak Chŏnghŭi 1917-1979, in power from 1961-1979) supervised renovation and elevated this shrine above all others as a focal point for the remembrance of the Admiral.5 The transformation of this shrine into a national monument provides an opportunity to interrogate the social construction of a national hero by exposing numerous contradictions.  First, by remaking an Yi dynasty shrine,6 the twentieth century commemoration of Yi Sunsin was premised upon a continuation of past ‘traditions’ while making a constitutive break with Chosŏn practices.  Second, while the shrine ostensibly represented the valorization of a sixteenth century hero, the remaking of Hyŏnch’ungsa situated the shrine as an emblem of a new, modern South Korea (hereafter Korea).  To wit, not only did the physical transformation of the shrine and its environs—from a rural hamlet to a shrine encased in concrete and disciplined landscaping—present a microcosm of a shining Korean future, but the equating of economic development with martial struggle repositioned Yi Sunsin as the patron saint of Korean modernization.  Third, by situating the shrine as the platform for new national ceremonies, Park re-interpreted shrine commemorative practice as mass spectacle.7 By specifically privileging the commemoration of Yi Sunsin as a “national ritual” (kukka ŭirye or kukka haengsa), Park publicized his inheritance of the Admiral’s mantle, inviting the public to view his inhabiting of Yi Sunsin’s story through re-enactments of Chosŏn martial skills as well as ritual deference. With the elevation of the Admiral’s Birthday Commemoration to an annual event of national importance, the shrine also became a field within which various participants-–the President, various ministries, scholars and the press debated the contours of a postcolonial Korean identity.

Today, Yi Sunsin is among the most venerated heroes from the Korean past and the first Chosŏn exemplar to be remade on such a grand scale in the postcolonial period.  However, the expansion of Hyŏnch’ungsa did not occur in a vacuum.  While it ultimately represents a significant break with Chosŏn commemorative practices, a long history of honoring exemplars on the peninsula informed the remaking of the shrine.  Furthermore, while Yi Sunsin was arguably a central character in the commemorative landscape of postcolonial Korea, other historical figures such as King Sejong the Great, the Chosŏn monarch who had shepherded the creation of the Korean script Han’gul, were also re-imagined as archetypes of intrinsic Korean characteristics that had been obscured by yet had successfully resisted colonial rulers.  In his study of the emergence of a Korean “ethnic nationalism” in the 1930s, Gi-Wook Shin has suggested that the veneration of historical heroes such as Yi Sunsin, Ulchimundok, Tan’gun and others was a measure of resistance against the “colonial assimilation policy.”8 Shin posits the celebration of such hallowed historical figures as a defensive reaction against the encroachment of Japanese imperialism.  As my study focuses primarily on the years after the normalization of Japanese-Korean relations, it finds that the cultural production of Yi Sunsin repositioned the Admiral as a leading figure in multiple narratives.  The veneration of Yi Sunsin cannot be read strictly as an anti-Japanese movement in the postcolonial period, though his vigorous defense against Hideyoshi’s invading forces in the sixteenth century remains a compelling narrative even today. From 1962 to 1975 (the period of study in this article), thousands of people participated in Yi’s Birthday Commemorations or paid homage at the renovated shrine, engaging as spectators and participants in visual and discursive formations of nationhood.

Through the study of Hyŏnch’ungsa, this article examines the remaking of Yi Sunsin as a sacred national hero in the twentieth century.

Remaking Hyŏnch’ungsa

Shortly after Park Chung Hee seized power in a 1961 coup, he ordered minor repairs and additions to Yi Sunsin’s shrine in 1962, and then systematically transformed it to its current state from 1966-1969.9 Yi Sunsin’s rise as the preeminent Korean hero would mirror Park’s political fortunes.  From a very early point in his national career, Park invested considerable effort in promoting Yi’s valor, even donating his own personal funds in the earliest phase of shrine renovation.  After a complete makeover, the unveiling of the new shrine was celebrated on the Birthday Commemoration of Yi Sunsin in 1969.

The shrine was located in a rural region of South Ch’ungch’ŏng province.  While a sacred red gate built in the Chosŏn period marked its presence to the outside world, the shrine would have been almost indistinguishable from other buildings in a small village in Asan county.  Nestled by straw-thatched residences and farmland, it lacked the raised foundations, walls, signs and controlled access that later denoted the shrine as a site of extraordinary importance.

As early as March 1962, Park Chung Hee issued an order to more than triple the land dedicated to the shrine (from 1,345 pyŏng to 5,359 pyŏng),10 and to build a reliquary and an office on the grounds.11 In 1966, under Park’s orders, the Ministry of Education created an ambitious blueprint to remake Hyŏnch’ungsa.  The stated goal of the project was: “in order to commemorate Admiral Yi Sunsin’s achievements forever, a two year expansion of Hyŏnch’ungsa in Asan county, South Ch’ungch’ŏng province will take place.”12 In line with larger state imperatives to systematically canonize historical venues central to Korean identity, the shrine was declared an official “national historical site.”13

When it was finished, the new shrine complex would bear very little resemblance to its Chosŏn incarnation.  Newspapers trumpeted the detailed development of the site: “a hundred and sixteen lanterns and mercury lamps have been installed on the central path so that the shrine can be as bright as day at night.”14 In the first two months of construction in 1966, four hundred meters of road were built to control erosion, and an irrigation canal was covered to beautify the area. The road to the central ritual hall was widened from three to six meters, and the multicolored woodwork (tanch’ŏng) was repainted and workers meticulously refurbished Yi Sunsin’s gravestone.

Was Park Chung Hee inspired by a model monument or museum?  State memos are silent on sources of inspiration.  However, a close reading of Park’s memos and directives suggests that he had a consistent vision of the affect that the shrine would evoke in visitors.  Repeatedly, Park’s memos emphasized that the shrine was to be “impressive” and “awe-inspiring.”15 A 1966 news article noted that the intent of the redesign was to offer a shrine so imposing that “when Koreans and foreigners come to visit, their heads will bow naturally [in respect].”16 According to Park’s instructions, the emphasis in the remaking of the Admiral’s shrine was on grandeur (ungchang), making considerations of historical conservation secondary.17

From the onset, the purpose of this project was not to simply rebuild and preserve the remnants of the shrine, but to fashion an entirely different monument.  Hyŏnch’ungsa in Chosŏn times had been dedicated to Yi Sunsin and two other military officials, Yi Wan and Yi Pongsang, but the new national shrine was to focus exclusively on the Admiral.  Adjoining lands were also purchased and nearby residents were “replanted” or relocated to make way for the new shrine complex.18 In its early stages, the project transformed the landscape around the shrine, urbanizing the complex with concrete walls, broad boulevards and a broad square for mass gatherings.  The straw-thatched buildings, the crumbly dirt roads either disappeared or were remade into manicured versions of a commodified past, where paved stone slab roads led to the doors of traditional-looking buildings.

In shepherding the expansion of Hyŏnch’ungsa, Park exercised an extraordinary degree of oversight.  After one inspection on August 29, 1968, he fired off a fifteen-point memo to the head of the Ministry of Culture and Information, Hong Chongch’ŏl, where he noted that the grass needed to be trimmed further and asked for new shrubs to demarcate the boundaries of the shrine.19 His instructions were not limited to the shrine: “Make sure that the crops grown outside of the shrine are charming.”20 “Ensure that visitors cannot touch the gingko trees in the archery field.”21 Such wide-ranging, constant and changing feedback from Park to the ministries distinguishes the rebuilding of Hyŏnch’ungsa from other historical sites of interest.  Some of Park’s commands focused on workmanship and aesthetics—“the stones in the central path are irregular. Replace them” or “remove rocks from the garden.”22 Other directives were much more concerned about the behavior of visitors and management: “staff need to make separate living arrangements outside of the shrine grounds”23 and “compose rules for the proper conduct of visitors.”24 In 1968 alone, Park personally inspected Hyŏnch’ungsa four times, not including a visit made in his place by the Head Presidential Secretary that year.25 Despite, or perhaps fueled by, domestic insecurities associated with increased North Korean hostilities in 1968, Park’s commitment to the remaking of Yi Sunsin’s shrine remained firm.26

One measure in transforming the shrine into a national monument entailed rendering fallow the surrounding farmlands that were being incorporated into the larger shrine complex.  In the Chosŏn period, the survival of royally sanctioned shrines often depended on the cultivation of land endowments from the state in order to secure a steady stream of income.  In the twentieth century remaking of Hyŏnch’ungsa, Park expressly ordered the ministries to buy up farmland to add to shrine grounds in order to transform them to green lawns.27 Gardens were to be ornamental.  The primary goal of the new flora on shrine property was to reflect the magnificence of the Admiral, suggesting “grandeur” (changŏm) or “solemnity.”28 Park repeatedly demanded that landscapers plant larger and older trees that would suggest a longer history for the new Hyŏnch’ungsa.29 Traces of former farming activities such as irrigation ditches were to be covered or removed.

Planting Large Trees at Hyŏnch’ungsa, 197530

In Marxist scholarship on labor, some scholars have argued for a correlation between the selective display of non-productivity and a corresponding rise in status.31 There is an analogous link between ornamentalism and status in the case of Hyŏnch’ungsa.  In making a national monument, the deliberate decision to promote non-productive land represents a distancing from pre-modern subsistence agriculture as well as implicitly signifying the state’s wealth in displays of ornamental landscaping.

