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SOAS Centre of Korean Studies early 2016 seminars

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SOAS’s Centre of Korean Studies has announced its seminar programme for the first few months of 2016:

Date Speaker Topic
22 Jan Professor Hazel Smith North Korea: Markets and Military Rule
29 Jan Dr. Janet Poole Picturing a Moment: The Photograph and the Newspaper in Early Colonial Korea
5 Feb Patrick Messerlin, Jimmyn Parc The success of K-pop: Beyond copyrights and embracing digitization
5 Feb Noh Suntag Aesthetic Politics and Political Aesthetics in Korea: Noh Suntag’s Photographic Reality
19 Feb Nemo Kim Portraying the Northern Neighbour: Censorship and Representations of North Koreans in South Korean Cinema and Screenings of North Korean Films in South Korea from 1999 to Present
26 Feb Christian Göbel Fighting Corruption in Asia’s Young Democracies: Taiwan and Korea Compared
26 Feb Dr. Hyun Bang Shin Developmental Urbanisation and the Genealogy of Urban Rights in South Korea
29 Feb Young-mee Yu Cho K-Pop Lyrics and the New Linguistic Landscape
4 Mar Dr Thorsten Traulsen Vernacular Translations and the Rise of the Han’gûl Alphabet in Chosôn Korea in the 16th Century
11 Mar Martina Deuchler The Power of the Ancestors in Korean History
22 Apr Youn Gyeong Kim A study of Korean folk-Taoism and Nationalism in Japanese Colonial Period (1910-1945)
29 Apr Kevin Cawley The Phantom Menace: Hwang Sayŏng’s ‘Silk Letter’ (帛書)
6 May Albert L. Park Sentiments of Mutual Affection for Social Renewal: Confronting Growth and Development through Cooperative Economics in Contemporary South Korea
10 May Kyunghee Yoon, Gyounggeun Yoo, Seung Ryoul Park, Hyunju Park The Practice of Recollecting: Panel Discussion to Commemorate the 2nd Anniversary of Sewol Ferry Disaster
12 May Han Yujoo and Cheon Myeong-kwan Korean Literature’s New Wave: An Evening with Han Yujoo and Cheon Myeong-kwan
27 May Professor Miriam Lowensteinova TBC

All talks are on Fridays, 5:15pm – 7:00pm, in the Brunei Gallery room B102 unless otherwise stated. The talks are free and open to all. No registration is required. Synopses below.

North Korea: Markets and Military Rule

Professor Hazel Smith
22 January 2016, 5:15pm


Hazel SmithProfessor Smith will draw on material from her recently published book- North Korea: Markets and Military Rule (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015) to discuss the major socio-economic (but not political) transformation of North Korea since the famine of the mid-1990s that killed up to a million of the population and whose by-product was to generate a thoroughly marketised economy that is now deeply embedded in North Korean society. Professor Smith shows that the party, law and order, the military and the family are all now thoroughly marketised in day-to-day practice even as they maintain lip-service to the imperatives of military rule that continue to drive government and the state.

Dr. Robert M. Hathaway, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington DC called the book a ‘data-driven tour de force [that] convincingly demolishes the cartoonish image of North Korea held by most outsiders, including senior policymakers in the West’ while Professor Yoon Young-Kwan, Seoul National University, and former Foreign Minister of Republic of Korea said that the book provides ‘A timely and insightful analysis of the post-Cold War transformation of the North Korean society. This book challenges the stereotypes of many outside observers of North Korean affairs and provides important policy implications.’

Speaker Biography

Professor Hazel Smith is the Director of the International Institutes of Korean Studies UCLAN (IKSU). Professor Smith’s publications include North Korea: Markets and Military Rule (Cambridge University Press, 2015), Reframing North Korean Human Rights,Critical Asian Studies, December 2013/ March 2014, Reconstituting Korean Security (2007); Hungry for Peace: International Security, Humanitarian Assistance and Social Change in the DPRK (2005) and North Korea in the New World Order (1996). Professor Smith received her PhD in International Relations from the London School of Economics in 1993, has held prestigious competitive fellowships including at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (2012/2013), the East-West Center, Honolulu (2008 and 2015), Kyushu University (2010), the United States Institute of Peace (2001/2002), and was a Fulbright scholar at Stanford University (1994/1995). Professor Smith regularly broadcasts for the global media on North Korea, where she lived and worked for the international humanitarian organisations for two years and from where she earned a (still valid!) North Korean driving licence.

