This chapter assesses the role of folk performance art in nation-building efforts in postcolonial Korea. Both Korean states, in their competing assertions of legitimacy, valorized “the people” (minjung), mobilized the performing arts to define and enshrine Korean national identity, and provided institutional support for the preservation and performance of these expressive forms, both at home and abroad. Moreover, dissident groups in South Korea performed shamanic exorcisms and t'alch'um dramas to identify themselves with the masses and to pressure the government toward democratization. It is argued that, whereas Korean political and intellectual elites had traditionally despised these expressive forms, the experience of colonial scrutiny transformed them from caste-specific genres to symbols of Koreanness, worthy of state patronage. Moreover, folk performance art has become a medium for commemorating the country's colonial history and spirit of resistance.
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