The Old Seoul Station as a Performative Space: The Archive and the City

Prof. Hyunjung Lee1

1Kansai Gaidai University, Osaka, Japan

The Old Seoul Station was established in 1925 as part and parcel of the Japanese colonial project that had aimed to venture further into Manchuria and finally to Russia by using the Korean Peninsula, or more specifically, Seoul Station as one of the major strategic gateways. Colonial-era Seoul Station (then named Kyungsung Station), after ceasing its original function as a train station in 2004 was restored in 2011 as a multi-genre cultural site named “Culture Station 284 [Munhwayok 284]” where a variety of cultural events such as exhibitions, performances, workshops, and talks are held.  The Old Seoul Station as a decisive symbol of mobility, migration, modernization, and urbanization is a space located amidst the complex layers of time and history. The station itself exists at the center of conflicting desires—a symbol of colonial exploitations and expansions and also a gateway into the new, external modern world. In the process of South Korea’s rapid industrialization during the 1960s-1970s, the station also became a major entrance through which a massive population from the rural areas had migrated into the capital city to realize their Seoul Dream.  By examining various aspects of the Old Seoul Station, this paper claims how this historical architecture may depart from and complicate the notion of an archive. Looking into the station building as a performative, fluid space allows the building to be reiterated, reborn, and regenerated into various strands of narratives, participating in both structuring and transmitting disparate forms of identities and desires. I argue that the performative reading of the station let us view the architectural space in motion, always moving to and fro between the past and present, and in-between reality and the fictional representation.


Hyunjung Lee is a Professor of Performance and Asian Cultural Studies at Kansai Gaidai University, Osaka, Japan. Her publications have appeared in Theatre Research International and in the Journal of Popular Culture, among other journals. She is the author of Performing the Nation in Global Korea: Transnational Theatre (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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