China’s Korean Policy Under Xi Jinping

Calling North Korea’s nuclear weapons program “an urgent national security threat and top foreign policy priority,” American officials are emphasizing the critical role of China in pressuring Pyongyang to denuclearize. President Donald Trump, who long criticized China for “having done little to help,” now praises Chinese leader Xi Jinping. But has China’s North Korea policy actually changed that dramatically?

Wang Jianwei photoThat’s the fundamental question Professor Jianwei Wang of the University of Macao will take up in a brown bag seminar presentation sponsored by the East-West Center Research Program Thursday, May 18, 2017. The seminar will take place from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. in Burns Hall room 3012.

Wang, who is currently a POSCO visiting fellow at the East-West Center, will examine the extent to which Xi Jinping’s Korean policy differs from the policies of his predecessors. In particular, he will look at Xi’s approach to balance relations with North Korea and South Korea, how his Korean policy influences Sino-American relations, and the prospects of more consequential cooperation between the United States and China on North Korea?

Jianwei Wang is a professor in the Department of Government and Public Administration and director of the Institute of Global and Public Affairs at the University of Macao. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. His teaching and research focus on Sino-American relations, Chinese foreign policy, and East Asian international relations. He has published extensively in these areas.

For further information, contact Cynthia Nakachi ( in the East-West Center Program Office.

Visualizing History: The Politics of North Korean Art

The Light of the People the Great Leader Kim Il Sung by Hong Sŏngch’ŏl, Kim Sŏngch’ŏl, and Hong Gŭnch’an (1990) illustrates the representation of history in North Korean art
The study of visual images can illuminate how a society reconstructs its past and present. Min-Kyung Yoon will explore this theme by examining the interplay of art, history, and politics in North Korea in a presentation titled “Visualizing History: The Politics of North Korean Art, 1966–1994.”

Yoon, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Korean Studies and University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Department of History, will speak Thursday, September 29, 2016, at 4:00 p.m. at the Center for Korean Studies.

Yoon’s talk will explore the ways visual images write history in North Korea. As part of wider cultural production, art in North Korea is largely used to legitimate the North Korean state and its leaders. From the rise of a distinctive North Korean ink-and-brush painting in 1966 to the death of Kim Il Sung in 1994, Yoon will explore how history and the everyday were recreated in paintings to give visual form to a socialist imaginary far removed from the present reality yet essential for sustaining the state and its leaders. What emerges through this exploration is how ideology in North Korea, often perceived as constant, has changed, evolved, and engaged with the world.

Min-Kyung Yoon speaks on North Korean artMin-Kyung Yoon researches the visual arts of North Korea. She earned her Ph.D. at Leiden University in 2014. Previously she was a postdoctoral fellow at the École française d’Extrême-Orient. She earned her master’s degree in East Asia regional studies from Harvard University in 2006 and her bachelor’s degree in history at the University of Michigan in 2004. Her talk is sponsored by the Center for Korean Studies, the UH Department of History, and the Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society.

For further information, including information on access for the handicapped, telephone the Center for Korean Studies at (808) 956-7041 or (808) 956-2212.

This program is supported by a Core University Program for Korean Studies Grant 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).

Institutionalization of Corruption in South Korea

Olli Hellmann speaks on corruption in South KoreaThe East-West Center Research Program brown-bag presentation on Wednesday, June 1, 2016, will feature politics specialist Olli Hellmann speaking on “The Institutionalization of Corruption in South Korea.” Hellmann is a lecturer in politics at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom and is currently a POSCO visiting fellow at the East-West Center. His presentation will take place from 12 noon to 1:00 p.m. in Burns Hall room 3012.

According to Hellmann, South Korea appears to be struggling more than other industrialized democracies to combat corrupt practices by public office holders. His presentation will argue that conventional anti-corruption approaches have failed to uproot corruption in South Korea, as particularistic exchanges are institutionalized in informal networks that connect political elites to private business. By generating social capital and harboring corruption-specific know-how, these networks can evade monitoring and resist punishment. Through a comparison with other capitalist countries in East Asia, he will trace the institutionalization of corruption back to the “critical juncture” at which organizations for mass mobilization were first established in the mid-twentieth century.

