RAS-KB: The Blog
A copy of David Mason's book can be purchased on his website.
Great scholar, writer and spiritual sage Choi Chi-won (857-?) is one of the most interesting yet enigmatic figures of all Korea's cultural history, displaying many virtues & talents and symbolizing many key themes. He exemplifies the tragic spirit of the Unified Shilla Dynasty’s waning days, and the incipient harmony among Korea’s Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism – a general "culture hero" of Korean tradition. He served as a brilliant government official in both Tang China and Korea, but then adopted the scholar-name Go-un [Lonely Cloud] to reflect his feelings about his later years in effective internal exile, during which he practiced Daoism and lived in great Buddhist temples and recorded their histories, with biographies of their enlightened masters, some of which remain inscribed on stone monuments today. Finally, he attained “immortality” at Gaya-san Haein-sa. This lecture will tell the fascinating story of his life, showing many photos of the lovely sites associated with him, and demonstrate the profound effect that his legacy left on the next 1100 years of Korea's cultural development.
David A. Mason is a Professor of Korean Public Service at Chung-Ang University, Seoul Campus, and a longtime researcher on the religious characteristics of Korea's mountains. Prior to his assuming his current post, he served as a professor of Korean Cultural Tourism for 9 years, as a consultant for the national Ministry of Culture and Tourism for 5 years, and as professor of English out in the Korean countryside for 17 years.
A citizen of the United States, native of Michigan, he has been living in South Korea for 33 years now, always following his passionate interest in hiking Korea’s forested mountains and visiting their historic spiritual sites. He has proudly been a member of the RAS-KB for three decades. He was appointed the Honorary Ambassador of the Baekdu-daegan Ranges by the Korea Forest Service in 2011.
Mason earned a Masters' Degree in the History of Korean Religions from Yonsei University in 1997. He has authored and edited ten books on Korean culture and tourism, including Spirit of the Mountains about Korea's traditions of spiritual mountain-worship, the English Encyclopedia of Korean Buddhism, and Solitary Sage: The Profound Life, Wisdom and Legacy of Korea’s ‘Go-un’ Choi Chi-won. He has published many articles in academic journals and popular magazines, and has frequently been interviewed on various media. His popular website on sacred Korean mountains and mountain-spirits can be found at www.san-shin.org
A Tale of Two Cities: The Struggle Between Gangnam and Gangbuk from the founding of Seoul to the Present
The City of Seoul consists of two competing cultural elements known as Gangbuk, "North of the River" and Gangnam "South of the River." Although it is clear that the brash Gangnam of Psy represents a strident voice that stands in opposition to the more subtle and communal culture of the North side, in fact the two cultures are often mixed together within the same space. Also, we can trace this cultural dichotomy back to the colonial period, and even back to the founding of the city of Seoul in the 14th century. This talk presents the two cultural genealogies in a compelling and slightly irreverent manner for a general audience.
Emanuel Pastreich serves as a professor at Kyung Hee University’s College of International Studies and as the director of the Asia Institute in Seoul, Korea. He served as the director of the KORUS House (2005-2007), a policy think tank operated in the embassy of the Republic of Korea in Washington D.C. and as editor-in-chief of Dynamic Korea, an on-line newspaper produced by the Korean foreign ministry. Pastreich is active in the internationalization of local government in Korea. Starting with his work as adviser to the governor of Chungnam Provence from 2007, he has advised the mayor of Daejeon, the mayor of Gwangju and the president of the Daedeok Innopolis Research cluster. He currently works closely with Seoul City.
This lecture will explore how Korea was seen and represented in US military newspapers and magazines during the period of American Military Government (1945-1948)
Thanks to Prof. Kathryn Weathersby’s recent presentation, we all know how Korea came to be divided. This lecture is a kind of follow-up. The bulk of US forces – specifically, the XXIV Corps of the US Army – arrived in Incheon on September 8th, 1945. From then until 15th August, 1948, when the Republic of Korea was proclaimed, the area of Korea south of the 38th parallel was under US military occupation. The arms and agencies of government were officially taken over from the Japanese colonial administration and administered by the US Army Military Government, under Lt General John R Hodge.
