Mobrand, Erik: Justifying Violence on Korea's Cold War Frontlines
The Life and Representations of Kim Tu-han
The son of a nationalist martyr, Kim Tu-han (1918-1972) rose to prominence as a mobster in 1930s Seoul. As conditions shifted, he deployed his gang first as a construction corps supporting the Japanese war effort, then as a progressive force, and, most successfully, as an anti-communist vigilante group. After narrowly escaping the death sentence for murder, he won election as a legislator.
Mobrand's intimate exposition of Kim Tu-han's unusual and contradictory life - and of his posthumous cultural and ideological representations - illustrates with distinct clarity how he has become lionised as a 'folk hero' and nationalist icon in contemporary Korean culture. Alongside this, Mobrand also explores how this key figure's intricate personal history accentuates both the nexus between street violence and the development of modern political systems in East Asia, and broader themes within postwar Korean history, from the layered meanings of ideological struggle, to mobilisation on the emerging Cold War's frontline, to ethnic nationalism.