Organized Panel Session
This panel explores the diverse meanings, practices, and implications of “infrastructure” in South Korea, from megaprojects and military bases to the material cultures and logistics of protest. Focusing on the politics of locality and scale, the papers consider how competing notions of progress and development unfold in and through concrete infrastructural sites. “Infrastructure” generally implies a part or whole of a material chain that serves as connective tissue across space, guiding flows of people, power, and material things, not only through fixed infrastructure such as roads and utilities, but also through durable connections between people. Some kinds of infrastructures such as megaprojects index particular notions of progress and development through visible, spectacular transformations. Other infrastructures operate unannounced and even secretly, and still others can serve as sites or tools of resistance and foster democratic engagements among people. Considering infrastructure in South Korea, Youjeong Oh explores how Jeju Island’s localized development and deregulation schemes, ostensibly meant to solve problems of “underdevelopment,” in fact produce the island as a speculative frontier for the spectacular, often destructive megaprojects of mainland and international capital. Bridget Martin asks how South Korean development practices enroll active and deactivated US military installations in ambitious infrastructural projects. Seung-youp Lee investigates the industrial crane as a site of protest, showing how the very precarity and drama of crane occupation generates new forms of social solidarity. Panelists draw from extensive fieldwork and from a variety of scholarly fields including critical geography, urban studies, social movement studies, and vernacular architecture.