A History of Protest Memorials in Three Democratic East-Asian Capital Cities: Taipei, Hong Kong and Seoul

Stevens, Quentin

Ngā Pūtahitanga / Crossings: A Joint Conference of SAHANZ and the Australasian UHPH Group

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This paper examines a range of grassroots protest memorials erected over the past 60 years within public spaces in the capital cities of three ‘Asian Tigers’: Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea. These cities grew quickly as their polities rapidly democratized in the 1980s after long periods of foreign and local authoritarian rule. The paper explores the complex relationships between these memorials and their various urban settings, and how these reflect the wider evolution of political authority, social history and values in each host territory. Drawing on documentary research, interviews, discourse analysis and site analysis of over 20 projects, the paper examines two key aspects of the planning and design of grassroots memorials in Taipei, Hong Kong and Seoul. Firstly, it discusses how these memorials’ designs communicate and critique the struggles of civil society against the cities’ authoritarian rulers. Secondly, it analyses the kinds of sites where these grassroots memorials have been erected, which contrast with the cities’ more prominent, government-endorsed commemorative sites. The paper identifies key formal types, commonalities and differences, and historical changes in the ways that citizens in each capital city have developed a post-colonial, post-authoritarian representation of local history through protest memorials in urban spaces.