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Johnsen, Nikolai (2024) Dark Tourism and Dissonant Memories in Korea and Japan: The potentials of dark tourism as a tool to visualise marginalised narratives of colonialism. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Dissonant collective memories of colonialism underlie enduring conflicts between South Korea and Japan. Memory and identity politics, aimed at nurturing national pride, have perpetuated misrepresentations of their shared colonial past, sidelining narratives of victims misaligned with the official discourse. This research explores the potential of dark tourism for illuminating marginalised memories of war and colonialism. Dark tourism can be defined as a methodology of travel that engages with both “bright” and “dark” collective memories, offering insights into contemporary society and its complex contradictions. This study examines how sites of colonial memory can be adapted for educational dark tourism by site managers, external actors, and individual visitors, and how such tourism can impact the collective memory and social identities of Koreans, Japanese, and other individuals who engage with it. Data was collected through tourism participation and observation in Korea and Japan, focusing on four case study sites. Semistructured research interviews were conducted with 17 stakeholders, and a street survey targeting 250 Koreans was conducted. Findings show that despite governmental memory politics obstructing impartial narratives at official sites, many Koreans, Japanese, and others express interest in confronting colonial memories while traveling. Particularly, younger Koreans, less influenced by ethnic nationalism, and Japanese individuals with a genuine interest in Korean tourism, find educational value in dark tourism related to colonial memory, and are less likely to perceive it as a threat to their national identities. The data analysis suggests that an increase in dark tourism at sites of colonial memory in Korea and Japan could contribute to fostering mutual understanding of dissonant and sensitive collective colonial memories. The findings underscore how the roles of both Korean and Japanese NGOs and other non-governmental groups are pivotal in highlighting colonial memory excluded from official narratives at pertinent heritage sites in both countries.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Owen Miller
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 17 May 2024 10:26
Funders: Other

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