March 19, 2018

The Structure of Protest Cycles: Contagion and Cohesion in South Korea’s Democracy Movement

The Structure of Protest Cycles: Contagion and Cohesion in South Korea’s Democracy Movement

Paul Y. Chang is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Harvard University and has written six papers on protest dialetics and social movements and his current project explores His current project explores the emergence of non-traditional family structures in South Korea, including single-parent households, single-person households, and multicultural families. Professor Chang recently visited the University of Pennsylvania to speak about his research on the structure of protest cycles, using social movements specifically in South Korea as his primary evidence to support the methodological reasoning.

Professor Chang introduced the topic of protest cycle structures by giving a brief overview of traditional methods to study social movement cycles given previously by sociologists like Sidney Tarrow and Maria Cousis. Tarrow’s view on the rise of movements is the most prevalent view held by sociologists today and is summarized in his own words: “Social movements rise when shifting political conditions open opportunities for disruption and the activities of social movements in turn can alter political policies and structures." Essentially the idea is that for social movements to succeed, there must be a change in the political environment that facilitates disruption. Maria Cousis partnered with Mario Diani to research event history and to create history models using aggregate count modeling strategies according to number of protests in a region. Paul Chang essentially aims to combine these prevailing theories and to find an intersection between political opportunism and protest count strategies to identify when and why there are cycles of social movements.

Professor Chang began his talk by describing what he calls “movement diffusion,” or the idea that actions affect other actions. It is in this methodology that his finds an issue with Cousis and Diani’s findings – if one only uses aggregate counts, one is discounting the idea that one event affects another. With the assumption of movement diffusion in mind, Chang focuses his first piece of research on the dynamics of protest diffusion, movement organizations, social networks and news media in 20 th century South Korea. Essentially, he tries to find operational links between two unique protest events in which participants in the latter specifically mention the prior event in reference to solidarity, inspiration, support statements, etc. When looking at the structure of protest cycles from 1970 to 1979, one can see aggregate counts of individual events and the paper’s purpose is to identify the connections between events, and specifically how to identify why some protests are more influential than others. When looking at the aggregate number of protests resulting from Park Chunghee’s run in 1971 for his third term, Chang found two different measures of centrality when looking at maps of nodes (a single protest event). The first was “Degree Centrality”: centrality based on the sum total of direct connections to another protest. The second measure of centrality was “Betweenness Centrality,” or an ability for events to bridge events that are indirectly connected.

These measures of centrality are his key findings through his research on protest cycles. What he found was that systemic issues have higher Betweenness scores than local issues while political targets score particularly high on Betweenness scores as well. During this time, Chang also studied how independent variables like use of repression or particular leadership may affect protests. Repression was found to be the most important degree and Betweenness variable while organizational involvement and leadership mattered the most for both Betweenness and Degree centrality measures. The theoretical implications of the varying degrees of centrality between protest variables are clear: protest events that raise issues that are generalizeable resonate with more diverse communities while repression might lower the number of protests but increase the level of influence protests might exhibit. By mapping out every single event and tracking various variables and identifications of each protest, Chang highlighted the important links between influential events according to their levels of centrality. Through this map, he found that cycles of social movements need both levels of centrality to inspire future events.

In conclusion, Professor Chang did not say that his findings could be immediately applied to protests across the world, he did note that there needs to be a connection between Tarrow’s original philosophy on movement opportunism and Diani and Cousis’s strategy of counting modeling. Chang’s solution to this problem, specifically in South Korea, was to identify independent variables relating to single protest events and measuring levels of centrality based on the position of a protest node in relations to other protest nodes. By mapping each protest, he found cycles of social movements can be attributed to the two degrees of centrality, Betweenness and Degree centrally. It will be interesting to see how Professor Chang can further his research beyond his current scope of the years after Park Chunghee’s third election process. Overall, Professor Chang’s research is a step forward in understanding the structure of social movement cycles not just in South Korea, but in any context. We thank Professor Chang for coming in from Harvard to speak with us at Penn and to provide us some insight into his important research.

March 1, 2018

James Joo-Jin Kim Program Open House

The James Joo-Jin Kim Program in Korean Studies held an open house on February 15 to celebrate the New Year and speak to the greater Penn community about available fellowship opportunities. The office was packed full of professors, graduate students, current fellows, and undergraduates who came together to celebrate the holiday, better known as seollal. The department provided tables full of drinks and food like bibimbap and rice cakes to liven up the event which ensured no one left hungry! It was evident by the full house in attendance that each year members of the more and more members of the Penn community are becoming invested in this field.

