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LAN Seminar Talk
Title: Superfluous Value: Performing the yingyeo in Park Geun-Hyung’s Don’t Be Too Surprised
Abstract: South Korean playwright and director Park Geun-Hyung’s 2009 work Don’t Be Too Surprised depicts the disintegration of a poor, dysfunctional family. Although it first comes across as ironically clichéd, Park’s acclaimed work quickly unfurls in bizarre, surreal directions: characters suddenly burst into karaoke singing in the middle of scenes and a dead man hanging by his necktie speaks to his son sitting on the toilet in a cramped bathroom. My talk focuses on this youth, so agoraphobic that he would rather sit next to his father’s abandoned corpse than go outside, as emblematic of the idea of human surplus in neoliberal South Korean society. On the internet, Korean youths engage in yingyeo nori self-deprecating performances of their own superfluity to the workforce–in response to unemployment and the difficulty of economic independence. The toilet/coffin at the center of Don’t Be Too Surprised offers a striking symbol of the contemporary yingyeo, exploring both the horror and dark humor of people wasting away with nothing “productive” to do.