Lecture Videos with Blogs

Lecture Video: The Korean Red Pine: a companion from cradle to grave

Despite the ecological and landscape importance and the public popularity of conifers, especially in the case of the Korean red pine (Pinus densiflora S & Z) or Sonamu in Korean, not much scientific and cultural information related to this familiar conifer is available. At present, red pine forest occupies 22.7 percent of the total Korean forest are, 1,447,439 square kilometers in extent. It is not merely a conifer that occurs on the mountains. The Korean red pine tree has long been regarded as a vital link between nature and people from the cradle to the grave in the Korean context, and Korean culture is often known as the Pine Tree Culture in comparison with the Oak culture of Europe.

The Korean red pine tree has been a dominant plant species for a long period of time, and has served as the key tree species maintaining ecosystems and landscapes, as well as being an important tree with respect to culture and the local economy. The Korean red pine has provided a wide range of seasonal produce required for the daily life of the common people, including foodstuff, firewood, tools, timber for shelter and coffins, especially when the country was in absolute poverty. The Korean red pine tree had a great impact on people’s everyday life. It is also well-known for its popularity in traditional painting as one of the ten longevity symbols, and is also regarded as a symbol of fidelity, loyalty and eternity, along with bamboos.

The pine tree has been in existence in the Korean peninsula since the Cretaceous period of the Mesozoic Era. Data from 1454 to 1931 have been obtained from seven historical documents and used to interpret the history of the Korean red pine. Historical records for conifers mainly contain descriptions of its use for timber, pine boards for royal coffins, diverse by-products, such as pine resin, pine mushrooms, seeds, and medicinal items. In recent years the Korean red pine has encountered a series of ecological challenges, such as cutting, forest fire, insect outbreak, regional development, and climate change.

Woo-seok Kong is a Professor of Biogeography in Kyung Hee University, Seoul. He is author of The Plant Geography of Korea (1993, Kluwer Academic Publisher), and several Korean books such as Conifer Science (2016, Geobook), Climate Change and Ecosystem (2012, Geobook), Biogeography and Ecology of Korean Plants (2007, Geobook), Ecosystem of DPRK (North Korea) (2006, Jipmundang), and Vegetation History of the Korean Peninsula (Acanet, 2003).

Blog tags: 

Lecture Video: King of the Dragons

Lecturer: David A. Mason

Dragons have always played a key role in Oriental traditions, especially in religious and governmental artworks. They are plentifully employed in Korean royal palaces, Shamanic and Confucian shrines, and Buddhist temples as uplifting and protective spiritual guardians of the heavens. They are found depicted on furniture and on many artifacts, believed to bring good fortune to the owners.

“Dragon” is one of the 12 auspicious figures of the oriental zodiac, as the leader of them all. The word itself is heavily employed in all eastern languages, and appears within an extremely high percentage of place names and other names, in comparison with other words. Looking deeper, in Korea they are presented much less as motifs of heaven-granted authority as in China, but more as symbols of the vital energies of water and its life-sustaining cycles as it moves through transformations – and the depictions have subtle characteristic differences.

Most Korean Buddhist temples have at least a small shrine for Yong-wang the dragon-king, and he also appears in Guardian Assembly Icons and some paintings of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. There are many interesting myths about appearances and behavior of this royal figure within Korean Daoist, Buddhist and folklore traditions. This lecture will explain about dragons and their monarch, and the role they play in eastern spirituality, while showing many colorful photos of the artworks and shrines.