Olli Hellmann’s research on party organization and party systems in East Asia has been published in a monograph titled Political Parties and Electoral Strategy: The Development of Party Organization in East Asia (Palgrave Macmillan) and in a number of peer-reviewed journals, such as Party Politics and the Journal of East Asian Studies. More recently, his research has shifted toward issues of state building and corruption. Funding for this new research has come from the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the British Academy/DFID Anti-Corruption Evidence (ACE) Partnership.

For further information, contact the East-West Center Research Program.

Call for Papers: World Congress for Korean Politics and Society

KPSA logoThe Korean Political Science Association has called for papers for the 2015 World Congress for Korean Politics and Society. The World Congress is a biennial conference organized by the Association, and co-hosted by the Korea Foundation, to discuss innovative and insightful ideas on Korean politics, society, and international relations. This year’s World Congress will be held from August 25 to August 27, 2015, in Gyeongju, South Korea. The main theme of the Congress is “Bridging the Gap: The Promise of Politics in a Polarized and Fragmented World.”

Proposals for papers, full panels, and roundtable discussions are invited for–but not limited to–the following subthemes: Korean Politics and Society; North Korea and inter-Korean Relations; Comparative Politics: Developing Countries; Comparative Politics: Advanced Industrial Societies; Electoral and Legislative Politics; Political Organizations and Parties; Political Economy; Globalization and Local Responses; International Relations of East Asia; Conflicts and Conflict Resolution; Political Thought; Women and Politics; and Political Methodology.

The deadline for submitting proposals is March 31, 2015. Notifications of acceptance will be issued in mid April.

To learn more about the conference and to submit proposals, visit the conference Web site at

The Korean Political Science Association and the Korea Foundation will offer up to three nights of accommodations in a conference hotel for all participants from abroad. A limited number of travel grants also will be available.

For further information, send e-mail to

Colloquium: The Politics of “Arirang”

photo: Byong Won LeeThe Center for Korean Studies fall 2014 colloquium series will open Thursday, September 18, with an exploration of some of the political aspects of Korea’s most famous folksong, “Arirang.” Byong Won Lee, professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, will deliver a presentation titled “The Politics of ‘Arirang’: Tripartite Political Dynamics of the Korean Folksong in South Korea, North Korea, and China.” The colloquium begins at 4:00 p.m. in the Center for Korean Studies conference room.

“Arirang” originated in the central region of Korea in the mid-1920s as a new folksong (sin-minyo) and has evolved into the iconic song for Koreans everywhere. In 2011, the Chinese government designated “Arirang” as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of the ethnic Koreans in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture of China.

Nationalistic South Koreans were suspicious of the Chinese move as another of the ongoing Chinese efforts to appropriate Korean heritage, including asserting ownership of some historical events. The South Korean government has been actively promoting the song internationally as the national musical icon with considerable exaggeration of its historical origin. This effort resulted in the registration of “Arirang” as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanities in 2012.

By contrast, “Arirang” was rarely mentioned in North Korea until the early 1980s. The insertion of the song title in the “Arirang Mass Games” in North Korean is an effort to tone down the strong ideological embossment and project a utopian Korea under socialism through the unification of the peninsula on North Korean terms.

Professor Lee’s presentation will examine the tripartite political dynamics of “Arirang”: (1) as a musical icon through its nation-branding efforts in the Republic of Korea, (2) as a soft image-making medium and ideological disguise in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and (3) as a political embracing of minorities by the People’s Republic of China.

Center for Korean Studies colloquia are free and open to the public. The Center is located at 1881 East-West Road on the UH Mānoa campus. Paid parking ($6.00) is available in the parking lot mauka of the CKS building and elsewhere on campus. For further information, including arrangements for access for the handicapped, telephone the Center at (808) 956-7041.