Lecture Videos with Blogs

Lecture Video: Yǒngye Kunin and North Korean National Identity

Lecturer: Prof. Tatiana Gabroussenko (Korea University)

Among the most persistent mobilising campaigns of the last fifteen years in the DPRK’s mass media is the sǒn’gun, or “military first” concept, which implies the primacy of the military in all spheres of North Korean life. Sǒn’gun propaganda is promoted through a wide variety of media and narrative forms.

One of the central themes of sǒn’gun propaganda is glorification of yǒngye kunin, or “heroic/honourable veterans”. This term is usually applied to military personnel who have passed away or became handicapped following industrial accidents at their workplaces during military service. North Korean propaganda equates such cases with combat-related heroic acts and demands that civilians demonstrate similar 'self-sacrifice' in response to such stories. One of the more peculiar forms of this is the practice of proposing to an invalid “honourable veteran” and becoming his or her spouse-cum-nurse, often without ever seeing the future husband/wife before marriage.
Tonight’s lecture presents the specifics of the romantic narrative of yǒngye kunin in officially endorsed North Korean literature, art and cinematography and considers the correlation of this propaganda line with the observable social situation and national identity of the DPRK.

Tatiana Gabroussenko graduated from the Far Eastern State University (ex-USSR), where she majored in Korean history. She obtained her Ph.D. in East Asian Studies at the Australian National University. She is currently an Adjunct Lecturer in Korean Studies at University of New South Wales in Australia and an Assistant Professor in North Korean Studies at the Faculty of Korean Studies at Korea University, Korea. She is the author of a number of articles devoted to contemporary North Korean culture, literature and propaganda. Her most recent book, Soldiers on the Cultural Front: Developments in the Early History of North Korea Literature and Literary Policy, was published by University of Hawai’i Press in 2010. The book has been included in the Choice annual list of Outstanding Academic Titles in 2011.

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Lecture Video: The Distinctive Characteristics of Korean Buddhism

Lecturer: Prof. David A. Mason

What is really "Korean" about Korean Buddhism? What are the distinctive characteristics of its traditional and modern forms, in artworks, beliefs and practices? And how might those features influence its current “globalization” efforts? What role might they play in international Buddhists’ opinion of, and desire to participate in and practice with, the major Korean Buddhist orders?

These are huge questions that could be discussed for years, but in today’s review-lecture Professor Mason will at least introduce some of their factors and parameters, and answers to them according to his own point of view developed over decades of involvement with and study of Korea’s own version of the grand global Buddhist traditions. Tangible factors like stone pagodas, mountain-spirit shrines, the new TempleStay program and temples perched high on slopes will be reviewed, along with doctrinal and organizational factors such as unification, harmonization, fortune-seeking, sites sacred to particular Bodhisattvas and the strong ideology of national defense.

He will show some photos of examples of what he is talking about, to the extent that time-constraints allow. There will be a brief time for questions from the audience about these very interesting issues.

David A. Mason is currently a Professor of Korean Cultural Tourism at Gyeongju University, and researcher on the religious characteristics of Korea's mountains. A native citizen of the United States, of Michigan, he has been living in South Korea for 29 years now, always following his passionate interest in visiting historic spiritual sites – particularly its Buddhist monasteries. He was involved in the creation of the TempleStay program in 2001-4, while working for the national Ministry of Culture and Tourism. He now serves as the Honorary Ambassador of the Baekdu-daegan Mountain Range, and is a frequent tour-guide.

He earned a Masters' Degree in the History of Korean Religions from Yonsei University, and has authored and edited nine books on Korean culture and tourism so-far. His popular website on sacred Korean mountains and mountain-spirits can be found at www.san-shin.org

Lecture Video: Scholars of the World Discuss Korea's Future

Emanuel Pastreich discusses Korea's future during this RAS lecture.


RAS Korea Overseas Trips

Dear members and friends of RAS Korea

I am writing about 2 up-coming overseas excursions being planned by RAS Korea. We hope that many of you will be interested in joining one or both of them. I hope you will all have a good summer. In order to simplify the pricing indications, we are saying that participation in these excursions is limited to RAS members only and asking non-members to pay a year's RAS subscription on registering (the rates and payment method are indicated in our home page).

