The autumn season of evening seminars at SOAS

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The programme of evening seminars at SOAS for October and November is set out below. Briefly, the agenda is:

The new SOAS logoThursday 17 October: North Korean nukes
Friday 18 October: Economic Democracy in South Korea
Friday 25 October: Anxiety and Nostalgia of Korean Contemporary Artists
Friday 15 November: North Korean army in the Economy of North Korea
Friday 22 November: The collecting of Koryo ceramics
Friday 29 November: Bringing the Names of God to East Asia
Friday 6 December: The Lonely Saint in Joseon dynasty Buddhism

North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Program and the Politics of Northeast Asia

Thursday, 17 October 2013
Professor Young C. Kim (Keio University)
17:15-19:00
G51, Ground Floor, Main Building, SOAS, Russell Square

Abstract

This talk assesses the impact that the issue of North Korea’s denuclearization has had on the politics of Northeast Asia in recent years. It analyzes the role that the denuclearization issue has played in shaping relations between the DPRK, on the one hand, and the US and other regional powers, on the other.

The talk consists of several parts: Part 1 discusses North Korean motivations for a series of provocations committed during the period 2009-2013, including missile launchings, nuclear tests, the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan, the artillery bombardment of Yeungpyengdo Island, and explicit threats to launch nuclear strikes against the US and the Republic of Korea. Part 2 reviews the countermeasures which the United States and other nations have taken in response to North Korean actions. Part 3 identifies and assesses the significance of the major factors influencing US policy decisions toward North Korea and the policy choices of other members of the six party talks—China, South Korea, Japan and Russia. Part 4 specifies and evaluates policy options available to the United States and sketches the most likely scenario for US-North Korean relations in the midrange.

Speaker Biography

Dr. Young C. Kim is Professor Emeritus of Political Science, George Washington University, and former Director, currently Senior Counselor, of the Sigur Center for Asian Studies. He received a Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania and taught at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Boston College and Vanderbilt University before joining the faculty at George Washington University. Dr. Kim has been a visiting professor at several universities in Korea and Japan, including Seoul National University, Korea University and Keio University in Tokyo. He has lectured at the Social Science Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. and the Social Science Academy of China and has participated in numerous academic and policy conferences held in Washington, Moscow, Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul and Pyongyang. While at George Washington University, Dr. Kim served as Director of the U.S.-D.P.R.K. academic and cultural exchange program for the period 1986-1996. Dr. Kim has written extensively about international relations involving the U.S., Asia, and the U.S.S.R. He is the author or editor of 10 books and about 70 articles, published in venues such as American Political Science Review, World Politics and Journal of Politics. He has also been a frequent contributor to newspapers in the U.S., Japan, and Korea.

The Costs of Commensurability: Debating economic democracy in South Korea

Friday, 18 October 2013
Jamie Doucette (University of Manchester)
17:15-19:00
G50, Ground Floor, Main Building, SOAS, Russell Square

Abstract

During the fall 2012 presidential election campaign in South Korea, ‘economic democratization’ became a campaign pledge embraced by parties across the political spectrum, and its meaning hotly debated. This marked a significant departure from the growth-first politics of ‘national advancement’ (seonjinhwa) embraced by the incumbent conservative regime and a move towards greater commensurability in public debate between the terminology of left and right in a political climate where Cold War rhetoric often saturates the political field. In order to better understand the origins of this transformation and to assess its limits, this paper examines the contours of the current debate. I argue that while the commensurability of this debate can be regarded as a positive outcome of democratization in as much as it signifies the reduction of antagonism between political forces, it can also be regarded as potentially depoliticizing in as much as it demonstrates a tendency to confine the problem of economic democracy to the corporate governance reform of large family-led conglomerates, or chaebol.

Speaker Biography

Jamie Doucette is Lecturer in Human Geography in the School of Environment and Development at the University of Manchester. His work examines the political economy of developmentalism and neoliberalism in South Korea. He is particularly interested in how the transformation of labour, finance and territory that has accompanied political-economic restructuring has created a variety of strategic challenges for political forces, including labour movements and democratic intellectuals, that emerged from Korea’s democracy movement.

