GW Institute for Korean Studies 2018 Signature Conference: The Evolution of Rights in Korea

GW Institute for Korean Studies 2018 Annual Signature Conference:

The Evolution of Rights in Korea

Friday, April 20, 2018, 8:30 am – 6:00 pm
8:30 am: Breakfast
9:30 am: Panel I – Rights in Historical Perspective
11:30 am: Lunch
1:30 pm: Panel II – Institutional Mechanisms for Rights Claiming
4:00 pm: Panel III – Mobilizing Rights for the Marginalized
Saturday, April 21, 2018, 8:30 am – 11:00 am
8:30 am: Breakfast
9:30 am: Panel IV – Shaping Rights for New and Non-Citizens
Lindner Family Commons, Elliott School of International Affairs


Rights talk has become ubiquitous in contemporary Korea, and people are increasingly asserting their rights via the courts and other channels. Yet our understanding of how claimants define and articulate their rights and act to remedy their grievances has yet to be comprehensively updated in the field of Korean studies. The mechanisms and processes of claiming rights are how rights become legible. Through comparisons across time and issue area, this conference will examine the institutions and practices that shape rights in Korea. In particular, the conference papers will trace the social and political significance of rights in Korea, analyzing how experiences of Japanese colonial occupation, war and national division, authoritarian rule, democratization, and transitional justice imbued the concept of rights with distinctive meanings. They will elucidate and compare the rights narratives of minority groups, including women, persons with disabilities, LGBT individuals, laborers, migrants, and North Korean defectors. The conference aims to advance the study of rights discourses and rights-claiming in Korea by bringing together scholars from political science, law, sociology, history, and geography.
Conference Schedule
Friday, April 20, 2018

8:30 AM – 9:00 AM                            Breakfast

9:00 AM – 9:30 AM                            Welcoming Remarks & Introduction

                                                                   Welcoming Remarks: Jisoo M. Kim

Introduction: Celeste Arrington and Patricia Goedde

9:30 AM – 11:30 AM                          Panel I: Rights in Historical Perspective

                                            Discussant: Li Chen (University of Toronto)

Legal Disputes and the Precursors of Rights (Kwŏlli) in Chosŏn Korea

Jisoo M. Kim (George Washington University)

Precarious Inheritance: Women and the Rights over Separate Property in Colonial Korea

Sungyun Lim (University of Colorado, Boulder)

A Tale of Two Commissions: The Evolution of Rights Claims in the Jeju Commission and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Korea

Hun Joon Kim (Korea University) 

11:30 AM – 1:30 PM                          Lunch

1:30 PM – 3:30 PM                             Panel II: Institutional Mechanisms for Rights Claiming

Discussants: Stephan Haggard (University of California, San Diego) and

         Eric Feldman (University of Pennsylvania)

The State, the Constitutional Court, and I: Fundamental Rights and Judicial Review in Korea

Hannes Mosler (Freie Universität Berlin)

Evolving Legal Opportunity Structures in South Korea

Celeste Arrington (George Washington University)

The Institutional Development and Sustainability of Public Interest Lawyering in Korea

Patricia Goedde (Sungkyunkwan University)

3:30 PM – 4:00 PM                             Coffee Break

4:00 PM – 6:00 PM                             Panel III: Mobilizing Rights for the Marginalized

  Discussants: Eric Feldman (University of Pennsylvania) and

   Sida Liu (University of Toronto) 

The Disability Rights Movement and Legal Practice in South Korea

Jae Won Kim (Sungkyunkwan University)

Now, Later, Never: On Shigisangjo and Prematurity

Ju Hui Judy Han (University of California, Los Angeles)

The Movement for an Anti-Discrimination Act

Jihye Kim (Gangneung-Wonju National University) and Sung Soo Hong (Sookmyung Women’s University)

From “Humane Treatment” to “We Want to Work”: The Changing Notion of Labor Rights in South Korea

Yoonkyung Lee (University of Toronto)



Saturday, April 21, 2018

8:30 AM – 9:00 AM                            Coffee and Breakfast

9:00 AM – 11:00 AM                          Panel IV: Shaping Rights for New and Non-Citizens

Discussant: Hae Yeon Choo (University of Toronto)

The Rights of Non-Citizenship: Migrant Rights and Hierarchies in South Korea

Erin Chung (Johns Hopkins University)

Human Rights or Citizen Rights? Explaining Global Policies toward North Korean Refugee Resettlement

Sheena Chestnut Greitens (University of Missouri)

How North Koreans Understand the Rights and Responsibilities of Democratic Citizenship: Implications for Political Integration

Aram Hur (New York University)

11:00 AM – 11:30 AM                      Coffee & Wrap Up

CSIS:Spring Summitry on the Korean Peninsula: Peace Breaking Out or Last Gasp Diplomacy?