About the Book

In this historically grounded, richly empirical study of social and economic transformation in North Korea, Hazel Smith evaluates the ‘marketization from below’ that followed the devastating famine of the early 1990s, estimated to be the cause of nearly one million fatalities. Smith shows how the end of the Cold War in Europe and the famine brought radical social change to all of North Korean society. This major new study analyses how marketization transformed the interests, expectations and values of the entire society, including Party members, the military, women and men, the young and the elderly. Smith shows how the daily life of North Koreans has become alienated from the daily pronouncements of the North Korean government. Challenging stereotypes of twenty-five million North Koreans as mere bystanders in history, Smith argues that North Koreans are ‘neither victims nor villains’ but active agents of their own destiny.


“Hazel Smith’s data-driven tour de force convincingly demolishes the cartoonish image of North Korea held by most outsiders, including senior policymakers in the West.” – Robert M. Hathaway, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington DC

“A timely and insightful analysis of the post-Cold War transformation of the North Korean society. This book challenges the stereotypes of many outside observers of North Korean affairs and provides important policy implications.” – Yoon Young-Kwan, Seoul National University, and former Foreign Minister of Republic of Korea

“As an antidote to demonization the powerful impact of Hazel Smith’s thought forces one to look at North Korea not as a pariah, but as a country struggling to pull itself out of international isolation.” – Donald P. Gregg, former US Ambassador to South Korea and Chairman Emeritus of The Korea Society in New York.

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Picturing a Moment: The Photograph and the Newspaper in Early Colonial Korea

Dr. Janet Poole (University of Toronto)
29 January 2016 5:15pm


My talk looks at the encounter between the modern technologies of photography and the print newspaper in early colonial Korea. I am interested in the productive and contingent force of photographs, which did not merely reflect the “way things are” but produced ways of being and seeing that were both novel and long lasting. Photographs did not appear in a vacuum but interacted with other technologies of representation and of knowledge. Here I will focus on early photo series published in the Maeil sinbo newspaper during the first five years of colonial occupation. By harnessing their newspaper so closely to globally advanced technology of print as well as to the exercise of colonial power, the editors of the Maeil sinbo strove for contemporary meaning for the photographic that implicated it as much in the realms of intimidation and surveillance as those of progress, commerce and pleasure. The mass printing of photographic images in the newspaper brought these various realms together, revealing a growing tension between repetition and singularity that characterizes regimes of mass production and acted as one of the forces governing the emergence of what at the time was known as the novel concept of the individual self. In tracking the ways in which photographic images were introduced in the national newspapers of the 1910s I am interested in three questions: the ways in which the photographic image departed from or repeated the contemporary visual order, the kind of social space in which the photograph and print emerged and to which they contributed, and the form of subjectivity emerging within this spatio-temporal order.

Speaker Biography

Janet Poole’s research focuses on the relationship between aesthetics and formations of colonialism and postcolonial national division, explored through literature, art and material culture, and on literary translation and theories of translation. Her cultural history of writing in the late colonial and Pacific War era recently appeared as When the Future Disappears: The Modernist Imagination of Late Colonial Korea (Columbia University Press, 2014) and was awarded the Modernist Studies Association Book Prize for 2015. She has translated the works of many writers from colonial Korea, including a collection of anecdotal essays published during the Pacific War by Yi T’aejun, Eastern Sentiments (Columbia University Press, 2013). She is currently Associate Professor at the University of Toronto, where she teaches Korean literature and cultural history.

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The success of K-pop: Beyond copyrights and embracing digitization

Professor Patrick Messerlin and Dr. Jimmyn Parc
5 February 2016, 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Venue: Russell Square College Building Room MEET 116


This event brings together two leading scholars to present their perspectives on the Korean cultural industry.

The first presentation, given by Professor Patrick Messerlin, is entitled “Cultural Industries: Europe, Look East!”