Home That Never Was: On Anxiety and Nostalgia of Korean Contemporary Artists

Friday, 25 October 2013
Dr Jung-Ah Woo (Pohang University of Science and Technology, Korea)
17:15-19:00
G50, Ground Floor, Main Building, SOAS, Russell Square

Abstract

This study investigates the works of four Korean artists: Suh Do-Ho, Kim Sooja, Lee Bul, and Yang Haegue. Since the early 1990s, Korean artists have emerged as visible figures in the international art scene, especially under the euphemistic rubric of nomadic identity and hybrid aesthetics. In other words, the body of their works was immediately embraced by the rapid influx of “postmodern” discourses to the Asian continent at the end of the century. Yet, at the turn of the century, the military crises and financial catastrophes engulfing the entire globe complicate the understanding of such celebratory discourses of hybridity and nomadism. For the individuals living in this epoch of uncertainty, being hybrid and nomadic might invoke the fundamental anxiety of loss: loss of identity and original space.

The artists in this study have presented disparate modes of dealing with this sense of anxiety and nostalgia. I will argue that Suh generated nostalgia for his childhood home in Korea through architectures in fabric; Kim created an imagined location of origin in her video and performance; Lee demonstrated her conscious rejection of melancholic attachment to organic body by offering cyborgs and monsters; and finally Yang, the later generation than the previous three, offers a possibility of an artistic community with a contingent duration. These works clearly address the artists’ privatized memories, yet the individual processes of remembrance and representation offer a deeper understanding of the lost histories, as well as histories of loss in modern Korea.

Speaker Biography

Jung-Ah Woo is Assistant Professor at the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences in Postech, Korea. Woo earned her Ph.D. in art history from University of California at Los Angeles, and her MA and BA from Seoul National University. Her research area is the postwar art of East Asia and the United States with particular interests in collective memory, historical trauma, and identity politics.

The Current role of the North Korean army in the Economy of North Korea

Friday, 15 November 2013
Dr Nicolas Levi (Polish Academy of Sciences)
17:15-19:00
G50, Ground Floor, Main Building, SOAS, Russell Square

Abstract

North Korea has a very powerful army not only in terms of military aspects but also regarding economical issues. Since the 70’s the Army is controlling some assets of the North Korean economy. My presentation will focus on the role of the Army in the North Korean economy. Based upon my knowledge and 5 years of research I will present during my presentation the role of the North Korean Army in the North Korean economy. First I will present the type of economics assets which are under the control of the Army. Then I will give an overview regarding the militaries who are probably at the head of some economical structures (what are their background, which kind of economical structures are they controlling,…). I will also present the military structures which are involved in the North Korean economy (the Korean People’s Army, the Ministry of People’s Security, Worker-Peasant Red Guards,…). The final point of the presentation will focus on the fact that the Party is trying to get the control of some military assets especially through the National Defense Commission (NDC): in this point I will present some NK party officials who are controlling the economical assets of the Army.

Speaker Biography

Nicolas Levi is a researcher at the Polish Academy of Sciences and an analyst on Korean Issues at the Poland Asia Research Center (www.polska-azja.pl). Holding a PhD regarding the North-Korean leadership, his personal website (nicolaslevi.wordpress.com) focuses on North Korea issues.

The collecting of Koryo ceramics in late 19th and early 20th century

Friday, 22 November 2013
Dr Charlotte Horlyck (SOAS)
17:15-19:00
G50, Ground Floor, Main Building, SOAS, Russell Square

Abstract

In Korea green-glazed celadon ceramics were manufactured during the Koryŏ kingdom (AD918-1392), but by the end of the 14th century they stopped being made and they virtually disappeared from view until the 1880s when they began to be unearthed from tombs and other sites. This lead to increased interest in them among Koreans and especially the Japanese, the Americans and the Europeans. Focusing on British collections, this talk will outline the collecting practices of Korean celadon wares from the time of their discovery in the 1880s to the market boom of the 1910s, culminating in the decrease in their availability in the 1930s. It will be argued that the desire for celadon wares was socially conditioned and that celadon were collected for a range of different, though not unrelated reasons, ranging from collectors’ pursuit of unique Korean artworks, to their want for genuine antiquities and aesthetic perfection.

Speaker Biography

Charlotte Horlyck is a lecturer of Korean Art History in the Department of History of Art and Archaeology, SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies), University of London. She mainly researches on the material culture of the Koryŏ kingdom (AD918-1392), in particular bronze artefacts and ceramics, as well as on burial customs of this period.