Transforming a historical Chosŏn shrine to constitute evidence of a Korean modernity posed other challenges.  Should buildings on shrine grounds be built in a “modern” or a “Korean” style?  The frequent juxtaposition of these words: “modern” and “Korean” suggested that each term occupied a polar extreme in an aesthetic spectrum of development.  For shrine planners, the dichotomy of “modern” and “Korean” in state documents inevitably privileged the former while the goal of remaking Hyŏnch’ungsa was ostensibly about preserving the latter.   Later in 1968, Park clarified the issue, ordering: “Except for historical buildings, build the new structures in a modern style (hyŏntaesik).”32 However, continuing confusion over how to embody modernity at the shrine can be seen in the multiple incarnations of the reliquary, which was first built in 1962.

The first reliquary (yumulkwan) was a simple one room building in a traditional style erected to house Yi Sunsin’s personal effects, his writings and other relics. In 1968, this was demolished to make way for a larger concrete building with steel doors that was still in a “Korean style (hansik).”  It was also rebuilt on an elevated mound with a white stone staircase for a more lofty appearance. A few months later, this building was demolished and rebuilt in October, 1968 as a “modern steel and concrete stone building.”33 This version lacked significant gestures to Chosŏn architecture, sporting a flat slab roof and no painted woodwork; in color and in style, this reliquary was a sharp contrast from the other traditional structures and preceding reliquaries. But in 1974, its external appearance was “Koreanized” through cosmetic changes—adding a new Chosŏn style tile roof with sloping eaves and newly painted mock columns to the structure.   The new hybrid building perhaps better reflected the duality of the reliquary itself, as a museum dedicated to propagating a select image of the Admiral through the preservation of his writings and personal effects, and as a new institution that had no counterpart in the Chosŏn past.  Like the new shrine complex, the reliquary’s legitimacy was founded on its claims about the past, yet it was a firm creation of the present.

Hyŏnch’ungsa Reliquary 196234

Hyŏnch’ungsa Reliquary 196835

Hyŏnch’ungsa Reliquary 197336

Hyŏnch’ungsa Reliquary 197537

Photographs in government publications also emphasized the rapid transformation of the shrine into a modern national site. In the second edition of the Record of the History of Asan Hyŏnch’ungsa, recent color pictures heightened the transformation of the shrine by providing a sharp contrast with the black and white unfocused pictures taken in the first phase of construction.

Hyŏnch’ungsa February 196638

The first picture shows a hamlet with straw roofs.  The shrine itself is not easily visible.  Taken almost a decade later, the second picture reveals a landscape dominated by the shrine.  Private homes are no longer visible in the line of sight.

Hyŏnch’ungsa Environs April 196639

Hyŏnch’ungsa June 197540

As Hyŏnch’ungsa became a national site of interest, security became a point of concern.  In April 1968, Park sent a memo asking the Hyŏnch’ungsa staff to consider a series of security measures in order to “preserve the sanctity of the shrine.”41 A barbed wire fence was installed to restrict free entry.  A guard was stationed at the front gate and all visitors were to be recorded and monitored.  During events such as the Birthday Commemoration, the shrine staff were to triple the number of guards at the front gate. Such changes limiting the free mobility of visitors brought the shrine fully under state surveillance.

The ‘preservation of sanctity’ also meant that visitors needed instruction in proper conduct. After all, how were visitors to know how to behave in the first national shrine?  Park instructed guides to “monitor the behavior of visitors” in the sacred hall as well as in the reliquary.  For foreign guests, translated brochures would secure their proper reverence and conduct.42 Furthermore, Park suggested that the shrine should explicitly encourage consumerism through the construction of a shop and souvenirs such as postcards and stamps.  Visitors, described in the memos as “worshippers,” (ch’ampaekaek) would also have to pay entry fees from ten to thirty won.43

Entry fees would be used towards landscaping and other ancillary costs.  If the fees were properly collected, the shrine stood to make a sizeable annual sum.  The Ministry of Culture and Information noted in May1968: “right now, it is travel season and so there are twenty thousand visitors per day.”44 Asan county officials seem to have been particularly aware of the value of the shrine as a tourist attraction, tripling the entrance fees from ten won to thirty won for standard admission between March and May 1968.45

Nationalist Spectacle: Birthday Commemoration of Yi Sunsin

By the mid-twentieth century, many of the rituals and ceremonies that had mediated socio-political relations in Chosŏn Korea had been discontinued or lost to colonialism.   As the Ritual Committee (ŭisik chejŏng wiwŏnhoe) that reformed Yi Sunsin’s Birthday Commemoration noted, no national ceremonies were in practice as royal rituals had been abolished with the demise of the Yi dynasty.  At shrines to Confucius and other lower level local ritual sites—such as stand-alone shrines (sau) and shrines at private academies (sŏwŏn) dedicated to local exemplars—ritual obligations were often satisfied erratically in the twentieth century, and varied depending on funding, motivation and other exigencies.

So while the ritual landscape in the 1960s was not completely empty of historical traces, the rupture in ritual practice gave Park Chung Hee an opportunity to revolutionize and centralize the commemoration of Yi Sunsin.  In the past, Hyŏnch’ungsa had been a lowly sau, a local shrine, and the ritual remembrance of the Admiral reflected its place in the hierarchy of sacred spaces.46 By transforming the Birthday Commemoration in content and in form, Park could herald the Admiral as a national hero and the object of nationalistic spectacle.

My use of the term spectacle stresses its ability to encourage critical disengagement and manufacture solidarity on the part of spectators and participants alike.  Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle first examined the surrender of critical agency in a media saturated consumer society and the role of the spectacle in the ‘politics of consent.’47 As Henry A. Giroux has described in his recent work, different periods produce spectacles specific to their historical context.48 But whether we are referring to Fascist pageantry of the 1930s or Commodore Perry’s colorful opening of Japan, spectacles succeed through obfuscation, by concealing the brute immediacy of power underneath an “uninterrupted monologue of self-praise” in order to persuasively and affectively form a consensus.49 The spectacle, as Debord argues, imposes a normative “social relationship between people that is mediated by images” and informs our understanding of the interplay between power and cultural politics.50 Within this framework, no affective appeals to national heroes are self-contained, or innocent of political implications.  Applying the logic of the spectacle to this project, the veneration of heroes becomes an appeal to unity based on a shared (and constructed) past which holds within itself a promise for a utopian future where all citizens ‘become’ their heroes.   Such ritualistic glorification of heroes downplays dissent and masks the compulsion and violence that is central to sovereignty.  Even when Kim Dae Jung, (the opposition presidential candidate who was kidnapped and almost executed by Park’s forces) paid his respects at Hyŏnch’ungsa in 1971, he could only voice homilies in support of the Admiral and Park’s reconstruction efforts.51 When Giroux wrote: “Politics and power are not eliminated, they are simply hidden within broader appeals to solidarity,” he was emphasizing that spectacle distracts the populace from the nakedness of political power in order to favor persuasion over compulsion.  However, I would also suggest the manufacture of spectacle produces ahistorical objects of veneration that become increasingly invulnerable to dissent.  As Tzvetan Todorov notes in Hope and Memory, “sanctification is a mark of restriction, by definition; it places its object in a separate category and makes it untouchable.”52 Or in other words, historical veneration has a tendency to render the objects of such adoration ahistorical; in the process of becoming an iconic representation of Korean nationalism, Yi Sunsin became increasingly distanced from a complex historical reality.

The twentieth century equation of Yi Sunsin and martial patriotism not only distanced the Admiral from his historical self, but also inspired militaristic displays of fervor in honor of the hero. In the seventies, on many occasions several hundred male high school students engaged in a long march (about 120 km) from Seoul to Hyŏnch’ungsa prior to the Admiral’s Birthday Commemoration.53 Dressed in military fatigues, armed and carrying a large flag, this paramilitary detail would arrive at the shrine in time for the ceremonies and were sometimes personally greeted by the president.54 The prospect of hundreds of young civilian students engaging in such militarized activity was unproblematically embraced by the press, which saluted their patriotism.

Such cases of ‘performing nationalism’ point to the ways in which the shrine became a nexus of rhetoric, acts, gestures and narratives that centered on an emerging, postcolonial national Korean identity.   As a site of memory, Hyŏnch’ungsa was not only the guardian of the Admiral’s legacy but also served as an authenticator of a legitimate Korean future. Through the examination of Hyŏnch’ungsa, we can see how state-building and policies at the national level produced important and tangible effects in the making of individual citizens.

Birthday Commemoration: Before and After Reform

It was, of course, not only student patriots who honored Yi Sunsin. One of the most important expressions of the national commitment to Yi Sunsin’s legacy was the annual Birthday Commemoration, celebrated on each April 28th following the solar calendar.  In 1962, Chairman Park55 first attended the birthday commemoration (t’ansin kinyŏm) of Yi Sunsin and he faithfully attended this annual event throughout his presidency.