Spring Summitry on the Korean Peninsula: Peace Breaking Out or Last Gasp Diplomacy?


Please join CSIS Korea Chair experts and special guests to assess the results of the April 27, 2018 inter-Korean summit and its implications for the U.S.-North Korea summit in May.

Speakers will include (in alphabetical order):

Dr. Victor Cha 
Senior Adviser and Korea Chair, CSIS; D.S. Song-KF Professor of Government, Georgetown University

Ambassador Cho, Yoon-je
Republic of Korea Ambassador to the United States

Dr. Bridget Coggins 
Adjunct Fellow, CSIS Korea Chair; Associate Professor of Political Science, University of California, Santa Barbara

Dr. Michael Green
Senior Vice President for Asia and CSIS Japan Chair; Director, Asian Studies Program, Georgetown University

Dr. Katrin Katz
Adjunct Fellow, CSIS Korea Chair; Former Director for Japan, Korea, and Oceanic Affairs, National Security Council (2007-2008)

Ambassador Robert King
Senior Adviser, CSIS Korea Chair; Former Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues, U.S. Department of State

Mr. Mark Landler 
White House Correspondent, The New York Times

Ambassador Mark Lippert
Senior Advisory Board, CSIS Korea Chair; Vice President, Boeing International; Former U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea

Dr. Sue Mi Terry
Senior Fellow, CSIS Korea Chair; Former Director for Japan, Korea, and Oceanic Affairs, National Security Council (2008-2009); Former Senior Analyst on Korean Issues, Central Intelligence Agency

Ambassador Joseph Yun
Former Special Representative for North Korea Policy and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Korea and Japan, U.S. Department of State

This event is made possible through general support to CSIS.

Global Tensions, the World Economy, and Health Security – A Conversation with former U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte

Global Tensions, the World Economy, and Health Security – A Conversation with former U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte

Please join the Center for Strategic and International Studies for a Smart Women, Smart Power conversation with former U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). She will share her insights on the national security issues America faces concerning North Korea, Iran, and Russia, as well as the competition with China, and shifting dynamics in the Middle East.  Her leadership of CSIS’ new health security commission will also be a focus of discussion.Senator Ayotte represented New Hampshire in the United States Senate from 2011-2016, where she chaired the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and the Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation Operations. She also served on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Budget, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and Aging Committees. Prior to her service in the Senate, Senator Ayotte was New Hampshire’s Attorney General, the first woman to hold the position.

She currently serves on several Fortune 500 boards, including Caterpillar, News Corp, and BAE Systems, as well as the non-profit boards of the One Campaign, the International Republican Institute, and the McCain Institute among others. She is the Perkins Bass Distinguished Visitor at Dartmouth College and a Visiting Fellow at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. In 2017, she was a joint visiting fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Senator Ayotte graduated with honors from the Pennsylvania State University and earned her Juris Doctor degree from the Villanova University School of Law.

Former Senator Kelly Ayotte

China and North Korea: Past, Present, and Future

With international attention focused on a potential U.S.-North Korea summit meeting in May, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made a surprise trip to Beijing in late March to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The North Korean leader’s visit to Beijing, his first foreign visit since assuming power in late 2011, came amid strained bilateral relations in recent years. Kim and Xi appear to have reinvigorated the historical bonds between the two countries and reaffirmed China’s crucial role in the future of the Korean Peninsula. This conference will explore the dynamics and tensions of the historical relationship between China and North Korea, the potential impact of Korean reunification on China, and China’s role in a limited military conflict and its aftermath.