Brother Anthony (President, RASKB)


As already announced, we are planning a short, concentrated visit to Osaka and Nara in Japan, led by Prof. Robert Fouser, focusing on places that are related to Korea or reveal clear Korean influence. It should be a very interesting study-tour. The dates are August 24-26, 2013, the full program is described in the RAS home page. The total cost covering flights and accommodation will be KW 700,000 (shared room) / KW 840,000 (single room). This must be paid into the
bank account of the travel agent arranging the visit, not the RAS account. In addition, each participant will be asked to bring enough Japanese money to cover estimated daily expenses of around 5 to 7,000
JPYen (around 60,000 - 80,000W) covering:

Two meals: 2,500 yen

Admissions: 1,000 yen

Transportation: 1,000 yen

Incidentals: 1,000 yen

If you would like to come on this excursion but have not yet registered, please quickly send an email to the RAS. Please indicate in the email if you wish to occupy a single room; otherwise we will assume you are prepared to share. Please include your name as it is printed in your passport. Then your deposit of KW100,000 must be paid to the travel agent by July 24 and the remaining sum must be sent to them by August 7. If you cancel your reservation before July 24, you will not incur any penalty


In previous years we have often organized a trip to China coinciding with the Korean Chuseok holiday week. We are offering two China excursions this year, too, both of them visiting Beijing but the second option includes an additional one-night stop in Xian on the way back.

The dates for the Beijing-only trip are from Saturday, September 14 until Tuesday, September 17; the Beijing + Xian excursion will also leave Seoul on Saturday, September 14 and return to Seoul on Thursday, September 19 (Chuseok Day).

The itinerary of both options will include all the most famous sites in and around Beijing: the Temple of Heaven, the Great Wall, the Ming tombs, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Summer Palace in Beijing.

In Xian, we would visit the Tae-an Tower, the First Emperor's tomb, the terracotta warriors etc Xian. The last day in Beijing in both options will be left free so that people can go shopping or visit other sites and explore freely. The price includes a meal of Beijing duck and a circus performance as well as all entrance fees etc.

The price for the shorter Beijing-only trip is KW950,000 (Twin beds shared room) or KW1,200,000 (Single room). The cost for the Beijing + Xian option is KW1,400,000 (Twin beds, shared room) or KW1,720,000 (Single room). In addition, in either case, you will need a visa, which the travel agent will obtain for you: they will need your Passport, your Alien`s card if you are not a Korean national (which must have over 6 months validity remaining at the time of travel), 1 passport-size picture,  the fee will be KW60,000  (* for US passport-holders it is KW210,000 ). Processing the visa will take 4 working days.

We need to know rather quickly if you are interested in going. Please first send an email to the RAS office indicating the option that you are interested in. Please include your name as it is printed in your passport. We will be placing full details in our home page in the coming days.

Each of these options can only be offered if 10 people sign up for them. If not enough people have signed up and paid the deposit by the end of July, the trip would have to be cancelled. Full details of the
payment dates will be included in the home page announcement (in a few

RAS Lecture Video: Korean Japanese Relations from 1392 to 1592

Pirate raids prompted the Choson Korea government to encourage trade by other Japanese in the early fifteenth century, and Japanese soon were sending dozens of trade missions each year. The Choson government gradually established detailed regulations for managing that trade, even dividing Japanese traders into a hierarchy. From the 1460s, those regulations and the hierarchy became tools by which Japanese traded through imposter identities, that is, people that did not exist or people who did not know that their identities were being used. Why did the Choson government not always stop imposter trade and what importance did imposter trade have in the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592?

Kenneth R. Robinson is currently a Special Visiting Scholar at the Northeast Asian History Foundation. His research focuses on Korean-Japanese relations in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and on Korean maps of Choson Korea and Japan from those same centuries.

