Organized Panel Session
This panel investigates various segments of the population that have often been deemed as “excess”– ranging from beggars and garbage pickers to North Korean defectors – and relocates them from the margins of Korean society to the focal points of post-1945 South Korean development. The stigma of “excess” applied to these social groups reinforced the need for the state to relegate and regulate these bodies, particularly making them – both their physical presence and their contribution to state building – invisible to the public eye. It was their very residual status that rendered them redundant, useless, or abandoned, despite having played active, albeit underappreciated, roles in the development process. By re-examining the lives and practices of the marginalized, this panel seeks to counter the narratives of excess by demonstrating how they manifested and reclaimed their agencies.
Young Sun Park complicates the history of orphans by rediscovering the figure of the “Beggar King” Kim Ch’unsam. Arguing for the recognition of Kim Ch’unsam as a rehabilitated self-made man asserting his own agency, Park repositions orphans as both subjects and agents of the state-building process in South Korea during the post-liberation era. Jinhee Park excavates the portrayal of North Korean defectors as outcasts and excess in blockbuster films, reframing the meta-narratives by addressing their agency as deputies, negotiators, and cooperators in South Korean cinema. Hyojin Pak examines waste pickers at Seoul’s Nanji Landfill, urging for a recasting of them as workers with agency, rather than as the “urban poor” or “landfill dwellers.”