Lecture Videos with Blogs

Lecture Video: Korean Art in Its East Asian Context

Korea, because of its geo-political situation, was a natural recipient of the most advanced Chinese art and culture, which were then transmitted to Japan. This process of transmission, however, stimulated the development of a distinctive Korean national and cultural identity, along with the creation of works of art in a wide range of mediums that are uniquely Korean in every aspect.

Examining Korean art in the larger context of East Asian history, culture, and artistic production, this lecture will explore how this process evolved over more than a thousand years and shaped art that is unmistakably Korean in iconography, form, color, style, and technique.

Yi Song-mi, Emerita of Art History at the Academy of Korean Studies, previously served as Dean of the Graduate School at the Academy, and was previously Professor and Director of the University museum at Duksung Women’s University in Seoul. She has been a member of the National History Council of Korea and has served as the President of Korean Art History Association. In April 2014, she served as the Special Lecturer at the Tang Center for East Asian Art History at Princeton University.

Professor Yi was educated at Seoul National University (B.A.), UC Berkeley (M.A.), and Princeton University (Ph. D.). Her recent publications on Korean painting include Searching for Modernity: Western Influence and True-View Landscape in Korean Painting of the Late Chosŏn Period (2014), the award winning Joseon Dynasty books of Royal Wedding in Art Historical Perspective (Korean, 2008), Korean Landscape Painting: Continuity and Innovation Through the Ages (2006).


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Lecture Video: Ten reflections after writing a modern history of the two Koreas

The lecturer writes: ‘History, sir, will tell lies as usual.’ is a favourite quote from George Bernard Shaw’s The Devil’s Disciple, and the two Koreas are no exceptions to this dictum, though nor are they especially conspicuous offenders. Korean historians from all parts of the political spectrum have merely joined in the common rush to enlist the historical narrative as allies in their various struggles, and over the years they have been joined by quite a few foreigners. The result is a secondary literature that is frequently opaque, confusing and partisan.

Over the past fifteen years or so I have had the privilege of writing successive editions of a book titled The Making of Modern Korea for the UK publisher Routledge. The third edition was published late last year, and affords an opportunity to reflect on some of the things I have learnt – and failed to learn – over the course of reading a wide variety of source material on modern Korean history. I focus on the following topics: the denigration of the achievements of the Choson era; the inability of most non-Koreans to comprehend the significance of the Japanese colonial era; the issue of collaborationism; the disputed origins of the Korean War; the Park-Chun era and the characteristics of the ROK military; the specific colouring of ROK ‘conservative’ ideology; ROK reunification policy and domestic politics; and some key self-inflicted distortions involved in our perceptions of North Korea.

Dr Buzo lectures in Korean Studies at Macquarie University and Korea University, and currently manages the Korea University – Macquarie University joint Master of Translating and Interpreting Studies program. After language studies at Yonsei University in 1973-74 he served as a foreign affairs officer in the Australian missions in Seoul and Pyongyang. He received his Masters degree from Dankook University Department of Korean Language and Literature in 1981, specialising in the study of early Korean writing systems. He was an RAS Councillor 1980-81. In addition to a number of language, translating and interpreting texts, with co-author A. J. Prince his Kyunyo-jon: The Life, Times and Songs of a Tenth Century Korean Monk appeared in 1993. The second edition of his 1999 book The Guerilla Dynasty: Politics and Leadership in the DPRK 1945-1994 will be published later this year by Routledge.


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Lecture Video:Public Sentiment and its Place in Modern Korea

In recent years, we have heard a lot in Korea about “public sentiment.” The phrase sounds gentle enough – like the addition of a soft layer of feeling to the idea of “public opinion.” But, actually, it is something altogether different.

If you were puzzled this year by both the justification for and the speed with which President Park Geun-hye was ousted, then you will find an explanation in public sentiment. If you were puzzled last year as to how a court could find executives in Korea for a certain foreign automaker who had translated advertisements about how nice their cars were and run them in Korean magazines guilty of criminality, the answer is public sentiment. If you wondered a few years back how the local head of an American fund could be jailed for five years for manipulating the share price of the bank it had bought when a) there was not a single piece of evidence and b) he wasn’t even in charge at the time, you can guess that public sentiment played a big role.

As such cases show, for the business person who finds his or her company savaged in the media, for the lawyer acting in its defense, for the politician or bureaucrat who helped it at some point, public sentiment is a tsunami that comes without warning.

But, for a people subject to authoritarian governance throughout their history, it represents the moral heart of Korean democracy.

