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The Korean Studies Seminar is an interdisciplinary forum that brings together scholars, artists, and professionals working on Korea-related subjects from a wide variety of disciplines: history, literature, art history, visual and media studies, architecture, religion, sociology, anthropology, music, and performance studies. The seminar discusses current research and issues in the study of Korea drawn from the dynamic intellectual community in and around New York City.

Professor Ksenia Chizhova

Professor Jae Won Chung

Professor Theodore Hughes

Professor Jenny Wang Medina

Stella Kim

All seminars will continue to meet virtually through February 2022. Meeting links provided upon RSVP. Meeting dates and times are subject to change.

Meeting Schedule

09/24/2021 Online Meeting
4:00 PM

Ji-hoon Kim, Chung-ang University (South Korea) and Columbia University

11/05/2021 Online Meeting
4:00 PM
North Korean Calligraphy: Gender, Intimacy, and Political Incorporation, 1980s-2010s
Ksenia Chizhova, Princeton University


A ubiquitous part of everyday life, North Korean calligraphy is an easily overlooked and yet integral element of the country's mass mobilization art. Under the curation of Kim Jong Il (1941-2011), calligraphy was mobilized as a mechanism for the articulation or organistic national unity centered on the ruling Kim family and captured through the idea of the "social and political living body" (sahoe chŏngch'i chŏk saengmyŏngch'e), which mediated the familial transition of power. Cultivating penmanship identical to that of his father and expanding the hagiographic project around the revolutionary calligraphy of his parents, Kim Il Sung (1912-1994) and Kim Jong Suk (1917-1949), Kim Jong Il worked out an image of charismatic familial embodiment by means of the script. In addition, calligraphy constitutes a disciplinary apparatus that coordinates performances of political intimacy, bodily training, and political interpretation within the space of everyday life. Drawing on the North Korean calligraphy textbooks, art periodicals, and visual archive, this article contextualizes the dichotomy of the idiosyncratic style of the male leaders and the feminized, ubiquitous Ch'ŏngbong style, connected with the figure of Kim Jong Suk. Special attention will be given to the body symbolism and somatic discipline of North Korean calligraphy, which underlie its political efficacy as inscriptional and hermeneutic practice.

12/03/2021 Online Meeting
4:00 PM
Discourse of Loss and Rewriting in Han'gŭl: Modern Korean Translation of the Recent Past
Yoon Jeong Oh, New York University


Literary works from early twentieth-century Korea typically remain incomprehensible to most Korean readers in the twenty-first century. Due to the textual hybridity that mixes early modern Korean, Chinese characters (hanja), and Japanese, it is quite common that Korean literature from even less than a hundred years ago is republished in modern Korean, that is exclusively in han’gŭl. The problematic is that the republished versions are often significantly revised, rewritten, adapted, or even abridged. Archaic expressions are replaced by contemporary language, and all foreign languages translated into modern Korean. Since hanja was still commonly used in the mixed form until the 1990s in South Korea, and due to the intensely phonocentric orientation of han’gŭl writing, modern translation of the recent past continues to the present day. Original texts are considered only accessible for scholars and researchers, and general/non-academic readers receive the contemporary han’gŭl versions as the originals although they hardly appear the same. Hence, postcolonial Korea demands repetitive rewritings while washing away its hybrid origins along with colonial remnants. By addressing this question of translation in these multiplications of the original, in this talk I examine how the discourse of loss is constructed as the status of han’gŭl shifts from the mother tongue to modern national language dating from the ŏnmun ilchi movement during the colonial period through the urimal toro ch’atki (repossessing our language) movement in postcolonial Korea.

02/03/2022 Online Meeting
6:00 PM
Interpreting Modernism in Korean Art: Fluidity and Fragmentation
Kyunghee Pyun, Fashion Institute of Technology, SUNY

Jung-Ah Woo, Pohang Institute of Technology