Newspaper records suggest that while the Admiral and his shrine had never completely disappeared from public consciousness in the twentieth century, it was Park Chung Hee’s interventions that drew the nation’s gaze to Hyŏnch’ungsa.  After Park’s first attendance at the 417th commemoration of the Admiral’s birthday, national papers such as the Tonga ilbo and the Chosŏn ilbo consistently covered these events. These ceremonies grew, becoming orchestrated national celebrations of enormous proportions.  In 1969, the Tonga ilbo estimated that about 10,000 people attended Yi Sunsin’s birthday celebrations at Hyŏnch’ungsa for a day-long event; in a previous ceremony in 1962, the ceremony had only taken two hours.56

For Park Chung Hee, Hyŏnch’ungsa was an “arena where the spirit of Chungmu-gong [Yi Sunsin] is fostered and reared,”57 where he should be venerated as a “great ancestor.”  As in Chosŏn times, the shrine was a place to foster emulation of exemplars:

I would like to stress strongly that the way to respect and adore Admiral Yi from the bottom of our hearts does not consist in simply constructing a shrine, but in reaffirming and intensifying our determination and efforts to face and overcome the trouble-ridden reality of our fatherland, faithfully following the precious teachings he left behind.58

According to Park, the emulation of the sixteenth century Admiral called upon citizens to work towards national purposes in the twentieth century.

For Park, the sixteenth and the twentieth centuries were linked as times of parallel crises. As Yi Sunsin had fended off peril in the sixteenth century, Koreans “still face difficult ordeals and more than ever, our people must be united in solidarity, in our efforts and sacrifice so that we can face such important times.”59 Hence, the veneration of Yi provided an opportunity to mobilize citizens for twentieth century goals.  By subsuming modernization, anti-Communism and economic development under the umbrella of nationalism and patriotism, Park could re-interpret Yi’s merits within a framework that was vastly different from Chosŏn commemorative ideals.60 Following the admiral’s example meant a commitment to Park’s vision of social and economic reconstruction, where the Admiral’s “patriotic loyalty was to be the “foundation of modernizing our country, of our citizens’ new way of thinking.”61 As Park noted:

…[We] who have such a great ancestor as Chungmugong [Yi Sunsin] have to work hard to follow his example [lit. toward his direction].  This is indeed a joy as well as a sacred duty and mission imposed upon us…62

Within this argument, the veneration of Yi Sunsin was congruent with a shared sacred mission of postcolonial development, making the Admiral the patron saint of patriotic modernization.

Prior to Park’s participation in the Admiral’s Birthday Commemoration, any ritual recognition of Yi Sunsin at Hyŏnch’ungsa would have been the prerogative of his descendants or local leaders.  In the Chosŏn period, the monarch sometimes sent an official to preside at the spring and autumn sacrifices for a particularly important worthy, but these court visits were not fixed annual events.

After Park’s visits anointed the Birthday Commemoration as an event of national importance, the ceremonies assumed a fairly regular form.  Commemorations usually began in the late morning, after 10am when all the invited students, local citizens, foreign guests and dignitaries were seated, forming a large group of spectators.  Before the ritual reform of the late sixties, Park, Yi Sunsin’s descendants and local Confucian officials would lead the chesa, or sacrifice, where a libation would be offered in conjunction with several unblemished food offerings. Similar to Confucian rituals of ancestral remembrance, there would be ceremonial bowing in front of the spirit altar under a large portrait of the Admiral as well as the burning of incense.  In addition to the chesa, Park Chung Hee gave a speech expounding Yi Sunsin’s singular merits. Demonstrations of archery, tours of the shrine, music concerts, history lectures, and the singing of a paean to Yi Sunsin were part of the event.  Cocktail parties and fireworks ended the evening, and the President returned to the capital the following day.

Park Chung Hee first ordered changes in ceremony after participating in Yi Sunsin’s Birthday Commemoration on April 28, 1966.  On May 24, 1966, the Committee on Ceremony and Ritual (ŭisik chejŏng wiwŏnhoe or the Ritual Committee) was established to create national ceremonies (kukmin ŭirye) from Chosŏn rituals and ceremonies.

After participating in the 1966 Birthday Commemoration, Park ordered that the rituals should be ‘standardized (kyubŏmhwa).’   Standardization required several major changes.  First, the Birthday Commemoration of Yi Sunsin would be declared a national event (kukka haengsa).  Second, the order of the events needed to be revised. Third, the spectators should receive guidance about how to behave at a national ceremony (kukmin ŭirye) and last, ritual clothing and accoutrements should be regulated and made uniform.63

The elevation of the ceremony to a national event was not as simple as it first seemed.  Scholars on the Ritual Committee were aware that such changes posed a break with Chosŏn practices and the history of the shrine itself.  The Ritual Committee ultimately justified the unique elevation of Hyŏnch’ungsa over the Admiral’s other shrines by focusing on Park’s participation in the Birthday Commemoration. “Times have changed and because of the involvement of the head of state, the ceremonies must be elevated,” the Ritual Committee proclaimed in 1966.64 Ritual protocol for shrines to Confucius, which were of a comparatively higher level, were substituted for pre-existing ritual practices.

The instruction, that ‘spectators should receive guidance about how to behave at a national ceremony’ highlights both the novelty of such national events as well as emphasizing the interactive dynamic that Park expected at such spectacles. In his work on pageantry and power in Meiji Japan, Takashi Fujitani argues that participation of spectators had important consequences.  On one hand, national pageantry extended the gaze of the state, serving as occasions where the observers would “internalize their own surveillance.”65 On the other hand, he also notes that the people who came to observe events such as the promulgation of the Meiji constitution often behaved in ways that dismayed educated observers.  Spectators often conducted themselves as they would at local festivals, showing little awareness of how to properly conduct themselves as modern citizens at national ceremonies.66 Park’s injunction that the spectators were to be indoctrinated with proper behavior suitable for a national ceremony also acknowledges that the Birthday Commemoration was not previously orchestrated in a way that yielded the signification that he desired, and that the training of spectators was a key element in bringing the nation to a singular, homogenous understanding of the Admiral and his legacy.

A second round of changes in ceremony and ritual took place in 1968.  Still dissatisfied after the 1968 Birthday Commemoration, Park personally handwrote his complaint about the festivities.67 The earlier round of changes to the ceremony had been insufficient, and he expressed his dissatisfaction at the hodge-podge nature of the birthday celebrations: “The way it is carried out now, it is neither religious, nor Confucian, nor entirely modern (hyŏntaesa).”68 The Ministry of Education was ordered to “analyze how the ritual formalities can become more official and regulated, as more pious and solemn observances.”69 Given his dissatisfaction with the results of the first round of changes, Park sent clear signals that he wanted the second reformation of the birthday celebrations to be thorough.  He indicated that the ceremony needed to be thoroughly re-examined from the “seating” to “how to walk” to “how to bow” and many other minutiae of ceremonial conduct.70

The changes in the ensuing round of reforms severed many of the local ties to the shrine and completed its transformation into a national monument.  A new Committee on Ceremony and Ritual was formed in late 1968 and offered new recommendations in January 1969.  It noted that while in the postwar period, remembrance of Yi Sunsin had been conducted principally in a Confucian manner, it would be elevated to a different ritual, a tarye.71 In the past, local Confucians had participated in the commemoration of Yi Sunsin, as they had at his shrines during the Chosŏn period.  As this was no longer “suitable,” their roles at Hyŏnch’ungsa would now be taken over by the staff members of the Hyŏnch’ungsa Management Office.  In essence, the officiants at the ritual remembrance of Yi would now be representatives of the central government, which suited the new dictates as the “Hyŏnch’ungsa Management Office is a national institution (kikan).”72

Yi Sunsin’s descendants were also excluded from the ritual remembrance of Yi at the shrine.  Since the Birthday Commemoration was a “nationwide national ceremony (kŏkukchŏkin kukka haengsa),” a Hyŏnch’ungsa Management Office protocol official would now take over the duties of supervising the rituals that had previously been relegated to one of the Admiral’s direct descendants.

Elsewhere, I have shown that local officials and local Confucian literati played significant roles in building and maintaining the shrines with the help and collusion of the central government in the Chosŏn period.73 The court and local stakeholders were often in conflict, especially in cases where the central government sought to shape the remembrance of an exemplar by eliminating irregular or illegitimate shrines. Shrine practice oscillated between the needs of the central government and the desires of the local elite in the Chosŏn period, and in the twentieth century, we see a broad swing toward national prerogatives.  The changes in the remembrance of Yi Sunsin in the twentieth century suggests that the constant struggle between local and central authorities swung decisively in favor of the latter in the case of Hyŏnch’ungsa, and this was a critical development in the making of Yi Sunsin as a sacred hero for a “modern” Korean nation.

Inhabiting the Admiral’s Story

Changes in ritual had explicitly privileged Park’s participation in the commemoration of Yi Sunsin, supporting what other scholars have described as his desire to “overlap” with or become Yi Sunsin.74 While many studies have peripherally acknowledged this phenomenon, few scholars have addressed how Park sought to ‘become’ the Admiral.

Park’s public inhabiting of Yi Sunsin’s story was captured annually in his archery demonstration at a small field bordering the Admiral’s ancestral home, now contained within the expanded shrine grounds.  Numerous photographs and footage of Park’s archery demonstrations survive.  An early photograph in 1962 (the first year that Park attended the Birthday Commemoration), shows the then Chairman Park in his unbuttoned military uniform, surrounded by officials and the press, grinning broadly after shooting a curved Chosŏn bow.  Later photographs show a much more carefully staged affair, with the famously short president alone on an elevated stage, posing with a drawn bow for photographers and videographers. 