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RAS Korea: Extra News

Dear members and friends,

We are going to organize a special visit to Japan (Osaka & Nara) in late August (Saturday 24 - Monday 26 August), led by Professor Robert Fouser, who lived in Kyoto for many years. There are just 16 places available on the flight, they will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. To reserve your place, please send an email as soon as possible to the RAS office. As you will see from the description in our home page, our travel agent is still searching for the best accommodation, so that the exact cost is not yet available. It will soon be settled. This will be an intensive culture- and history-centered visit, related to the early Korean influences on this part of Japan. We will visit sites in Nara and Osaka that reflect the early influence of Korea's Three Kingdoms period culture on Japan during the Asuka (538-710) and Nara (710-794) periods. This excursion comes at the end of the vacation period, just before university courses resume, I hope that many of you will want to join it.

On this coming Tuesday, June 18, at 7:30pm, the Czech Ambassador, Jaroslav Olša, jr. is giving us a special lecture on a fascinating but almost unknown figure, the Korean historian Han Hŭng-su, who lived and worked in Austria, Switzerland, and Czechoslovakia for some 12 years in the 1930s and 40s before returning to North Korea after Liberation.

There will also be a lecture on Tuesday June 25 at 7:30pm, by Professor Wayne Patterson, about eraly Korean immigration to Hawai'i.

Our RAS Birthday Book Sale will run for another week. Members will receive a 20% discount, non-members a 10% discount, on the 600 books listed in our new online Book Store (please order by email to our office). There are some really rare books in stock. I would encourage those who have time to visit our office and browse the shelves.

I hope that you all enjoy a relaxing summer.

Brother Anthony

President, RAS Korea

Pictures and a video from the 2013 Garden Party

In case you missed the party, below is a video of the entertainment courtesy of Tessa Franklin.

Here are a few pictures from the 2013 Garden Party. To see more pictures, please visit our Facebook page. Don't forget to become a member and join us for the 2014 Garden Party!

RAS June 2013 Newsletter

Dear members and friends of RAS Korea,

June 17 is the anniversary of the founding of our Association in 1900.
To celebrate that, we always hold a Garden Party for current members,
and traditionally we also offer a special Book Sale. This year the
Garden Party will be held next week, it will as usual include a direct
sale of many books about Korea at discounted prices. From June 1 until
June 20 there will be an Online Book Sale with discounts of 10% (non-members) – 20% (members) on the prices of the books we have for sale.

At last, the complete list of the books we have in stock is available in our home page
arranged according to subject-matter, so that you can see what is
available and order books easily. You can pay through our Paypal
account, too. Be warned, we sometime have just 1 or 2 copies of certain
long-out-of-print titles. Once they have been sold we will not be able
to obtain any more copies. So you should order promptly!

Our Mongolia Adventure
in mid-July has attracted a lot of interest, I am glad to say. We plan
to offer another overseas visit in late August, exploring Osaka and Nara
in Japan with Professor Bob Fouser. I hope many will join. Otherwise,
we have decided not to offer any ordinary excursions in July when it
often pours with rain, and only a couple in August, when many people are
away. Our lectures too will be suspended during the summer vacation,
after one planned for July 9, and will resume on September 10.

This year’s issue of our journal Transactions is with the
printers. It will be distributed to the members attending the Garden
Party. Other members will receive it by mail but that might take some
time and we would be very happy to welcome you to our office where you
could pick up your copy and view the books for sale at the same time.


In June we will have 3 lectures, always in Somerset Palace at 7:30pm :

Tuesday, June 11,
Dr. Tatiana Gabroussenko (Korea University) will talk about “Yǒngye
kunin and North Korean national identity.” This will introduce a quite
unfamiliar topic from North Korean art, fiction and movies, involving
the practice of proposing to an invalid “honourable veteran” and
becoming his or her spouse-cum-nurse, often without ever seeing the
future husband/wife before marriage.

Tuesday, June 19,
Jaroslav Olsa jr., the Czech Ambassador, will introduce Han Hŭng-su: a
multi-talented but forgotten Korean scholar, who spent many years in
Europe in the 1930s, then returned to live and work in North Korea,
where he soon disappeared without trace.

