Session Abstract: This interdisciplinary panel examines responses to ecological crises in Korea since the 20th century. With new approaches from environmental history and ecocriticism, we explore questions receiving growing attention in the Environmental Humanities: How does storytelling make the agency of the nonhuman world more visible? How do ecological movements articulate and change systemic inequities? In what ways does globalization impact domestic fights for environmental justice? What are the consequences of human responses to nonhuman agents such as viruses, particularly in conditions of asymmetric power?
The panel begins with Joseph Seeley’s paper, which investigates the economic and social consequences of cattle plague outbreaks in colonial Korea (1910-1945) along the Sino-Korean border, arguing that the attempt to prevent these viral ‘invasions’ was an extension of colonial power involving borderland Koreans. Yeonsil Kang highlights the roles of global and domestic actors in the transfer of hazardous industries to and within Asia in the 20th century, focusing on a transnational history of the asbestos industry in South Korea and continuing struggles for environmental justice. Kimberly Chung examines the interrelationship between feminism, art practice, and ecological sense in contemporary South Korea, showing how the visual culture of an emerging feminist ecology interrogates capitalist patriarchalism and situates the exploitation of women within a wider web of human/nonhuman interrelations. Ivanna Yi analyzes South Korean writer Han Kang’s The Vegetarian (2007) with ecofeminist and posthuman frameworks, arguing that the novel advocates for the sentience of the more-than-human world as it critiques gender disparities and rapid South Korean development.
Paper Presenter: Joseph Seeley – University of Virginia
Paper Presenter: Yeonsil Kang – Drexel University
Paper Presenter: Kimberly Chung – McGill University
Paper Presenter: Ivanna Yi – Cornell University