The current European debate on cultural industries and the Single Digital Market has been dominated by the transatlantic dimension. Europeans are discussing endlessly whether they should fight the U.S. tech giants or benefit from them. They do not see that Asia’s economic powerhouses are fast becoming cultural engines as well. No Asian country better illustrates these on-going changes than Korea. Today Korea’s cinema and music industries have caught up with their European equivalents, such as the French industries—the result of an average annual growth rate five times higher in Korea than in France. K-pop groups fare very well, even compared with U.S. or UK superstars. These results present us with two important implications for action. First, innovative business strategies are what counts most. The most successful K-pop performers are associated with two very small Korean entertainment firms with no support from the government. Second, “protective” policies are costly. Korean policies tend to be friendlier to consumers and at the same time to innovative producers. Korean law has no provision imposing a private copy regime, hence it does not generate the excessive rents for performers that such a regime nurtures. As a result, it spurs future creativity more than it rewards past achievements. This is one of the most crucial conditions toward generating a vibrant, hence attractive culture.

The full content of this presentation may be found here.

This is followed by Dr. Jimmyn Parc’s presentation “The Success of K-pop: Wrestling with or Embracing Digitization?”

Today, Korea’s cultural power has expanded, and it enjoys a rich and vibrant cultural industry. That suggests that one can extract very useful implications from Korea’s experience for Europe’s further cultural development and diversity. There are three important implications. First, the Korean music industry did not wrestle with digitization, but embraced it. Through this “technovation,” K-pop fans all over the world can easily access the music produced, and idol groups try to meet the needs of their fans from around the world. Second, business activities are the core factor. Competition-oriented business activities (or strategies) induce more efficient resource allocation for improved results. In order to meet market needs, they can find better alternatives to strict regulations for addressing issues, such as Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs). Last but not least, IPRs that balance more efficiently the interests of both consumers and producers do not harm creativity and income. Open competition and easy dissemination via globalization can enhance creativity and artists’ incomes, as shown in the Korean case.

The full content of this presentation may be found here.

Speaker Biographies

Patrick Messerlin is Professor Emeritus of economics at Sciences Po, Paris, and serves as Chairman of the Steering Committee of the European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE, Brussels). He was also a Visiting Professor at the Graduate School of International Studies, Seoul National University (2013).

His current research deals with EU-East Asia economic and trade relations, cultural industries, and regulatory reforms in the EU. He is the author of many articles, reports, and books, in particular Measuring the Costs of Protection in Europe: European Commercial Policy in the 2000s (Peterson Institute for International Economics 2001) and Europe after the No Votes (Institute of Economic Affairs 2006).

He was a special advisor to Mike Moore, WTO Director General (2001-2002). He served as co-chair, with Ernesto Zedillo (former President of Mexico and Director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization) of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Task Force on Trade for Development (2003-2005), and of the joint World Bank & UK Department for International Development Task Force on Global Finance and Trade Architecture (2008-2011). He was a member of the Global Agenda Trade Council of the World Economic Forum (2009-2012).

Jimmyn Parc (Ph.D) is a visiting lecturer at Sciences Po Paris and an associated researcher at the EU Center, Graduate School of International Studies, Seoul National University. He also serves as the director of Groupe d’Economie Mondiale Junior (GEM Junior) at Sciences Po and he is a non-residential researcher at the European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE, Brussels).

His current main research topics focus on cultural industries and strategies of different business systems, accompanied with business economic and historic perspectives. He has published numerous academic articles and conducted various research projects related to competitiveness of organizations, industries, and countries.

From 2008 to 2010, he worked for the Institute for Industrial Policy Studies (IPS) in Seoul, Korea, as a researcher for conducting research on national, corporate, and other organizational competitiveness. He participated in consulting projects for private companies (Samsung Electronics Co.), national organizations (the Korea Industrial Complex Corp., Korean Trade and Investment Promotion Agency, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Knowledge and Economy, and the Prime Minister’s Office of the Republic of Korea), and foreign governments (Azerbaijan and Dubai). In 2010, he was also engaged in a research project on foreign direct investment with the Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment (VCC) at Columbia University.