It was great to see the current fellows engaging with prospective applicants for the 2018-2019 Fellowship and promoting the opportunity to students who demonstrate active participation in the field of Korean Studies. As the spring semester gets underway, it is clear that the fellows have benefitted so much from the knowledge given to us by our Korean Studies professors like the Kim Program Director, Professor Eugene Park, as well as our peer fellows. Conversations were not just limited to academic opportunities however. Between the historic handshake between President Moon Jai-in and Kim Yo Jong at the Winter Olympics held in Pyeongchang, the rising importance of South Korean exports in this age of globalization, and Hyeon Chung’s impressive run at the Australian Open, it is easy to see why South Korea has an increasingly large role on the world stage. Overall, the department’s choice to celebrate in true Korean fashion with large amounts of authentic food and a big crowd coming together to also promote the field of Korean Studies was a success.

We thank everyone who was able to attend the New Year celebration. Please keep an eye out for upcoming events like the Penn Forum in Korean Studies presentation of “Politics, Public, and Shamans: Marginalization of Shamanism in Korea, Past and Present” on February 22. In addition, the deadline for the 2018-2019 James Joo-Jin Kim Program Undergraduate Fellowship is February 28.

March 1, 2018

Sovereignty: Building Block or Stumbling Block in Resolving Northeast Asian Security Disputes? – Thoughts from Alley McFarland

The second panel on International Law and Relations included John Feffer of the Institute for Policy Studies, who discussed how the concept of sovereignty connects to current security issues in Northeast Asia. Feffer presented an interesting view the role of sovereignty in these disputes, looking at how increased nationalism by the US, China, and Japan has exacerbated tensions related to North Korean nuclear power. Feffer in particular looked at recent changes in the US concept of sovereignty. While the US position on sovereignty has typically aligned with that of China, Feffer argued that President Trump’s “America First” philosophy and discussion of sovereignty pushes US policy closer to that of North Korea, at least rhetorically. President Trump has neglected previous US focus on multilateralism, creating a vision of the world that stresses the internationally recognized borders of a country and its right to govern without interference. Feffer stated that this more closely reflects the North Korean view of the world, but that these similar perspectives do not help resolve the current nuclear dilemma in Northeast Asia.

When looking at the issue of nuclear power in Northeast Asia, Feffer stressed the fact that the current status quo establishes a double standard, where some powers are allowed to have nuclear weapons while others are not. This double standard creates tensions in Northeast Asia where North Korea argues it has a sovereign right to have a nuclear weapons program in order to defend itself. Feffer noted that North Korean rhetoric on sovereignty is way to veil its desire to use nuclear weapons to alter the balance of power on the Korean peninsula and to bargain for international legitimacy. While this is an important point he made, it would be beneficial to further discuss the use of sovereignty as a rhetorical tool to assert national goals or interests. At times his discussion of sovereignty seemed separate from other regional interests in nuclear weapons. For example, his discussion on South Korea’s consideration of developing its own nuclear program seemed to stem more from anxiety over US military and economic commitment than issues of sovereignty. Consequently, it would be helpful for the coherency of his argument to further connect other national concerns with the concept of sovereignty.

Ultimately, Feffer asserted that this double standard creates an unstable status quo with North Korea remaining as an unofficial nuclear power. The volatility of the status quo grows with the assertions of sovereignty by regional players. Consequently, Feffer proposed three non-military alternatives to the status quo. In the first scenario he described a “normalization” of the sovereignty of North Korea, South Korea and Japan so that these three countries could directly negotiate a deal to bring North Korea into the international community while curbing its nuclear program. However, this is unlikely to occur in the near future given concerns over Japanese rearmament in the Korean peninsula and South Korean anxiety over US removal. A second scenario includes what Feffer called a “smudging of sovereignty” that would involve the US scaling back its right to conduct military exercises in the region and North Korea limiting its sovereign right to test nuclear weapons. Feffer stated that the US has rejected this deal, but argued that President Trump could adopt this tactic if he could present the compromise as his own. However, it is also important to note that in order for Americans to accept this compromise there would need to be a de-escalation of rhetoric on the North Korean threat. Finally, he suggested that regional powers could circumvent the nuclear issue by focusing on multilateral cooperation in other areas such as on the environment. This engagement could then spill over to other issues such as security. While this is an interesting and appealing proposition, Feffer’s argument would benefit from further explanation on how cooperation in environmental policy would create what he referred to as a “virtuous circle of engagement.”