Chairman Park with a Chosŏn bow in 196275

Park Chung Hee at Hyŏnch’ungsa 196776

How are we to read these images? How was the annual archery demonstration an iconic moment in Park’s becoming Yi Sunsin?  And why choose archery?  Yi Sunsin was not especially famed as an archer; furthermore, while his writings as well as the hagiographic essays compiled after his death acknowledge his childhood propensity for military arts, ultimately they privilege his literary leanings.  Following Korean Confucian understandings of success, his contemporaries portrayed Yi’s victories as triumphs of will and virtue, rather than as the result of clever turns of strategy or military skill.  The battlefield was seen as an extension of one’s inner state, and therefore victories and defeats were as dependent on self-cultivation as on armaments.

Park’s mimicry of Yi Sunsin’s martial skills places his remembrance within a politics of thinking about the Chosŏn past.   In the Korean Enlightenment period77 during the turn of the twentieth century, radical intellectuals such as Sin Ch’aeho, Yi Kwangsu, and others were consumed by the search for the root causes of Korean failure in the age of imperialism.  Sin, in particular, attributed Korea’s failures and gradual loss of sovereignty to the effeminate literary tendencies of the yangban gentry that, in his view, had stifled the martial impulses that had always been inherent in the Korean people.78

Sin’s work clearly influenced Park, as his first book, Our Nation’s Path alludes to the former’s arguments extensively.  In a break with Chosŏn understanding, both Sin and Park posit Yi Sunsin as a victim of the weak, scheming literary yangban:

It was he, who, when imprisoned grief-stricken due to wicked slanderings by treacherous retainers and subsequently reprimanded by the king, solemnly showed the sublimity of firm purpose and justice, and went to the front without official rank or title to save his fatherland from the invading enemy.  Only a real patriot who deeply loved his fatherland and fellow countrymen, purposely avoiding opportunities given to enjoy a high degree of political power and wealth would have done this.  This was also an honor that only such a national hero could obtain through such patriotic deeds.79

For Park, Yi was a hero who was maligned by the civilian Chosŏn administration whose commitment to the country fueled his patriotism in the face of criticism.  The parallels between Yi Sunsin—a sixteenth century general poorly understood by his civilian contemporaries—and Park Chung Hee, a general who had overthrown a civilian government in the name of national salvation were not difficult to miss.  In several speeches, Park invited the comparison: “If another real patriot like Yi suddenly emerges and guides the nation onto the right course, the people of this country should be bound to enjoy prosperity and happiness.”80 As Yi Sunsin had saved Chosŏn Korea from total defeat (with the help of Chinese forces who conveniently disappear from Park’s narrative), Park could offer himself as an analogous savior, as an architect of national restoration. By erasing the “national humiliation (kukch’i)”81 of the Imjin war the Admiral was “a leading historical figure that we can be proud of in the eyes of the world.”82 In eliding the twin Japanese invasions—the sixteenth century Imjin war and colonization, Park offered tantalizing promises, perhaps even a redemption of humiliation and a restoration of national pride.

But Park’s success in inhabiting the story of Yi Sunsin depended strongly on the strategic employment of historical authenticity.  The logic of Park’s mimesis suggested that by reliving the Admiral’s historical acts, the president could be endowed with Yi Sunsin’s spirit.  Hence the field bordering the Admiral’s ancestral home, now included in the expanded shrine complex, under the shade of centuries old gingko trees that had purportedly witnessed the martial practice of the young Yi Sunsin was an irresistible arena for Park’s performance.

But had Yi Sunsin actually practiced archery in these fields?

Project notes and documents suggest that such a practice field (mutochang) had not existed prior to the expansion of Hyŏnch’ungsa.  A small parcel of land stood next to the Yi ancestral home, but its characterization as a ‘field where the Admiral personally sharpened his martial skills’ emerged through the remaking of the shrine complex. Yi Ŭnsang (no relation), a scholar advisor, seems to have been the first to recommend that a field for martial practice should be built in 1966, in the early days of planning.83 Further notes from 1968 suggest that consultations with the army would be required to build a proper ‘area for target practice (sakyŏkchang),’ confirming that the practice field was a product of twentieth century imagination, rather than sixteenth century realities.84

Contrasting history and memory, Barry Schwartz and Howard Schuman have argued that history and memory work at cross-purposes: “historians aim to describe events in all their complexity and ambiguity; commemorative agents, to simplify events into objects of celebration and moral instruction.”85 Or to borrow Todorov’s phrasing, commemoration ‘has no obligation to the truth, only an obligation to the good.’86 In the case of Park’s archery demonstration, a question emerges: does it matter that history and memory disagree?  That the memory of Yi’s archery practice, eagerly propagated by the national shrine, is a historical improbability? Ultimately, the success of Hyŏnch’ungsa as a memorial to Yi Sunsin depends on the eliding of what Schuman and Schwartz describe as the perpendicular purposes of history and memory—that is, the power of Yi Sunsin as a national hero and the saint of an authentic Korean martial spirit depends on whether the claims of truthful historical representation have any purchase with the audience, and not on their actual truth.  The fact that the Admiral may never have practiced at a practice field near his ancestral home ultimately does not undermine the power of this image—Park drawing a bow—nor does it limit the effectiveness of his mimicry.

Park Chung Hee at Archery Photo Shoot, Hyŏnch’ungsa 197387

A search for ‘the truth’ assumes that there is some static empirical reality that remains to be recovered, and that is not the goal here. To paraphrase Peter Carrier, historical monuments are by nature, reflections of their time.  They are “prisms for understanding successive historical and political contexts in which memory cultures evolve” and are fundamentally creatures of the present rather than the past.88

Hyŏnch’ungsa as a Site of Domestic and International Tourism, 1970-1975

A discrepancy exists between contemporary Korean and English terms for visiting a shrine.  In English, one could perhaps ‘go on a pilgrimage’ to a sacred site or ‘visit’ it as a secular tourist.  In other words, a person can signify varying intentions about their shrine visit through different modes of description (a pilgrimage versus a visit).  In Korean, a visit to Hyŏnch’ungsa would usually be described in either of two ways: as an act of pilgrimage (sunrye) to the locale or as ‘worshipping’ or paying one’s respect (ch’ampae) at the shrine; regardless of whether the visitor was a foreign diplomat, President Park, a student or a backpacking tourist, one’s visit is articulated through the use of the term ‘worship.’  Because of the linguistic framework, it is difficult to read a person’s physical presence at a shrine as anything other than a positive act that reifies and participates in the goals of the shrine regardless of the visitor’s intent.89

At this point, one could suggest two different premises.  The inability to express a journey to a shrine in non-sacred terms, one could argue, suggests that the integrity of shrines as sacred liminal spaces remained intact.  An alternative interpretation might point out that if all visits, regardless of their intent, fall under an umbrella of ‘sacred,’ the concept would lose much of its meaning.   This section suggests that the renovation of Hyŏnch’ungsa marks a point in the history of Korean shrines where popular tourism changed commemorative practice.

The practice of commemoration at Hyŏnch’ungsa in the late sixties and early seventies was transformed by the twin phenomena of nationalistic spectacles and middle class tourism.  An earlier section in this article has discussed the commemoration of Yi Sunsin’s birthday as a national event at this shrine. But as a star attraction on the weekend itineraries of Seoul urbanites, the shrine also allowed for the commingling of nationalism and leisure. This new mode of commemorative practice in the twentieth century contrasted sharply with the social place of shrines in the Chosŏn period.

Chosŏn shrines were spaces that demanded the active participation of the elite and passive admiration of commoners.  As far as we know, visits to shrines in the Chosŏn period were the primary reserve of yangban men.90 Officials, the local elite, and yangban male family members of the enshrined would visit in order to perform services or examine the facilities for disrepair.  Traveling yangban men would sometimes write letters or poems about a shrine they had visited.  Due to the demographics of surviving source materials, determining the visibility of the shrine in the lives of common people remains a challenge.

The place of shrines in Korean society changed drastically under Park Chung Hee.  By 1970, growing industrialization and burgeoning bourgeois wealth had given birth to middle class leisure.  As a newspaper noted that year, “Tourism is no longer the reserve of the rich.”91 Certainly, the majority of participants in the emerging leisure industry were the urban denizens of Seoul, but travel was a “common” option that was easily within reach of many others in ways that it had never been before. The geographical mobility of travelers was also no longer limited to family, hometown or professional demands; seeking unknown destinations, in 1970? the number of travelers who used a tour company rose 31.4% from the previous year.92 As the sixth most popular attraction in Korea, Hyŏnch’ungsa was a fashionable choice for these new travelers.93 Recently built highways also transformed domestic travel from one end of the country to the other from a two-day trip to a single day’s journey.94 The shrine, which was about 120km (about 75 miles) from Seoul, was ideally located as a weekend destination.  Many of these weekend getaways were package trips offering a visit to Hyŏnch’ungsa, fishing, hiking in the countryside for urbanites; on occasion, such tight schedules challenged the strict curfew laws.

In thinking about the Hyŏnch’ungsa shrine as an intersection of tourism and commemorative practice, it seems to me that an approach that focuses solely on issues of political identity and nationalism at the cost of probing quotidian interactions by non-elites, such as tourism, fails to fully grasp the role of national heroes and their monuments.   As described in the first half of this article, the expansion and renovation of Hyŏnch’ungsa not only elevated this shrine over all of Yi Sunsin’s other memorial sites, but it also became the symbolic face of a new, modern Korea.   And as such, it was a site that was clearly designed to be seen; its place of prominence on diplomatic tours, school field trips, state-sponsored travel and homeland tour itineraries was not an accident.  However, as the following discussion of tourism and Hyŏnch’ungsa suggests, many faces of the shrine coexist: the patriotic shrine as a monument to a national hero, the modern shrine that embodies economic progress, and a shrine that attracts tourist money by offering a simple and commodified understanding of history.  Whether as a site of national pageantry or as a destination for school fieldtrips, Hyŏnch’ungsa was the locus of multiple, and sometimes conflicting, visions of the Korean past. By examining Hyŏnch’ungsa through a sightseeing lens, this section hopes to shed light on the social relations between commemoration, tourism and national identity in twentieth-century Korea.

