After Assimilating Seoul: Ch’anggyong Garden and the Post-Colonial Remaking of Seoul’s Public Spaces

Todd A. Henry, University of California, San Diego
Todd A. Henry, UCSD
Friday, May 16, 2014 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
Thomson Hall 317 - Google Map

The title of this talk is meant to signal two related topics for discussion. The first refers to my new book, Assimilating

Seoul: Japanese Rule and The Politics of Public Space in Colonial Korea, 1910-1945 (Berkeley: University of California Press,

2014). The introductory part of the talk reviews the central argument of that book—namely, that public space functioned as “contact zones” wherein varying projects of assimilation were both implanted by state officials and contested by their non-elite users. The second part of the talk extends this story beyond the liberation of 1945 and into the history of South Korea. In this context, the title refers to the project of recasting the capital city as a capitalist and anti-communist focus of post-colonial politics. After briefly examining the post-liberation strategy of erasure, the fate of Namsan’s Shintō Shrines, I turn to the more common strategy of decolonization, which involved creatively “recycling” the city’s palace grounds before ultimately restoring them. To trace this decolonizing strategy, I explore the fate of Ch’anggyŏng Garden, whose popular zoo, park, museum and other recreational facilities persisted long after 1945. Meanwhile, the early architects of South Korea creatively re-used this site for new national purposes, including to memorialize anti-communist patriots and to showcase the country’s infant industries. It was only over the next three decades that the overlapping functions of this public space were separated into distinct sites, each capable of carrying out a specific role in re-subjectifying the citizenry.

Todd A. Henry (Ph.D., UCLA, 2006; Assistant Professor) is a specialist of modern Korea with a focus on the period of Japanese rule (1910-45). He is also interested in social and cultural formations linking post-Asia-Pacific War South Korea, North Korea, and Japan (1945-present) within the geopolitical contexts of American militarism and the Cold War. Dr. Henry has completed a book on public spaces and colonial power in Seoul, and is currently working on a comparative and transnational study of contemporary queer Korea (1945-1995) with a focus on sexualized labor, colonial/military occupation, and the entertainment industry. Dr. Henry has received two Fulbright grants (Kyoto University, 2004-5; Hanyang and Ewha Women's Universities, 2013) and two fellowships from the Korea Foundation (Seoul National University, 2003-4; Harvard University, 2008-9). At UCSD, he is an affiliate faculty member of the Program in Critical Gender Studies (CGS) and the acting director of the Program in Transnational Korean Studies, the recipient of a five-year (2013-18) $600,000 grant from the Academy of Korean Studies as an overseas leading university for Korean studies.

Sponsored by the Center for Korea Studies at the Jackson School of International Studies. For more information, contact: