Children’s Literature in Modern Korea

Zur book coverStanford University Korean literature specialist Dafna Zur will explore the emergence and development of writing for children in modern Korea in a lecture at the Center for Korean Studies Friday, April 7, 2017. Zur’s talk will begin at 4:00 p.m. in the Center’s conference room. In her presentation, she will elaborate on the research she did for her forthcoming book, Figuring Korean Futures: Children’s Literature in Modern Korea. The book will be published later this year by Stanford University Press.

Zur’s research examined children’s periodicals against the political, educational, and psychological discourses of their time. She found that the figure of the child was particularly favorable to the project of modernity and nation-building, as well as to the colonial and post-colonial projects of socialization and nationalization. According to her study, Korean children’s literature has built on a trajectory that begins with the child as an organic part of nature and ends, in the post-colonial era, with the child as the primary agent of control of nature. The figure of the child became a driving force of nostalgia that stood in for future aspirations for the individual, family, class, and nation.

Dafna Zur photoDafna Zur is an assistant professor in the East Asian Languages and Cultures Department at Stanford University, where she teaches courses on Korean literature, cinema, and popular culture. She earned her doctorate at the University of British Columbia and has published articles on North Korean science fiction, the Korean War in children’s literature of North and South Korea, Korean folk tales, and childhood in cinema. Her translations have been published in, The Columbia Anthology of Modern Korean Short Stories, Azalea, Asia Literary Review, and Waxen Wings.

Center for Korean Studies events are free and open to all. This presentation is supported by the Core University Program for Korean Studies through the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the Korean Studies Promotion Service of the Academy of Korean Studies (AKS-2015-OLU-2250005). For further information, including information regarding access for the handicapped, telephone the Center for Korean Studies at (808) 956-7041. The University of Hawai‘i is an equal opportunity/affirmative action Institution.

From Miracle to Mirage: The Korean Middle Class

Myungji YangMyungji Yang, assistant professor in the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Department of Political Science, will trace fifty years of development of the middle class in South Korea in a lecture at the Center for Korean Studies Thursday, April 16, 2017. The lecture, titled “From Miracle to Mirage: The Making and Unmaking of the Korean Middle Class, 1960–2010,” will begin at 4:00 p.m. in the Center’s conference room.

Economic growth has established comfortable middle-class lifestyles as a norm in South Korea. Despite this success, Yang says, fewer people are identifying themselves as members of the middle class. Many perceive that their standard of living has deteriorated and that the possibility of upward mobility is declining.

In her talk, Yang will examine the puzzle of why the middle class that was both cause and consequence of Korea’s economic development seems to have declined. Drawing on primary archival sources and in-depth interviews from a year of field research, she will focus on the unpredictable process inherent in the scramble for middle-class status in Korea.

Yang’s research has shown that many first-generation members of the middle class achieved upward mobility by engaging in speculation and taking advantage of skyrocketing real estate prices. This contrasts with previous studies that mostly explain the rise of the middle class as a consequence of a meritocratic order that provided white-collar workers, corporate managers, and engineers in large conglomerates with higher incomes, long-term job security, and consumerist lifestyles. Through an analysis of the lives and experiences of the middle class as shaped by the housing market, she will reveal the reality behind the myth of middle-class formation in Korea.

Myungji Yang studies the politics of development using qualitative methods. Her research is particularly concerned with the nexus between authoritarian regimes, identity politics, and development in South Korea and China. Her doctoral dissertation at Brown University dealt with how authoritarian regimes nurtured the urban middle classes in South Korea and China in order to reconstruct the nation and strengthen political legitimacy.

Center for Korean Studies events are free and open to all. This presentation is supported by the Core University Program for Korean Studies through the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the Korean Studies Promotion Service of the Academy of Korean Studies (AKS-2015-OLU-2250005). For further information, including information regarding access for the handicapped, telephone the Center for Korean Studies at (808) 956-7041. The University of Hawai‘i is an equal opportunity/affirmative action Institution.

SPAS Graduate Student Conference: Bridging the Gaps

conference posterThe Center for Korean Studies will host the 28th annual School of Pacific and Asian Studies graduate student conference, March 22-24. The theme of the 2017 conference is “Bridging the Gaps: Conceptualizing Asia through an Interdisciplinary Lens.”

In pursuit of the theme, the organizers have assembled a three-day program of panels and paper presentations, performances, and posters, beginning with a keynote speech by Dr. Koichi Iwabuchi of Monash University. Iwabuchi’s speech, “Trans-Asia as Method,” will be delivered Wednesday afternoon, the first day of the conference.

As usual, the conference will include a number of presentations dealing with Korea-related topics. In particular, the Friday afternoon session will include a panel titled “Conceptualizing Korea” and another titled “Examining North Korea.”

The first panel includes three papers: “English Immersion and Shifting Paradigm of South Korean Nationalism” by Seung Yang of UH Mānoa; “Hanboks, Vampires, and Cross-Dressing Women: The Appeal of Korean Historical Dramas among American Viewers” by Brittany Tinaliga of the University of San Francisco; and “Going Backwards to Move Forwards: Popular Memory in Post-Authoritarian Korean War Films” by Keita Moore of UH Mānoa.