Very quickly after its arrival in Korea, the Troop Information and Education (TI&E) section of the XXIV Corps began printing a weekly newspaper for troops stationed in the US zone of occupation. This was called Korea Graphic. It came out very Sunday, and featured humorous anecdotes, cultural and historical information about Korea, news from home – especially sports, and also pin-up girls. Both American and Korean ladies were featured. For the average young soldier who had never before heard of Korea, and was often discouraged from getting too close to the country – for example, there were occasionally directives given to avoid eating the local cuisine – Korea Graphic and other publications from TI&E were the main source of information on what was going on in the country around them.
Bearing in mind that Korea had been a part of Japan for longer than most enlisted men had been alive at the time, these publications did a lot of early work to create a separate image in US soldiers’ minds of a nation that was now very much not a part of Japan, and with people who were very different from the Japanese.
Although no complete archive of Korea Graphic is known to exist anywhere, Jacco Zwetsloot has amassed a partial collection, mostly from the first year of occupation. He will share with us some of the insights that he has gained from poring over these fascinating and almost forgotten old documents.
Jacco Zwetsloot completed his Master’s Degree in Korean Studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands, with a thesis on North Korean comic books as a form of cultural production. His previous degree was a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Korean Studies at Monash University in Australia, with a thesis called “The DMZ in the Head” on North Korean refugees in South Korea and future Korean unification. He has lived in Korea for 14 of the last 19 years, and has worked in education, training, government, tourism, translation and broadcasting.
From the Goguryeo, Goryeo, and Joseon dynasties up through modern times, brewing of alcohol on the Korean peninsula has had a long and tumultuous history. Sul, the term for the family of Korean alcohols, has waxed and waned in both brewing technology and cultural knowledge. Draconian laws since the turn of the century, such as the prohibition on homebrewing and centralization of makgeolli production during the Japanese occupation in 1908, or the end to rice-based brewing in 1964 that followed years of chronic famine, precipitated the decline of regional alcohols, in terms of cultural knowledge as well as active brewing practices that existed outside of commercial standards. Changes to generations-old recipes, combined with the later addition of artificial sweeteners such as saccharin and aspartame, undermined the faith consumers had long held in this beloved beverage. Only in recent years has there been a resurgence of popular interest in a return to the old traditions, led by a small circle of dedicated brewers who have spent entire lifetimes keeping a very dim flame alight. The modern makgeolli industry has boomed and sputtered in the last decade, at the mercy of trends and failed government initiatives. Challenges and opportunities abound for future sustainable growth in the makgeolli industry and related cultural export through Korean cuisine.
Tonight’s presentation will focus on two major aspects of the makgeolli industry: brewing and production as well as marketing and the evolution of modern consumers. Particular attention will be paid to the modernization of brewing practices from the turn of the century and the reasons for the makgeolli booms and busts of recent decades. In addition, much attention will be given to the evolution of the Korean consumer and drinking habits thereof, as well as marketing hits and misses from an international perspective. Finally, solutions for the future of the industry from production and consumer marketing perspectives will be explored.
Becca Baldwin has been teaching the art of makgeolli brewing since 2011 at Susubori Academy. She is a co-author of Begin With Rice & Water: A Primer on Brewing Makgeolli (Rural Development Administration, 2014) and director of Makgeolli Makers, a consultancy and educational organization dedicated to sharing knowledge about traditional Korean brewing methods. Hailing from the USA with a background in winemaking and distillation, she moved to Korea in 2006. Becca took gold prize in the 2012 and 2013 Expat Makgeolli Brewer's Competition. She has since served as competition chair and has mentored many of her students to success.
Julia Mellor is the co-founder and director of Makgeolli Mamas & Papas Korea (MMPK), an organization providing tourism, consultancy and education opportunities about the traditional Korean alcohol industry in English. Over the past four years she has been dedicated to researching Korean alcohol culture and history within a market context, developing a particular passion for forging the gaps between brewers, bar owners, enthusiasts and consumers. With nine years in Korea under her belt, Julia’s and MMPK’s mission is to foster a deeper understanding of Korea’s representative alcohols, with the strongly held hopes of inspiring development and change in the industry both domestically and abroad.
It is widely known that the United States and the Soviet Union were responsible for the tragic division of Korea following its liberation from Japan in 1945. However, how and why the two occupying powers made the decisions that led to this outcome remains poorly understood. The question is, in fact, complicated because neither Moscow nor Washington intended or desired the establishment of separate states in Korea. As they jockeyed for position in the fluid circumstances of the end of the war against Japan and the beginning of the Cold War, their approach to the Korean settlement gradually took shape. Although they did not seek the division of Korea, the chain of actions they took in Northeast Asia made it unlikely that any other outcome would result.