July 13, 2017

Korean Studies research at the US National Archives – by John G. Grisafi

This blog post is about my experience using my first academic research grant for a trip to the National Archives at College Park, MD. The motivations for this are a desire to record my experience to inform others and for reference, to provide clear explanation of my usage of the research grant, and the result of inspiration from Professor Jolyon Thomas, who wrote an article on his own experiences using the archives, which has helped guide me in my endeavor.

The purpose of my archival research was to examine documents from the United States military occupations of Korea (1945-48) and Japan (1945-52) revealing information relevant to religious affairs in Korea at the time. This research was supported by a graduate research grant from the James Joo-Jin Kim Program in Korean Studies. The abstract from my grant proposal is on the program’s website.

Some preparation was required before making the trip to the Archives. Having Professor Thomas’s article and additional advice made this much easier. He confirmed that he had seen some Korea-related material during his own research, giving me a starting point and confidence I would find something relevant to my topic. Using the National Archives’ website, as Professor Thomas showed me, I was able to find starting points as to which records I would examine. This is helpful to get an idea of what types of records exist and where, but further work needs to be done at the Archives to locate records. This is done with the help of archivists in the consultation room.

I purchased a lightweight, portable flatbed scanner to make scans of documents for later study. The Archives do not allow usage of the type of scanner in which the paper must be fed through it, as it may damage the document. The scanner I purchased, using part of my research grant, is an Epson Perfection V39. I chose this one because it is a flatbed, very lightweight, and not much bigger than my laptop and so easy to carry around. Another positive feature is that this scanner does not require an independent power source and gets it power through the USB connection to the computer. The desks in the Archives’ research room have multiple outlets, but it was nice to have fewer cords taking up space on the desk and to carry with me.

Getting to the archives and finding my way around was not difficult. Since I stayed a hotel in College Park and traveled to the area by train, I had to rely on public transportation to get to and from the archives. Using a car would simplify things a bit by allowing me to arrive and leave on my own schedule, but the buses run frequently enough and go right to the archives. The very lightweight scanner I purchased made it easier to use public transportation, as it the weight was barely noticeable. You may take bags, jackets, and other personal items with you to the archives but these must be secured in a locker in the basement of the building before you enter the research area.

On the first visit to the archives, a portion of the time is spent getting oriented officially and finding the desired documents for research. It takes about 20 minutes to go through official orientation and get your researchers ID card, as the National Archives website says. But it takes quite a bit more time to figure out what records you want to pull and request the record pull with an archivist. Between orientation, learning how to find and pull and records, and combing through binders to select the boxes I wanted to pull, I didn’t start actually looking at documents until after lunch on the first day. On the second day, I was able to spend the majority of the time looking through documents, having already established the first day where I would be looking. I did, however, revisit the consultation room upon arrival, both to find a few new locations of records to examine and to meet an archivist with interests similar to my own.

Scan of Headquarters, United States Army Forces in Korea, Office of the Military Governor, Bureau of Education, “Activities of the Section on Religions in the Bureau of Education since Military Government,” December 17, 1945, found in Record Group 331, Box 5773, Folder 9.

The actual act of going through records is a matter of patience, attention, and care, and willingness to work through a lot of material. Each box contains about a dozen or more folders (SCAP boxes are larger than most other boxes and contain closer to 20 folders) and each folder has numerous documents of varying number. You have to sit and look through the documents one folder at a time, sifting through less relevant and interesting material and sometimes duplicates to find documents you feel you need. I concentrated on merely identifying documents as of interest to me and my research, scanning them, and recording some basic information and moving on in order to maximize time and view more material. Using the scanner to save material for future examination seems the best strategy to me as it allows for most efficient use of time at the archives and permanent access to that material for research.

