SOAS University of London

Centre of Korean Studies

Producing Political Landscape on the Korean Peninsula: Divided Visions, United Vista

Dr Robert Winstanley-Chesters (University of Cambridge) and Ms Sherri Ter Molen (Wayne State University)

Date: 1 May 2015Time: 5:15 PM

Finishes: 1 May 2015Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B102

Type of Event: Seminar


Myths of national construction and accompanying visual representations are often deeply connected to political narrative. The Korean peninsula may be unlike other political space due to the ruptured relations and sovereignty on its territory since World War II: North and South Korea. Nevertheless, both nations construct inverse ideologies with the common tools of the pen and lens, and both produce highly coded, politically-charged national, visual and narrative mythologies rooted in their physical landscape.

Following geographers Denis Cosgrove and Noel Castree in recognising landscape and environment as vital to the construction of symbolic national/political space(s) and adopting rhetorical and methodological strategies derived from communication studies’ approach to visual culture, this paper focuses on the “Saemaul” movement, a political project of the 1970s aimed at upgrading rural infrastructure and landscape in South Korea, which was both enacted by and connected to President Park Chung-hee. At the same time, Kim Il Sung and North Korea, manifested a charismatic political urgency on its own landscape through the “Ch’ollima” movement.

Comparing and connecting both of these acutely political projects, this paper seeks to examine the relationships between the visual productions of the Saemaul and Ch’ollima campaigns as well as the literary, rhetorical and narrative strategies embedded within the campaigns’ visual outputs. Critically and particularly, this paper examines strategies and representations of forestry management either side of the DMZ, juxtaposing these representations within the opposed states and revealing processes through which physical landscapes and their representations function to both divide and unite the Korean peninsula.


Dr Robert Winstanley-Chesters
Dr Robert Winstanley-Chesters
Dr Robert Winstanley-Chesters is a post-doctoral fellow on the University of Cambridge’s Beyond the Korean War project and visiting research fellow in the University of Leeds’s School of Geography. He obtained his doctorate from Leeds with the thesis, “Ideology and the Production of Landscape in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” Rowman and Littlefield’s Lexington Press publishing a monograph form as “Environment, Politics and Ideology in North Korea: Landscape as Political Project” in November 2014. His interests include historical forest geographies, colonial mineralogical landscapes/inheritances and animal/creaturely geographies of the Korean Peninsula. He is also the director of research for Sino-NK.

Ms Sherri Ter Molen
Ms Sherri Ter Molen

Ms Sherri L. Ter Molen is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Communication at Wayne State University in Detroit and an adjunct instructor in the College of Communication at DePaul University in Chicago. Her work has appeared in publications such as Korea 2013: Politics, Economy and Society, and her dissertation project is an ethnographic study of the identity negotiations of non-Korean members of Korean Meetup groups in the United States. She was named the 2014 Korean American Communication Association Outstanding Graduate Student, and she serves as the outreach coordinator for Sino-NK and the public relations manager for Engage Korea.


This seminar is free and open to the public.  No booking is required.

Organiser: Centre of Korean Studies