Maeul-making, which is to restore inherent characteristics of maeul as a living community has been proceeded by local communities themselves since the 1990s when political democracy and local government in Korean society has been progressed in full-scale. Although New Maeul Movement has been done in the 1970s before and after, it is different from maeul-making because it was focused mainly on improving physical environments of rural communities and initiated by government. The development of maeul community archives in Korea has been related closely to such a maeul-making since the 1990s.
Maeul-based community archives, maeul community archives had been begun to build as part of maeul-making and grass-root movement by the 2000s. Initiated by self-motivated communities, maeul community archives were carried out through cooperations between civic activists and residents in maeul communities and voluntary professional archivists from outside.
Although records about the maeul community has been collected by mainstream cultural institutions such as public archives, museum, local historical association, and local cultural center, it was at this time to collect records of the maeul community by self-motivated local residents. This tendency of ‘independent’ maeul community archives, however, is currently entering upon a new phase with the city of Seoul’s project (2012) to support making a maeul community, that is, the governance phase based on private-government partnership. At this point of time, it is important for maeul community archives to be built on privately-led governance model that guarantees their autonomy and at the same time bring government‘s knowhow and supports into them, as opposed to the way captured or driven unilaterally by government.
This article explores the growth of maeul community archives and collections in Korean society through a range of self-motivated bodies; the interaction with government; and as a result of those interactions, the creation of maeul community archives based on governance. To introduce and explicate the motivations behind maeul archiving endeavors, this article will first sketch something of the historical, social, and political context in which ‘maeul’ communities have arisen, collapsed, and restored. It will then examine in more detail some specific examples of maeul community archives as grass-root movement of maeul community. The third section will attempt to identify the governance model of maeul community archives under the auspices of the city of Seoul and its limitations. Finally through these activities, it will suggest the ways in which maeul community archives commit themselves to their duty of grass-root movement of community and at the same time, secure sustainability, that is, concrete ways of privately initiated governance model.