Michael Breen came to Korea as a foreign correspondent and now works as a public relations executive advising companies on their communications with local and foreign media. He is the author of The Koreans and Kim Jong-il: North Korea’s Dear Leader. His latest book, The New Koreans, comes out in April.


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Lecture Video: The 386 Generation and the Quest for the “Good Country”

In this lecture, I draw on the Strauss–Howe generational theory to look at how the “386 Generation” (people born in the 1960s who attended university in the 1980s) sought to turn Korea into a “good country” though a wide range of political and social movements in the 1980s. Though differing in focus, the movements defined a “good country” as a democratic and egalitarian society that was confident of itself on the world stage.
In a 1991 book entitled Generations, William Strauss and Neil Howe looked at patterns in generations in the US going back to the colonial period. The authors define a generation as a cohort of people born over roughly a 20-year period that share common beliefs and behaviors developed during childhood and young adulthood within the broader historical and social context of the times.

The 386 Generation, the most populous generation, was born in the 1960s when Korea began transforming itself into an industrialized nation. It attended schools during the 1970s, the harshest years of the Park Chung-hee’s dictatorship. It then entered young adulthood in the 1980s and reacted against the dictatorships of Chun Doo-hwan by offering a vision of Korea as a “good country” that went beyond economic achievement.

As the generation aged, the quest for a “good country” manifested itself in the IT boom in 1990s that sought to apply new technology to create a more open society. In the 2000s, the generation passionately supported the outsider Noh Moo-hyun and more recently took an active role in the candlelight demonstrations against Park Geun-hye. The dominance of the 386 Generation since the 1980s has created tensions with older and younger generations that continue to influence Korean politics and society.

In the lecture, I will draw on my memories of life in Korea as a student of Korean language (1983-1983) and as an English language teacher at (1985-1993). I will refer to articles and images in the mass media from the 1980s to the present.

Robert J. Fouser holds a B.A. in Japanese language and literature, and M.A. in applied linguistics, both from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in applied linguistics from Trinity College Dublin. He studied Korean language intensively at Seoul National University in the 1980s. During his time in Japan, he taught foreign language education at Kyoto University and developed the Korean language program in Kagoshima University. From 2008 to 2014, he taught Korean as a second/foreign language education at Seoul National University. He also is the translator of Understanding Korean Literature (1997), co-author of Hanok: The Korean House (2015), and the author of two books in Korean Mirae Simin ui jogeon[Conditions for Citizenship in the Future] (2016) and Seochon Hollik [Seochon-holic] (2016). He is currently writing a book on the history of foreign language learning and teaching. He also writes regular columns for media outlets in Korea.


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Lecture Video: The Korean War: Who Won? Who Lost? Who Cares?


Midnight, 27th July, 1953. An eerie silence – a silence unheard for three hideous, blood-drenched years – descended across miles after mile after mile of scorched, cratered hills and denuded, sinister valleys: An armistice had been signed. The Korean War was over…

…or was it? In fact, the demons had barely been suppressed. Six decades later, they continue to stalk the land.

The Korean peninsula is an armed camp. Global media reserve headline space for Kim Jong-un’s strategic weapons development. North Korean is both a politico-strategic black hole and a causus belli at the epi-center of economically thriving Northeast Asia. And the superpowers, China and the USA, could yet come to calamitous blows over a North Korean endgame.

Drowned under all this geo-strategic babble, the 1950-1953 conflict is almost lost to memory. What of the “Forgotten War” itself? What happened? Award-winning author Andrew Salmon will, in the first half of his presentation, sketch out the progress of the war itself, and explain why it was a particularly horrific conflict. He will also explain why it is remembered – ironically - as “The Forgotten War.”

In the second half, he will pose the questions: Who won the Korean War? Who lost it? What metrics define victory and defeat, for nations and policies? And what lessons and risks do the Korean War and its long, lingering aftermath hold for the world today?

About our speaker:

Seoul-based reporter Andrew Salmon covers the Koreas for France24 and is a columnist for The Korea Times. His To the Last Round: The Epic British Stand on the Imjin River, Korea, 1951 won a “Military Book of the Year” award in the United Kingdom in 2009, a “Korea Wave” award at the National Assembly in Seoul in 2010 and was named one of the “Top 10” books on Korea by The Wall St Journal, also in 2010. The book's follow up, Scorched Earth, Black Snow: Britain and Australia in the Korean War, 1950was, like its prequel, translated into Korean. In 2016, Andrew was awarded a Member of the British Empire (MBE) medal by Queen Elizabeth II for his writing on the British role in the Korean War. His latest book Modern Korea: All That Matters was published in 2015. Andrew holds a BA from the University of Kent and an MA from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). His interests include history, martial arts and ale.


