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Regular version of the site

Book chapter

Between Collective and Individual Memory: Korean War (1950-1953) in Fiction and Memoirs

Soldatova M.V.

The collective memory as the system of notions of a society about its history is of great interest to researchers. M. Halbwachs, P. Nora, J&A. Assmann and others emphasize that group consciousness not only plays an important role in self-identification of group members, but also strongly influences an individuals’ understanding of the past, even makes direct witnesses of the events reevaluate and adjust their memories as time passes.

The Korean War (1950-1953), which fixed the separation of the peninsula into two parts, is one of the most important pages of contemporary Korean history. Now when the reunification of the country is often discussed, it would be interesting to analyze literary texts (including fiction and memoirs as well) by South Korean and North Korean authors aiming 1) to disclose and compare the structure, the essence and sore points of the collective memory of South and North Koreans about the War, 2) to figure out the correlation between collective and individual memory about what happened.

Adversaries in a war surely offer conflicting explanations for the developments, but in case of a civil war or a war between parts of the same country, the forming of an unfavorable image of the adversary inevitably goes along with rewriting of the common history and changing of the society consciousness.

It is worth noting that in North Korean texts the war is presented as something well-organized, as a chain of planned and thought-out military operations against the enemy clearly identified, whereas South Koreans are not very enthusiastic about blaming the adversary or praising their army, they present the war as a chaos, pay more attention to the evil nature of war as well as to physical and moral traumas caused by it. It gives us a reason to consider that in case of hypothetical reunification South Korean discourse could stay quite viable in spite of some lack of the logic, which, in terms of psychology, can be explained by suppression of the most unwanted information.