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August 12, 2022

30 Fascinating Photographs That Capture Everyday Life in South Korea in the 1980s

The decade of the 1980s is rightly celebrated by Koreans today as the era of minjung (people’s) culture, a time when a collective effort by ordinary citizens and intellectuals alike led to upheaval and the democratization of the country within the space of a few years.

Previous representations of the era, however, have tended to privilege a political narrative of liberation over many complexities and contradictions. On the one hand, the focus on democratization has left in the shadow other coeval processes such as rapid economic expansion, the rise of a middle class as a social subject, and the opening up of culture through new media and technology.

On the other hand, the persistent centering of minjung intellectuals as the agents of democratization has led to a neglect of the contributions of workers, women, and common Koreans as well as the downplaying of the international aspects of the movement.

These vintage photographs below captured the life of South Korea through the 1980s:


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