The latter panel will consist of “The Making of a Modern Monarchy: The Kim Dynasty” by Autumn Anderson of the University of San Francisco; “Society of Superstition?: Mushrooming Superstition in North Korea after Arduous March” by Hyun Jong Noh of Seoul National University; “‘Under Siege from Imperialists’: Rhetoric in North Korean State Media, 1998-2003” by Robert York of UH Mānoa; and “Literary Autonomy in North Korea: Authority, Agency, and the Art of Control” by Catherine Killough of Georgetown University.

Another Korea-related highlight will be UH Mānoa student Clara Hur ‘s explication of “Seung Mu,” the monk’s dance, during a panel on Thursday afternoon.

The SPAS Graduate Student Conference is admission-free and open to all. This year’s conference was organized by Adam Coldren and Layne Higginbothm, graduate teaching assistants in the School of Pacific and Asian Studies.

The complete conference program can be found here.

University of California, Irvine, Seeks Postdoc Candidates

University of California, Irvine, sealThe Center for Critical Korean Studies at the University of California, Irvine, invites applications for a full-time, non-tenured, academic-term appointment for a post-doctoral scholar position from September 1, 2017, to August 31, 2018.

While in residence at the Center, the successful candidate will be expected to work on an individual research project leading to publication; give one public lecture or works-in-progress talk on campus during the appointment period; and attend and co-organize events such as lectures, film screenings, and symposia.

Minimum qualifications include a Ph.D. in a humanities or social-science field and on a Korea-related research topic. Candidates must have graduated within the past seven years and must have proof of degree completion before the appointment begins on September 1, 2017.

This position is full-time and includes benefits. Starting annual salary is $48,216. Salary is commensurate with experience.

Applications must include a cover letter explaining research project, teaching experience, and planned accomplishments; a writing sample (maximum 30 pages); a curriculum vitae; three letters of recommendation; and a statement of contributions to diversity. All must be submitted at by April 30, 2017.

Inquiries may be directed to Erica Yun, program coordinator, at For more information about the Center for Critical Korean Studies, see

Call for Papers: Global Korean Studies and Writing Korean Culture

The Anthropology Department at Seoul National University invites proposals for presentations at the “Global Korean Studies and Writing Korean Culture” conference. The conference will be held September 22-23, 2017, and will be conducted in English and Korean.

This conference aims to critically engage the notion of Korean culture and to reflect on what has been at stake in producing knowledge about it, from within Korea and from outside, for Koreans and for non-Koreans. Where does “Korean culture” begin and end, who is included and excluded, and who gets to decide?

Proposals are sought for conceptual, analytical, methodological, and ethnographic papers that inquire into the politics of writing (about) Korean culture today, from different locales inside and outside South Korea. What have been the theoretical and methodological challenges particular to local or international scholars researching Korean culture? How have scholars accounted for—or failed to account for—their different relations to Korea? How have Koreanists responded to pressures from national and commercial interests that fund research on Korea? How do we orient scholarship on Korean culture away from Western concerns and toward local issues without subordinating scholarship to nationalist agendas or sacrificing the intellectual relevance for the larger academic community?

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Yun Ch’i-ho, Market Logic, and Liberalism in Colonial Korea

Henry EmHow might we go about writing a critical history of liberalism in Korea, and how might that history be relevant to the (global) present? Those questions will be the starting point of a lecture by Henry Em of Yonsei University titled “Until You Can Bite: Yun Ch’i-ho, Market Logic, and Liberalism in Colonial Korea.” The talk will take place Thursday, March 2, 2017, in the UH Manoa Department of History seminar room, Sakamaki Hall A201, beginning at 1:30 p.m.

Focusing on Yun Ch’i-ho, a Christian reformist and government official prior to Korea’s annexation by Japan in 1910, Professor Em will argue that colonial-era liberals like Yun Ch’i-ho were complicit in creating a class alliance between the (colonial) state and propertied classes while also creating a society of competitive individuals. Basing his analyses on Yun Ch’i-ho’s Diary, he will examine several emergent aspects of liberalism in colonial Korea: economic thinking (market logic) and its dissemination into spheres of life and work; modes of feeling that endeavored to make certain ideas, values, and behavior normative; and reflexivity, via linguistic innovation, that objectified self and others for incessant evaluation and competition.

Henry Em is associate professor of Korean history at Underwood International College, Yonsei University. He received his B.A. and Ph.D. (history, 1995) from the University of Chicago. From 1995 through 2012, he was assistant professor at UCLA and the University of Michigan and associate professor at New York University. He was a Fulbright senior scholar to Korea (1998-1999) and visiting professor at Centre de Recherches sur la Corée, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris (2000). His recent publications include “Historians and History Writing in Modern Korea,” Oxford History of Historical Writing, volume 5 (Oxford University Press, 2011), The Great Enterprise: Sovereignty and Historiography in Modern Korea (Duke University Press, 2013), and The Unending Korean War, a special issue of Positions: Asia Critique, co-edited with Christine Hong, Winter, 2015.

A reception for students and faculty will follow the talk. For more information, contact the Department of History at (808) 956-8486.