In the course of my archival research, I examined documents from portions of two record groups: Record Group 331: Records of Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II (hereafter RG 331); and Record Group 554: Records of General Headquarters, Far East Command, Supreme Commander, Allied Powers and United Nations Command (hereafter RG 554). Records examined from RG 331 were all from Civil Information & Education Section, Religion & Cultural Resources Division, Special Projects Branch, specifically Religious Research Data from 1945 to 1951. Records examined from RG 554 were all from United States Army Forces in Korea (USAFIK) from 1945 to 1949. I made 145 scans and took two photographs, producing a total of 147 pages of 69 documents reproduced in digital image form. I recorded 53 pages of 22 documents from Record Group 331 and 94 pages of 47 documents from Record Group 554. Many documents have numerous pages and requiring multiple scans. It is a good idea to bring a camera for this reason. Some documents, especially maps, are too large for most scanner beds and the National Archives prohibits scanning of documents if they must hang over the edge of the scanner, to avoid creasing or otherwise damaging them.

The findings from my archival research will support further research and writing on the topic of religious affairs in Korea in the colonial (1910-1945) and post-colonial occupation (1945-1948) periods. Particularly, the records I have examined and recorded reveal information regarding relations between the United States Army Military Government in Korea (USAMGIK) and missionaries, statistical information on religion in Korea in the colonial period, SCAP interpretation of and policy toward Shinto, and the state of religious research conducted by SCAP. Additionally, my experience of archival research and record of findings from this trip will enable me to conduct further lucrative research in the future. In fact, my only regret about my trip is that I did not stay longer and spend more time in the Archives.

April 17, 2017

Train to Busan – Review by Mia Leyland

Being in Seoul during the Summer of 2016, it was difficult to escape talk of director Yeon Sang-ho’s (연상호) 2016 summer thriller, Train to Busan (부산행). However, as someone who is not an avid consumer of zombie movies, I deferred watching the movie until recently (when I could see it for free). However, after spending the 118 minutes engrossed in the plot and characters, I can say that Train to Busan deserves all of the credit it’s been given since its release. Starring Gong Yoo (공유), Jung Yu-mi (정유미), and Ma Dong-seok (마동석), the movie takes place on a train traveling the 453km from Seoul to Busan (as the title suggests) as the country is faced with a zombie apocalypse. The nation is swept into a state of emergency as passengers on the train begin receiving news of the virus-spreading zombies outdoors, only to discover the horror of the virus quickly spreading on board. Despite the movie exhibiting its fair share of blood and gore, it is coupled with natural character development that makes it difficult not to become attached to the main characters, causing me to shed a tear or two throughout the film.

In South Korea, the film made $34.3 million from 4.75 million admissions during opening week and was the first of 2016 to break 10 million movie theater goers. The film also boasts one of the highest single day earnings in Korean history at $9.9 million from 1.28 million admissions. Train to Busan became the sixth highest-grossing domestic film of all time in South Korea, and all of the hype surrounding the movie has not disappointed in ratings. The film has a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes with a critic consensus that “Train to Busan delivers a thrillingly unique – and purely entertaining – take on the zombie genre, with fully realized characters and plenty of social commentary to underscore the bursts of skillfully staged action.” Internationally, Train to Busan became the highest-grossing Korean film in Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

Bottom line, if you’re in the market for a well-made action thriller and don’t mind some zombie blood, check out Train to Busan. And the best part? It’s currently available on Netflix!

April 12, 2017

Dr. Andre Schmid – Reflections By Juliana Pena

On Tuesday March 28th, Penn was visited by Professor Andre Schmid of the East Asian Studies Department at the University of Toronto. His talk was hosted by the Kim Program in Korean Studies as part of the Korean Studies Colloquium. Professor Schmid talk, entitled “Is There a North Korean History Without Kim Il Sung?” centered around his own doubts as a historian of North Korea of the possibility of studying North Korean history without the Kim family and propaganda. Through his research, Professor Schmid has focused in on the socio-economic and household issues within North Korean society- a contrast to the “Kim Regime” centric focus that is the focus of many historical texts of North Korea.

Professor Schmid pointed out that our understanding of North Korea is very much a reproduction of North Korean propaganda and contains an obsession for the Kim family. Although historians and critics alike admonish the North Korean leadership, we tend to have an odd satisfaction with North Korea’s bizarre behavior; even to the point that fake, absurd news regarding North Korea is seen as believable and accepted as just another odd thing done by the North Koreans.

