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Red Love in Korea in the Global 1920s

By Ruth Barraclough, Lecturer, Australian National University/Korea Colloquium Series

Thursday, November 06, 2008
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM
11377 Bunche hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Debates about heterosexual love and companionate marriage flourished in colonial Korea in the 1920s and 1930s. They were part of a global fascination with Red Love in the Soviet Union, North America, Japan, colonial India, and Australia in these years. In colonial Korea, magazines and newspapers carried stories about prominent couples who blazed the trail of Red Love in their devotion to each other and the revolution. Journalists and interviewers dwelt on the bravery of these relationships in terms that established the high social, political and familial stakes of unconventional and unrecognised unions. In Korea, ruled as a colony of Imperial Japan, discourses of Red Love and Free Love enabled people to imagine what a socialist or liberal democratic society might feel like. Some have argued that it was the fad of Red Love that first brought socialism its wider audience in colonial Korea. Before the Red Love scandals were taken up in newpapers and magazines, socialism had struggled to make an impact in broader political debates or popular culture. This paper explores why love became a political discourse in colonial Korean society. Barraclough will analyze the public's appetite for news about the celebrity couples of socialist love matches, and the high costs of these liasons. And will examine Korean proletarian literature to determine to what extent Red Love as a plot device had the capacity to bring together issues of class, sexual desire, gender discrimination and internationalism. While Red Love was never completely embraced by orthodox cadre, it would be invaluable in selling socialism, and modelling the pleasures of a "reorganized society".


Ruth Barraclough lectures in Korean language, history and literature at the Australian National University.

Open to the Public

Cost : Free


Sponsor(s): Center for Korean Studies

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