David A. Mason is a Professor of Korean and International Cultural Tourism at Sejong University, Seoul Campus, and a longtime researcher on the religious characteristics of Korea's mountains. A native of the USA, he has been living in South Korea for 33 years now. He has authored and edited ten books on Korean culture and tourism, including Spirit of the Mountains about Korea's traditions of sacred mountains, the English Encyclopedia of Korean Buddhism, and Solitary Sage: The Profound Life, Wisdom and Legacy of Korea’s ‘Go-un’ Choi Chi-won. His popular website on sacred Korean mountains and mountain-spirit traditions can be found at www.san-shin.org

Blog tags: 

Lecture Video: Remembering Yongsan Garrison: An Urban Memory Archive Project

In 2017, United States Forces Korea (USFK) officially began the process of returning Yongsan Garrison to the Korean government. According to the current master plan, the Base is to be turned into one of the largest urban parks in Asia. In order to make room for trees and meadows, about 90% of the buildings on the Base will be removed. And the remaining buildings will be renovated into museums and recreational facilities. Official records will help military historians write about YSG’s role in bringing peace to the region. But that’s only half of the story. For US servicemen and their families who served in Korea, YSG provided homes to families, schools for children, and recreational venues for friends and guests.

The social history of the Garrison’s occupants is on the verge of being lost forever. Before all the families and friends move out of YSG completely, we need to capture their lives and experiences on the Base. We need to record the stories and memories at the locations where they took place. These can be archived digitally for future generations. This digital database is the foundation for the Yongsan Legacy project: a “virtual monument” of Yongsan Garrison. Yongsan Legacy is an online platform. It will be also a cultural monument; the culture of all those who served in Yongsan Garrison will be appreciated by generations to come. Narratives of YSG will be captured and shared freely from the perspectives of the people who lived on the Base. Largely hidden from public view, its value is yet to be fully understood and explored by local citizens and the rest of Korea. That is what the Yongsan Legacy project wants to discover and share.

Blog tags: 

Lecture Video: South Korea’s “IMF Crisis”


After prolonged rapid growth, often characterized as the Miracle on the Han, South Korea joined the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), sometimes described as a club for middle-income countries, in December 1996. One year later, sharply changing fortunes forced the ROK Government to seek an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout, in December 1997. Twenty years after onset of the IMF Crisis, this lecture will summarize precipitating events, crisis effects, and responses by the Government of Korea and the IMF as well as the World Bank. The lecture will go beyond standard explanations to suggest a perhaps-surprising origin for the crisis. At its conclusion, the lecture will offer an assessment of long-term effects from South Korea’s IMF crisis.

William P. Mako retired from the World Bank in 2014. During 1998 – 2002, he advised Korea’s Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) on chaebol restructuring; negotiated corporate restructuring conditions for a $2 billion World Bank loan; negotiated and supervised a separate technical assistance loan; participated in IMF program monitoring and Article IV consultation missions; and participated in a joint IMF-World Bank assessment of South Korea’s financial sector. Since 2014, he has been teaching economic development at the KDI School of Public Policy & Management, Kyung Hee University, and L’institut des études politiques de Paris (Sciences Po).

Blog tags: 

Lecture Video: James Scarth Gale, Korean Literature in hanmun, and Allo-metropolitan Missionary Orientalism


In this lecture, I give an overview of my forthcoming book by the same title. Based largely on the James Scarth Gale papers held by the Fisher Rare Book Library (University of Toronto), this project examines and contextualizes James Scarth Gale’s forty-year career as a missionary scholar in Korea (1888-1927) and argues that Gale is a foundational but largely forgotten and underappreciated figure in the history of modern Korean Studies, particularly as concerns traditional Korean literary culture and literary history—topics that remain underexplored in English-language scholarship to this day. The Gale Papers force a reevaluation of our image of Gale and his legacy: from that of missionary, lexicographer, historian, and occasional translator of premodern fiction, to dedicated bibliophile, and champion, prolific translator and interpreter of Korean literature and literary culture in Literary Sinitic.
The project approaches Gale’s scholarly legacy by focusing on his Korean bibliomania, and is divided into two parts. Part One analyzes Gale’s collecting of old Korean books, his study and translation of them in collaboration with his Korean ‘pundits’, and the relationship of his literary and scholarly work to broader questions of ‘Orientalism’ in general and missionary orientalism, in particular. One key argument is that for Gale, ‘Korean literature’ existed almost exclusively in the cosmopolitan code of Literary Sinitic (‘Classical Chinese’); modern Korean literature was barely getting off the ground in the 1920s when Gale retired, and he was dismissive of vernacular literary production, both premodern and modern. A second key argument is that Gale strove through all of his activities to demonstrate that Korea was a ‘civilized nation’ and a ‘nation of scholars and books’, whose deep historical engagement with Chinese civilization and thought had prepared it for Christianity and its one Great Book. A third key argument is that Gale’s literary and bibliophilic project amounted to a major intervention into defining—in a contested and transnational intellectual field in colonial Korea in the 19teens and 1920s—the premodern Korean literary tradition and canon; a full accounting of his book collecting and translation projects sheds new light on the process by which the modern notion of the ‘Korean Classics’ was constructed. A final question the book poses concerns the relative oblivion into which Gale’s work fell: why is he largely forgotten today, even in Korea, and why was the bulk of his work never published?

