History, Nationalism, and the World: the Case of Korea





Sun Joo Kim (Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations)
Freshman Seminar 43W     4 credits (fall term)     Enrollment:  Limited to 12

This seminar will explore the quandary that faces all historians: To what extent is the understanding of past episodes influenced by current politics and to what extent is current politics influenced by people's understanding of the past? In the study of Korean history, this question is particularly sharp since the postcolonial division of Korea into North and South has thrust the memory of past events into current political discussions as well as scholarly debates. The seminar will investigate selected events in Korean history to map the interaction between historical writing and politics: the origins of Korea; Korean territory and the Korean people; cultural contacts with China and Japan and indigenization; social and regional marginalization and discrimination; Confucian transformation of Chosen Korea and its legacy in contemporary Korean culture; the legacy of pre-World War II Japanese occupation; and the contending history of popular movements and religion. Why have some historians pictured Korea as a Japanese colony, a miniature replica of China, or a local variant of Chinese civilization? Why have other historians emphasized certain periods and aspects of Korean history while ignoring others? How have historians described Korea's relationships to China, Japan, and the rest of the world? Has the perception of Korea as a marginalized people and region influenced how its history has been described? Are there any connections between popular traditions and movements and this historical and scholarly discussion? Readings (all in English) will include translated primary documents as well as political and historical studies. Students are required to write five short critical essays in addition to weekly Web posting.

Note:  All readings will be in English.

See also: Fall 2020