Workshop Series Vol.1「When Urban Communication Meets Transnational Asia」(THE LEADS ASIA exclusive)

 As the first installment of the “Conversation of Tangible Memories” series, we have invited Professor Kyungmook Kim of the Institute of Korean Studies, Waseda University, to give a guest lecture on “When Urban Communication Meets Transnational Asia” to THE LEADS ASIA’s core members.

The purpose of this series is to spark a constructive dialogue about our ancestors’ feelings and thoughts through the interpretation of “objects” as a starting point.

In 2020, as the Black Lives Matter movement spreads across the globe, issues of representation have come to light, such as the removal of historical figures for supporting black slavery and renewed criticism of racist representations in commercial films. In the Asian context, there was also a lively debate between Japan and South Korea over the installation of the statues of comfort women in various locations.

What kind of history should we pass on to future generations and what should we review in the future? What is the history that should be discarded in consideration of future generations? As the spread of the pandemic pushes us online, this year has made people around the world think about how to deal with the representation by means of “objects”.

In preparation for the second workshop “Passing on History” for the general public on Friday, December 4, we discussed how each member of THE LEADS ASIA, who comes from a different nationality, place of upbringing, and native language, can first understand this theme and then connect it to the dialogue.

Lecture: When Urban Communication Meets Transnational Asia

In the context of war, for example, the question of how to deal with shifting memories as the number of people with experience-based memories diminishes, or how to deal with shifting memories in the public sphere come into question. What are the implications of retaining certain memories in form? Is it to inherit the wisdom and suffering of our predecessors, or is it to reinforce nationalism?

Does it pursue historical facts through investigative journalism, or merely “emotional reproduction” through commercial films and non-fiction works? There are many possible applications.

The “Square Politics” in downtown Seoul was presented as an example of how the public sphere is being used as a place for dialogue. Other examples included pictures of historical heroes hanging in high-traffic areas, intergenerational dialogue occurring in places where political messages are flying, and an array of goods that incite nationalism.

He also introduced the cultural anthropological concept of ” Acculturation“, a phenomenon that occurs when memories and cultures mix across regions, presenting as an open question of how to deal with memories that are transformed and passed on as new forms in the cross-border interactions with people, which are inevitable in an era of globalization.


After the lecture, the discussion among TLA members mainly focused on the following points:

– How to understand the younger generation’s perception of political demonstrations and memory in the Korean public sphere

– How the younger generation perceives political demonstrations and memory transmission in the Korean public sphere

– Can the dialogue that emerges be useful if there is little knowledge of the historical facts that the memorial represents?

– Views on the open question “Can you talk about “peace” without the word “war”?

Among others, a lively discussion ensued when a member asked, “Who should be responsible for establishing and maintaining existing statues, tangible objects, monuments, etc.? How should governments and citizens interact in this?” 

In response to this, they discussed the differences between private management of a work of art and the collective memories passed down through shared management in the public sphere, and the role that a third party organization could play in coordinating funding in the case of public management.

The example of Osaka Castle, which was rebuilt for the third time with funds from residents’ donations but is now managed by the city, was introduced, and the limits of the long-term public nature of managing a tangible object were mentioned.

Furthermore, questions were raised about the tendency that “any kind of expression is allowed for privately managed objects,” and it was concluded that dialogue is essential to find a balance between the subjectivity of history that is handed down.

For the next workshop where we will hear from experts on memory transfer outside of Asia, we have been given many ideas on how we can think in the context of the Asian region and build a dialogue.

You can register from here for our public workshop “Historical Inheritance and Challenges in the 21st Century” on December 4 with Dr. Mirijam Zadoff, Director of the Munich Nazi Documentation Center, as our guest lecturer together with the Holocaust Education Resource Center Tokyo and the Goethe-Institut Tokyo.

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to Professor Kyungmook Kim of the Institute of Korean Studies, Waseda University, for his tremendous support and inspiring lecture, and to Professor Lee Chee Keng of Yale-NUS for providing various perspectives and for stimulating the discussion.


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