Ross King earned his BA in Linguistics and Political Science from Yale College and his MA and PhD from Harvard in Linguistics. Currently he serves as Professor of Korean and Head of Department in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. His main research interests are Korean historical linguistics, Korean dialectology (esp. the dialect(s) preserved by the ethnic Korean minority in Russia and the former USSR), the history of Korean linguistics (including the history of Korean linguistic thought in Korea and Korean linguistic and script nationalism), and the history of language, writing and literary culture in the ‘Sinographic Cosmopolis’ (漢字文化圈).


Blog tags: 

Lecture Video: Anti-Americanism in Contemporary South Korea

Most South Koreans regard their country as "pro-American," but a strong wave of anti-American sentiment threatened to upend U.S.-Korean relations in the not-so-distant past. From 1999 to 2002, the Korean media engaged in a sustained campaign of harsh criticism against the United States, especially U.S. Forces Korea. There were numerous incidents in which Koreans harassed and even physically attacked innocent Americans, and by late 2002 hundreds of thousands of South Koreans had taken to the streets to protest against the United States.

The mainstream South Korean narrative about that time is that the United States and its
representatives had long acted in ways that were arrogant, insensitive, and disrespectful of the
Korean people, their culture, and their sovereignty. South Koreans believe that their protests were not only righteous and but also effective in forcing the United States to treat them as equals.

The lecturer, at the time a senior official in the American embassy in Seoul charged with responding to the situation, has provided an American perspective on the phenomenon in his book Anti-Americanism in Democratizing South Korea, published by Stanford University's Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center in 2015, and in Korean translation earlier this year by Sancheoreom under the title 반미주의로 보는 한국 현대사.

Based on his book, the lecturer will offer a provocative retrospective and analysis challenging the conventional Korean narrative, including his views of why the protests occurred, the effects they had, and whether a similar situation could occur again. Copies of both the English- and Korean-language versions of the book will be available for purchase at the event.

David Straub is currently the inaugural Sejong-LS Fellow at The Sejong Institute, an independent and nonpartisan Korean private policy think tank. Straub was a career American diplomat from 1976 to 2006, including eight years at the American embassy in Seoul and service as the head of the office of Korean affairs at State Department headquarters in Washington, DC. From 2008 to 2016, he was affiliated with Stanford University's Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center.

Blog tags: 

Lecture: Re-visiting the 1937 deportation of ethnic Koreans to Central Asia


Lecturer: Victoria Kim

Additional information can be found on Lost and Found in Uzbekistan and in a recent article published in the Diplomat. Victoria can also be reached by email at vkimsky(at)gmail.com


2017 marks the 80th anniversary of the first deportation of an entire nationality in the Soviet Union. In 1937, approximately 172,000 ethnic Koreans – the entire population of Posyet Korean national district and neighboring territories in the Far Eastern Krai – were forcefully relocated to Central Asia on cargo trains by the Soviet government. 80 years later, their descendants still live in what is now Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Some of them view the deportation as a tragedy whereas others see it quite differently. Victoria Kim, the author of Lost and Found in Uzbekistan: The Korean Story, will discuss the changing narrative of the 1937 deportation and focus on the process of re-definition of the Korean identity currently taking place across Central Asia.