Young People and Hyŏnch’ungsa

As developing citizens, children constituted a desirable tourist demographic.  Converging commercial and national interests, the National Railroad invited three hundred select students from Seoul primary schools for a free trip to Hyŏnch’ungsa in 1975.  This generous offer was designed to “inspire love for railroads in growing children and enlighten them about railroad safety as well as to inspire the desire to perform service for the country.”95 In this way, the company could inculcate young consumers about the convenience of railroads while furthering their moral education as citizens.

A story from a traveling teacher also illustrates how children traveling to pay respect to Yi Sunsin could be read as model citizens.  In 1975, four fifth grade girls were on their way to Hyŏnch’ungsa when a teacher from an unrelated school sat in their train car.  The girls, noting the sun streaming through the windows, decided to turn off the lights to conserve energy.  They then politely offered to share their snack, some chestnuts, with the teacher.  Afterwards, they meticulously packed their trash in little plastic bags.

Admiring the students, the teacher marveled later that he “felt deeply in his heart that our citizens need to model themselves after the spirit of these children’s actions” just as the students sought to emulate the spirit of Yi Sunsin.96 For these girls, visiting Hyŏnch’ungsa afforded the opportunity to display the manifold ways in which they were modern citizens properly versed in public hygiene and conservation practices.

Most students came to Hyŏnch’ungsa through field trips.   If such mundane visits caught the attention of the national press, it was often because of tragedy or controversy.

Of the thousands of students who arrived at Hyŏnch’ungsa each year to make their way through the reliquary, the ritual halls and the archery fields, a few caught food poisoning, died from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning or were unluckily caught in a crash on their way home.97

A different kind of student came under closer scrutiny.  In the early seventies, reports emerged of overseas Korean students traveling to Hyŏnch’ungsa, usually as part of a larger educational or ‘return to the motherland’ trip.  While some of these students were from the United States, a large number were Korean kyopo or zainichi Koreans who lived in Japan.98 From 1970-1975, there were multiple state sponsored invitations extended to both the pro-North and pro-South overseas Korean communities in Japan, creating an influx of adult and student kyopo tourists.

Sonia Ryang has written eloquently on the plight of Koreans in Japan.99 After independence, many Koreans repatriated but a sizeable community chose to remain in Japan. In the aftermath of the Korean War, the community split along ideological lines, rather than geographical divides.  Hence a large number of self-identified North Koreans in Japan were actually from the South.  As Cold War tensions rose, ideological battles between North and South Korea were waged on Japanese soil as well as in the peninsula proper. The North Korean state frowned heavily on any links between the North Korean community in Japan and South Korea, including the maintenance of family ties.100 In light of this, the South Korean government seized an opportunity to cleave a greater divide between the communist government and pro-North Koreans in Japan, pressuring the latter to switch political allegiances for open contact with their kin in the South.  It is unclear whether government suasion yielded the desired ideological results, but these homeland trips were read as critical maneuvers in the highly symbolic landscape of the Cold War in the South Korean press.

When 700 Ch’ongnyŏn101 Koreans arrived from Japan on September 15, 1975, newspaper headlines trumpeted that they had timed their first return in thirty years to pay respects to their ancestors over the Harvest Festival (Chusŏk) in their motherland.102

The first stop on their tour was Hyŏnch’ungsa.  A newspaper caption under a picture of the visitors burning incense at the shrine noted: North Korean residents from Japan cry as they see the true picture of life in the fatherland while paying their respects at Hyŏnch’ungsa.103

The ‘true picture’ (ch’ammosŭp), journalists suggested, was the rapid modernization of the country.  The Ch’ongnyŏn visitors, one article noted, repeatedly marveled at the development that had taken place in the thirty years they had been away.104 Several expressed regret at the lies that they had been told by senior Ch’ongnyŏn members about the ‘true’ state of affairs in South Korea and wished that they had returned earlier.105 Many promised to enlighten others about the modern and “developed” reality of South Korean life upon their return.106

Hyŏnch’ungsa was a microcosm of the new reality that the state wished to project to the pro-North Koreans and the world at large.  Park Chung Hee had expressly demanded that the new Hyŏnch’ungsa evoke feelings of awe and grandeur, to represent the new Korea that was emerging under his regime.  When some of the pro-North Korean residents visited the shrine in 1975, they found the experience transformative.  Moved to tears, they said: “After paying our respects at Hyŏnch’ungsa, we are ashamed to have been tricked by the North [Korean] devils.”107 For the South Korean government, Hyŏnch’ungsa was an important asset in the battle for legitimacy between North and South Korea.

Both sides claimed to be the torchbearers of competing visions of a Korean future; being seen as the guardians of an authentic and worthy Korean past was an integral element in this struggle.  The renovation of the shrine—and the new interpretive context of containing Chosŏn history within modern concrete trappings—was emblematic of the state’s transformative power over the nation’s history and its people.  The twentieth century state under Park Chung Hee shared many of the Yi dynasty’s aims in honoring Yi Sunsin and propagating him as an exemplar of loyalty.  In both cases, the state promoted a singular model of state-society relations, a vision of a shared commitment to the integrity of the state and its people by promoting a particular narrative of the past through shrines.

If North and South Korea were competing for the affections and loyalties of Koreans at home and abroad, Hyŏnch’ungsa was a central contestant in these ‘beauty pageant’ tours of the South.  But visits to Hyŏnch’ungsa also exposed cracks in the central conceit of a homogeneous Korean identity that served as the ontological basis of these homeland tours.

By the early seventies, many visitors, mainly students of Korean origin from Japan and the United States, had little or no acquaintance with life in Korea.  Their homeland tours promoted an image of a unified, singular Korean identity captured in the prospect of overseas Koreans returning to the comfort of the ‘bosom of their motherland.’108 Hyŏnch’ungsa was often the first stop on itineraries that were designed to impress upon them the glory of their Korean heritage.

The malaise over these kyopo emerges in small but consistent ways in news coverage.  Concerning the lines between Korean identity and other, where did the kyopo fit?  On one hand, journalists emphasized the idea that bonds of ethnic solidarity were unbreakable. “Over seven hundred thousand of our kyopo have crossed the sea to live in the lands of others109 but having returned for a short visit, no other place felt more “comfortable.”110 News articles also proudly trumpeted national economic progress, invariably claiming progress seen through dazzled kyopo eyes: “The tall buildings and highways in Seoul and Pusan clearly show the developed reality” of Korea, visiting students noted.111

But some differences between the kyopo and native Koreans were hard to ignore.  The lack of language skills and shared cultural experiences were painfully obvious.  “He can only say ‘Thank you’ in our language” one article noted glumly about a successful kyopo from Hawai’i.112 In 1971, the Tonga ilbo published excerpts from the travel diaries of four zainichi students.  Some of the students hoped that native Koreans would be patient and support their acquisition of the language skills and knowledge necessary to maintain “a unified race” (tong’il minjok).113 Even though the state invited the kyopo to return, to pay homage at Hyŏnch’ungsa or engage in other activities that were part of the cultural construction of Korean identity, such measures had limits. The palpable differences between diaspora and mainland Koreans strained the illusion of a culturally and historically homogeneous people.

Furthermore, extensive news coverage of these trips suggests that the approval of kyopo was a desirable quantity.  Repeatedly, journalists asked the kyopo to evaluate the modern motherland: “It’s much more developed and transformed than I thought” zainichi students reportedly said in 1971.  Just as the opinions of foreign visitors and American dignitaries were highly sought after, the kyopo’s insight into Korean conditions were invaluable precisely because of their outsider status.

Foreign dignitaries: American and North Korean officials

That Hyŏnch’ungsa had emerged as a visible face of Korean modernity was evident by the early seventies. The shrine was a ‘must-see’ destination on the itineraries of foreign dignitaries and travelers.  When President Gerald Ford spent about a day in Korea during his tour of East Asia in 1974, the shrine was on his schedule.114 Journalists chronicled the visit of lesser officials as well; the Tonga ilbo noted that Deputy Secretary of Defense Bill Clements had arrived at 4:20pm on September 12, 1973 to pay his respects to the Admiral.115 The visit lasted forty minutes.  He showed particular interest in the model of the turtle boat, and praised the traditional ondol heating system in the Admiral’s home as superior to those used by his forefathers. Such visits from foreign VIPs reaffirmed the Admiral’s centrality in a historical narrative that imagined equivalences between Yi’s sixteenth century martial spirit and the drive towards twentieth century modernity.  The shrine, with its broad boulevards, concrete walls, modern hygienic facilities, and trees planted in disciplined rows was a suitable monument to the Admiral’s endeavors arguably because his patriotism, now inherent in all Koreans, had been channeled towards the economic activity that had made it all possible.  According to Park Chung Hee’s famous dictum, “work while fighting, fight while working,” martial spirit was congruent to economic progress, making a day’s work at the office as critical to national defense as a patrol at the DMZ.116

The participation of foreigners in the commemoration of Yi Sunsin was noted as an important sign of his universal heroism.  Most foreign participation was composed of visits to Hyŏnch’ungsa, but on rare occasions, some people went to greater lengths to show their admiration of the Admiral.  A “blue-eyed American,” one ‘Charlie Sollong’117 used his own funds to erect a four to five meter statue of Yi Sunsin in Ŭichŏngpu.  At the unveiling, Charlie gave a speech: “I put up this statue to honor the prospect that Koreans will soon reunify North and South in the spirit of the heroic Yi Sunsin.”  The crowd “warmly applauded” his words.118

Regarding foreign veneration of the Admiral, few events were as closely scrutinized as the North Korean delegation’s visit to Hyŏnch’ungsa during the first North-South Red Cross Talks in 1972.  For those who hoped for unification, a visit to the Admiral’s shrine promised a rare moment of unity; after all, the Admiral was as much a hero in North Korea as he was in the south.119 The South Korean scholar Yi Ŭnsang urged the North Koreans at Hyŏnch’ungsa to put aside their differences and “stop looking for enemies within.”  He pleaded with the North Korean delegates: “Admiral Yi did not look for enemies within but found external foes; even though there were those who slandered him from within, he did not participate [in such mischief].  Our situation today is similar to the one at that time, so let us not look to fight amongst ourselves.”120 If there were similar sentiments on the other side that day, they were not recorded.

