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In Session: Desiring Jeju: Place-Making and Landscape at Korea’s Periphery
1: Instagrammable Woljeong: Aesthetic Representation and Contested Urban Transformation
Friday, March 26, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
University of Texas at Austin, United States
Woljeong was a small, secluded fishing village on Jeju island before being popularized on social media via aesthetic photographs of the local beach. Turned into a destination where tourists flood to achieve visually captivating photos, this small village has undergone tourism-induced gentrification, displacement, and overdevelopment. Unpacking the processes of Woljeong’s transformation offers insights to grasp the connection between new media and tourism, and between the representation of a place and the physical reconfiguration of the place. Driving new tourism trends, Instagram has emerged as a dominant platform to create, circulate, and consolidate tourism imaginaries. The functional protocols of Instagram—its graphic-oriented nature, ability to promote inter-subjective communication of self-reflexivity, and role as an individual and collective archive of particular place images—construct the place myth centering on aesthetic representational qualities. Such representational practices reshape the material and spatial realities of the place involving property value hikes, construction boom, and land use change. The rapid changes to the area to fulfill tourists’ material and physical demands are contrasted with non-contested aesthetic representations of the beach, which should be visually and photographically preserved to serve tourists’ fantasies. Woljeong’s recent reconfiguration functions as a proxy to contemplate the historical process of Jeju in which tourism, both through the material and representational practices, perpetuates the marginalization of Jeju as an exclusively touristic island.