Inquiries of “Home” in Modern and Contemporary East Asia
4: Home, Flanerie, and Mapping the Topography of Seoul in Please Look After Mom
Friday, March 25, 2022
3:30pm – 5:00pm EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
Yonsei University, Republic of Korea
Near the end of Kyung-sook Shin’s novel, Please Look After Mom, eldest daughter Chi-hon describes the mission of searching for their missing mother: “All your brother could do was to walk the city with you at night” (244). It has been nine months since their sick elderly mother was “lost” at Seoul Station, and the family has been tracing her steps throughout the city in a flanerie that substitutes for eldercare. Retracing the paths of their mother across the topography of urban Seoul, the children figuratively seek home and refuge. Flanerie’s origins in 19th century Paris and London, with the often male flaneur traversing the newfound city streets, is a testament to that era’s urban reconstruction, where new spaces intersected with greater individual mobility. A similar sense of urban and social transformation in twenty-first century Asia has left an older generation behind, often bewildered by shining skyscrapers and super-efficient public transportation. Shin’s mother-figure, a symbol of “home” for her remaining family members, can only be retraced by a flanerie which maps her onto the various neighborhoods of Seoul.