For me, research such as Professor Schmid’s is essential to our understanding of North Korea, and to act as a catalyst for the changing dialogue about North Korea.  As Professor Schmid pointed out, research from North Korean scholars, in addition to journals, magazines, and other primary sources, are available and plentiful; and are just waiting to be used in research, to deepen our understanding of North Korean society. As a student of business, I found Professor Schmid’s analysis of North Korean consumption patterns fascinating, as I saw how, from analyzing magazines and catalogues, households changed from consuming for a purpose to “consumption for consumption’s sake”. The ability to track consumption patterns through primary sources, and derive connections to the changing power dynamics of the North Korean regime and local industrialists broadened my understanding of North Korea’s socio-economic development beyond what I have ever been able to find on my own.

Prior, I had a very narrow understanding of North Korean economics, relying on propaganda material and articles focusing on agriculture and food production; all heavily focused on the North Korean regime. Now, I have a better understanding of consumption and socio-economic conditions from the bottom of society – up.

April 5, 2017

Trip to the DMZ: The 3rd Infiltration Tunnel – Blog Post by Mia Leyland

I had the pleasure of traveling to South Korea for spring break a few weeks ago and when my friend and I saw that our guesthouse offered a tour to the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), we knew we had to make the trip. The DMZ, about 30 miles from Seoul, is a strip of land dividing North and South Korea and functions as a buffer between the warring nations. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect from our visit when we first set out – maybe simply to learn a few things about how the DMZ functions on a daily basis and just be able to say that I saw North Korea – but I was eager to see some of the long-lasting results of what I had only discussed in classes in some tangible form. Our tour included visits to Imjingak Park, Dorasan Station (which once provided travel between North and South Korea by railway), Dora Observatory, and the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel.

The place that struck me the most was the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel (sorry, photos were not allowed here!). Although I cannot say it was the most exciting tourist destination, it was very impactful. The tunnel is one of four known tunnels extending beneath the border between North and South Korea. Discovered in October 1978, the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel sits just a mere 27 miles from Seoul. Our visit to the tunnel began with a rather dramatized 10-minute film spewing facts about the tunnel, after which we were given the opportunity to walk through a portion of the actual tunnel. We were given hard hats and told to walk down a steep hill running 350m until we reached 73m below ground to an open stone tunnel, short in stature. My 5’3” was barely short enough to walk through the tunnel standing straight, and I often found myself hunching over to make sure my head was not hitting the ceiling. The tunnel was dark, damp, small, and frankly speaking, not too thrilling. You get to the end, which is blocked off by a wall with a small opening through which everyone was clamoring to get a peek. On the other side is a small room with another similar wall and opening. Walking back the way we came and 350m uphill, I found myself thinking “Is this it? I exhausted myself to see a small window and a wall?” But walking back up was also a time of reflection. I had belatedly learned that the walls actually mark the Military Demarcation Line, or the line that separates North Korea from South Korea, so I had really just walked up to the edge of North Korea. I found that fact both fascinating and alarming simply because I had not walked that far. In all of the time I have spent in South Korea, I have never once seriously considered a North Korean threat, but the reality showed the very real possibility of what could have happened had the tunnel not been discovered. As I walked back up, I recalled a rather chilling fact from the aforementioned video: there are believed to be up to dozens more tunnels like the four that have been discovered so far.

I do not mean to scare anyone who wants to visit South Korea, but for me, the visit to the DMZ served as a needed reminder that the war between the Koreas is far from over. It is easy to dismiss what is going on in the news because it seems somewhat removed from your daily life, but it is always good to be aware of the politics and history around you. While we did not have the time to visit the Joint Security Area on this trip, I look forward to such an opportunity in the future.

March 31, 2017

Dr. Andre Schmid – Reflections by John G. Grisafi

Professor Andre Schmid, University of Toronto, spoke at Penn on Tuesday, March 28, hosted by the Kim Program in Korean Studies. Prof. Schmid’s talk was titled “Is There A North Korean History Without Kim Il Sung?” Schmid said the title is an essential question which captures a very real doubt that he has harbored for many years as a historian of North Korea.

Telling the history of North Korea is certainly no easy task. Schmid said he once though it too difficult to do a history of North Korea. There was likely too much propaganda, too much Kim Il Sung, and not enough sources. But now Schmid is writing a book on the history of North Korea, focusing on socio-economics and issues of domesticity. Schmid said that with this project, he is trying to prove wrong his own previous assumptions.

