Mending Wall? The War over History in South Korea


Sangjun Jeong
Seoul National University
South Korea

Mending Wall?
The War over History in South Korea

Abstract: Until Korea was divided into North and South in 1945, it had maintained its territorial unity on the Korean peninsula for well over 1,000 years. Then, two young US officers drew an arbitrary line along the 38th parallel. Developing into a heavily militarized zone only several years later, ironically called the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ), that division has lasted for decades and into the present. Recently, several symbolic acts were performed in the zone and innovative plans were suggested to make the land strip into a peace park as a symbol of ideological reconciliation and ecological paradise. Yet to many Koreans, the zone is still inscribed as a wall permanently bisecting the peninsula not only physically but also culturally.  Through an analysis of Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall,” this article contemplates the divisions within South Korean society over the North –South divide as a war over the telling of history. This history, however told, must be understood alongside the sentiment of han, a Korean word loosely defined as frustration, anger, and sadness, something that has been shaped by centuries of suffering from wars, invasions, colonization, injustice, and exploitation. 

Keywords: Korean Peninsula, Political Divisions, History, War, Demilitarized Zone


Korean Peninsula; Political Divisions; History; War; Demilitarized Zone

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Published : 2018-06-30

JeongS. (2018). Mending Wall? The War over History in South Korea. Review of International American Studies, 11(1). Retrieved from

Sangjun Jeong
Seoul National University South Korea  Korea, Republic of

Sangjun Jeong teaches American literature and cultural history at Seoul National University in South Korea.  His current research interests lie in New England Puritanism, American democracy, and the tradition of political novels in the United States. Jeong was recently a visiting scholar at Duke University and at Harvard University’s Harvard-Yenching Institute, and a Fellow at the International Forum for US Studies at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.  He has served as the Director of the American Studies Institute at SNU, Executive Director of the Language Education Institute at SNU, and President of the American Studies Association of Korea. His book, Representing the Rosenberg Case: Coover, Doctorow, and the Consequences of Postmodernism, was published by Seoul National University Press (1994).

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