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Lecture Video: Paradise Lost of Two Korean Americans


Lecturer: Byung Joon Jung and Vladimir Hlasny

This is a story of two Korean Americans who were US citizens but wanted to join the Korean independence movement during the colonial period. Alice Hyun was known as a so-called “US spy” and “Korea’s Mata Hari” by South and North Korea. She was known as the first lover of famous Korean communist Park Hon Young during his stay in Shanghai in the early 1920s. She was involved in the Korean independence movement and became a communist. She served in the US Army during the Pacific War and joined the US Army Forces in Korea after World War II. She was a deputy of the Seoul branch of the Civil Communication Intelligence Group-Korea, a civil sponsorship organ. She was banished from South Korea by the US army authorities and went to Pyongyang via Czechoslovakia in 1949. She was imprisoned in 1953 and may have been executed in 1956 when Park Hon Young himself was executed.

Her son Wellington Chung went to Prague in 1948 to study medicine at Charles University. He became a medical surgeon in 1955 and wanted to re-unite with his mother in Pyongyang but North Korea denied him entry into Pyongyang. He remained stuck in Czechoslovakia. The US embassy at Prague also followed his activities in Czechoslovakia. During that time his mother was being put to death by North Korea and his uncles in LA were summoned to the hearings of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. He struggled to survive in Czechoslovakia under surveillance and restrictions on his activities. He married a Czech woman in 1957, but committed suicide in 1963.

This is a story of Korean American radicals who pursued their dreams to go back to their real motherland. However, there were no such place in reality that they dreamed of and imagined. They denied their identities as US citizens and South Korean nationals and wanted to become “real Koreans,” that is, North Korean nationals. But when Alice arrived in Pyongyang, she faced a strange world where her only reputation was that of a US spy.

Byung Joon Jung is a professor of History at Ewha Womans University. He majored in modern Korean history. He has published several books on Korean political figures and modern Korean history such as Syngman Rhee, Lyuh Woon Hyung, Korean War, Dokdo, and Alice Hyun. He has earned several awards including two times the Hanguk Chulpan Munhwa sang (Korean Publication Culture Award for Academic Book sponsored by Hankook Daily News) and the Wolbong Jeojak Sang (Wolbong Book Award for Korean Studies).

Vladimir Hlasny is an associate professor of Economics at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. In 2015, he served as an economic affairs officer at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia in Beirut. He holds a doctorate in economics from Michigan State University. His main research areas are microeconomics and industry regulation. In History, his topic of interest is the Korean relations with Europe and the United States in the 1940s and 50s.


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Lecture Video: From the First Tram to Korea’s Modern Day Transport System

Transportation played a very important role in Korea’s economic growth during the 20th century. It developed as rapidly as the economy, and today Korea’s cities have some of the most efficient public transport systems in the world. This lecture will take the audience through how public transport developed from the first trams in Seoul to today’s subway systems, and conclude by looking at what the future holds.

The introduction of trams was a watershed moment for Korea entering the modern era at the end of the 19th century. Under Japanese colonial rule, Seoul’s inner-city tram system was expanded and carried around 150,000 passengers per day at its peak. After the Korean War, trams had to compete with buses and cars. Cities shifted their focus to the development of underground rail systems and trams disappeared in 1968. Six years later Seoul opened its first subway line, and since then over 18 lines have been added to Seoul’s capital region, becoming one of the largest subway systems in the world. Bus systems in Korea have also become advanced and well integrated with other modes of transport.

Over the last ten years cities have continued to experiment with other modes of transport, with light rail in particular proving popular nationwide.

Although it has been almost fifty years since trams disappeared from Seoul’s streets, there has recently been a strong interest in the reintroduction of trams to cities around Korea. What are the motivations for bringing back trams and is Korea on the verge of a tram renaissance? What else does the future hold for public transport in Korea?

Andy Tebay and Nikola Medimorec are writers for Kojects, a website about public transport and urban development in Korea. Andy started the website in 2011 to help inform people about the various public transport and development projects in progress around Korea. Nikola joined him two years later, contributing topics related to cycling and walking in Korean cities. See their website Kojects.