Intense curiosity about the North Korean visitors, more than two decades after partition, encouraged journalists to go to extremes to learn as possible about their secretive guests.  After interviewing official tour guides, hotel maids and shop attendants, journalists ascertained little about North Korean attitudes towards the South save hostility and suspicion.  The maids reported that all paper scraps had been burnt in the rooms; guests had left little behind except some North Korean cigarettes, liquor and pictures of Kim Il Sung that had been carefully positioned in each luxury hotel suite.  At the hotel gift store, a clerk’s helpful suggestion that a silk tie would make a wonderful souvenir was met with an angry retort that the delegate had no use for ties since he had hundreds back home.121

At Hyŏnch’ungsa, the South Korean guides took the delegation on an extensive tour of the shrine.  At the museum, they showed the North Korean visitors Yi Sunsin’s personal belongings and were met with disbelief and suspicion; the delegates whispered loudly amongst themselves that they were fakes.122

Actually, there was some truth to this claim.  In 1969, as the renovation of Hyŏnch’ungsa neared completion, attempts to consolidate all of Yi Sunsin’s relics at the shrine met with resistance from Ch’ungyŏlsa, another Yi Sunsin Chosŏn shrines.  The twentieth century state’s impulse to centralize the commemoration of Yi Sunsin in a single locale was contrary to its Chosŏn history and practice, where multiple shrines were erected at locations with a proven history.  As a compromise, the government ordered replicas made of the relics for display at Hyŏnch’ungsa, returning the originals to Ch’ungyŏlsa.123

Shrines in the Chosŏn period had to have an authentic relationship with the exemplar; imitation or reproduction of relics would have theoretically undermined the sacrality of the shrine itself. In the twentieth century, changing ideas of commemoration privileged visuality over ritual; most ‘worshippers’ came to merely gaze at the Admiral’s shrine and associated relics, rather than seeking to commune with his spirit through a series of symbolic acts.  The interplay between ‘worshipper’ and exemplar operated on a vastly different logic from the Chosŏn period, perhaps favoring Yi Sunsin as icon over his historical self.  Ultimately, the question here is not so much about whether or not these imitations undermine sacrality per se, but rather about the centrality of relics and the visual experience in the twentieth century consumption of sacred heroes.

Within the limited space of this article, I have refrained from engaging the multiple incarnations of Yi Sunsin in the Chosŏn period.  However, this article also suggests that Park’s act of breaking with Chosŏn ritual practices – in creating a modern, national hero – was also a process of creating the image of a static, singular and inferior Chosŏn past.  Yi Sunsin’s exceptionalism, captured in a narrative valorizing a visionary leader whose achievements highlighted the ‘near-sightedness’ of the Chosŏn state—perversely reinforced twentieth century prejudices against the past. Modernization does not simply create a shared national imaginary of a desirable future; often premised upon a break with a purported ‘tradition-bound’ and unfavorable past, modernization is the simultaneous creation of the past and the present. In the 1960s, anxiety over South Korea’s economic inferiority relative to North Korean prowess was a central concern.  Hence, the remaking of the past at this time constituted an arena for competitive claims to modernity.  The strategic manipulation of Yi Sunsin’s image was central to this process in Cold War Korea.

Schwartz and Schuman have argued that commemoration makes claims of legitimacy by privileging a particular historical narrative over others.124 In the 1970s under Park Chung Hee, Yi Sunsin’s Hyŏnch’ungsa symbolized a vision of a modern Korea built by a homogeneous energized people, and the thousands of participants who arrived at the shrine legitimized this project through their presence.  While ritual served as the backbone of an individual’s interaction with a shrine in the Chosŏn period, the consumption of a visual, commodified history would be the central experience of commemoration for those who came to ‘worship’ at Hyŏnch’ungsa in the twentieth century.


Thanks to Deokyo Choi, Nicholas Harkness, and Jaeeun Kim for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this article.  I am particularly grateful for the questions raised by Sheila Miyoshi Jager, Hong Kal, Mark Selden, Don Baker, Tobie Meyer-Fong and William T. Rowe.

Saeyoung Park’s dissertation, “Sacred Spaces and the Commemoration of War in Chosŏn Korea” (Johns Hopkins University) centers on the politics of remembrance in the early modern period.  Her next project explores the political implications of sexuality and the mutability of the body in Chosŏn Korea and Imperial China.  She wrote this article for The Asia-Pacific Journal and can be reached at [email protected].

Recommended citation: Saeyoung Park, “National Heroes and Monuments in South Korea: Patriotism, Modernization and Park Chung Hee’s Remaking of Yi Sunsin’s Shrine,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, 24-3-10, June 14, 2010.


ch’ampae 參拜

Ch’ongnyŏn 總聯 (在日本朝鮮人總聯合會)

changŏm 莊嚴

cherye 祭禮

chesa 祭祀

Chosŏn 朝鮮

Chusŏk 秋夕

Hyŏnch’ungsa 顯忠祠

hyŏntaehwa 現代化

kaehwa kyemonggi 開化 啓蒙期

kikan 期間  

kŏkukchŏkin kukka haengsa 擧國的인 國家行事

kukch’i 國恥

kukka haengsa 國家行事

kukka ŭirye 國家儀禮

kukmin ŭirye 國民儀禮

kukukŭi yŏngung 救國의 英雄

kwikam 龜鑑

kyopo 僑胞

kyubŏmhwa 規範化

Mindan 民團 (在日本大韓民國民團)

minjok 民族

minjokŭi t’aeyang 民族의 太陽

mutochang 武道場

ondol 溫突

Onyang 溫陽

Park Chung Hee 朴正熙

sadang 祠堂

sakyŏkchang 射擊場

sŏngung 聖雄

South Ch’ungch’ŏng 忠淸南道

sunrye 巡禮

t’ansin kinyŏm 誕辰紀念

t’ansin kinyŏm chejŏn 誕辰紀念祭典

tarye 茶禮

tong’il minjok 同— 民族


ungchang 雄壯

yangban 兩班

Yi Sunsin 李舜臣

Yi Ŭnsang 李殷相

yŏngung 英雄

yumulkwan 遺物館

Zainichi (Jp.)/chae’il (Kr.) 在日


1 Robert S. McNamara and James G. Blight, Wilson’s Ghost (New York: PublicAffairs, 2001), 21.

2 For Yasukuni shrine, see: John Breen, ed., Yasukuni, the War Dead and the Struggle for Japan’s Past (London: Hurst, 2007).  For the Korean War Memorial and the Yasukuni museum, see this link.

3 Sarah Schneewind, Community Schools and the State in Ming China (Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 2006); William Charles Wooldridge, “Transformations of Ritual and State in Nineteenth-Century Nanjing” (Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 2007); Manjo Chŏng, Chosŏn sidae sŏwŏn yŏngu (Seoul: Chipmuntang, 1997); Saeyoung Park, “Sacred Spaces and the Commemoration of War in Chosŏn Korea” (Ph.D. diss., Johns Hopkins University, forthcoming).       

4 Some examples—a one hundred and four episode TV series called The Immortal Yi Sunsin (Seoul: KBS, 2005); Heaven’s Soldiers, DVD, directed by Min Chunki (Seoul: Showbox, 2005); popular literature: Kim Tŏksu, Bareknuckle Leadership as Seen through the Life and Death of Yi Sunsin (Seoul: Sinkhouse, 2007); Kim Yŏngcha, Yi Sunsin: the Famous Chosŏn Admiral Who Invented the Turtleboat (Seoul: Hŭkmatang, 2008);  Pae Sangyŏl, The Second Death of Yi Sunsin (Seoul: Wangŭi sŏchae, 2009); Chi Yŏnghŭi, Encountering Yi Sunsin in Times of Economic Conflict (Seoul: Design House, 2003), Yi Chini, Journeys in Search of Yi Sunsin (Seoul, Ch’aek’kwa hamkke, 2008) A quick search at the retailer reveals three hundred and forty five items on Yi Sunsin that are available for sale. Last accessed April 10, 2010.

