Consuming Korean Tradition in Early and Late ModernityCommodification, Tourism, and Performance

Consuming Korean Tradition in Early and Late ModernityCommodification, Tourism, and Performance

Laurel Kendall

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780824833930

Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press

Abstract

This book explores the irony of modern things made in the image of a traditional “us.” It describes the multifaceted ways “tradition” is produced and consumed within the frame of contemporary Korean life and how these processes are enabled by different apparatuses of modernity that Koreans first encountered in the early twentieth century. Commoditized goods and services first appeared in the colonial period in such spectacular and spectacularly foreign forms as department stores, restaurants, exhibitions, and staged performances. Today, these same forms have become the media through which many Koreans consume “tradition” in multiple forms. In the colonial period, commercial representations of Korea—tourist sites, postcard images, souvenir miniatures, and staged performances—were produced primarily for foreign consumption, often by non-Koreans. In late modernity, efficiencies of production, communication, and transportation combine with material wealth and new patterns of leisure activity and tourism to enable the localized consumption of Korean tradition in theme parks, at sites of alternative tourism, at cultural festivals and performances, as handicrafts, art, and cuisine, and in coffee table books, broadcast music, and works of popular folklore. This book offers insight into how and why different signifiers of “Korea” have come to be valued as tradition in the present tense, the distinctive histories and contemporary anxieties that undergird this process, and how Koreans today experience their sense of a common Korean past. It offers new insights into issues of national identity, heritage preservation, tourism, performance, the commodification of contemporary life, and the nature of “tradition” and “modernity” more generally.