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Lecture Video: The Foreign Disturbance of 1866

Following the execution of nine Catholic missionaries, the French Far Eastern Squadron undertook a punitive expedition against Korea in 1866. This famous event of the late Chosŏn period came to be known as the “foreign disturbance of the pyŏngin year” (pyŏngin yangyo) and it is still perceived in Korean historiography as the first foreign attempt to invade the peninsula since the seventeenth century. The French chargé d’affaires in Beijing, Henri de Bellonnet, officially planned to establish a protectorate in Chosŏn, but the naval campaign failed and the French troops finally withdraw. It is no wonder that the expedition was doomed to failure from the beginning, since the French fleet did not count more than 500 men, and most of them contracted smallpox. But this point precisely suggests that deeper reasons conducted the French to undertake an ill-conceived six-week campaign just before the onset of winter. My presentation will explore the geopolitical factors that led to the expedition, beginning with the Russian threat in the North and the protection of French nationals in China. But I will also demonstrate that, contrary to previous studies, the “foreign disturbance” of 1866 did not just confirm Korea in its policy of isolation. Next to a military response, the Chosŏn government also requested diplomatic support from Qing China and Edo Japan with more or less success. More generally, this presentation will move beyond the traditional issue of Catholicism and revisit the early encounters of Korea with the West in an East Asian perspective.

Pierre-Emmanuel Roux (Ph.D. 2013) is an associate professor and the director of the Korean Studies Section at Paris Diderot University. He is an historian of late Chosŏn Korea and Qing China, with a focus on religion and law. He also published an award-winning monograph on French-Korean encounters in the 19th century (La Croix, la baleine et le canon : La France face à la Corée au milieu du XIXe siècle. Paris: Cerf, 2012).


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Lecture Video: God Pictures: Korean Shaman Paintings


In this presentation, a western anthropologist, a Korean folklore scholar, and a Korean art historian describe the different paths and interests that led them to collaborate on their recent book about Korean shaman paintings, God Pictures in Korean Contexts, published by the University of Hawai’i press. Laurel Kendall, Jongsung Yang, and Yul Soo Yoon describe what it is that makes a shaman painting magical or sacred, how they “work” in the sacred setting of a shaman shrine and how, in the late twentieth century, many Korean collectors came to value these erstwhile scary pictures as collectable folk art. This presentation considers the active lives that shaman paintings lead in contemporary South Korea in shaman shrines, on the art market, and in museums, drawing on the different expertise and experiences of Kendall, Yang, and Yoon to provide a rich, full portrait of the complex lives of Korean shaman paintings.

The three authors bring their own distinctive knowledge and experiences to this project. Laurel Kendall and Jongsung Yang have each been studying and associating with Korean shamans for over three decades, Kendall as an American anthropologist, Yang as a Korean folklorist. Yul Soo Yoon is an art historian and an expert on Korean folk and Buddhist painting who has unparalleled knowledge of the history of shaman paintings and the techniques and intentions of those who painted them.

About the Speakers:

Laurel Kendall, chair of the Anthropology Division at the American Museum of Natural History and Curator of Anthropology at the Museum holds a Ph.D. in anthropology with distinction from Columbia University. Her acquaintance with Korea began as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in the early 1970s. She is the author of Shamans, Housewives and Other Restless Spirits, Women in Korean Ritual Life; The Life and Hard Times of a Korean Shaman: of Tales and the Telling of Tales, and Shamans, Nostalgias, and the IMF: South Korean Popular Religion in Motion, which won the Korean Society for Cultural Anthropology’s Yim Suk-jay prize as the best work of Korean ethnography by a foreign scholar. She is currently President of the Association for Asian Studies, 2016-2017.

Jongsung Yang is Emeritus Senior Curator of the National Folk Museum of Korea where he specialized in traditional Korean performing arts and shamanism and where, just before his retirement, he curated the path-breaking exhibition, Mediator between Heaven and Earth—Shaman. He is currently the Director of the Museum of Shamanism, the culmination of a life-long project which opened in 2013. Yang holds a Ph.D. in Folklore from the University of Indiana and has been a journeyman heritage bearer in traditional Korean performing arts. He is the author of Cultural Protection Policy in Korea: Intangible Cultural Properties and Living National Treasures as well as author of numerous articles and reports on Korean shamanism, performing arts, and material culture.

Yul Soo Yoon, the Director and founder of the Gahoe Museum and an authority on Korean Buddhist art as well as folk and shaman painting, holds a Ph.D. from Tongguk University in Seoul. Yoon has been a leading scholar in developing an appreciation for Korean shaman paintings with the larger history of Korean art. He is the author of Folk Painting: Handbook of Korean Art as well as many books and articles in Korean on folk painting and shaman painting and the curator of many exhibitions on Korean folk painting both within and beyond South Korea.

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Lecture Video: Solitary Sage


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


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