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Aesthetic Politics and Political Aesthetics in Korea: Noh Suntag’s Photographic Reality

Noh Suntag
5 February 2016, 5:15pm


I am exploring how the Korean War lives and breathes in contemporary Korean society. I glare at the space where divided powers manipulate the war and division at will, treating them as a chapter of history fixed in the past, but as it suits the powers, reviving their memory for their own purposes. The power of division is a monster of the present operating and malfunctioning in both South and North Korea. I collect all the fluids oozing from that monster – spit and clouded blood, madness and silence, benefit and damage, laughter and a cynical sneer, stop and flow – in the form of image and text, and then I let it flow away, again and again. I was hoping to reveal the politics of the day by breaking through and disrupting this weak point of the monster who is dreaming of the permanent state of exception, but it does not seem easy.

This event will also feature Dr Graeme Gilloch (Reader in Sociology, Lancaster University) and as discussant.

Speaker Biography

Noh Suntag (b. 1971, Seoul) is the winner of the 2014 Korea Artist Prize, equivalent to the Turner Prize in the UK, awarded by the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea and the SBS Foundation. Recent solo exhibitions include Really Good, Murder, Gallery Sugata, Kyoto, Japan (2015); Forgetting Machines, Hakgojae Gallery, Seoul, Korea (2012), Estat d’excepcio, La Virreina, Barcelona (2009); Appropriating Reality / the Room, Total Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea (2009); and State of Emergency, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart, Germany (2008). A forthcoming solo exhibition will take place at Art Sonje Center, Seoul Korea in May 2016.

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Portraying the Northern Neighbour: Censorship and Representations of North Koreans in South Korean Cinema and Screenings of North Korean Films in South Korea from 1999 to Present

Nemo Kim
19 February 2016, 5:15pm


During the Kim Young-sam administration in the mid-1990’s, government censorship of films which had oppressed creative freedom of South Korean filmmakers for decades was ruled unconstitutional and resulted in the dissolution of the powerful governmental censorship board. After a few years of apparent confusion in which several organizations were set up and disbanded, a much less powerful organization, the Media Ratings Board was established in 1999 and it is the body currently responsible for censorship of South Korean films. The board consists of film professors, directors and producers as well as teachers and former civil servants. The board’s first chairperson, veteran Korean director Kim Soo-yong, who served since its inauguration for six years, often came under fire for enforcing what many South Korea filmmakers saw as draconian rules for censorship. The board was also much criticized for over-editing imported films before their release in South Korea although anti-censorship views were seldom reported by the Korean media at that time.

The theme of the division of the peninsula has been a popular topic in South Korean cinema and in the mid-200’s, it was the theme common to several top box-office scoring films. The portrayals of North Koreans, however, have been far from three-dimensional, all-rounded characters and one of the most popular South Korean films of 2015 depicts North Koreans as “an evil force out to get South Koreans” (Kim Si-mu, a South Korean film critic/head of the Korean Film Studies Association. By examining portrayals of North Koreans in landmark South Korean films and the inter-peninsula political climate at the time of their release, I will argue that despite the apparent loosening of censorship regulations in South Korea, a system of self-censorship as well as actual censorship activities exist within the South Korean film industry. If time allows, I will examine cases of screenings of North Koreans films in South Korea and assess how they were affected by the contemporary political climate.

Speaker Biography

Nemo Kim is a Seoul-based journalist who has reported on Korea for KBS, NHK World,, Nikkei Asian Review and Monocle. Her writing on Asian cinema has appeared in Variety and Sight and Sound. She teaches Korean Studies at Hankuk Univ. of Foreign Studies in Seoul. Prior to that, she taught in the Korean Department at SOAS, Univ. of London. She has a BA in English and an MA in Comparative Literature (Univ. of London) and she has also studied International Relations at graduate level at Cambridge.

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Fighting Corruption in Asia’s Young Democracies: Taiwan and Korea Compared

Prof Christian Göbel
26 February 2016, 1pm – 3pm
Russell Square, College Buildings, Room KLT


How successful has anti-corruption in Taiwan and Korea been? Which factors benefit, and which factors hinder the fight against corruption? Comparing the experience of Taiwan and Korea is instructive because they are similar in many respects, but differ in their approaches to anti-corruption. In both countries, the people had high hopes that democratisation would mitigate political corruption, but were disappointed: according to some observers, political corruption has even worsened with the advent of democracy. Based on evidence gathered in several rounds of field research in Taiwan, the lecturer will argue that democratization alone is not enough to initiate anti-corruption programs, but needs to be paired with or followed by a change in ruling parties. He will also illustrates how a fundamental mismatch between the interests of the dominant political actors and the institutions that incentivize corrupt behaviour benefits anti-corruption. Counter-intuitively, this tends not to be the case when political corruption occurs in transient networks of little complexity, but when the new rulers are faced with sophisticated, complex and deeply embedded structures that make access for outsiders difficult.