In a photo provided by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency, , President Xi Jinping of China, left, and Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s enigmatic young leader, inspect an honor guard during a ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 26, 2018. Kim made an unannounced visit to Beijing, meeting with Xi weeks before planned summit meetings with American and South Korean leaders, Chinese and North Korean state news media reported on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. (Korean Central News Agency via The New York Times) — EDITORIAL USE ONLY —

Panel 1, 9:15am – 10:15am
China and North Korea Relations

This panel will examine the historical China-North Korea relationship, changes in political and security relations, and role of past and present economic ties on the future of the bilateral relationship.


  • Jennifer Staats, Moderator
    Director, East and Southeast Asia Programs, U.S. Institute of Peace
  • Stella Xu
    Associate Professor of History, Roanoke College
  • Yafeng Xia
    Professor of History, Long Island University Brooklyn
  • Junsheng Wang
    Visiting Senior Fellow, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, Atlantic Council
    Director and Associate Professor, Department of China’s Regional Strategy, National Institute of International Strategy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China


Panel 2, 10:30am – 12:00pm
Would a Reunified Korea under South Korean Leadership be Positive or Negative for China?

This panel will assess China’s position on the ideal end state for the Korean Peninsula and whether a reunified peninsula under South Korean leadership would be beneficial or detrimental to Chinese economic, political, and security interests given South Korean, Japanese and U.S. likely responses.


  • Frank AumModerator
    Senior Expert on North Korea, U.S. Institute of Peace
  • Yun Sun
    Co-Director, East Asia Program; Director, China Program, Stimson Center
  • Zhu Feng
    Professor of International Relations and Executive Director, China Center for Collaborative Studies of the South China Sea, Nanjing University, China
  • Heung-Kyu Kim
    Director and Professor of Political Science, China Policy Institute, Ajou University, South Korea
  • Michael Green
    Associate Professor and Director of Asian Studies, Georgetown University
    Senior Vice President for Asia and Japan Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Lunch Keynote Address, 12:00pm – 1:15pm
Ambassador Mark Lippert

Mark Lippert is a current member of the Board of Trustees at the Asia Foundation and former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea.


Panel 3, 1:30pm – 3:15pm
War and its Aftermath on the Korean Peninsula – What Role Could China Play?

This panel will discuss the contours of a potential conflict on the Korean Peninsula, to include U.S. operations, how China may respond, and opportunities for cooperation. Participants will also examine Beijing’s role in shaping the post-war situation on the peninsula.



Closing Remarks, 3:30pm – 4:15pm

Join the conversation throughout the day on Twitter with the hashtag #ChinaGUUSIP.

This conference is cosponsored by the Georgetown Center for Security Studies and the United States Institute of Peace, and made possible in part by the generosity of the Bilden Asian Security Studies Fund.



Lecture Series: Cho Hong Je

Dr. Hong-Je Cho, a Senior Research Fellow at the Korea National Defense University’s Research Institute for National Security Affairs and a Visiting Scholar at the Space Policy Institute at the Elliott School, gave his presentation on “North Korea’s Missiles: Past, Present, and Prospects.” Dr. Cho, who has served as a South Korean Air Force Officer for the past 29 years, shared with the audience his knowledge and insight into North Korea’s nuclear and missile program. He began by providing context on the rapidly evolving nature of the Korean peninsula’s security situation, in light of the diplomatic outreaches and proposals for summits following the PyeongChang Olympics.

Dr. Cho stated four different reasons as to why North Korea has been developing nuclear weapons and missiles. He stated, firstly, that North Korea desires to guarantee its survival, ultimately preventing regime change and military “decapitation” by the US. Secondly, North Korea seeks to bolster domestic support through such a program. Third, Dr. Cho claimed that this could ultimately be viewed as an asymmetric strategy. Lastly, its nuclear weapons program and ballistic missiles are to compensate for its outdated conventional weapons. Despite this outdate nature of its conventional weapons, Dr. Cho pointed out that the [North] Korean People’s Army ground force consists of a million active duty soldiers, as well as millions more in civilian reserve.

In the history of North Korea’s missile development and testing, Kim Jong-un has been actively launching missiles to a much greater extent than his father and grandfather. Dr. Cho gave a few numbers to illustrate North Korea’s missile fleet: it currently possesses more than 800 ballistic missiles, with 600 of these being Scud missiles.

