This article examines Cold War icons transfigured in new media ecology by looking at the South Korean webtoon (web cartoon) Secretly, Greatly. In featuring the superfluous existence of kanch’ŏp (North Korean spies) dispatched to the South, the graphic narrative interweaves the legacy of national division with the sensibilities of the millennial generation. Feeling that their lives are rendered ingyŏ (surplus) under neoliberal governance, the precarious youth empathetically relate to the history-laden image of spies, whose belonging in society has been disavowed or forsaken. Appropriating earlier aesthetic conventions, Secretly, Greatly thus offers content and a channel through which the surplus generation can express and share their sense of misplacement in the present. In addressing such remediation of inherited memories, this study critically attends to the webtoon’s formal qualities that evoke affective engagement and connective practices in the digital space. By fostering multisensory interactions with the kanch’ŏp-ingyŏ personas on the screen, the graphic power of comics invites the viewer to participate in the characters’ boundary-crossing movements against the geopolitical backdrop of divided Korea. Nonetheless, the webtoon ultimately leaves the survival of North Korean others beyond the realm of the visible because their ordinary coexistence in the South is yet to be imagined.
Redrawing the Division Lines?: Surplus, Connectivity, and Remediation in the South Korean Webtoon Secretly, Greatly
We Jung Yi is assistant professor of Asian studies at Vanderbilt University. Her recent work has appeared in Journal of Korean Studies, Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, and Verge: Studies in Global Asias. She is currently completing a monograph that explores Korean War memories as formed through literature, film, and digital media in South Korea.
We Jung Yi; Redrawing the Division Lines?: Surplus, Connectivity, and Remediation in the South Korean Webtoon Secretly, Greatly. positions 1 November 2020; 28 (4): 701–727. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-8606404
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