Mass media radio culture and literature occupied an important and large space in the making of 1970s culture under Park Chung Hee’s Yushin regime. Radio technology and the sounds produced by radio broadcasting indelibly came to be used by the state to maneuver and discipline the masses, but it was also a medium through which programs and listeners found creative outlets to question state-produced truths. Against the popular belief that documentary texts are based on facts, and as sites for reproducing the real, most documentaries can be read as dramatizations working within the dramatic economy of their given medium. South Korean radio used the documentary turn in the 1960s and 1970s as a way of responding to the growing repressive regime and technological innovations. These documentaries specifically used dramatization to reenact truth and reality. Therefore, docudramas can be heard as a site of an intricate drama being played out among the state, mass media, and listeners, who are after all interested in trying to translate what is real and true. Doing so opens up possibilities for situating documentaries in line with work that produces new, creative meanings rather than work that merely reproduces or adheres to hegemonic beliefs and practices.
This article analyzes 1970s South Korean radio culture by juxtaposing one of the most popular radio docudramas of that decade, Pŏpch’ang yahwa (Anecdotes of Law and Order), with Ch’oe In-hun’s linked novel The Voice of the Governor General to suggest that even amid Park Chung Hee’s Yushin era, which enforced media censorship and dictated nationalist propaganda, documentation and dramatization in radio enthusiastically played with alternative truths. This, the author argues, happened in radio broadcasting because its sori, or sound, drew a contingent fidelity among the state, radio (broadcasters and authors), and listeners (implied and real) where truth could be held in suspension and engage in producing sonic imagination. The author shows that the radio and auditory texts complicate the idea of fidelity precisely because sound and voice have been “seen” as ephemeral and contingent, whereas vision and reading are linked to fidelity and truth.