Memory Activism among Victims of North Korean State Violence in South Korea
Open lecture with Dr. Sarah Son, Lecturer in Korean Studies at the University of Sheffield
This lecture will explore forms of ‘memory activism’ practised among victims of North Korean state-sanctioned violence residing in South Korea today, including both former residents of North Korea (refugees) and South Koreans who were victims of human rights violations perpetrated by the North Korean state following the division of the Peninsula in 1948, up to the present. I investigate how non-state actors have appropriated and adapted global approaches to truth-seeking and accountability to develop practices of memorialisation, record-creation, and symbolic action that challenge silences in official state narratives about incidents perpetrated by the North Korean state over the past seven decades. I draw on rich ethnographic insights from within the civil society spaces working to adapt local mnemonic practices and introduce new methods of activism, including artistic performances, historical record creation, and the pursuit of civil cases against alleged perpetrators. These efforts have given visibility to lived experiences of violence and oppression and demanded alternative visions of the future that challenge current policy approaches to inter-Korean reconciliation in both North and South Korea.
Sarah Son is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Korean Studies at The University of Sheffield. She specialises in the international relations and politics of the Korean Peninsula, researching and writing on identity, nationalism, security, human rights, activism, and the contemporary societies of North and South Korea