Victoria Kim holds an MA from the Johns Hopkins University’s SAIS in Korean Studies and MA from the University of Bolton in International Multimedia Journalism. Originally from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, she is currently based in Beijing, China, as a researcher and documentary storyteller. Her multimedia long-reads and podcast on the Korean diaspora in the former Soviet Union are featured in The Diplomat and by the Korea Economic Institute of America. Victoria has widely spoken on the topic to international audiences at the George Washington and Johns Hopkins Universities in Washington DC, Royal Academic Society China and World Culture Open in Beijing, etc.

Blog tags: 

Lankov Lecture: The cracks in the alliance: the Soviet Union and North Korea in 1955-1960

It is often presumed that North Korea since its inception was a Soviet satellite or ally. This is correct, but only to an extent, since Kim Il Song and his supporters among the North Korean leaders were deeply nationalistic and saw their reliance on the USSR as a burden. After 1955 it became possible for them to get rid of what they saw as a troublesome and even humiliating dependency. The Soviet attempts to support the anti-Kim opposition ended in a political disaster, and the late 1950s became the time when the relations between the USSR and North Korea deteriorated fast. The period was marked by dramatic events – a defection of the North Korean ambassador to Moscow, abductions of dissenting North Korean students from the USSR and other countries (resulting in the expulsion of the then North Korean ambassador), ban on marriages with the Soviet citizens etc.

Andrei Lankov was born 26 July 1963 in Leningrad (now Petersburg). He completed his undergraduate and graduate studies at Leningrad State University (PhD in 1989). In 1996-2004 he taught Korean history at the Australian National University, and since 2004 he teaches at Kookmin University in 2004, Seoul (currently a professor at the College of Social Studies), and is also director of the Korearisk.com group. His major research interest is North Korean history and society. His major English language publications on North Korea include: From Stalin to Kim Il Sung: The Formation of North Korea, 1945-1960 (Rutgers University Press, 2003); Crisis in North Korea: The Failure of De-Stalinization, 1956 (University of Hawaii Press, 2004), North of the DMZ: Essays on Daily Life in North Korea (McFarland and Company, 2007), The Real North Korea (Oxford University Press, 2013). He has contributed to the 'Wall Street Journal', 'New York Times', 'Financial Times', 'Newsweek', and published a number of academic articles, including two articles in 'Foreign Affairs'.


Blog tags: 

Lecture Video: Women and Buddhism: Engaging Zen Master Kim Iryŏp

Why and how do women engage with Buddhism? This is a leading question that this presentation tries to explore by examining the life and thoughts of a Korean Zen Buddhist nun Kim Iryŏp (1896-1971).

A daughter of a Christian pastor, Iryŏp was a first-generation Korean feminist and a writer who became a Zen Buddhist nun. Iryŏp’s life and work bear witness to Korea’s encounter with modernity and Korean women’s life in the formative period of modern Korea. Challenging the social values of patriarchal Korea, Iryŏp and other New Women struggled to find their own identity through their writings and art works, and by living their beliefs. The Buddhist worldview was one of the major venues Iryŏp found to express her identity and the meaning of her existence. By tracing down the life story and philosophy of Kim Iryŏp, this presentation will think about the meaning of autobiography, narrative identity, Christianity as well as Buddhism and meaning construction in our daily existence.
In her writings, Iryŏp challenges readers with her creative interpretations of Buddhist doctrine and her reflections on the meaning of Buddhist practice. In the process she offers insight into a time when the ideas and contributions of women to twentieth-century Korean society and intellectual life were just beginning to emerge from the shadows, where they had been obscured in the name of modernization and nation-building.