Speaker’s Bio

Christian GöbelChristian Göbel is Deputy Head of the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Vienna and University Professor of Modern China Studies. A political scientist and sinologist by training, his research is concerned with institutional change on both sides of the Taiwan strait. He has published widely on Taiwan’s democratic consolidation, especially on anti-corruption and the impact of local clientelist networks on the quality of government in Taiwan. His recent projects examine the impact of legal reforms on anti-corruption in Taiwan, and the effects of digital technology on local governance in Mainland China. Data derived from expert interviews, expert surveys and web harvesting is processed by means of qualitative content analysis, text statistical methods and inferential statistics.

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Developmental Urbanisation and the Genealogy of Urban Rights in South Korea

Dr. Hyun Bang Shin
26 February 2016, 5:15pm


In this paper, I examine the case of urban protesters against forced eviction in Seoul from the 1960s, and discuss the evolving nature of rights claims that were put forward by protesters against urban redevelopment projects in times of condensed and highly speculative urbanisation in South Korea. I make use of the collection of protesters’ pamphlets compiled by an influential civic research organisation in Seoul, and of on- and off-line archives, photographic images of protests against eviction, and my own interviews with former and current housing activists and evictees in Seoul. By adopting a strategic-relational perspective that pays a particular attention to the struggles among socio-political actors, I aim to understand particular notions of urban rights adopted by protesters against eviction due to urban redevelopment projects, and scrutinise how their rights claims have evolved over time. Such an understanding is expected to shed light on enhancing our understanding on the question of displacement, urban rights, and urban social movements to bring about alternatives to speculative urbanisation in South Korea as well as other economies that share similar trajectories of urbanisation and accumulation.

Speaker Biography

Hyun Bang Shin is Associate Professor of Geography and Urban Studies in the Department of Geography and Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science. His research centres on the critical analysis of the political economic dynamics of speculative urbanisation, the politics of redevelopment and displacement, housing, state entrepreneurialism, the right to the city, and mega-events as urban spectacles, with particular attention to Asian cities. His recent books include a co-edited volume Global Gentrifications: Uneven Development and Displacement (Policy Press, 2015) and a co-authored monograph Planetary Gentrification (Polity Press, 2016). The publication of these books emanated from a series of workshops Towards an Emerging Geography of Gentrification in the Global South in 2012, funded by the Urban Studies Foundation. His other on-going book projects include a monograph Making China Urban (Routledge, 2017), and a co-edited volume Contesting Urban Space in East Asia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). Hyun serves the journal CITY as a senior editor, is a board member (trustee) of the Urban Studies Foundation, and sits on the board of several journals including Antipode, City, Culture and Society and China City Planning Review. He is also an organising member of the London-based interdisciplinary seminar series the Urban Salon.

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K-Pop Lyrics and the New Linguistic Landscape

Professor Young-mee Yu Cho (Rutgers University)
29 February 2016, 5:15 pm
Russell Square, College Buildings, Room G51


I submit that the development of rhymes, puns, and other word plays in K-Pop in the past twenty years has already triggered an irreversible change in the texture, the sound and the metrical structure of the contemporary Korean language. The seeming chaos of millennia-old Chinese, century-old Japanese borrowings and unstoppable English loans unexpectedly endows the live language with a stronger adaptive power by absorbing, rejecting, assimilating foreign elements and creating novel forms of hybridity.

