Korea’s Great Transformation and Hagen Koo’s Sociological Journey

Hagen KooIn the past half cen­tu­ry, South Korea has trans­formed itself from a poor agri­cul­tur­al coun­try into a high­ly indus­tri­al­ized and glob­al­ized society.

Through­out this trans­for­ma­tion, Hagen Koo, pro­fes­sor of soci­ol­o­gy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Hawai’i at Mānoa, has been study­ing and writ­ing about the remark­able social changes Korea has experienced.

Now, on the eve of his retire­ment, Pro­fes­sor Koo will offer a lec­ture reflect­ing on his past research endeav­ors and the trends of soci­o­log­i­cal the­o­ries that have influ­enced his work. 

He will speak May 11, 2017, at 4:00 p.m. in the Cen­ter for Kore­an Stud­ies auditorium.

Hagen KooHagen Koo is a grad­u­ate of Seoul Nation­al Uni­ver­si­ty and received his Ph.D. in soci­ol­o­gy at North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty in 1974. His asso­ci­a­tion with the Uni­ver­si­ty of Hawai‘i start­ed the fol­low­ing year. Then a fac­ul­ty mem­ber at Mem­phis State Uni­ver­si­ty, he par­tic­i­pat­ed in the sec­ond major con­fer­ence staged by the recent­ly cre­at­ed UH Cen­ter for Kore­an Stud­ies, a mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary con­fer­ence on South Korea. Koo sub­se­quent­ly spent the 1978‒1979 aca­d­e­m­ic year at Mānoa as a vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor in the Soci­ol­o­gy Depart­ment, and in 1981 he joined the UH faculty.

The author of numer­ous arti­cles and chap­ters in his field, he has also pro­duced notable books. His Kore­an Work­ers: The Cul­ture and Pol­i­tics of Class For­ma­tion (Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2001) won the Amer­i­can Soci­o­log­i­cal Association’s award for the most dis­tin­guished book pub­lished on Asia dur­ing 2001‒2003. The book has been trans­lat­ed into Kore­an, Chi­nese, Japan­ese, and Thai. 

Oth­er works include the edit­ed vol­umes State and Soci­ety in Con­tem­po­rary Korea (Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1993) and (with Kim Keong-il and Kim Jun) Mod­ern Kore­an Labor: A Source­book (Acad­e­my of Kore­an Stud­ies Press, 2015).

Koo describes his cur­rent research as being focused on the nature of eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment and neolib­er­al glob­al­iza­tion in East Asia. In par­tic­u­lar, he is inter­est­ed in the ways struc­tur­al changes gen­er­ate new forms of class inequal­i­ty and insti­tu­tion­al changes in East Asian societies. 

He is cur­rent­ly work­ing on a book ten­ta­tive­ly titled Cos­mopoli­tan Anx­i­ety: South Korea’s Glob­al­ized Mid­dle Class in which he is explor­ing “the ways the South Kore­an mid­dle class has changed sig­nif­i­cant­ly as a con­se­quence of neolib­er­al glob­al­iza­tion — from a rel­a­tive­ly homo­ge­neous and upward­ly mobile class to an inter­nal­ly polar­ized, anx­i­ety rid­den, and polit­i­cal­ly unpre­dictable class.”

Cen­ter for Kore­an Stud­ies events are free and open to all. For fur­ther infor­ma­tion, includ­ing infor­ma­tion regard­ing access for the hand­i­capped, tele­phone the Cen­ter at (808) 956‑7041. The Uni­ver­si­ty of Hawai‘i is an equal opportunity/​affirmative action Institution.

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 wordwithoutborders.org, 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.

Expired: 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 6, 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.

Expired: 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.

North Korea’s Vinalon City

C. Harrison KimThe his­to­ry of the syn­thet­ic fiber vinalon will be the sub­ject of a lec­ture by Prof. C. Har­ri­son Kim of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mis­souri on Wednes­day, Feb­ru­ary 22, 2017, in the UH Manoa Depart­ment of His­to­ry sem­i­nar room, Saka­ma­ki Hall A201. Kim’s talk – titled “North Korea’s Vinalon City: Indus­tri­al­ism as Social­ist Every­day Life” – will begin at 12:30 p.m.

In the ear­ly 1960s, vinalon became North Korea’s nation­al fiber, a prod­uct that sym­bol­ized the inde­pen­dence and inge­nu­ity of its state social­ism, from the raw mate­ri­als need­ed to make it (coal and lime­stone) to the per­son who invent­ed it (the Japan­ese colo­nial-era chemist Ri Sŭng­gi). The Vinalon Fac­to­ry near Hamhŭng City — a fac­to­ry orig­i­nal­ly built by a Japan­ese chem­i­cal com­pa­ny and a city rebuilt by East Ger­many — also became a nation­al emblem. Vinalon City was a transna­tion­al object par excel­lence, but it was immutably local­ized as every­day nar­ra­tive for the ordi­nary North Kore­an peo­ple, replete with its labor heroes who achieved super­hu­man lev­els of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. The every­day dimen­sion is pre­cise­ly where the ide­o­log­i­cal work­ings of state pow­er are hid­den. The his­to­ry of vinalon reveals a char­ac­ter­is­tic of ide­ol­o­gy of work — the sub­sump­tion of life by labor — a char­ac­ter­is­tic that is cer­tain­ly not lim­it­ed to North Korea.

A grad­u­ate of Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, Har­ri­son Kim is an assis­tant pro­fes­sor in the Depart­ment of His­to­ry at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mis­souri. His research inter­ests include every­day life, indus­tri­al work, social­ism, and the mod­ern city in the con­text of Korea and, in par­tic­u­lar, North Korea. Kim’s book, Fur­nace is Breath­ing: Work as Life in Post­war North Korea, forth­com­ing from Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty Press, is about indus­tri­al work as a defin­ing ide­o­log­i­cal activ­i­ty in North Korea’s social­ism after the Kore­an War and about the work­ers who lived dur­ing the demand­ing times of post­war reconstruction.

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