Culture and collective memory

Comparative perspectives

Authored by: Barry Schwartz

Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  July  2010
Online publication date:  September  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415474450
eBook ISBN: 9780203891377
Adobe ISBN: 9781134026159

10.4324/9780203891377.ch59

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Abstract

Shame is sometimes difficult to fathom. When South Korean university students were recently asked to name the three events that “arouse in you as a citizen (rather than a private individual) a sense of dishonor, disgrace, shame, and/or remorse,” they listed, in order of frequency, Japanese colonial rule, the International Monetary Fund loan, the Korean War, wrongdoings of former presidents, and the collapse of the Sung Soo Bridge and Sam Poong Department Store. One of the investigators, an American, found the Korean response bizarre. Why should occupation by an overwhelmingly powerful neighbor and acceptance of a loan to support a troubled economy be deemed sources of shame rather than anger or distress? Why should an approximately equal proportion of respondents consider the crimes of individual politicians, the Korean War—which preserved the existence of their country, and the collapse of a bridge and department store, as instances of national disgrace?

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