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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 meet over Zoom for the 2020-2021 academic year. Meeting links provided upon RSVP. Meeting dates and times are subject to change. 

Meeting Schedule

09/11/2020 Online Meeting
10:00 AM
Day in a Life of North Koreans: Understanding the Literary and Filmic Culture
Immanuel Kim, George Washington University


This presentation will explore the literary and filmic culture in North Korea that is often overshadowed by national security issues. It will begin with a general overview of the literary history, the changing styles and themes in novels, and the social, political, and gender issues that continue to dominate texts today. This presentation will also analyze Paek Namnyong's Friend, and the life of a writer within the political system. Additionally, I will discuss films (more specifically comedy films) that have impacted the society and have left lasting impressions on North Koreans (even defectors). The primary objective of this presentation is to provide information about the culture, but it is also to help shape topical ideas for teaching.

10/19/2020 Online Meeting
9:00 AM
Visceral Borders: Spatial Implications of Bordering Practices in the Korean Peninsula
Dongsei Kim, New York Institute of Technology


This research examines how spatial practices at a contested border construct and deconstruct plural understandings of the Korean division. It uses spatial-ethnography to analyze four spaces that shape and exemplify the Korean division, its unification, and its subjects. The physical space and the subjective experiences produced from an exhibition, a heritage site, a museum, and a landscape that epitomizes the divide are interrogated to explore an alternative way of understanding contested nation-state border spaces.

03/05/2021 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
Reimagining Democracy: The Minjung Art Movement and the Birth of Korean Contemporary Art
Sohl Lee, Stony Brook University, SUNY


In summer 1987, South Korea, the anti-authoritarian pro-democracy movement of nearly three decades in the making has culminated into a particular form of mass protest aesthetics. Streets and public squares were flooded with a range of protest art—such as palm-sized woodcut prints worn on protesters’ chests, large banner paintings hung on building façades, and funerary flags and portraits in processions. Witnessed by over a million citizen participants and memorialized in vivid photographs for a wider circulation, art was at the center of the historic regime change, one achieved by the nation-wide grassroots movement for democracy. But art was significant not because of its utilitarian value—reflecting or aiding the demands of institutional politics (i.e. institutional democracy and direct presidential election)—or photography only a mnemonic device. One photograph taken at a protest became more than an vidence of state violence. In its reiterations as wearable objects and a banner painting, the image turned into a metonym for democracy. In my historical reconstruction of 1987, the focus is given to two individuals: student activist Lee Hanyeol, whose fallen body ignited the June Uprising of 1987, and the working-class carpenter-turned-activist Choi Byungsu, whose hands designed multiple images of Lee and built a temporary structure to hold Lee’s portrait on a moving truck during the widely viewed public funeral. This chapter, on the history of 1987, is part of the larger book project on the “minjung art movement,” the art movement for the people (minjung), whose beginnings can be traced to the late 1960s.

03/19/2021 Online Meeting
4:00 PM
The Korean War through the Prism of the Interrogation Room
Monica Kim, New York University


Through the interrogation rooms of the Korean War, this talk demonstrates how the individual human subject became both the terrain and the jus ad bellum for this critical U.S. war of ‘intervention’ in postcolonial Korea. In 1952, with the US introduction of voluntary POW repatriation proposal at Panmunjom, the interrogation room and the POW became a flashpoint for an international controversy ultimately about postcolonial sovereignty and political recognition.

The ambitions of empire, revolution and non-alignment converged upon this intimate encounter of military warfare: the interrogator and the interrogated prisoner of war. Which state could supposedly reinvent the most intimate power relation between the colonizer and the colonized, to transform the relationship between the state and subject into one of liberation, democracy or freedom? Tracing two generations of people across the Pacific as they navigate multiple kinds of interrogation from the 1940s and 1950s, this talk lay outs a landscape of interrogation – a dense network of violence, bureaucracy, and migration – that breaks apart the usual temporal bounds of the Korean War as a discrete event.

Notes: This event is held jointly with the Center for Korean Research.
04/08/2021 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
Gangnam: Global/polarization of South Korea's Dreamland
Pil Ho Kim, The Ohio State University

04/23/2021 Online Meeting
11:00 AM
Epistolary Revolution in Chosŏn Korea
Hwisang Cho, Emory University


While discussing his book The Power of the Brush: Epistolary Practices in Chosŏn Korea (University of Washington Press, 2020), Hwisang Cho will give a survey of the “epistolary revolution” that shaped Korean society from the sixteenth century to the end of the Chosŏn dynasty and beyond. By examining the physical peculiarities of new letter forms, the cooptation of letters for other purposes after their communicative functions, and the rise of diverse political epistolary genres, this talk will illuminate how innovation in epistolary practices allowed diverse writers to move beyond the limits imposed by the existing scholarly culture, gender norms, and political systems. While emphasizing how the epistolary revolution posed new challenges to traditional values and already-established institutions, it will demonstrate that new modes of reading and writing developed in the seemingly mundane and trivial practice of letter writing triggered a flourishing of Neo-Confucian moral thought, the formation of new kinds of cultural power, and the rise of elite public politics.