The global urban subculture of popular music, which has been embraced as a vehicle of global youth affiliation and refashioning of local identity around the world (Mitchell, 2001; Pennycook, 2007), has become part of the mainstream in South Korea. This has created a fertile ground for language contact and trans-lingual practices, where hybrid English/Korean forms are emerging and developing. Adoption of English rhymes in K-pop began as hybrid prosody. With few precedents of rhyme schemes in Korean poetry and with the SOV word order and sentences ending with verb conjugations, creating natural sounding rhyming flow in Korean is a challenge (Kwon, 2011). Limited experimentation started with superficial rhymes with verb endings or reliance on text repetition and call-and-response styles. Later experiments better negotiate Korean syntax to incorporate alliteration, internal rhymes and variation of verb endings. We examine the evolution of rhymes in representative K-Pop since the 1990’s, from periodic attempts by earlier artists such as Seotaiji & Boys (1992-1996), DEUX (1993-1995) and H.O.T. (1996-2001), to more systematic approaches by later artists such as god (1999-2005), to consummate examples like Cho-PD’s “Break Free” (1999) whose highly critical social message reverberates through forcefully rhymed words, and Epik High’s “Love, Love, Love” (2007) and DJ DOC’s “Na Irǒn Saramiya” (2010) with internal and multi-word rhymes. K-Pop, with its performativity and reach to trans/national audiences, has been in the forefront of trans-lingual experimentation and innovation, and has introduced unexpected prosodic changes into the language.

Speaker Biography

Young-mee Yu Cho is Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey in the U. S. and her current research interests include phonology, morphology and Korean language pedagogy. Her recent publications include Parameters of Consonantal Assimilation (1999), Integrated Korean: Beginning & Intermediate (2000-2012) (co-authored textbook series), Standards for Korean Language Learning (2012) (co-chair, ACTFL), College Korean Curriculum Inspired by National Korean Standards (2015) (as guest editor, Korean Language in America), “Syllable-Based Phonological Processes” in Handbook of Korean Linguistics (2015), “Beyond ‘Power and Solidarity’: Indexing Intimacy in Korean and Japanese Terms of Address.” (2013) (co-authored) in Korean Linguistics, and “Laryngeal Contrast in Korean.” (2011) in Companion to Phonology.

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Vernacular Translations and the Rise of the Han’gûl Alphabet in Chosôn Korea in the 16th Century

Dr Thorsten Traulsen (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)
4 March 2016, 5:15pm

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The Power of the Ancestors in Korean History

Professor Martina Deuchler
11 March 2016, 5:15pm


The talk aims to introduce my latest work, Under the Ancestors’ Eyes. Kinship, Status, and Locality in Premodern Korea (Harvard, 2015). The book presents a new approach to Korean social history by focusing on the origin and development of the indigenous descent group. It maintains that the surprising continuity of the descent-group model gave the ruling elite cohesion and stability and enabled it to retain power from the early Silla (fifth century) to the late nineteenth century. It also gives a fresh interpretation of the Koryŏ-Chosŏn transition period and studies the influence of Neo-Confucianism on social change, most notably the emergence of lineages in the late Chosŏn period. It concludes that throughout Korean history the social had precedence over the political.

Speaker Biography

Martina Deuchler is professor emerita of the University of London. She taught Korean history at SOAS from 1988 to 2001 and served as chair of the Centre of Korean Studies.

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A study of Korean folk-Taoism and Nationalism in Japanese Colonial Period (1910-1945)

Youn Gyeong Kim
22 April 2016, 5:15pm


This paper examines 19th century Taoist scriptures in order to understand the historical development and cultural context of Korean folk-Taoism. This study is divided into three parts. First, I analyse Taoist books published under the rule of the Joseon Dynasty in the 19th century when as many as 254 folk-Taoist scriptures were published. these were preserved by Maurice Courant (1865-193) at the end of the 19th century and have been stored at the Collège de France since then.

My research includes the creation of a bibliography which focuses on the folk-Taoist scriptures that have been discovered to date, and also covers the ideological aspects of folk-Taoism in these scriptures. East Asian Taoism is often defined in relation to Chinese Taoism. As a result, sufficient study of Korean Taoism has not been conducted. However, Taoist culture was part of the substrata of Korean culture for a lengthy historical period. The Joseon Dynasty’s Taoism formed a new simultaneously influenced by Confucianism and Buddhism. This research will also provide an important tool for identifying the characteristics of Korean Taoism, as well as other characteristics of Korean thought.

Finally, I examine the inclusion of folk-Taoist characteristics in the doctrines of Korea’s new 20th century religions. Through this work, I investigate a type of nationalism in the anti-Japanese movement which was influenced by folk-Taoism in the colonial period.

