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The Cultural Class and the Narrative of the Space “Nostalgia Myeongdong”

  • Journal of Humanities
  • 2016, (60), pp.275-301
  • Publisher : Institute for Humanities
  • Research Area : Humanities > Other Humanities
  • Received : January 6, 2016
  • Accepted : January 31, 2016

KWON KYONG MI 1

1성신여자대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Lee Bong-gu was a symbol of youth and the young. Having been recognized as the everlasting icon of youth, Lee Bong-gu had made a deep impression among the public as an advocate of the so-called Myeongdong discourses. This seemingly appropriate approach, however, makes it more difficult to evaluate Lee Bong-gu properly. The literary world of Lee Bong-gu, which appears to display a tendency of autobiographical novels, is often understood as an example of immature writings that fall short of representing youth and the young. The core idea of this perspective comes from the conceptual or generational views that try to confine Lee to the boundary of youth and the young. By looking at Lee Bong-gu less as an icon of youth and the young and more as a symbol of a cultural class based on tastes and preference, we can find an interesting perspective that helps us approach to his literature more properly. In other words, Lee Bong-gu not so much played the role of an icon of youth as represented the emergence of a new cultural class whose members had the experiences of living abroad, a deep taste for high-brow culture, and an identity as artists or men of culture. They had the characteristics of the modernist cultural class that differentiated themselves from the economically affluent and privileged class. Lee Bong-gu recreated and redefined Myeongdong Coffee Shop anew with his strong identity as a member of the cultural class. Unlike his fellow literary writers, artists and men of culture who newly found their identity as the advocates of new ideologies or thoughts in the space of liberation, however, Lee Bong-gu consistently maintained his own identity as a member of the cultural class, which also let others understand him as the icon of youth and the young. It, however, will be more appropriate to understand that the cultural class of which Lee was a member ― not Lee’s image representing youth and the young ― continued to exist consistently in Myeongdong after Korea’s liberation from Japan in 1945 and even after the Korean War (1950-1953). In the space of liberation, the identity of Lee Bong-gu as a member of the cultural class, having not been fully established in the postwar space, could be interpreted as a newly emerged class identity but also as a still incomplete identity in that it has not acquired a sense of contemplative modernity. It was because Lee Bong-gu, though a young man himself, felt nostalgia for Myeongdong through contemplation on the space of liberation and the situation of the postwar space.

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