Abstract: During the Korean War, more than 200,000 South Koreans were massacred in anti-communist violence. Their history was suppressed under a series of authoritarian governments of the Cold War era and re-emerged after 1987, when South Korea democratized. Beyond documented history, much of the intimate details of the lives and deaths of the victims have been revealed through the testimonies of their surviving families—some of whom actively campaigned for historical justice after the war. Based on oral history accounts, this presentation examines the narratives of the bereaved families and their life experiences during the Cold War. Following a discussion of the historical background, this presentation looks at structural violence underlying the concept of “guilt-by-association” that overshadowed the lives of the victims’ descendants. It also talks about the less known stories of war widows who faced social, political, and economic hardships as underclass women, single mothers, and the so-called “wives of the Red.” The narratives of the bereaved families shed light on the complex web of inter-generational history, gendered memory, social class, and political conflict that shaped their experiences of the Korean War and the Cold War.
Speaker: Dr Su-Kyoung Hwang, Senior Lecturer in Korean Studies, University of Sydney
Dr Su-Kyoung Hwang is a historian of modern Korea. Su-Kyoung came to the University of Sydney in 2013. Su-Kyoung teach broadly in Korean history, culture, and language. Her research examines the civilian experience of political violence during the Korean War era, and she is the author of Korea’s Grievous War (2016).