Media @ McGill

Yongwoo Lee - Embedded Voices In-Between Empires: The Cultural Formation of Korean Popular Music in Modern Times

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This dissertation examines the historical trajectory of colonial mentality and the genealogy of cultural modernity and Americanization in Korea by recontextualizing popular music as a narrative of collective memories and mass trauma. By mapping out two continual colonial histories, those represented by the periods of the Japanese Empire and of the American military government, I develop a narrative of Korean popular music that echoes this submission experienced by Koreans, a movement empowered by modern western technology such as the gramophone, radio and phonograph records as well as bythe appropriation of various foreign popular music genres.This research primarily explores the ways in which consumption and production practices of Korean popular music were intertwined with structures of Korean cultural modernity. By examining socio-historical transformations such as urban development, commercialization and modernization, I examine the colonial experiences of Koreans as manifest in popular music narrativesthat gradually embraced collective sentiments and mass perceptions of everyday life under colonial circumstances, particularly as these were influenced by burgeoning concepts of western and American modernity and representedin song lyrics and musical performances from withinthe interior of Japanese colonial surveillance. The submissive colonial narrative in Korean popular songs was enforced by the mobilization of Japanese militarism and imperial discourses concerned with "becoming an imperial subject" within the imperial national body, such that the colonial narrative was presentcontinuously from the post-liberation era untilthe 1950s when the U.S. military controlled Korean society.

Thus, this research raises a set of questions concerning, first, the embedding of Japanese colonialismwithin Korean popular songs, and secondly, the means by which Americanization and modern life circulated within the colonial and postcolonial discourses in Korean popular song. By addressing new technologies, colonial and postcolonial debates on popular songs, and the audience's reception of popular songs, I discuss the ambivalence ofKorean subjectivityin the years of Japanese colonial occupation, the Korean War and the American military stationing, the ambivalence of a people eager to experience modern life and who tried to erase the boundaries between a burdensome pre-modern history, one that doubly divided Korean mentality by making distinctions between the inner and the outer, the ‘us' and the other. Meanwhile, colonial Koreans also tried to be free from dominant transcendental ideologies and traditional conventions such as neo-Confucianism and patriarchy, while self-censoring against indoctrination by Japanese imperialism. These contradictory interactions between the Japanese Empire and colonial subjectivity were counteracted by an unexpected western influence through local accommodations of western and American cultural influxes as offshoots of modernity. Therefore, I expand on the persistence of this embedded colonial submission in Korean popular song narratives from the introduction of the American military government in 1945 through the end of the Korean Wars in the 1950s.

To clarify this colonial continuity and postcolonial negotiation in recognizing ideas of Americanization and of westernized modernity in representations of popular music narratives, this dissertation has made an intervention in two historical moments. The first cluster was dedicated to focusing on the embedded structures of Japanese colonialism and the invention of modern quotidian life through novel noises, newly introduced aural technologies and the Korean audience's reception to new popular songs.The ambivalent imperial subjects under Japanese colonial surveillance longed for modern experiences while they galvanized themselves to escape from the imaginary boundaries between the burden ofa doubly implanted coloniality and traditional values, which historically demarcating colonial Korean mentality as the inner/interior against outer/exterior, and defined an ‘us' against other. Embedded in the colonial indoctrination of Japanese ideologies while at the same time self-censoring against assimilation to this Japanese imperialism,the colonial Koreans engaged in the production and consumption of popular music actively tried to accommodate western modernity and modern technologies like the gramophone, radio, vaudeville show and new western music genres that altered their ways of listening.These complex colonial interactions between the Japanese Empire and its colonial subjects were challenged and counteracted bya fantasy of western modernity, an unexpected cultural chemistry that accompanied the influx of western/American culture.The colonial regimes regulating Koreans' sovereignty and cultural independence, such as the discourses of the Imperial body, prohibition of vernacular language and enforced coevality of cultural practiceswith those of the Empire, were coterminous with an Imperial experience that easily subsumed the logics of the modernization process into the colonial body.Therefore, to engage these issues further, I have elucidated how the infusion of colonial discipline and cultural engagementswith this regime according to the Total War ethos and logics of colonial cultural assimilation through bilingualism, colonial censorship, and the prohibition of local cultural activities effected the production and consumption of Korean popular music.The second cluster focused mainly on the persistent mentality of an embedded colonial submission in the narratives of Korean popular songs following the introduction of the American military government in 1945 through the Korean Wars until early 1960s.Popular music reflected both a fascination and revulsion with colonial modernity, offering alternative ideas about the formation of cultural modernity in the periphery,which Gaonkar wisely dividesinto societal modernization and cultural modernity.Therefore, the discourses on popular music after the postwar era not only provide ambivalent epistemologies positioned in the distinction between the colonizers and the colonized but also represents a covalent collective memory, contradictory sentiments towards Americanized modernity, and a fetishization of the idea of Americanism among Koreans.

The methodology of this dissertation embraces extensive archival research, scrutinizing short interviews, autobiographies and oral history primarily related to popular musicians, content analysis of colonial Korean popular music records and Japanese Shōwa recordswhich I have digitized.I also engage in the discourse / critical analysis of sheet music, magazines and journals - mainly focused on major journals and magazines during 1930s to 1950s such asChogwang, Samchulli, Daedonga, Sinyeoseong, and newspapers such asChosunilbo, Dongailbo, Maeilshinbo, Yeongnamilbo, Mainichi Daily - songbooks, photography, cartography, films, visual archives and footnotes from the KBS (Korean Broadcasting System) and short novels that I have collected over two years in Tokyo and Seoul. Also, the repositories and libraries in the University of Tokyo, Seoul National University (Kyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies), Korea University, The National Library of Korea, collections from War Memorial Museum, Seoul Museum of History, Gugak Gramaphone Museum, Charmsori Gramophone & Edison Museum have copious collections concerning pre- and postwar Korean popular music, which I have examined carefully in my research for comparative data about Japan and Korea that may serve to illuminate the social phenomena surrounding the genealogy ofwesternization and Americanism and yield insight into the germination of a modern way of life and the formation of cultural modernity in an East Asian context.