However, North Korea’s missiles do face some limitations and challenges. First, North Korea has yet to completely master miniaturizing its nuclear warheads, where they would be small enough to fit on a missile. Second, they are still working on their reentry vehicle technology, where their missiles would be strong enough to withstand enormous temperature and structural pressures during its descent through the earth’s atmosphere to its target. Despite these limitations, Dr. Cho gave an estimate that North Korea would most likely be able to surpass these challenges within the next 2 years.

Given that 2018 is North Korea’s 70th anniversary of the founding of its regime, it is of concern that Kim Jong-un may launch missiles as a means of commemorating this date. For one thing, we can be optimistic that by sitting down at the negotiating table and opening dialogue, we have the potential to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapons experiment and missile launches. On the more pessimistic and skeptical side regarding the North’s intentions, the international community can continue to strengthen sanctions, cooperate with one another, and identify countermeasures to the North’s program. Dr. Cho emphasized the need for the complete, irreversible, and verifiable denuclearization of the North and the importance of open dialogue and gathering around the negotiation table to establish perpetual peace on the Korean peninsula. To finish his remarks, he quoted Sun Tzu in The Art of War: “To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”


Written by Bomie Lee

Charlotte Horlyck Lecture Summary

In her March 8 lecture, Charlotte Horlyck, Smithsonian Institution Senior Fellow of Art History at the Freer|Sackler, discussed “Charles Lang Freer and the Collecting of Korean Art in the Early 20th Century.” Through researching letters, collection catalogues, and purchase documents, she found that while Chosun-era pottery is most valuable today, collectors focused on Koryo celadon wares in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest developed quickly after Korea opened to the west in the 1880s, because missionaries and diplomats could obtain art as gifts or even from tombs and bring it home with them. Japanese collectors also sold Korean pottery, like New York’s Yamanaka and Co., and pieces circulated among the estates of prominent collectors. Korean culture was seen as traditional while Japan and China were changing and modernizing, but scholarship about Korean culture was scarce at the time. Charles Freer began collecting Korean pottery in the late 1880s because James McNeill Whistler, a favorite artist of his and designer of the Freer Gallery’s famous “Peacock Room,” was inspired by Asian art. Freer based his choices on aesthetics rather than history. He donated his collection to the U.S. government in 1906, and the Freer Gallery opened in 1926, becoming the first art museum on the Smithsonian campus.

Providing Healthcare in North Korea: Issues, Ethics, and Politics

Providing Healthcare in North Korea: Issues, Ethics, and Politics


The Organization of Asian Studies has invited Dr. Kee Park and Dr. Charlie Sands to discuss their work in providing healthcare assistance to North Korea. Topics include North Korea’s healthcare system and capabilities, medical education system, health plans for the future, work of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, the effect of foreign assistance on both the social and political climate, and ethical and moral implications of the recent “Maximal Pressure” policy.

Date and Time

Wed, April 18, 2018

2:00 PM – 4:00 PM EDT


Elliott School of International Affairs

1957 E Street Northwest

Room 505

Washington, DC 20052


March/April Blog Topic: The #MeToo Movement in South Korea

Topic: The #MeToo Movement in South Korea
Background: The #MeToo movement began as an online effort to expose sexual harassment and assault in the United States in response to allegations against film director Harvey Weinstein. The movement then spread from Hollywood to other sectors and to other nations. In South Korea, it took hold after a prosecutor spoke out about her experience of harassment and the resulting professional backlash. Artists Ko Un and Lee Youn-taek and presidential hopeful Ahn Hee-jung are among the most famous Koreans to be called out for sexual misconduct. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has called for a wider #MeToo movement and urged authorities to investigate cases thoroughly.
Guiding Ideas:
– How does the #MeToo movement in South Korea compare to the movement in the United States or in other Asian countries?
– What are the strengths and weaknesses of the movements’ strategy and goals?
– What impact will the #MeToo movement have in South Korea?
– What cultural or policy changes would reduce sexual harassment and assault in South Korea? What are the obstacles to implementing these challenges?

An Evening With Dr. Michael Green: North Korea Policy and Korea-Japan Relations

An Evening With Dr. Michael Green: North Korea Policy and Korea-Japan Relations

The US-Korea Institute in partnership with the Sejong Society of Washington, DC present a mini-lecture on North Korea Policy & Korea-Japan Relations given by Dr. Michael J. Green.

