Korea Way: An Automatic System of Machinery

By Soyoon Bach

I have always analyzed my ecology, Korea Way (the main portion of the Manhattan Korea Town), through the lens of Jane Bennett. I examined how “thing power” and “vibrant materiality” played a role in my ecology. However, in light of the machinery/technology-concentrated readings we have been doing recently, I want to attempt a different approach. I decided to see what conclusions I would come to when I viewed my ecology as a giant machine or more specifically, an “automatic system of machinery” (Marx 692).

According to Marx, this “automatic system of machinery…[consists] of numerous mechanical and intellectual organs” (Marx 692). Let’s assume that Korea Way is an automatic system of machinery. It surely composes of mechanical organs, which I will interpret broadly as to mean physical attributes, such as the buildings, the food, the streets, the cars, the signs, the computers, the cash registers, etc. Then there are the intellectual attributes, such as the humans that work there or the customers that frequent the shops and businesses. These attributes all intertwine and communicate to create a systematic machinery that keeps this street running the way it does. This system has a “soul of its own” and human labor only comprises a small portion of this system (Marx 693).

This automatic system belongs, technically, to a corporation. I’m not speaking of a specific corporation like Samsung but a more general view of the idea of corporation. The corporation could be seen as Korea. As stated in Deleuze’s Postscript to the Societies of Control, the main purpose of corporations has drifted from the simplistic economic mode of selling or making products; it is now “[selling] services.” So what services are provided in Korea Way? In the vaguest sense, the service is the providing of Korean culture. People come to Korea Way looking to immerse themselves in Korean culture, whether that is through food or merchandise or the simple interaction with Korean people. Furthermore, Deleuze also explains that what corporations want to acquire are stocks. I believe in the case of Korea Way, the stocks not only consist of the actual buildings and merchandise, but also in the people that work and visit this area. The people should also be considered stocks since they are integral in maintaining the economic value of Korea Way.

However, to what extent is Korea Way natural? Think about it. In the middle of Manhattan in New York in the United States of America, half way around the world from Korea, lies a block completely separate from its surroundings in that it is enclosed in its own ecosystem of Korean businesses. Here, people speak Korean, sell Korean items, provide Korean services and yet they are not in Korea. In this sense, it could be seen that this systematic machinery “[challenges], which puts to nature the unreasonable demand that it supply energy that can be extracted and stored as such” (Heidegger 14). Unlike more simplistic technology that coexisted with nature, modern technology challenges it. Korea Way challenges nature as well. This street is unnatural in its surroundings in its abrupt distinction from the natural cultural atmosphere of the area it is located in. In order to keep up this challenge, they have to utilize a lot of resources to maintain a steady supply of Korean products, to keep up with the latest Korean cultural phenomenon, to maintain the ambience of a street in Seoul, and to hire laborers that speak Korean, most of the time even resorting to the hiring of illegal immigrants.

While most people could view Korea Way as a simple tourist attraction and an interesting cultural site in Manhattan, it could also be observed as a modern technological systematic machinery that conflicts with its natural surroundings and as a mere mechanism and tool in a corporate society.

Works Cited

Deleuze, Gilles. “Postscript on the Societies of Control.” Gilles Deleuze. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2013.

Heidegger, Martin. “The Question Concerning Technology.” The Question concerning Technology, and Other Essays. New York & London: Harper & Row, 1977. 3-35. Print.

Marx, Karl. “The Fragment on Machines.” The Grundrisse. New York: Harper & Row, 1971. 690-712. Print.

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~ by sb3691 on September 24, 2013.