Shadows of War in Daily Consumer Life: “Cataclysm”

One striking thing in Seoul today is the absence of explicit reference to the multiple wars that are going on around the world. Even Guantanamo Bay never comes up in conversation with Koreans and is rarely mentioned in the media. But that does not mean that Koreans are unaware of these endless wars dragging on out there. Oddly, even as those wars remain invisible in the daily life of Seoul, little hints of violence appear in the margins and corners of society. They can be found in the video games children play. But oddly also that violence is implied in the T-shirts that Koreans wear. I have noticed many youth in Seoul wearing T-shirts dotted with skulls.

The store “Soul Man” features a variety of hip clothes for young men. Look a little more closely.

Clothing store near Kyung Hee University in Seoul

Clothing store near Kyung Hee University in Seoul


Ths maniquin is wearing an odd T-shirt in the display. The maniquin is wearing a case for a bus pass like dog tags and looks like he is ready to hang out in Greenwich Village, but note the odd T-shirt. Above the ominous words “Cataclysm” we see a group of soldiers in black and white with an American flag in color flying in front. The color contrast suggests that the soldiers may be dehumanized. The entire shirt suggests a systematic and ethical collapse.


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