Bringing the name(s) of God to East Asia: Missions and (Mis)adventures in Translation

Friday, 29 November 2013
Dr Kevin Cawley (University College Cork)
17:15-19:00
G50, Ground Floor, Main Building, SOAS, Russell Square

Abstract

Translation marks the beginning and the end of any mission strategy in a new cultural environment, where translation should be thought of as more than merely translating words – but also ideas and messages – by adapting to local contexts.

This presentation will provide an overview of the emplantation of Catholicism in East Asia. It will highlight the translational issues that arose by trying to translate the name(s) of God, and the message of Christianity into a very different intellectual and religious context. The first part will highlight the particular cultural and linguistic mishaps that the Jesuits first faced when they entered Japan, led by (Saint) Francis Xavier (1506-1552). Initially misled by misinterpretations and an unwillingness to adapt to the local ways, Alessandro Valignano (1539-1606), who later oversaw the missions, implemented a successful strategy of adaptation, which focused on language training. When the Jesuits entered China, with missionaries handpicked by Valignano himself, language and culture were seen as the main tools of evangelisation, while the name(s) of God and the message of the Catholic faith came later. Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), an Italian Jesuit, was the most successful translator of ideas from this early stage of emplantation in China, adapting to Confucian ways, even dressing as a Confucian, translating the Christian message, and the name(s) of God, into a Christo-Confucianology that attracted many converts. Ricci’s most important work, Tianzhu shiyi, (天主實義; The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven) also had another important effect: it led a group of Korean Confucian scholars to convert to Catholicism before any foreign missionary had even entered the country. This unexpected effect will be the focus of the final part of this paper, as we see how Koreans translated Christianity into their own context, opening up new possibilities for Being-in-the-world.

Speaker Biography

Dr Kevin N. Cawley is the director of the Irish Institute of Korean Studies at University College Cork (UCC), Ireland. He lectures on Korean Philosophy and Korea’s Religious Traditions. Dr Cawley researches East Asia’s intellectual history by engaging with contemporary critical theory, and is also interested in acculturation between traditions, and in particular, between Christianity and Neo-Confucianism in the late 18th /early 19th century.

Why is the ‘Lonely Saint’ so lonely in Korea’s Buddhist Monasteries?

Friday, 6 December 2013
Dr Beatrix Mecsi (Eötvös Loránd University)
Date: Time: 5:15 PM
17:15-19:00
G50, Ground Floor, Main Building, SOAS, Russell Square

Abstract

In Joseon Korea where Buddhism was suppressed by the Confucianist ideology, different iconographies appeared and a special syncretism can be observed. From the 17th century onwards we can trace a special figure, called the “Lonely Saint” (Dokseong) or Naban jonja, who is usually represented as a monk in landscape settings, full of symbols of immortality. His figure is usually enshrined together with shamanist and daoist images, thus making a special connection with those practices. The connection is especially strong with them, since he is also used in the same fashion, for real-world benefits and for long life.

From these features we can identify this Buddhist saint with one of the foremost pupils of Śākyamuni Buddha, the Indian Pindola Bharadvaja, who is called Binduro in Korea, and Binzuru in Japan. This particular Arhat, Pindola Bharadvaja, was worshipped as a separate figure from the very early times (we have evidence that in China the cult of Pindola was existent by the 5th century CE.). Since he has associations with magic and longevity (he had to stay in Earth until the coming of the Future Buddha, Maitreya), he became surrounded by longevity symbols and placed together with Daoist and folk-deities in Korea. This form of enshrinement is unique to Korea. In Japan he is conceived as a healing saint and his figure is usually represented in a sculpted form outside the halls of Buddhist temples from the Edo period onwards. The common feature of these images in Korea and Japan that both are approachable and very human figures who are intermediators to the holier and more psychologically-distant Buddha-realms. This feature is supported by the background religious texts which discuss Pindola as not entering Nirvana, but living on Earth maintaining a unique direct living connection with the historical Buddha Śākyamuni , whom he used to see face-to-face.

Speaker Biography

Beatrix Mecsi is an art historian with a specialization of East Asian Art. She has studied European Art History, Korean and Japanese Studies in Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) in Budapest, Hungary. After finishing her MA degrees (in Art History 1998 and Japanese Studies 1999), she went to England and obtained her PhD degree in University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in the Department of Art and Archaeology (2004). She won the Pro Scientia golden medal bestowed by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences for outstanding research in 1999, and several other prizes with her essays in art history. Currently she is an associate professor at the Korean Studies Department, Institute of East Asian Studies, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, teaching East Asian art in Hungary and abroad alike.

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