Accepted Papers:

Competing representations of the Diamond Mountains and national territory of Korea  


Christian Park (Hanyang University ERICA)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper aims to analyze why and how North and South Koreas have shifted and are competing in imagining of the Diamond Mountains and national territory past and present. The very fact that two rival states are engaged in the process of re-imagining the landscape reveals a contradictory relation of contestation and cooperation, however, moving away from military confrontation.

Paper long abstract:

The Diamond Mountains is one of the most celebrated mountains associated with the national identity of Korea. In the national history of modern Korea or Joseon, it is represented as a sacred place, a place where one discovers 'real' Korea. To Korean nationalists fighting against Japanese colonial rule the Diamond Mountains was the spirit of Korean people.

But in the contemporary Korean history, a history of national division, the war torn Diamond Mountains became an anti-imperial war memorial site later elevated to a revolutionary historic site and an ideal natural border for North Korea. However, in South Korea, the once legendary and mythic mountains had to be forgotten from the public memory of the people. In fact, it was forbidden to travel to the Diamond Mountains or to North Korea for that matter after the division of the Korean peninsula.

The Hyundai tour to the Diamond Mountains, which began in 1998, brought back the memories of the Diamond Mountains as the spirit of the nation, but, at the same time, inflamed a controversy in the discourse of national identity and territory. How to make sense of North Korea, North Koreans, and the northern territory, a territory imbued with contradictory and ambivalent senses of belonging, became the key questions. The representations of the landscape and people are constantly shifting as they compete with each other to gain hegemony of the discourse on national identity.

panel P32
Imagining past and present landscapes