There is an analytical conundrum in the study of North Korea, said Schmid. Our histories have a paradoxical tendency to reproduce in North Korea’s own framework. Observers of North Korea are often stuck in a mode of analysis which owes much to North Korean propaganda and the categorical modes of Cold War thinking. People are often obsessed with Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un. We critique North Korea and its leadership cult, yet at the same time there is a pleasure taken in reveling at the bizarreness of North Korea. Schmid said it is bot much of an exaggeration to say that our histories of North Korea have pretty much become biographies of the three Kims. Even our periodization of North Korean history is based on their reigns. The nature and center of power in North Korea has become an a priori assumption.

Schmid discussed two examples of how to interpret North Korean history differently. His first example was the notion that North Korean subjects in the early years of North Korean history were unable to move freely or to “vote with their vote.” Officially, North Korean subjects could not choose where they lived in the 1950s and 1960s. This was presented by the state in terms of superior rationality of economic planning. But this was easier said than done. Planners found that the population was actually quite elusive. In reality, people made their own determinations about where they wanted to live, factory managers chose who they wanted to hire, despite the regulations that were on the books, revealing the limits of state power. 30 percent of workers in the industrial and transport sectors of the economy in 1959 had moved outside the restrictions of official plans. Schmid cautioned of the basic historian’s fallacy of taking intentions to be actual outcomes. Just because Kim Il Sung proclaimed something does not mean it was actually carried out.

The second example Schmid gave was consumption and material culture. Early discussion in North Korean literature of material culture is focused away from consumption and rationalized through linkage to practical purposes and goals, such as the various functions curtains fulfill in the home. The focus was away from any suggestion of consumption for consumption’s sake. But a few publications go through a change and begin to discuss ways of decorating homes and discuss objects and household items for their own sake. Photos were published which featured homes and objects without showing people in the rooms or even Kim Il Sung photos on the walls. Photos, even those with people, showed more objects and more aspects of consumption and concern for material culture than was previously the case. Some publications even featured articles and photos about fashion.

Too often we think of North Korean ideology as being completely homogenous and uniform and only coming from the top down. Publications, though, reveal that there were other sources that informed North Korean ideology aside from the top-level sources. North Korea has a socio-cultural world beyond that proliferated by the top-level sources. Even before the end of the Cold War and the opening of Soviet archives, historians in the West began to poke holes in previous interpretations of the Stalinist period through the totalitarian model. The way we understood Stalin and the Stalinist period in the 1950s is completely different than the way we understand them today. Schmid argues that we can ask questions and begin to poke holes in the way we have understood North Korea. We can move away from being locked in Cold War categories and rethink the way we historicize North Korea.

March 28, 2017

Train to Busan Screening – Blog by Jamie Seah

On February 28, 2017, the Kim Program organized a screening of Train to Busan with the support of the Cinema Studies Program. Train to Busan, a South Korean zombie horror flick, first premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and has received both popular and critical acclaim. Dr Frank Chance (Adjunct Professor, EALC) provided a short introduction by delivering a brief history of the living dead in film.

The word ‘zombie’ first appeared in the English language in 1819. Early zombie films—with the first one being White Zombie (1932)—used zombies as a metaphor for physical labor or slavery. The 1960s saw the advent of “modern” zombie films such as the famous Night of the Living Dead (1968), which was produced with a modest budget of $140,000 but generated a whopping $30 million in revenues. Interestingly, the term “zombie” was never used to describe the undead in these films—they were relentless, but certainly not smart. Dr Chance noted that zombies in this era were likely a metaphor for class warfare i.e. symbols of a proletariat revolution. Today, we are most familiar with the zombie apocalypse, which has been depicted in numerous films and TV serials; zombies here are metaphors for infectious disease and industrial or military atrocities. What then, of the zombies in Train To Busan? After the film, one attendee highlighted a potential link to communism, a suggestion that some of us agreed with. Nevertheless, it was a great screening (made even better with free kimbap) and we hoped you enjoyed spending the evening with us!

February 20, 2017

Engaging in Korean Studies through non-Korea courses – blog by John G. Grisafi

Students interested in studying Korea may think that Penn has a relatively small number of courses on Korea – aside from language courses – when compared to China or Japan. There are certain semesters in which more courses are offered than in others and there appears to be rise in the number of variety of courses on Korea offered at Penn (which will hopefully continue) but it is still likely that many students feel there the opportunities to be limited. Fortunately, in my time at Penn I have found opportunities to engage in Korean Studies in courses that are not specifically focused on Korea.

