Silenced in Memoriam: Consuming Memory at the Nogŭnri Peace Park

Seunghei Clara Hong, Yonsei University
“Memory-Stirring Living Gallery," Nogŭnri Peace Park, 2014. Photo by author.
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Tensions abound at the Nogŭnri Peace Park. It is a public memorial, but it originates from one man’s testimonial account. It purports to commemorate and restore honor to the victims of the Nogŭnri Massacre, yet it marginalizes those victims in favor of a “truth” whose validation seemingly rests on the perpetrators. It subverts the hegemonic knowledge of American rescue and friendship, even as it follows a common Korean War-as-6/25 narrative absolving South Korean and American responsibility during the Korean War. Finally, it champions a globalized value of peace that, in turn, risks enabling the consumption of Nogŭnri as commodified culture. By looking at the Nogŭnri Peace Park and the narratives, images, and artifacts exhibited there, this article explores the tensions that complicate constructions of history, community, and nation at the site of memorialization. It examines how the Nogŭnri Massacre is recollected and represented alongside the transitional shift from domestic authoritarianism to global neoliberalism in today’s South Korea. Further, it investigates the limits of the state critique that the Nogŭnri Peace Park performs.

Keywords: commemoration, globalization, Korean War, memorial, neoliberalism, Nogŭnri Massacre, Nogŭnri Peace Park, peace, privatization, state violence, war politics