chapter  2
17 Pages

The transformation of Asian regionalism and the construction of anticommunist identity: The discourse of ‘Asia’ in early Cold War South Korea


How was Asia1 imagined in South Korea and Japan during the Cold War and what were the actual conditions and ideological frameworks by which this imagination was constituted? I pose this question about the past while thinking about the present South Korean society that is conjuring forth Asia as an economic, political and cultural unit more enthusiastically than ever before. The development of the entertainment industry including film, drama and popular music, and the opening of the labour market have popularized and generalized the imagining of the Asian region. Through such developments, the average Korean can imagine ‘Asia’ as a geopolitical, cultural or ideological unit, although their nationalistic perspective remains strong. Generally speaking, when South Korean society refers to Asia as one regional unit, a kind of collective psychology is at work. This collective psychology is deeply rooted in the national obsession with ‘victory’ over other nations in the region, resulting from Korea’s historical experience of the 1910-45 colonization by Japan and delayed modernization. For a long time, that colonization has meant the frustration of the nation itself, and such self-awareness has intensified not only the desire for the rebirth of nation but also the competitive spirit with others in Asia.