Conversion to Be: The Christian Encounters of North Korean Migrants in Late Cold War Korea
Arjun Appadurai inspires anthropologists to shed light on “one dimension of culture—its orientation to the future” (2004, p. 60). He pinpoints, and I agree, that general definitions of culture in anthropology tend to be associated with kinds of past-ness. On the contrary in his perspective, development, a main theme in economics, is viewed in terms of the progressive “future—plans, hopes, goals, targets” (Appadurai, 2004, p. 60). Drawing on this approach, this paper takes up North Korean migrants’ Christian conversion processes in the frame of the past, present, and future.1 Their conversion is not merely seen as an individual and internal transformation, but rather projected as an emblem of the future transformation of North Korea into liberal capitalism and Christianity. This paper analyzes Korean evangelical “capacity to aspire” in Appadurai’s terms. By examining North Korean migrants’ conversion narratives, I demonstrate that the seemingly teleological life and social transitions from socialism to liberal capitalism are indeed ambivalent and ambiguous.
KeywordsGreat Leader Evangelical Church Liberal Capitalism North Korean Refugee National Division
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