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At the height of student activism in South Korea in the 1980s, one of the central modalities in the practice of resistance was the trope of martyrdom. Students and workers who lost their lives during anti-authoritarian protests were consecrated as martyrs (yǒlsa) and their deaths were subsequently immortalized by fellow activists in the form of biographies, images, and songs. Songs born out of mourning and commemoration purposes served as an enduring call for continuation of resistance. Through singing of the commemorative songs (ch’umo-ka), the acts of protest became rearticulated as political consequential events that would continue to bear meaning in the post-authoritarian period. This talk examines one of the most oft-sung protest songs of the 1980s—“When That Day Comes” (Kŭnal i omyǒn, 1984), a tribute to the labor activist Chǒn T’ae-il, arguably the most frequently cited martyr of the 1970s, and how the song went on to commemorate the student activist Yi Han-yǒl whose death became a catalyst for the Popular Uprising of 1987 that ushered in an era of procedural democracy. In thinking about song’s relationship to the question of the political, I look at how the two songs’ continuance today operates in turning a moral claim of authority over the legacies of resistance into a vital imperative for social justice. 
Susan Hwang specializes in Korean literature and cultural studies, focusing on cultureof protest in modern Korea, intellectual history of East Asia, the relationship between aesthetics and politics, theories of world literature, and translation. She is currently working on her book entitled “Uncaged Songs: Culture and Politics of Protest Music in South Korea.” It is a cultural history of South Korea’s song movement that situates the movement within both revolutionary and post-revolutionary moments in the country’s path toward democracy, on the one hand, and within transnational contexts of circulation, on the other. Drawing insights from performance studies, Uncaged Songs demonstrates how the act of collective singing was highly instrumental in consolidating anti-authoritarian resistance into revolutionary action. The book also engages with social movement theory to narrate the emergence, spread, and consequences of the song movement, while utilizing the concepts of translation, adaptation, and remediation to interrogate the politics of memory and commemoration that shaped the movement and its legacies. She has published scholarly articles, translations, and reviews in such venues as The Journal of Korean Studies (JKS), Azalea: Journal of Korean Literature and Culture, Korean Studies, The Routledge Handbook of Modern Korean Literature, and Inter-Asia Cultural Studies. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. Before joining UCSB, she taught in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Indiana University.

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