Memories of the 'Science War': Early Histories of the Atomic Bombings in the Two Koreas

Derek Kramer
Tue October 19th 2021, 12:00am
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Center for East Asian Studies
Hybrid event - Public via Zoom
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Memories of the 'Science War': Early Histories of the Atomic Bombings in the Two Koreas

Derek Kramer explores the theme of liberatory science in Korean narratives of the atomic bombings. In doing so, his work highlights how North and South Korean conflations between science and developmentalism silenced Korean survivors of the attacks. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were a constant feature of the post-liberation Korean press. During this time, the science behind the bomb acted as a marker of futurity that circulated in ways that directly commented on the nature of the postcolonial condition. For some, atomic science simply pointed to the predominance of global hegemons and demonstrated the liberatory potential of these powers. Versions of these readings are explored through an examination of the concept of “Science War” in Korean accounts of the Asia-Pacific War. While this narrative certainly demoted the authority of the Japanese metropole to define the future, it did little to undermine a Eurocentric view of historical progress common in both the North and South. A corresponding section examines the forms of nuclear foreboding silenced by this account. This sentiment is explored through the cases of Korean atomic bomb survivors and their induction into a postwar community that was physiologically unable to leave the fact of the bombings behind.

This is a hybrid event, with in-person attendance restricted to Stanford affiliates (ID holders) ONLY ( East Asia Library Room 224). Members of the public can join us for this talk via Zoom. 

About the speaker

Derek Kramer is a Korea Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His degree was conferred by the University of Toronto in 2021. Trained as a historian in an area studies department, his work on modern history through the lens of an East Asian past crosses multiple disciplinary, geographic and temporal lines. His ongoing research focuses on the intellectual and cultural history of atomic science and technology in early Cold War North and South Korea.

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