Speaker Biography

Youngyeong Kim is a lecturer who has taught at Sungkyunkwan University. She has a BA, MA and PhD in Korean Philosophy. She has researched the dissemination of Korean folk-Taoism, and how it has influenced Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, especially focusing on its contribution to the formation of national identity by analyzing the case study of the Japanese colonial period in South Korea. In addition, through research on Korean Folk Taoism, she has examined how this ancient tradition has interacted with Western-style materialism in terms of recent historical and cultural events. Her recent book is Chowondamlo (椒園談老) (Seoul: Yemoonsewon, 2013).

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The Phantom Menace: Hwang Sayŏng’s ‘Silk Letter’ (帛書)

Dr. Kevin Cawley (University College Cork)
29 April 2016, 5:15pm


The ‘Silk Letter’ (帛書, K. paeksŏ), written by Hwang Sayŏng (1775-1801), is one of the most important and infamous documents in Korea’s Catholic Church history. The letter describes how a rather unique religious encounter led to conversions, which in turn led to conflict, while ushering in a social transformation that dared to challenge the ‘genealogy of morality’ reinforced through Confucian laws and the threat of brutal punishment – devoid of the ‘humanity’ Confucians themselves expounded. The letter, which was intended for the Catholic bishop in Beijing to inform him of the plight, as well as the growth of Korea’s fledgling Catholic Church, was intercepted by the Confucian authorities. These Confucians, threatened by the letter’s explosive contents, used it to validate the arrest, torture and execution of several hundred early adherents, while also banishing several hundred others into exile in an attempt to eradicate what they considered to be a heterodox and ‘perverse’ doctrine.

This paper examines Hwang’s letter, highlighting its relevance as a repository of information relating to the early Catholic Church in Korea at a time when the Confucian hegemony repressed the religious ‘other’ in whatever form it took. Hwang outlines the success stories of the Church in terms of growth, particularly among women, as well as the widespread dissemination of new Church literature written by Koreans in Han’gŭl. At the same time, he also concocts a menacing plan to force the king of Chosŏn (朝鮮) to permit the practice of this new ‘dangerous religion’ – threatening foreign invasion.

Speaker Biography

Dr. Kevin N. Cawley is the director of the Irish Institute of Korean Studies (IIKS) and acting head of the Department of Asian Studies at University College Cork (UCC), Ireland. He researches and lectures on ‘Korea’s Religious and Philosophical Traditions’, and is currently preparing a book for publication with Routledge (NY) on this subject. Dr. Cawley is also the managing editor of the online peer-reviewed Irish Journal of Asian Studies (IJAS). He also set up the Irish Association for Asian Studies (IAAS) in order to promote the growth and development of Asian Studies in Ireland.

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Sentiments of Mutual Affection for Social Renewal: Confronting Growth and Development through Cooperative Economics in Contemporary South Korea

Albert L. Park (Claremont McKenna College)
6 May 2016, 5:15pm


Are there any alternative paths for organizing the economic terrain of contemporary South Korea? Since the 1960s, South Korean society has been conditioned and influenced by the industrial capitalist model of development that has emphasized wealth, growth and national power above all. Though the current model of development has been venerated by politicians, bureaucrats and the business community for growing the economy and turning South Korea into a global economic power, it has caused social and ecological inequities that have led people to question the future direction of the economy. In response to increasing economic and social inequality, uneven power relationships and environmental damages caused by industrial capitalism under neoliberalism, there have been recent calls to reorganize the economy based on principles found in economic democracy, the social economy, the sharing economy and social entrepreneurship.

This paper analyzes the role of agricultural food cooperatives since the 1990s in furnishing a counter-narrative and alternative to the standard model of development. Linked to a long history of agricultural food cooperatives contesting hegemonic forces since the colonial period, these cooperatives have created a culture of food as the basis for an alternative system of intimate production, consumption and exchange. This system has been seen as the way to forge a new moral economy for the production of affects to cultivate mutual affection and aid, which would lead to social renewal. In outlining the intersection between neoliberalism, agricultural food cooperatives and social transformation, this paper shows how the utopian-like qualities of the movements led by agricultural food cooperatives have been sources of social critique and for forging sentiments and desires for social change in South Korea.


