1st Edition

Fictional International Relations Gender, Pain and Truth

By Sungju Park-Kang Copyright 2014

    This book proposes the idea of fictional International Relations (IR) and engages with feminist IR by contextualising the case of a woman spy in Korea in the Cold War.

    Fictional imagination and feminist IR encourage one to go beyond conventional or standard ways of thinking; it reshapes taken-for-granted interpretations and assumptions. This takes the view that a dominant narrative of events might be reconstructed as a different kind of story, once events are placed within a wider temporal approach. The case of the woman Korean secret agent- who reportedly bombed a South Korean plane (Korean Airlines (KAL) Flight 858) under the instruction from the North Korean leadership to disrupt the Seoul Olympic Games- is chosen to serve as an effective example of fictional IR and feminist IR scholarship, which can be investigated through the research puzzles concerning gender, pain and truth.

    Fictional International Relations has three main objectives. First, it investigates the way in which fiction-writing can become a method for dealing with data problems and contingency in IR. Second, the book examines how gender, pain and truth operate or interact in the case of the Korean spy and how this observation can strengthen feminist IR in terms of intersectionality. Finally, the author goes on to explore why this case has been so difficult to study openly and thoroughly. The aim of the book is not to refute the official findings; the point is to unpack complex dynamics surrounding truth—more specifically how the official account has been executed as ‘the’ truth—based on a feminist-informed investigation.

    This book will be of interest to students of IR theory, critical security studies, Cold War studies, gender studies and Asian studies.

    A letter of survival 1. A mysteriously sorry story 2. The (too hot to be) cold war and KAL 858 3. Fictional International Relations 4. Fiction: Sister, I am sorry 5. Feminist IR towards intersectional politics 6. The gender bomb-shell in KAL 858 7. The pain mosaic in KAL 858 8. The truth trouble in KAL 858 9. Becoming an IR detective 10. Fiction as another conclusion


    Sungju Park-Kang is Assistant Professor at the Institute for Area Studies, Leiden University, the Netherlands.

    ' "Fictional International Relations" may sound like an oxymoron, but it isn't. Reading Sungju Park-Kang's innovative case study of the mysterious cold war downing of flight KAL 858 makes me realize anew how much we all try to make sense of politics amidst uncertainty, how much we employ imagination to make that sense, and how much a feminist curiosity aids us in that daunting effort. I recommend Fictional International Relations to all readers who are candid enough to admit that international politics is riddled with uncertainties.' -- Cynthia Enloe, Clark University, USA

    ‘The most important part which I liked in the book was that the author, while compiling his case study, also summarised his limitations in the penultimate chapter, leaving the final chapter as a fictional ending, nudging the realm of the imaginary character ‘Olight Jung’ to take up the case once again.’ -- Sadaf Iqbal, Political Studies Review

    ‘The organizing committee of the Social Sciences Korean Studies European Network (SSKSEN)  2018 Paris workshop has selected five outstanding works in the Korean studies field… The reason of this choice lies in the wish to select already published works showing both originality of the subject and of the research method, and also a strong level of intellectual curiosity. Sungju Park-Kang’s book presents all these characteristics, on top of a special consideration for humanity.’ -- Marie-Orange Rivé-Lasan, Paris Diderot University, France

    ‘This is a remarkable work of scholarship that takes scholarly method into the realms of the imagination as a necessary step for understanding a complex web of narratives and actions... What Sungju Park-Kang has done here is to compile meticulously all the available evidence about the bombing and, where evidence and enigma meet, he has written a fictional international relations to suggest what might have happened, and to suggest the human and emotional horizons of this case. He writes like a novelist and renders an account of what happened that is moving, but no longer traduced into soap.’ -- Stephen Chan, SOAS, University of London, UK

    'I believe that this book provides important insights into our understanding of the importance of imagination, emotions and gendered perspectives in IR research. Moreover, since it binds together several related issues, this book remains on the whole accessible to a readership of scholars of Asian studies, political science, sociology, and gender studies alike.' - Jaok Kwon-Hein, ASIEN