Shifting National Characters on Display at Changgyeong-gung

David Kendall
Tuesday, April 10, 2018 -
7:30pm to 9:00pm
Second floor Residents’ Lounge, Somerset Palace
10,000 won for non-members and 5,000 won for students (with student ID); free for members

Cropping Korea:
Shifting National Characters on Display at Changgyeong-gung, -won, - Palace, - Zoo, -gung

Lecturer: David Kendall
Date: Tuesday, April 10, 2018 - 7:30pm to 9:00pm
Venue: Second floor Residents’ Lounge, Somerset Palace, Gwanghwamun
             (near Anguk Station, across street from Japanese Embassy)
Admission: 10,000 won for non-members and 5,000 won for students
                     (with student ID); free for members

Tourist sites, like national identities, are selectively promoted depictions that require leaving out several pieces -- especially those that do not fit. Whoever hosts a site must set up a conveniently packaged narrative that can be easily consumed and perpetuated by visitors, their memories and photos. The phenomenon is particularly true when visitors know little about the language, culture and history of the host nation. On a spot tucked between Jongmyo Shrine and the Secret Garden (Biwon) once sat a cloistered Joseon palace inhabited by crown princes. The speed at which it has gone from Seoul’s most popular destination during the colonial and authoritarian eras and back to a shell of its regal past has meant entire museums, a zoo and park full of fun rides are vanishing from collective memory as quickly as they appeared there. Such “a focus on small-scale or localized change can illustrate or embody much broader processes of political transformation,” as Katherine Verdery says, “the Macro is in the Micro.” 

This lecture looks at some major changes in Korea’s governing and social structures as reflected in the grounds of Changgyeonggung. The speaker uses discourse and content analysis of guide books, brochures, and websites to show how travel writers come to absorb conveniently condensed narratives and imagery as successive administrators place new monuments atop or alongside those of their predecessors in largely successful attempts to rewrite this geographic scene.

David Kendall received a BA in Economics and History from his home state Indiana University in the U.S. He first arrived in Seoul in 1991 and developed an interest in Korea’s efforts to promote its national identity while working as an editor and writer for Yonhap News and Changgyeonggung first caught his attention as a tranquil place to escape the bustle of Seoul. The site became a much more vibrant object of interest upon reading Jahyun Kim Haboush’s The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyǒng. This painstaking 1996 translation of four memoirs vividly depicts the troubled lives of Crown Prince Sado’s wife and the royal family. It breathes life into Changgyeonggung’s structures and adds rational calculations to the story of Joseon’s most macabre execution. In 1762, King Yeongjo ordered his only son to step inside a rice chest on the grounds of Changgyeonggung. Sado slowly succumbed to starvation over the course of eight sweltering summer days.

David turned his interest in this palace and its inhabitants into a master’s thesis and received his MA from IU Bloomington in 2015. He presently handles PR for DR &AJU, an international law firm based in Seoul.



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