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Jina Kim

The Documentary Impulse in Radio Culture of the Yusin Era

Jina E. Kim, Smith College

In Ch’oe Inhun’s linked novel The Voice of the Governor General, the author intentionally connects Park Chung Hee’s nationalism and repressive policies to the Japanese colonial period by evoking the form of a radio broadcast. Written in a form a radio transcript which strongly harkens back to Hirohito’s infamous radio announcement that marked Japan’s unconditional surrender and Korea’s liberation, Ch’oe not only critiques the political and economic conditions of postcolonial Korea as not having really overcome the colonial, but one that perpetuate the imperialist policies of the past. The purposeful use of radio broadcast in Ch’oe’s novel also points to the ways the state positioned mass media, such as the radio, to discipline the masses into becoming responsible, dutiful citizens. In this paper, I explore the interesting documentary turn that takes place in the early 1970s in radio programming, especially in radio drama or radio theater. Similar to Ch’oe’s rewriting and/or recycling of historical novels (e.g. Pak T’aewon’s A Day in the Life of Kubo and Kim Manjung’s Nine Cloud Dreams), documentary dramas begin to dominate Korean radio programming. In addition to docu-dramas based on real life stories, there is a turn back in time to retranslating and rewriting classical tales and biographies for broadcasting. I ask what is this impulse for “turning back” in time and what kind of effects does it produce especially in literature? How is literature (both elite and mass media literary works) continuing to produce a space for the critique of the Truth? Through analysis of radio programming and radio drama scripts, I will argue that even in the midst of the state’s propaganda and censorship, the documentary turn plays with creating alternative truths.

Jina Eleanor Kim (PhD Asian Languages and Literatures) is Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies at Smith College. Her research and teaching interests focus on the cultural history and literary history of Korea from the late nineteenth century to the present with a particular emphasis on global and Korean modernisms and comparative colonialism. Her book, Urban Modernity in Colonial Korea and Taiwan, a comparative study of Korean and Taiwanese modernist literature from the early twentieth century, is forthcoming. Her other research and teaching interests include the history of Korean diaspora, transnational literature, and intermediality.