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Title:“We will remember you, forever!” – remembering through (active) forgetting of Moo-Hyun Roh in South Korea
Author(s):Ban, Youngkwan
Director of Research:Christians, Clifford G.; Denzin, Norman K.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Christians, Clifford G.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Kendall, Lori; Greenberg, Jessica
Department / Program:Inst of Communications Rsch
Discipline:Communications and Media
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Collective memory
active forgetting
South Korean civil movement
Political Commemoration
Mediatised memory
Abstract:This work is the first to analyze much of the vast body of Roh memory representations, which is an important step for understanding how he is understood by those within his country, caught among multiple scenes of remembering and forgetting. The initial premise of this dissertation was that an ongoing remembering and forgetting is underway of Moo-hyun Roh’s memory. Moo-hyun Roh was committed a suicide at 2009 after the prosecuter’s investigation of the bribery. After this sudden death, the cultural memory of Roh is composed of a tangle of medial, temporal, and political relations, revolving around his personage. South Koreans invest him with certain identities, and in turn, he provides transformation and proliferation of those identities. Most notably, memory as such is composed in good part as forgetting: remembering via dispositif and the identities it produces change over time. On the one hand, memories must always be anchored in the past; in this case, the other figures of the minjung movement form a “fixed point” of cultural memory (Assmann, 1995, p. 129). On the other hand, those identities that are linked to the imagined nation that are generated are more hallucinatory. The memories of Roh are multiple and, what is more, thoroughly contradictory. This dissertation aimed to illustrate how a collective memory was selected under the norms of covert silence. The selective nature of memory has been known from the beginning; it remained a question how the process of memory’s intertwining with forgetting is actually enacted. In fact, the concept of active forgetting (Nietzsche, 1989) allows considerations of the memory–identity–politics nexus of contemporary South Korea. This project shows that identity is, in fact, never purely faithful to the past, but is always trans- and sub-formative for the given conditions, and forgetting plays a role in constructing identity, which is always on the move. Some traces of Roh were erased to provide a pivotal space, open to the other memories. The memory of Roh was influenced by the ongoing events of the present. In other words, remembering Roh by South Koreans becomes a focus of political struggle among the then-government and the various groups of people including mourners, ilbes, as well as the strangers who were participating as they were looking for a sole cast to sculpture their desired memories in the real world. Roh and a large group of sympathizers were produced as antithetical to the then-government, especially its policing policy, reinforcing the identification with the minjung movement for the collective emotional memory that has been reproduced continually since the 1970s. Notably, the memory of Roh is based on forgotten memories. With this empty signifier, it opened up the possibility for other memories to become vocalized, through the very community it constructed. Through the practice of active forgetting, individuals in South Korean society undertook their political sovereignty. It also proves that if collective memory were the memory of the contemporary, forgetting would be a huge contribution that makes remembering to be contemporary. In Chapter One, I argued that forgetting should be regarded as a lens for interpreting memory and temporality. The work of several philosophers on memory was examined, and it was recalled that anamnesis is categorized as remembering tied now to action. In this remembering, forgetting is not a bankruptcy of human capability, but the product of a time which often entails that parts of the past be omitted. Here, oblivion, as we imagined it existing in remembering, is a way of molding one's identity as well as giving oneself a greater degree of choice in the flux between selective tradition and the sense of now. As Martin Heidegger (2004, p. 140, 2008) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1997) suggest, forgetting is the process of forging the realization of now-time behind a perceptive yesterday. The later part of that chapter explores the possible meanings of the fact that contemporary media technology has the power to reshape our ways of remembering and forgetting. Contemporary new technology is rooted in digital hypomnemata (Stiegler, 2010, p. 85), meaning that, on the one hand, we can more easily remember by inscribing and recall by re-accessing our memories. However, this cannot secure complete recollection of the past, as changes impose other issues onto our sense of the timeline. Instead of there now being a completely linear time, we now possess plural time spaces. Thanks to this plurality, I argue, the sense of now is blurred and is no longer a singularity. In a way that techno-positivists do not recognize, thanks to the new hypomnemata, we are as likely to forget the past as the present. This theoretical excursion brought us to a point where we could begin to understand the way Roh was memorialized in May 2009, in particular, the noje ceremony, not as to efface him but to remember him in a different way, which was the core of Chapter Two. To deal with an issue of political urgency, Roh's mourners chose to covertly silence the past (Vinitzky-Seroussi & Teeger, 2010). His image was emptied out, and its contents were replaced by another truth. During noje, sympathizers imagined Roh using the tropes of collective ressentiment, called han, and thought of him as a member of the minjung, or an oppressed class maintaining an unsettled emotion. To create the imagination of Moo-hyun Roh’s life, the ceremony was performed using particular aesthetics. Notably, during the ceremony, many parts of Roh’s life that appeared to contradict this freshly imagined memory were silenced. However, with this forgetting practice, room was spared to invite other memories. Here, noje functioned as a hallowed symbol, inducing other emotions tied to other unsettled memories of the near past, rather than to Roh’s life itself. Chapter Three depicted a pair of contested memories of Roh that emerged following the funeral. That is, the memory of Roh, which was maintained and strengthened through dialectics between truth and myth, became layered in his mourners by 2010, through the interpretation in popular media content as a variation of Roh’s narrative. However, there also began to appear other memories of him. The radical meanings hidden in the memories of Roh, centered in the online community Ilbe, were attacked to neutralize them by parodying the contradiction between the real figure and the memory of him. With this practice, opponents attempted to skim the aura from Roh’s memory, which was largely done by sympathizers of the government. For them, Roh should not have a role in the present social imaginary. Thus, the mediatized memory of Roh became political, on the one hand, while on the other, it did not function as a stabilizer for further social conversation. Instead of being a publicly owned object (Casey, 2004), Roh’s memory existed as fragmented, antagonistically forgotten by different groups of people who refused to talk to each other. Chapter Four examined the way Bongha constructs the tourist experience, using continually maintained silence regarding certain aspects of the past. This town serves as memory-dispositif, putting forward memory aids for Roh that are chosen to selectively highlight his life. The most important point is the following: from my observation of the site, visitors participate in this covert silence by coordinating their behavior into unscripted but noticeable norms. Touring Bongha brings one into an encounter with mediated memory, and the mourners atone and engage in a pilgrimage to this remote site, full of pre-given memories of Roh. By selectively delinking the past, forgetting edits the memory for “making sense” of the present. Not shaping the present by the past conversely, with selective remembering as well as silently performed active forgetting, collective memory serves the desire of the present. Their divergent interpretations of the past and of emerging events keep bringing up contentions about the personal history of Moohyun Roh, as he who lived in this world with a level of complexity. Regardless of who he really was, the remembering practice to a large extent empowered individual authority to shape an ongoing event, enabling individuals to challenge institutional narratives.
Issue Date:2019-04-17
Rights Information:Copyright 2019 Youngkwan Ban
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-08-23
Date Deposited:2019-05

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