Between Satire and Nationalism: The Transcoded Pantheon of Hell in the Webtoon Sin kwa hamkke (“Along with the Gods,” 2010–2012)

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Since at least 2015 South Korean society has been massively criticized, mostly from within, as being "Hell Chosǒn," where Chosǒn, the name of the last Korean royal dynasty, is used as an equivalent to South Korea. The Naver webtoon "Sin kwa hamkke" by Chu Homin can be understood as a forerunner of the Hell Chosǒn discourse. In this webtoon (a cartoon on the web), the reader travels with the protagonist through different kinds of hell, which turn out to be satirical versions of contemporary South Korean society. While the satire has a clearly subversive character and can be taken as social criticism, the webtoon also has strong nationalistic tendencies. Although the pantheon of hells, as it is portrayed in the webtoon, draws from diverse sources and is therefore a prime example of intracultural multiculturality, Chu Homin constructs a culturally homogenous picture of the hellish pantheon, thereby emphasizing its pure Koreanness. This paper explores how the webtoon mixes and switches different codes for satirical and nationalistic purposes. This play with different codes demonstrates how nationalistic reductionism obscures intracultural multiculturality, thereby concealing one of the strongest appeals not only of "Sin kwa hamkke" but of Korean culture in general.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBochumer Jahrbuch zur Ostasienforschung
Publication statusPublished - 2021

ID: 290601054