Min Wha Han

Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Sandra J. Berkowitz

Second Committee Member

Eric E. Peterson

Third Committee Member

Paul Grosswiler


This thesis enacts a rhetorical analysis of Korean reunification issues from a postcolonial critical rhetorical perspective. By tracing some historically situated events in and between South and North Korea, this thesis critiques meanings as well as functions of ideologies embedded in Korean authoritative rhetoric for unification. In addition, the study argues for a transformative effect of political discourse by offering a rhetorical analysis of the Inter Korean Summit held in 2000. The scope of the study ranges from the national liberation in 1945 to the Inter-Korean Summit in 2000. A historical chapter discusses an importance of taking a rhetorical approach to history. It is argues that a rhetorical perspective to the national histories interrogates the processes in which rhetoric plays a power to form social identity and reality, making them fixed as the status quos. A postcolonial critical rhetorical perspective critiques the rhetorical aspects of the formation of national identity and the divisional reality in Korea. It has been found that in the context of the Cold War, the authoritative discourses in South and North Korea had been based on exclusive negation of each other, informed by ideological conflicts between the United States and the former Soviet Union. Contrary to Korea's neocolonial relationship with these two countries, however, reunification rhetoric in each Korean society have emphasized the "subjectivity" in achieving national unification. The contradiction between rhetorical function of "subjectivity" and hybrid national identities of two Korean societies has remained as a rhetorical constraint in the post-Cold War era. The textual analysis of the Inter-Korean Summit corresponds to the issues of subjectivity and hybridity in Korean politics, arguing that the Summit discourses have served to re-articulate the boundaries between self and other. The rhetoric plays a transformative role to redefine the meaning of culture, while requiring the audience to be self-reflexive. Methodological implications offered from this thesis are critical considerations of the "possibility of the subject" (McKerrow, 1993) to the practical issues of South-North negotiations. The critical consideration that rhetoric can have a "possibility" to transform problematic power relations in both our knowledge and reality deals with a problem in terms of how the North-South dialogues on reconciliation should be conducted in the postmodern era. The study offers a theoretical conversation to the reunification issue in Korean peninsula.

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