Jin Y. Park is Professor of Philosophy and Religion and the Founding Director of the Asian Studies Program at American University. Park’s research areas include East Asian Buddhism, and Buddhist philosophy of religion, Buddhist-postmodern comparative philosophy, and modern East Asian philosophy. Her books include Women and Buddhist Philosophy (2017); Reflections of a Zen Buddhist Nun (trans. 2014); Makers of Modern Korean Buddhism (ed., 2010); Buddhism and Postmodernity (2008); and Buddhisms and Deconstructions (ed., 2006).

Park served on the Board of Directors at the American Academy of Religion and currently serves as President of the North American Korean Philosophy Association and Vice President of the Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy.


Blog tags: 

Lecture Video: The 1882 Korean-American Treaty, Syngman Rhee, and the Division of Korea

It has become axiomatic that the division of Korea in 1945 was a hasty decision taken by men who had little knowledge of Korea and who were every hour being bombarded by issues of much greater importance. It was “wholly an American action” taken with no thought of the Koreans themselves or of the long-term consequences of that division. The division of Korea was not a sufficient condition for the Korean War, but it was a necessary one. Given the monumental consequences that resulted from that division, comparatively little scholarly effort has gone into contextualizing it and to explaining the contradictory directives of the State and War departments that Colonels Dean Rusk and Charles Bonesteel were given thirty minutes and a small scale National Geographic map of East Asia to solve. The War Department wanted none of Korea, while the State Department wanted nearly all of it. The 38th Parallel was a compromise, not just between the United States and the Soviet Union, but between the United States government’s differing interpretations of its responsibilities toward Korea.

But why did Americans care about Korea at all? Military planners claimed that Korea had no strategic value to the United States and their lack of planning for either an assault on or an occupation of Korea proved they believed it. Dean Rusk’s own account of the division claims that he was tasked with dividing Korea for “symbolic purposes”—not strategic ones. What could have made Korea symbolically important in 1945? The answer lies in the largely unexamined forty-year campaign by Syngman Rhee and the Korean independence movement to persuade Americans to care about Korea. Rhee built a comparatively small but determined network of supporters, tirelessly lobbied the United States government, and at key junctures transformed Korea into an issue of symbolic importance that could not be ignored. Rhee’s activities as the leader of the Korean independence movement in the United States are crucial to the context in which American policymakers suggested the division of Korea.

This lecture will explain how Rhee used the obscure 1882 Korean-American Treaty to transform Korea into a place a symbolic importance to Americans at two critical junctions, the debate over the Versailles Treaty in 1919 and the summer of 1945 when the Allies were constructing a new world order in the wake of World War II. Rhee’s argument that the United States’ violation of this treaty made it responsible for Korea resonated with many Americans, who through their congressmen and grassroots organizing pressured the U.S. government to do something for Korea. Division was not what they had in mind, but it is nevertheless what they received.

David P. Fields earned his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and is currently a Fulbright scholar at Yonsei University. His dissertation “Foreign Friends: Syngman Rhee, American Exceptionalism, and the Division of Korea” examines how Korean independence activists used the rhetoric of American exceptionalism to lobby for Korean independence in the first half of the 20th century. He is the editor of The Diary of Syngman Rhee, published by the Museum of Contemporary Korean History. He has served as the book review editor of the Journal of American-East Asian Relations since 2015. He has been published in the Journal of American-East Asian Relations and the North Korea Review.


Blog tags: 


Recent comments

Blog Archive

Contact Us

Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch
Room 611, Korean Christian Building, Daehak-ro 19 (Yeonji-dong), Jongno-gu, Seoul 03129
[03129] 서울시 종로구 대학로 19 (연지동) 한국기독교회관 611호

Office is normally open as follows:

Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays & Saturdays:
                                   10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Wednesdays & Thursdays: 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Please call before your visit.
Phone (02) 763-9483 FAX (02) 766-3796

Email - royalasiatickorea@gmail.com

Find Us On...


Subscribe to Syndicate