Albert L. Park is an associate professor of history at Claremont McKenna College (California, USA). As a historian of modern Korea and East Asia, his current research interest is centered on the relationship between culture and political economy and alternative forms of modernity. He is the author of Building a Heaven on Earth: Religion, Activism and Protest in Japanese Occupied Korea and is the co-editor of Encountering Modernity: Christianity and East Asia. His current research project is on alternative conceptions and practices of democracy under neoliberalism, which is tentatively titled Designing and Building Utopia: Culturally Reconstructing Democracy in Contemporary South Korea thorough Architecture, Design, and Food. Dr. Park is Co-Principal Investigator of EnviroLab Asia—a Henry Luce Foundation-funded initiative at the Claremont Colleges that studies environmental issues in Asia through an interdisciplinary lens. He is the recipient of three Fulbright Fellowships and fellowships from the Korea Foundation and the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Chicago. A native of Chicago, he received his B.A. with honors from Northwestern University, an M.A. from Columbia University and Ph.D. in History from the University of Chicago.

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The Practice of Recollecting: Panel Discussion to Commemorate the 2nd Anniversary of Sewol Ferry Disaster

Ms Kyunghee Yoon; Mr Gyounggeun Yoo; Mr Seung Ryoul Park; Ms Hyunju Park
10 May 2016, 6:00pm, College Buildings Room L67


On 16th April 2014 the South Korean passenger ferry MV Sewol capsized and sank en route to Jeju Island, taking the lives of 304 people, mostly high school children. Two years on, families are still calling for a profound inquiry into the disaster. Commemorating the 2nd anniversary of the disaster, the panellists will discuss several issues on truth and justice by asking some critical questions on:

  • What caused the Sewol to sink?
  • Why were the passengers were promptly rescued?
  • Why has the ship still not been salvaged?

In the session, the panellists, who are the parents of the victims and campaigners, hope to share their stories and experiences and to discuss what should be done to avoid the reoccurrence of such a disaster.


  • Ms Kyunghee Yoon (4/16 Sewol Families for Truth and a Safer Society)
  • Mr Gyounggeun Yoo (Executive Committee Member, 4/16 Sewol Families for Truth and a Safer Society)
  • Mr Seung Ryoul Park (Standing Steering Committee Member, Coalition 4/16 on the Sewol Ferry Disaster)
  • Ms Hyunju Park (Coordinator, Coalition 4/16 on the Sewol Ferry Disaster)
  • Chair: Dr Jaeho Kang (SOAS, University of London)

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Korean Literature’s New Wave: An Evening with Han Yujoo and Cheon Myeong-kwan

Han Yujoo and Cheon Myeong-kwan
12 May 2016, 5:15pm Brunei Gallery B104


Han Yujoo and Cheon Myeong-kwan are two of South Korea’s brightest young literary stars – no mean feat in a country with such a diverse and dynamic literary scene. In association with the Asia Literary Review, SOAS presents a rare opportunity to join the authors for an evening of bilingual readings and discussion, chaired by translator and publisher Deborah Smith. A drinks reception will follow the main event, where copies of the ALR’s issue on younger Korean authors will be available at a special discounted price.


Cheon Myeong-Kwan, Han Yujoo and Deborah Smith
L to R: Cheon Myeong-Kwan, Han Yujoo and Deborah Smith

Cheon Myeong-Kwan was born in Yong-in, South Korea, in 1964. Prior to becoming a novelist, he worked as a screenwriter. His literary debut, the short story ‘Frank and I’, earned the Munhakdongnae New Writer Award (2003). His first novel, ‘The Whale’ received the Munhakdongnae Award for Best Novel in 2004.

Han Yujoo has written three short story collections and the novel ‘The Impossible Fairy Tale’, which will be published by Graywolf Press in 2017. She is a translator of Michael Ondaatje and Geoff Dyer, among others, and teaches at the Seoul Institute of the Arts and Korea University’s Department of Creative Writing.

Deborah Smith‘s translations from the Korean include two novels by Han Kang, ‘The Vegetarian’ (long-listed for the Man Booker International) and ‘Human Acts’, and two by Bae Suah, ‘A Greater Music’ and ‘Recitation’. In 2015 Deborah completed a PhD at SOAS on contemporary Korean literature and founded Tilted Axis Press. In 2016 she won the Arts Foundation Award for Literary Translation. She tweets as @londonkoreanist.

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Professor Miriam Lowensteinova (Charles University, Prague)
27 May 2016, 5:15pm

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