There are, in my experience, a few different ways to categorize courses in terms of how their content relates to Korean Studies as well as how you as a student can choose to engage with them. I can organize the courses I have taken (and which are applicable to this topic) into three categories based on relevance of content to Korean Studies. In addition to that, many courses offer a variety of opportunities to more specifically engage with Korean Studies through choices made by the students regarding assignments.

The first of my three categories is courses which provide knowledge relevant to and sometimes concerning Korea through the study of cultures or topics which intersect with Korea. Examples include the introductory survey courses on China (EALC 001) and Japan (EALC 002). In addition to the fact that Korea or events that historically involved Korea may be discussed in the course, these introductory courses in China and Japan are, in my opinion, necessary for scholars of Korea in acquiring basic knowledge of the nations and cultures neighboring Korea and which have had significant influence and impact upon Korea.

The second category is that of more advanced courses such as China and the World: Modern Times (HIST 394), The Politics of Shinto (EALC 253). Each of these courses teaches much about a topic relevant to Korea but not specifically about Korea and only occasionally or briefly makes reference to Korea. HIST 394, taught by Dr. Arthur Waldron, provides much content on China and its relations with the world in the twentieth century. This information provides historical and cultural context relevant to Korea as well concepts and theories applicable to Korean Studies. Additionally, the course content occasionally directly discusses interactions with Korea. EALC 253, taught by Dr. Jolyon Thomas, teaches much about topics which do affect Korea from time to time historically, particularly in the period of Japanese colonization of Korea. I will say more about both of these courses below.

The third category is courses which have some portion focusing on to Korea as part of a larger curriculum about multiple countries or regions or repeatedly discuss Korea as part of region or theme. Examples include Global History of Communism (HIST 202), Sects in Violence in East Asia (EALC 207/607), and Cross-Cultural Relations in Ancient East Asia (EALC 140/540). HIST 202, taught by Dr. Alex Hazanov, discusses Communism in East Asia, including Korea for a portion of the course. This course also has elements of the second category in that an understanding of Communism and its history is quite useful for understanding Communism in context of Korea. EALC 140/540, taught by Dr. Yoko Nishimura, focuses on the study of ancient East Asian cultures, including linguistics, genetics, written records, and material culture such as pottery and other artifacts. Interaction of people and states is a major theme of this course and it provides much knowledge on early Korean history and also familiarizes students with the different types of evidence and methods through which this period can by studied. I cannot yet explain much about the Korea-related content of EALC 207/607, taught by Dr. Thomas, as I am still taking that course but I do know one of the assigned books (Laurel Kendall, Shamans, Nostalgias, and the IMF) is about contemporary South Korea.

I have additionally been able to further engage in the study of Korea beyond the material directly taught by the instructors of the courses by, when relevant and within reason, choosing a research topic pertaining to Korea. I have done this so far in four courses which were not specifically Korea content courses: HIST 394 (China and the World), HIST 202 (Global History of Communism), EALC 140/540 (Cross-Cultural Relations of Ancient East Asia), and EALC 253 (Politics of Shinto). In HIST 394, my final paper discussed China’s role in the Korean War with an emphasis on China’s objectives and strategy. This allowed to me examine the war and China’s participation through a China-centered approach rather than the Korea or Western-centered approaches with which I was previously more familiar. In HIST 202, my research paper was on the “Soviet-based Korean Communist Movement beyond Kim Il Sung.” This paper allowed me to explore the history of Korean Communist groups before and beyond Kim Il Sung’s Partisan faction and the impacts of Soviet and Comintern policies on these groups. In EALC 140/540, I wrote my final paper on the Proto-Three Kingdoms Period of Korea, examining the historiography and adding a geographic analysis. A project that has personally been especially intellectual and academically rewarding for me, though, is the one that began in EALC 253. For that course, I wrote a research paper on Shinto in Colonial Korea. That paper led to my participation in Dr. Thomas’s Shinto Symposium here at Penn in September 2016, where I presented my work alongside classmates as well as professors from various institutions.

That final example, I think, demonstrates a particular benefit of engaging in Korean Studies in courses covering a range of topics. By studying Korea through varying approaches and in context of different topics, we as scholars of Korea can learn more and discover novel ways to study and discuss Korea. Additionally, I have found that my professors typically appreciate having scholars of different specialization in their courses and incorporating their own interests into the class discussions and assignments. This is not to say that a scholar of Korea should always be thinking only about Korea, but rather that we should be mindful of connections between fields and subjects of study as well as opportunities for new research and discourse related to our respective interests.