In this lecture, Dr. Weathersby will trace the key stages in the settlement of the Korean question in 1945-46, examining the motivations of both occupying powers as their tactics shifted over these chaotic months. Drawing on Soviet documents recently uncovered from Russian archives as well as American records that have long been available, she will argue that Washington and Moscow subordinated the Korean issue to their top priority of protecting against a renewed threat from Japan. As they shaped their strategy toward the strategically vital peninsula, their mistrust of each other and their fear of Japan made them determined to maintain a “friendly” government in their zone, even at the cost of a catastrophic division of Korea.
Dr. Weathersby is a Visiting Professor in the Department of Political Science and Diplomacy at Sungshin Women’s University and Professorial Lecturer at the School of Advanced International Studies of The Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC. After the collapse of communist rule in the Soviet Union, she conducted extensive research in newly-available Soviet archives on Moscow’s policy toward Korea from 1944 to 1953. She has published and lectured widely on the Korean War and the Cold War in East Asia, and has taught the history of Soviet foreign policy and the history of South/North Korean relations. In 2013 the Ministry of Veteran’s Affairs of the Republic of Korea honored her with the Civilian Medal of Merit for her research on the Korean War, and in 2012 she received the Special Prize for the Promotion of Democracy from the Federation of Korean Industries.
Kazakhstan holds a significant collection of books in Korean and legends about the origin and value of this collection abound. It is clear that one of the most valuable items in the collection of the Kazakh National Library is a 19th Century edition of the 50 volume encyclopedia Dongguk Munhon Bigo (동국문헌비고 [東國文獻備考]). However, the question of how these books came to be in the Library of Kazakhstan remains uncertain. Little is known about how the collection was assembled in the Far East, how it was brought to Kzyl-Orda, and how it came to be in Almaty.
No doubt, the books came to be in Kazakhstan in connection with the deportation of Koreans from the Soviet Far East in 1937 and the relocation of the Korean Pedagogical Institute from Vladivostok to Kzyl-Orda. It is likely that the books arrived along with the Institute’s deported students and teachers. In 1938 the Korean Pedagogical Institute in Kzyl-Orda and the Korean Pedagogical College in Kazalinsk (Kzyl-Orda oblast’), which was moved from Nikol’sk-Ussuriisk, began teaching in the Russian language. Korean educational establishments, as well as educational institutions of other national minorities (Germans, Poles, Tatars etc.), were eliminated and the names of those institutions were changed. Thus, there was no longer a need for Korean books in Kzyl-Orda. Is it just a rumor that the Director of the former Korean Institute was ordered to burn the books to heat the building in the cold winter of 1939?
Based on his examination of documents, oral histories, book stamps, imprints, bookplates and title page inscriptions, Professor Kim will present his conclusions about the history of the Korean book treasures housed in his native country of Kazakhstan.
German Kim received his Ph.D. and Doctor habilitatus from the Kazakh National University. He is Director of the International Center of Korean Studies and Professor of World History in the KazNU, as well as Visiting Professor of the Institute for Social Science at Konguk University. His numerous books and articles, originally published in Russian and subsequently translated into Kazakh, English, Korean, German and Japanese, include several books that are particularly noteworthy on the history of Korean Immigration and the Korean Diasporas. In recognition of his academic, educational, and social efforts, Professor Kim has been awarded numerous Kazakh and Korean medals, prizes, and awards, including the Korean Compatriots award of KBS World for 2014 in the field of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Time and again it is said that Buddhism was so much oppressed when a new dynasty took over in 1392 that it was forced to look for support among the less educated and less confucianized layers of society. This is a gross simplification and this view also obscures shifts in the balance between Buddhism and Confucianism and Catholicism which would affect religious configurations in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Boudewijn Walraven has been a professor of Korean Studies of Leiden University in The Netherlands and is currently attached to the Academy of East Asian Studies of Sungkyunkwan University.
In Ch’oe Inhun’s linked novel of 1965, The Voice of the Governor General, the author connects Park Chung Hee’s nationalism and the 1965 Normalization Treaty with Japan to the nationalism of the Japanese colonial period by writing in the form of a radio broadcast. Harking back to Hirohito’s infamous radio announcement of Japan’s unconditional surrender and Korea’s liberation, Ch’oe suggests that postcolonial Korea had not really overcome the political and economic conditions of the colonial period. Ch’oe’s use of a radio broadcast also points to the ways the state used radio to discipline the masses into becoming responsible, dutiful citizens.