Tuesday, June 25,
Professor Wayne Patterson will talk about “Christianity, American
Missionaries, and Korean Immigration to the United States, 1903-1915.”
He is a recognized expert on this topic, which marks the beginning of
the Korean presence in North American society.

Videos of recent lectures can be seen through our home page


In June we plan to offer several shorter walking tours, since so many of you have only limited free time:

June 6 Yeongsan-jae performance at An-san Bongwon-sa (David Mason)

June 16 Walking in Incheon (Robert Fouser)

June 22 Walking in Jongmyo/Jongno 3-ga (Robert Fouser)

June 23 Naejang-San National Park (Sue Bae)

June 29 Sobaek-san (Sue Bae)

June 30 Introducing Korea’s unique Gods and indigenous Faiths (Jun (Y.K.) Shin)

See photos of the RAS excursion to make tea near Hweom-sa temple

A New Book

Eerie Tales of Old Korea, selected by Brother Anthony. (Seoul
Selection). One hundred years ago, the Founding Fathers of the RAS in
Korea, Homer B. Hulbert and James S. Gale, both translated various
Korean stories about ghosts, demons, fairies and other such creatures,
and published them in volumes that are now very rare. Brother Anthony
has chosen a few that he finds especially entertaining and Seoul
Selection have published them to mark the 150th anniversary
of the births of Hulbert and Gale in 1863. This is highly recommended
for summer (or winter) reading. The book can be ordered from the RAS office.

With all my best wishes,

Brother Anthony,
President, RAS Korea


RAS Lecture Video: Travellers' Tales, Or How the West Learned about Corea

By Brother Anthony, President RAS Korea

It is generally known that the Dutchman Hendrick Hamel was the first European to spend a considerable time in Korea then return home and write an account of the country. That account was published and translated into several languages. But what did people know about Korea before his shipwreck in 1653? And how was more discovered after him, both prior to the opening of the country from 1882, or even after that? How did Dutch ships come to be in this part of the world, and who else was interested in Korea?

This evening's lecture begins with the earliest European mentions of Corea, dating from the Middle Ages. Few people are familiar with the extraordinary adventures of the Portuguese adventurer Fernão Mendes Pinto, probably the first European to reach Japan; his visits led to the arrival in the 1540s of Portuguese and Spanish merchants and missionaries in Japan. From there the Jesuits sent reports mentioning the Japanese invasion of Corea in 1592. Then there is the extraordinary tale of how an Englishman-turned-samourai helped the Dutch to gain a foothold in Japan.
Early maps depict Corea as an island, and the arrival in Corea of shipwrecked Dutch sailors in the 17th century did not really contribute much to detailed geographical knowledge. Then the focus shifts from Japan to China, where succeeding generations of Jesuit missionaries contributed what knowledge they could gain of Corea to a Europe that was increasingly fascinated by exotic lands. In the earlier eighteenth century, the very different accounts of Hamel and the Jesuits were compared and combined in a variety of ways in popular encyclopedias, but it was the development of surveying to prepare accurate, large-scale nautical charts that brought a new kind of explorer to the waters (and occasionally the land) of Corea. The decision to force Corea to open its doors to the modern world finally gave explorers access to Corean territory, and more detailed travelers' tales began to appear. The final section of the lecture will mention some of those who pioneered the exploration of the land that had for so long been closed, and published accounts of their journeys in books that mostly used the spelling "Korea" familiar today..

Brother Anthony came to Korea in 1980, he is emeritus professor at Sogang University, chair-professor at Dankook University, translates Korean poetry, and has been President of RAS Korea since 2011.

RAS Lecture Videos on YouTube

If you missed a recent RAS Korea lecture, you can visit our YouTube channel where we have uploaded many videos of lectures during the past year. Usually each new lecture is recorded and uploaded to YouTube within a few weeks of taking place. Check our YouTube channel and our blog often for new lecture videos. More information about upcoming lectures can be found on our home page.

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Room 611, Korean Christian Building, Daehak-ro 19 (Yeonji-dong), Jongno-gu, Seoul 03129
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