In Chapter One, "Undoing Archived Voices," I examinediverse notions of Korean "colonial modernity" that reflect and mediate the continuance and rupture of colonial difference in Korea. By interrogating the terms, "colonial modernity,""coloniality as self-consciousness," and "Americanism" I attempt to account for the workings of mimetic desire in colonial discourse and hegemony, and to study theterm's usage by western and local scholars with a careful articulation of historical context regarding coloniality and Americanism as westernized modernity.

Chapter Two, "The Cultural Formation of Korean Popular Music in Japanese Colonial Era,"examines the cultural formations of Korean popular music in relation to socio-political and geopolitical history during the Japanese colonial era.In order to trace the effects of popular songs as a reflection of national events and conditions and/or of colonial subjectivity, I attempt to illustrate how popular music, within a shift in quotidian life, has an impact not only on socio-political realities by instilling the ambivalent consciousness of both colonial submission and negation in the Empire,but also asthe discursive formation of modern selves in the colonial situation through the mimicking of western modernity.With a particular emphasis on the discursive formation of colonial modernity and the quotidian life of Koreans, I explore major magazines and newspaper of colonial Korea in the 1930s such as Chokwang, Samchulli and Maeilshinbo, which imbued the consciousness of Korean intellectuals with the ideology of colonial regimes of militarism, of modernity, and of becoming an imperial subject. Archival history supports the claim that the "modern sounds" of popular songs transformed colonial subjects into a part of the Japanese national body for shaping various colonial spectra such as class, gender and even race and identity.

Chapter Three, "Two Phonographic Realities: Colonial Submission and Interstitial Voices of Colonial Specters," examines the mental interregnum of colonial Koreans between two opposite realities: first, themobilization of the male volunteer soldier and the female colonial home front, and secondly, discourses on Nambang (Japanese southern territory) and Bukbang (Japanese Northern territory) through popular music. I attempt to show how popular music not only became a contradictory expression of the fascination and revulsion regarding discourses of imperial subjectivity but was also a means of expressing traumatic symptoms. Thus, I explore the formation of subjectivity during the Total War system in colonial Korea. Furthermore, I analyze how the narratives of exotic music genres within the predominant discourse regarding Japanese Empire's Southern territories, called Nambang,were ironicallyinterwoven in order to reinforce Japanese militarism and then invoked to revise and resuscitate Western fantasies in contrast to the discourses of Bukbang. I argue that popular music acts as a vehicle for representing the post-traumatic symptoms of the Japanese colonial era, serving as an unconscious narrativization of the way in which, in an efficient psychic operation, colonial subjectswere continually subordinated during the two periods of colonization.

Chapter Four, "Plural Post-Wars Within," investigates the Koreans' continual colonial submission, from the Japanese occupation to the U.S. military government, as a linear coloniality. Looking in particular at the postcolonial interregnum between the two empires as it is revealed in popular song, I look closely into the persistent colonial submission in popular song narratives as a traumatic mimesis and a surplus fantasy in relation to colonial experiences during and after the post-liberation era.The paradoxical coexistence of popular music narratives reappropriating Nambang fantasy in the post-liberation era and reterritorializing Total War sentiments during the Korean War era, summoned a post-traumatic narrative while invigorating postwar logics of Cold War tropes and anti-Communism.

The fifth chapter, "The Audible Memories of Postcolonial Melancholia: The U.S. Military Ghetto and Modern Soundscape In Postwar Korea,"deals with spatial discoursesto show how the relations of urban space have not only become socio-cultural realities with which we might rethink the postcolonial situation, and through which various cosmopolitan identities were reshaped, but also a discursive framework that enabled new senses of westernized modernity to resurface for postwar Koreans. Focusing on Americanized modernity, I explore the American military ghetto, Itaewon, as an intermediary space where the imaginary modern was implanted into the consciousness of Koreans. In this chapter, I mainly argue that there is a triangular intersection between Korean identity, westernized modernity, and a stateless mimetic desire for Americanization apparent in the production and distribution of popular songs in the postwar era. The production and consumption of popular music by Koreans reverberated with a postcolonial melancholia that combines the sounds sampled from Japanese colonial musical heritage with the sophisticated compositional techniques Korean musicians were adopting from the U.S. military subculture. The lyrics and style of the music reflectedthe implicit memories of Japanese colonial experiences as these collided with imaginary articulations of Americanized modernity.

The conclusion restates the function of popular song as a historical narrative of Korean history that assembles an emotional "social structure of feeling" for Koreans.To sum up the arguments regarding the Korean epistemology on modernity and doubly embedded colonial experience before andafter the postwar period, I attempt to highlight the trajectoriesof conceptions of modernity, coloniality, Americanization and the continuous colonial consciousness specific to the Korean case. Positing the interpenetration of voices in popular songs that we may trace to the Japanese urban modernizing process and the role of the American military ghetto as a site of the diffusion of colonial modernity, I will show how the expatriated sensibility and postcolonial melancholia of colonial subjectivity have been represented inpopular song narrativization and thus offer us a genealogy of colonial modernity. Considering the influential role of popular culture in contemporary East Asian society, this dissertation can provide greater conceptual and methodological fluidity to future accounts.