chapter
10 Pages

Introduction

In 2009, the Kwanghwa square was created in front of the Kyoˇngbok palace of the Chosoˇn dynasty (1392-1910).1 The new public square, connected to the recently restored Cheonggye stream (Ch’oˇnggye-ch’oˇn), is part of the exhibition of Seoul as the city of “public spaces.” The new spatial configuration of downtown Seoul is tied to the discourse of identity and history which proliferated in the mid-1990s. The most noted spectacle was the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the nation’s liberation from Japanese colonialism. On August 15, 1995, a grand ceremony attended by some 50,000 people was held before the Kwanghwa gate, in a temporarily created open square. It reached a climax when a huge crane lifted the spire of the neo - classical colonial building that had been built for the headquarters of the former Japanese colonial state in 1926 (Figure I.1).2 President Kim Young Sam (1993-1998), the first civilian president, officially announced that the removal is “the will and determination of our people to sweep away the remaining vestiges of the days of foreign colonial rule and to fully restore the righteous spirit of our nation.”3 The remnants of the decapitated colonial ruling body were then transferred to the anti-colonial museum park, Independence Hall of Korea. The Kyoˇngbok palace, “the most important symbol of legitimacy in our national history,” became released from its colonial shadow.4 The sequence of demolition and reconstruction embodies the spectacle which engages in the retrieval of history, reconfiguration of space and formation of collective subjectivity.