Lecture Videos with Blogs

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

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.


Glimpses of Korea Under American Occupation

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.

Video: The Modern Makgeolli Industry


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.

Lecturer Bios:

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.

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Lecture Video: The Division of Korea: How and Why

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.


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Lecture Video: Korean Book Treasures In Kazakhstan Legends And Truth


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.


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Lecture Video: Heaven and Hell: Buddhism, Confucianism, and Christianity in Chosŏn Korea

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.


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