Abstract: Environmentalism in South Korea has long been associated with political leftism and its so-called minjung ideology, that is, constructed as oppositional to the pro-business, pro-United States and authoritarian Right associated with the country's post-war dictatorships. The resultant conflation of anti-Americanism and environmentalism has allowed the Korean Left to mobilize powerful folk-narratives of US crime - environmental, political and otherwise - in debates over the presence of US military bases. One such narrative, loosely based on the dumping of toxic chemicals into the Han River in Seoul, is central to the South Korean science fiction blockbuster Gwoemul (2006), the title of which literally translates as 'monster', although the film is known internationally as The Host. The film's monster embodies a minjung vision of the ecology of dystopian politics and the politics of ecological dystopianism. Despite director Bong Joon-Ho's claims to the contrary, The Host is saturated with politics, embodying a South Korean leftist critique in which pollution and environmentalism are conflated with and tied to the relationship between the Korean and US governments. The monster embodies the ideological conflation of a polluted ecology with a political ecology itself 'polluted' by US influence. The Host's overt investment in, and attempted resuscitation of, explicitly leftist politics and specifically 'magical' thinking regarding politics, environment and nation, rooted in the historical experience of the post-war development-era dictatorships, simply cannot be ignored.
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To cite this article: Sellar, Gord. Politics and Ecology on the Korean Left [online]. Arena Journal, No. 35/36, 2011: -232.
[cited 17 Jan 19].