This article uses Ch’anggyŏng Garden, a Chosŏn Dynasty palace transformed into an amusement park under Japanese rule, to trace the violent process of (South) Korea’s decolonization in the decade after 1945. It argues that the garden’s colonial afterlives resulted from contentious interactions between the state-building projects of bourgeois elites and the everyday practices of subaltern subjects. For his part, Syngman Rhee sought to identify the garden as a Japanese vestige, but faced popular opposition by citizens who favored its reuse as a recreational grounds. As a result of these contentious interactions, postcolonial leaders learned to creatively exploit this powerful, if unruly, site. To highlight these contestations, I analyze two overlapping spectacles aimed at channeling the spiritual and material energies of the masses in directions that would promote nationalist projects. The first heroicized individuals who died on behalf of their new state, encouraged future generations of South Koreans to support the ever-expanding Hot Wars of Asia. If these memorial services sought to promote anticommunist militarism, industrial expositions persuaded visitors to support state-led projects of capitalist development. Both exploitative, these interrelated projects benefited citizens in markedly uneven ways, as government and business officials subjected them to their neocolonial agendas.

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