5 For economic development under Park Chung Hee and a brief biography, see: Hyung-A Kim, Korea’s Development under Park Chung Hee (New York: Routledge, 2004).  For politics of Park’s legacy, see Seungsook Moon, “The Cultural Politics of Remembering Park Chung Hee,” The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol. 19-5-09 (May 9, 2009); Han’guk Chŏngch’i Yŏn’guhoe, Pak Chŏng-hŭi rŭl nŏmŏsŏ : Pak Chŏng-hŭi wa kŭ sidae e taehan pipʻanjŏk yŏn’gu, Ch’ŏtp’an. (Seoul: P’urŭn Sup, 1998). 

6 The Yi dynasty refers to the royal lineage of the Chosŏn dynasty.

7 On spectacle see Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle (New York: Zone Books, 1994), 12-24. On performativity and nationalism see: T. E. Woronov, “Performing the Nation: China’s Children as Little Red Pioneers,” Anthropological Quarterly 80, no. 3 (2007): 649-653.

8 Gi-Wook Shin, Ethnic Nationalism in Korea (Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 2006), 49-50.  Emily Roxworthy, The Spectacle of Japanese American Trauma: Racial Performativity and World War II (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2008). Technically, evidence does not support the historical existence of Tan’gun.

9 The government declared the renovation of Hyŏnch’ungsa was complete in 1969 but some smaller construction and landscaping projects continued until 1975, when a revised edition of the Record of the History of Asan Hyŏnch’ungsa was published by the Ministry of Culture and Information (Munhwa kongbobu).

10 One pyŏng is 3.3 meters squared. 

11 Munhwa Kongbobu, Asan Hyŏnch’ungsa yŏnhyŏk chi (2nd ed.), 2nd ed. (Sŏul: Munhwa Kongbobu, 1975), 79-81.

12 Ibid., 81.

13 Ibid., 79-81.

14 “Narasaranghanŭn maumŭi ttang…Hyŏnch’ungsa chungkŏn,” Kyŏnghyang sinmun, April 23, 1969.

15 Munhwa Kongbobu, Asan Hyŏnch’ungsa yŏnhyŏk chi (2nd ed.), 88.

16 “Songyŏkhwa chisi wa tŭlttŭn ch’ukche,” Tonga ilbo, April 29, 1966.

17 Munhwa Kongbobu, Asan Hyŏnch’ungsa yŏnhyŏk chi, 1st ed. (Sŏul: Munhwa Kongbobu, 1969), 55.

18 Munhwa Kongbobu, Asan Hyŏnch’ungsa yŏnhyŏk chi (2nd ed.), 87.

19 Ibid., 92. 

20 Ibid.

21 Ibid., 107.

22 Ibid., 92.

23 Ibid., 87.

24 Ibid., 88.

25 Ibid., 86-107.

26 Thanks to Sheila Miyoshi Jager for stressing the relevance of the Blue House Raid and the seizure of the USS Pueblo in 1968.  This article suggests that Park saw the reinvention of Hyŏnch’ungsa as a critical support of his legitimacy in the Cold War.  As mentioned elsewhere in this article, narratives of competing legitimacy composed an important front in the Cold War.   Offering himself as the guardian of a (selectively) glorious Chosŏn past was central to Park’s claims of South Korean superiority and authenticity.

27 Ibid., 87.

28 Ibid., 88.

29 Ibid., 82, 88.

30 Munhwa Kongbobu, Asan Hyŏnch’ungsa yŏnhyŏk chi (2nd ed.), 201.

31 Lise Vogel, Marxism and the Oppression of Women (Rutgers University Press, 1987), 33-102. Some feminist scholars have drawn correlations between the selective display of leisure and a corresponding rise in status in order to explain the popularity of bourgeois domesticity and women’s withdrawal from the workplace.  The classic formulation linking leisure and pecuniary abilities is Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class (New York: Dover Publications, 1994), 110.

32 Munhwa Kongbobu, Asan Hyŏnch’ungsa yŏnhyŏk chi (2nd ed.), 93.

33 Ibid., 154-157.

34 Munhwa Kongbobu, Asan Hyŏnch’ungsa yŏnhyŏk chi (2nd ed.), 155.

35 Munhwa Kongbobu, Asan Hyŏnch’ungsa yŏnhyŏk chi (2nd ed.), 155.

36 Munhwa Kongbobu, Asan Hyŏnch’ungsa yŏnhyŏk chi (2nd ed.), 155.

37 Munhwa Kongbobu, Asan Hyŏnch’ungsa yŏnhyŏk chi (2nd ed.), 156.

38 Munhwa Kongbobu, Asan Hyŏnch’ungsa yŏnhyŏk chi, unpaginated.

39 Munhwa Kongbobu, Asan Hyŏnch’ungsa yŏnhyŏk chi (2nd ed.), 200.

40 Munhwa Kongbobu, Asan Hyŏnch’ungsa yŏnhyŏk chi (2nd ed.) unpaginated.

41 Ibid., 88, 215-216.

42 Ibid., 88.

43 Ibid., 215.

44 Ibid., 88.

45 Ibid., 216.

46 I do not mean to assume a static continuous Chosŏn ritual practice concerning Yi Sunsin; broadly speaking, there were two peaks in the commemoration of Yi Sunsin—the first after his death, and the second during the eighteenth century. The veneration of Yi in the late Chosŏn period was associated with the eliding of the Japanese invasion of Korea and the Manchu wars within a cosmopolitan Confucian rhetoric of Ming loyalism.  I explore the construction of these ideologies elsewhere.

47 Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, 12-154.

48 Henry A Giroux, Beyond the Spectacle of Terrorism: Global Uncertainty and the Challenge of the New Media, The radical imagination series (Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2006), 32.

49 Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, 19. For spectacle and the “opening” of Japan, see: Roxworthy, The Spectacle of Japanese American Trauma, 19-32.  On Fascism, aesthetics and the cultural politics of violence in the twentieth century, see: Walter Benjamin, “Theories of German Fascism,” New German Critique, no. 17 (1979): 120-128; Susan Sontag, “Fascinating Fascism,” in Under the Sign of Saturn (New York: Macmillan, 2002), 73-108.

50 Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, 12.

51 “Kim hupo Hyŏnch’ungsa kŏnripŭn chalhan’il,” Tonga ilbo, April 8, 1971. 

52 Tzvetan Todorov, Hope and Memory (Princeton University Press, 2003), 162.

53 Three hundred and twenty eight students march in 1972: “Kŏkyosaeng 328myŏng Hyŏnch’ungsa ch’ampae haengkun,” Tonga ilbo, April 26, 1972; Four hundred and eighty five students march to the shrine in 1975: “Ch’ungmugong tansin 430chu kinyŏm Hyŏnch’ungsasŏ chehyang omsu,” Tonga ilbo, April 28, 1975.  There was another march in 1974 that was reported in the press, and possibly more. 

54 A Taehan newsreel (Taehan nusŭ) of the 1972 student march can be seen here. Last accessed March 30, 2010.

55 As Park Chung Hee was known between the 1961 coup and 1963 accession to the presidency.

56 “Malkkutmata ‘A’i. ton. nou’,” Tonga Ilbo, April 29, 1962.

57 Chungmugong, literally meaning ‘Loyal and Martial Lord’ is the posthumous title granted by the Chosŏn court in recognition of Yi Sunsin’s exceptional merit.  The Admiral is interchangeably referred to as Chungmugong or Yi Sunsin in modern and historical documents after his death.

58 Chung Hee Park, Major Speeches by Korea’s Park Chung Hee, A New Horizon in Asia 3 (Seoul: Hollym Corp., 1970), 243.

59 Chung Hee Park, Pak Chŏng-Hŭi Taet’ongnyong S̆ŏnjip, vol. 4 (Seoul: Chimungak, 1969), 96.

60 Kim, Korea’s Development under Park Chung Hee, 4-33.  Park sought to mobilize the country under the twin banners of anti-Communism and economic development.

61 Munhwa Kongbobu, Asan Hyŏnch’ungsa yŏnhyŏk chi (2nd ed.), 32. Italics mine.

62 Park, Major Speeches by Korea’s Park Chung Hee, 244.

63 Munhwa Kongbobu, Asan Hyŏnch’ungsa yŏnhyŏk chi (2nd ed.), 23.

64 Munhwa Kongbobu, Asan Hyŏnch’ungsa yŏnhyŏk chi, 25.

65 Takashi Fujitani, Splendid Monarchy: Power and Pageantry in Modern Japan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), 25.

66 Ibid., 221.

67 A copy of Park’s handwritten order can be seen in Munhwa Kongbobu, Asan Hyŏnch’ungsa yŏnhyŏk chi (2nd ed.), 29-30.

68 Ibid., 29.

69 Ibid.

70 Ibid., 30.

71 Literally, this means tea ceremony.  Tea ceremonies in Korean history were not solely restricted to a stylistic consumption of brewed tea; such rites were used in Buddhist worship, diplomatic practices and court ritual.  All the documents I have seen note the elevation of the new ritual commemoration to the level of a ‘tea ceremony,’ but they fail to mention which particular Chosŏn precedent(s) are at work.

72 Munhwa Kongbobu, Asan Hyŏnch’ungsa yŏnhyŏk chi, 31.

73 Saeyoung Park, Sacred Spaces and Postwar Commemoration in Chosŏn Korea, (Johns Hopkins University, Ph.D Diss forthcoming).

74 Park Kyeri, “The Statues of Ch’ungmugong and National Ideology,” The History of Recent Modern Korean Art 12 (January 2004): 162. In his comparative study of national heroes, Yi Sangrok is even more explicit: “That Park Chung Hee privately most admired Yi Sunsin is a widely known fact.” Kwŏn Hyŏngjin et al, Taejung Tokchae Ŭi Yŏngung Mandŭlgi, 1st ed. (Sŏul-si: Hyumŏnisŭtʻŭ, 2005), 324.