This presentation will explore the interesting documentary turn that takes place in early 70s Korean radio programming, especially in radio drama or radio theater. Along with programs that retranslated and rewrote classical tales and biographies, docudramas based on recent life stories became highly popular. What was this impulse for dramatizing and documenting and what effects did it produce? How did the radio reshape oral and written literature? How might mass media literary works have produced a space for a critique of the state? It will attempt to show that even in the midst of the state’s propaganda and censorship, the documentary turn in radio played with creating alternative truths and listening pleasures.
Prof. Jina Kim received a Ph.D. in Korean History and Literature from the University of Washington in 2006. She is currently Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies, Smith College, and Adjunct Professor, Korea University. She is the author of Urban Modernity in Colonial Korea and Taiwan (forthcoming), and numerous articles on mass media and literature in colonial and postcolonial Korea. At Korea University’s International Summer Campus she teaches courses on Literary Worlds and Modern East Asia.
Seoul is an urban-scale blank canvas, under a constant process of macro-sized upgrading. But for every two steps forward, one step must be taken backward, inconveniencing, relocating, and even sometimes killing citizens. In this lecture, we will examine that one step backward.
Urban renewal in Korea is like nowhere else in the world (beyond a handful of superficial similarities to neighbouring China and Japan). Large plots of land are cleared for "New City" megaprojects, with little thought to urban planning and sensible development. We will look closer at the phenomena created by this process, including moon villages (달동네), nail houses, and evictee movements and modes of resistance. There will also be a focus on the conflicting forces of demolition and preservation techniques, highlighting the sometimes-violent struggle between evictee groups and governments. Urban redevelopment cases discussed will involve Cheonggyecheon, Yongsan, Hongdae, and some of Korea's earliest apartment buildings. The presentation will mainly focus on the past ten years, with glimpses back into the distant past.
Jon Dunbar is an urban explorer who has been documenting urban renewal in Seoul and around Korea since 2007, visiting construction cranes and roofs, underground rivers and storm drains, and everything in between. He curates a database of 266 abandoned areas around Korea, which includes anything from large-scale abandoned neighbourhoods to abandoned amusement parks and various other places.
Painted during the early Joseon Dynasty in 1476, the Amitabha Buddha triad mural in the Hall of Supreme Bliss at Muwi-sa in Jeollanam-do’s Gangjin County presents several puzzles. For one, it is clearly a continuation of the Amitabha Buddha “welcoming descent” genre popular during the Goryeo Dyanasty, despite the Joseon’s Neo-Confucian suppression of Buddhism. However, extant Goryeo paintings of this genre were small scrolls for use at believers’ deathbeds or private meditation in homes. Moreover, although the compositional style and color scheme of the Muwi-sa mural are generally like those of the Goryeo, they are different in some ways, chiefly in that the heads of the bodhisattvas flanking Amitabha Buddha are above his knees. This combination of continuity and change can be explained by the fact that there appear to have been Amitabha Buddha triad altar murals during the Goryeo which were destroyed in the 1590s by the Japanese, who took most Goryeo welcoming descent scrolls with them when they retreated from Korea. More importantly, recent scholarship has argued that some Buddhist ceremonies were supported by the early Joseon despite its general repression of the religion, including a ritual for the dead called suryuk performed at designated temples, of which Muwi-sa was one. Since the Amitabha Buddha welcoming descent genre depicted what believers wanted to see immediately after they died, it makes perfect sense that such an image would be painted over the altar at such a temple. The differences between the Muwi-sa mural and its Goryeo predecessors, particularly the position of the bodhisattvas’ heads above Amitabha Buddha’s knees, however, are still unexplained. This genre of painting no longer exists, but a descendent of it called the 'sweet dew painting' (gamnodo) can be found in Korean Buddhist temples today
Hal Swindall was born in the Bay Area of California in 1963. He received a PhD in comparative literature from UC Riverside in 1994, writing a dissertation on fin-de-siècle British, French and Italian novels and art criticism. He went to China to teach in 1994 and has taught at universities in Malaysia and Taiwan as well as China and Korea. Presently he teaches in the Department of Global Studies at Pusan National University. Although his main research interests continue to be in late 19c Europe, he has developed new ones, especially Buddhist and Daoist temples and their art.