Heritage Practices during the Park Chung Hee Era: An enduring legacy – University of Copenhagen

Heritage Practices during the Park Chung Hee Era: An enduring legacy

Korean Studies Seminar with Dr. Codruţa Sîntionean Babeş-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania


Codruţa Sîntionean is Assistant Professor at the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures at Babeş-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. She has been in charge of the section of Korean Language and Literature since its creation in 2008. After studying in Japan and South Korea she received her PhD from the Faculty of Letters at Babeş-Bolyai University in 2008. Her academic interests include Korean heritage and Korean history.         


In the 1960s-1970s, military dictator Park Chung Hee’s postcolonial government created a very enduring trope about correcting the historical views of the past and establishing a “correct view of the nation” (Park 1974: 166). The president had his own personal understanding of what “independent”, “correct” history (Ibid.) was, and especially of how it could be used in order to persuade citizens to willingly, indiscriminately engage in the modernization projects of the state.

National heritage was instrumental in disseminating this constructed view of the past, therefore the state-led Office of Cultural Properties started to identify and completely recreate historic sites so that they supported and illustrated the new historical discourse. The government further employed history and heritage to provide models to be emulated by the citizens, emphasizing values such as dedication to one’s country, self-sacrifice, patriotism, loyalty, hard work and frugality.

The lecture presents a series of eye-opening examples of heritage practices that were common under the Park rule. Ideology prevailed over concerns for authenticity, which led to astonishing practices such as displacement, alteration, demolition, partial or complete reconstruction of centuries-old historic architecture, simply in order to illustrate the historic and ideological narrative disseminated by the government. In order to fully grasp the extent of state intervention in the remaking of national heritage, the audience will take a look at stunning photographs from the 1960s and 1970s, selected from the archives of the Office of Cultural Properties.

The long-lasting effects of these practices can be seen in the way Korean identity – “Koreanness” – is embodied in heritage even today. What makes a piece of architecture distinctly Korean? How is authenticity defined today in South Korean heritage management? Understanding the Park period provides meaningful answers to these questions. The lecture also provides examples of contemporary preservation practices in order to illustrate the enduring, but troubling legacy of the Park era.     

Free entry, all welcome.

For any questions contact Andrew Jackson: krm769@hum.ku.dk