75 Munhwa Kongbobu, Asan Hyŏnch’ungsa yŏnhyŏk chi (2nd ed.), unpaginated.

76 Munhwa Kongbobu, Asan Hyŏnch’ungsa yŏnhyŏk chi, unpaginated.

77 By Korean Enlightenment, I mean the kaehwa kyemonggi, roughly 1896-1910.

78 Sheila Miyoshi Jager, Narratives of Nation Building in Korea: A Genealogy of Patriotism (Armonk, N.Y: M.E. Sharpe, 2003), 9.  Jager’s work on gender and nationalism focuses on the emergence of masculine citizenship. 

79 Park, Major Speeches by Korea’s Park Chung Hee, 242-243.

80 Ibid., 243.

81 Park, Pak Chŏng-Hŭi Taet’ongnyong S̆ŏnjip, 4:95.

82 Chung Hee Park, Pak Chŏng-Hŭi Taet’ongnyong S̆ŏnjip, vol. 6 (Seoul: Chimungak, 1969), 153.

83 Munhwa Kongbobu, Asan Hyŏnch’ungsa yŏnhyŏk chi, 54.

84 Munhwa Kongbobu, Asan Hyŏnch’ungsa yŏnhyŏk chi (2nd ed.), 70.

85 Barry Schwartz and Howard Schuman, “History, Commemoration, and Belief: Abraham Lincoln in American Memory, 1945-2001,” American Sociological Review 70, no. 2 (April 2005): 185.  While the authors problematize the conflicting dynamics between history and memory quite nicely, their theoretical construction of the dichotomy of history and memory can be a bit rigid. The distinction between “historians” and “commemorative agents” can be artificial in the sense that historians too may play a commemorative role.

86 Todorov, Hope and Memory, 199.  I am using Todorov’s words out of context here.  He writes: “If we adopt this position, then historians have no obligation to the truth, only an obligation to the good.”  In his work on history and memory, this sentence is from his analysis of the critique historians have endured for undermining heroes.

87 Munhwa Kongbobu, Asan Hyŏnch’ungsa yŏnhyŏk chi (2nd ed.), unpaginated.

88 Peter Carrier, Holocaust Monuments and National Memory Cultures in France and Germany Since 1989: The Origins and Political Function of the Vél’ d’Hiv’ in Paris and the Holocaust Monument in Berlin (New York: Berghahn Books, 2005), 33.

89 Cf. Jonathan Culler’s discussion of the English and French terms for river and stream in Ferdinand de Saussure (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986), 33-34. To paraphrase Saussure’s claim, signs function not because of any intrinsic value, but through their relative position; by application, the main point I make here is that the discrepancy between the English and Korean terms in this instance focuses our attention on the particular socio-linguistic construction of sacred spaces. 

90 Here I am referring to official shrines, and not illicit (ŭm) shrines, many of which were of shamanistic nature and were frequented by women. 

91 “Taechunghwaha nŭn kwankwang,” Tonga ilbo, September 9, 1970.

92 Ibid.

93 Ibid.

94 Chihyung Jeon, “A Road to Modernization and Unification: The Construction of the Gyeongbu Highway in South Korea,” Technology and Culture 51, no. 1 (2009): 57.

95 “Kukminkyo taep’yo sambaekmyŏng ch’ŏltoch’ŏng sŏch’och’ŏng sisŭng,” Maeil Kyŏngche, May 5, 1975.

96 “Kyŏmsonkongchungtotŏk silch’on e apchang hŭmuthan kukkyosaeng tŭl ŭi kicha yŏhaeng,” Tonga Ilbo, November 20, 1974.

97 Carbon monoxide poisoning of students on field trip to Hyŏnch’ungsa: Tonga ilbo, October 20, 1973; Food poisoning of overseas Korean students traveling to Hyŏnch’ungsa: Tonga ilbo, August 2, 1975; Bus crash with forty-five fatalities: Tonga ilbo, October 15 1970.

98 The Korean residents in Japan are often referred to using the Japanese word, zainichi (在日) which usually indicates persons of Korean descent residing in Japan. Lacking Japanese citizenship, including the second and third generation, they occupy ambiguous positions in Japanese society. 

99 Sonia Ryang, North Koreans in Japan: Language, Ideology, and Identity (Boulder, Colo: Westview Press, 1997).

100 Deokyo Choi has been kind enough to lend his perspective through a series of emails in February 2010.  Also thanks to Jaeeun Kim for her helpful article “The Making and Unmaking of a “Transborder Nation”: South Korea during and after the Cold War.” Theory and Society 38, no. 2 (2009): 133-164.

101 Ch’ongnyŏn is the organization of Koreans in Japan sympathetic to North Korea and Mindan is the name of the opposing group that leans towards South Korea.

102 “Chusŏksŏngmyo mokukpangmun chochungnyŏn kye chae’il kyopo 700myŏng,” Kyŏnghyang Sinmun, September 15, 1975.

103 “Hyŏnc’hungsa rŭl ch’ampaehanŭn choch’ungnyŏnkye chae’ilkyopodŭl,” Kyŏnghyang Sinmun, September 17, 1975.

104 “P’ohangchech’ŏltŭng palchŏnsang nolla,” Kyŏnghyang Sinmun, September 17, 1975.

105 Ibid.

106 “Choch’ongnyŏn chae’iltongpo karangpimatŭmyŏ hyŏnch’ungsa ch’ampae,” Kyŏnghyang Sinmun, November 15, 1975 and “P’ohangchech’ŏltŭng palchŏnsang nolla,” Kyŏnghyang Sinmun, September 17, 1975.

107 “Choch’ongnyŏn chae’iltongpo karangpimatŭmyŏ hyŏnch’ungsa ch’ampae,” Kyŏnghyang Sinmun, November 15, 1975

108 Many of the tours that were reported in the press were government sponsored, such as in 1973 when the Ministry of Culture invited kyopo students from Japan and the United States to see the “true face” (ch’ammosŭp) of Korea. 

109 “Chaemi kyopo yŏrŭmhakkyo malŏchŏkanŭn chokukŭl ikhinta,” Tonga ilbo, August 13, 1973. Italics mine.

110 “Chokukŭi p’um’anŭn yŏksi pokŭnhae,” Tonga ilbo, October 12, 1972.

111 “Chaemi kyopo yŏrŭmhakkyo malŏchŏkanŭn chokukŭl ikhinta,” Tonga ilbo, August 13, 1973. 

112 “Chokukŭi p’um’anŭn yŏksi pokŭnhae,” Tonga ilbo, October 12, 1972.

113 “Chaemi kyopo yŏrŭmhakkyo malŏchŏkanŭn chokukŭl ikhinta,” Tonga ilbo, August 13, 1973. 

114 “P’o’odŭ ch’ehan 24sikan ilchŏng,” Tonga ilbo, November 20, 1974.

115 “Kkŭl mikukpangch’akwan Hyŏnch’ungsa kwankwang,” Maeil Kyŏngche, September 12, 1973 and “Kkŭlch’akwan, Hyŏnch’ungsa kwankwang,” Tonga ilbo, September 12, 1973.

116 Chung Hee Park, Chungdan hanŭn chanŭn sŭngni haji mot handa: Pak Chŏng-hŭi taet’ongnyŏng yŏnsŏl chip, 4th ed. (Seoul: Hallim Ch’ulp’an sa, 1968), 41.  For Park Chung Hee’s linking of patriotism and development, see his speech “Inkan ŭi kŭntaehwa wa saenghwal ŭi kyŏngchehwa” in the same volume, 13-34. 

117 This English name was transliterated into Korean and I have had to transliterate it back into English.  My apologies to Mr. Charles Sollong (sic?) for possibly butchering his name. 

118 “Hyuchit’ong,” Tonga ilbo, December 23, 1972.

119 The admiral’s anti-Japanese credentials resonate with the anti-colonial narratives that are at the center of the founding mythology of North Korea. While the cult of the two Kims remains paramount, Yi Sunsin still occupies a venerable position in North Korean identity formation. Cf. Yang, Yŏn-guk. Chosŏn Munhwa Ka Ch’ogi Ilbon Munhwa Palchŏn E Mich’in Yŏnghyang. P’yŏngyang: Sahoe Kwahak Ch’ulp’ansa, 1991.

120 “Yi Ŭnsang-ssi Yi Chungmugong ŭi ŏl,” Tonga ilbo, September 14, 1972.

121 “Puk ŭi saramtŭlyi namkin Soŭl sapak oilhwa annaeyangkwa hot’el chikwonul t’onghaetulo ponta,” Tonga ilbo, September 18, 1972.

122 Ibid.

123 “Kwihyanghanun Ch’ungmugong p’alsap’um,” Tonga ilbo, October 11, 1969.

124 Schwartz and Schuman, “History, Commemoration, and Belief: Abraham Lincoln in American Memory, 1945-2001,” 184-186; Todorov, Hope and Memory, 164-176.  Critiques of memory work and commemoration are often rooted in the dichotomy of memory and history. The controversy over history and memory cannot be engaged in detail here; but it is worth noting that much of the critical debate between history and memory is exacerbated by their seemingly similar claims to the truth but contrasting ontological foundations.

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Volume 8 | Issue 24 | Number 3

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