Prefigured “defection” in Korea
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Prefigured “defection” in Korea book
What if two Koreas are “prefigured” rather than “unified”? This chapter introduces an exiled North Korean poet whose work seems to exercise this thought-experiment with Marilyn Strathern’s said concept. In Strathern’s general conception of prefiguration, gender bipolarity occupies a privileged place. For bipolarity lends a certain algorithmic rigor to it. The reason is because the minimal “series of two,” as in a bipolarity, maximally precipitates itself towards the slippage she calls “figure-ground reversal.” A prefigure is the “hinge” on which such a “reversal” turns. Pre-figure, the prefigure is a “body” which is simultaneously a “temporal” index – like a snapshot of motion. As such, the prefigure is a “crosscut” straddling the Real and the Imaginary as well as the spatial and the temporal. This chapter attempts to transpose this algorithmic rigor in Strathern’s reflection of bipolarity to two Koreas’ Cold War-informed bipolarity. The rigor of Real-Imaginary or space-time crosscutting proves especially instructive when transposed to studying North Korea. For this rigor counterposes itself against the two axes of the dogma in which contemporary understandings of the nation are caught: (1) the “spatial” doxa of the pluralist globalism and (2) the “temporal” doxa of the post-socialist historicism. The said work of the exiled North Korean poet “prefigures” her passage of “defection” in-between the North and the South. From that “passage” emerges the “crosscut” of a new framework in which we may begin to understand North Korea’s “global” view configured by the Cold War bipolarity as well as the nation’s historicity.