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Full Access Beyond the 'Long Partition'. From Divisive Geographies of Korea to the Korean 'Meta-Culture'

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Beyond the 'Long Partition'. From Divisive Geographies of Korea to the Korean 'Meta-Culture'

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This paper addresses the importance of the post-colonial division of Korea between North and South in shaping not only territorial structures, but also geographical interpretations of contemporary Korea. After a critical analysis of the Korean 'meta-border', the paper discusses how traditional approaches in Korean geography consider the 'long partition' as a backdrop affecting South and North Korean societies. Until the 1990s, this divisive paradigm was expressed in South Korea by the focus on various embodiments of the developmental state at the national scale with great attention on Seoul, or its alternative, the regional problem (chiyok munje). Recent trends in Korean studies acknowledge the peculiarities of the Korean socio-spatial dimensions that disturb multi-scaled borders and boundaries, geographical, national or ethnic. The paper argues that, in the classical paradigm, the division between North and South Korea, internalised at all levels of the socio-spatial spheres, acted as an essential matrix for shaping not only both societies but their narratives in the social sciences. This requires a new geographical approach to Korea, going beyond the partition, from territorial borders between North and South to epistemological borders within Korean geographies, or Korean studies themselves, in order to better grasp the notion of a 'Korean meta-culture'.

Affiliations: 1: Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), China, Japan, Korea Joint Lab (UMR8173 CNRS-EHESS);, Email:


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