Michael Green, Ph.D is the Senior Vice President for Asia and Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and Director of Asian Studies at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He served on the staff of the National Security Council (NSC) from 2001 through 2005, first as director for Asian affairs with responsibility for Japan, Korea, Australia, and New Zealand, and then as special assistant to the president for national security affairs and senior director for Asia, with responsibility for East Asia and South Asia.

Dr. Green has authored numerous books and articles on East Asian security, including most recently, By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783 (Columbia University Press, 2017). He received his master’s and doctoral degrees from Johns Hopkins SAIS and did additional graduate and postgraduate research at Tokyo University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received his bachelor’s degree in history from Kenyon College with highest honors. He holds a black belt in Iaido (sword) and has won international prizes on the great highland bagpipe

Date and Time

Tue, March 13, 2018

7:00 PM – 8:30 PM EDT


Rome Auditorium

1619 Massachusetts Ave NW

Washingont, DC 20036


International Women’s Day Panel on North Korean Women

GW THiNK is proud to present our third annual International Women’s Day panel discussion focusing on the problems faced by North Korean women in the DPRK and as refugees in China. This year we will be joined by two North Korean women who will testify about their experiences. There will also be a moderated discussion and Q&A session. We are joined by the GW Institute for Korean Studies and the Sigur Center for Asian Studies in Hosting this event.

Stay tuned for more information.

This is part of a series of events presented in collaboration with the Working Group on North Korean Women (, the North Korea Freedom Coalition (, and NKinUSA ( These two women will go on to give their testimonies in multiple venues, including on the opening day of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. If you are able to, please consider supporting this program by making a tax-deductible donation here:

Register Here

Japan­-Korea Relations 20 Years After the Kim­ Obuchi Summit

Nearly twenty years ago, the leaders of Japan and South Korea raised hopes for “a new Japan­Korea partnership for the twenty­first century,” backed by an action plan to foster broader cooperation and closer people­to­people ties. Although progress has been made, disagreements over history have stymied the desired transformation in their relationship, even as North Korean nuclear threats grow.

This half­day conference—featuring scholars and former officials of that time from Japan, South Korea, and the United States—combines a look back with a look ahead, reflecting on what types of polices and initiatives have succeeded or failed since 1998 and why. We will look for strategies to facilitate future long­term progress in Japan­Korea relations.

This conference will be followed by a light reception.

Register to attend

March 08, 2018 Washington, DC 2:00 PM — 7:00 PM EST

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20036­2103

Phone: 202 483 7600

Soh Jaipil Circle – Prof. Sergei Kurbanov: Compiling History of North Korea in the 21st Century: Methodology of Fact Selection and Analysis

Prof. Sergei Kurbanov gave an illuminating presentation on the topic of researching the national history of North Korea, a difficult task even for the most experienced scholars. Unlike many scholars who refer to North Korea as a communist state, Prof. Kurbanov offered his own unique concept of North Korea as a “nationalistic tradition-based forced/self-isolated Asian Korean country”. He went on to explain that, in compiling a history of North Korea, there are two main principles. The first is a national North Korean history compiled for the North Korean population; the second is “external” North Korean history written by foreigners, which explains North Korean history to foreign audiences.

Prof. Kurbanov notes that historians of the latter category often – whether intentionally or not – inject their own country’s worldviews in compiling the history of North Korea or any other country for that matter. One example of approaches to North Korean history narrative is the Soviet case of historians emphasizing the “development” of North Korea as the result of Soviet help. In contrast, the U.S. history of North Korea describes the nation as “dictatorship regime”. This means that the language that history is written in reflects the point of view of the native country. For example, histories written in Russian are bound to be influenced by Russia’s political relationship with North Korea as is the case of American. Thus, understanding the perception and worldview that is embedded within different languages is incredibly important. Prof. Kurbanov posed the question of whether it is possible to overcome these national and cultural perspectives and compile a scientific history of North Korea. He argued that theoretically this would be possible though practically very difficult.

Towards the end of his lecture, Prof. Kurbanov gave two principles of describing two ways of compiling history gijeonchae and pyeonnyeonchae. He concluded his lecture a brief overview of major events or nodal events that have taken place in North Korea post-1945. The compelling presentation highlighted important aspects of conducting research on the history of North Korea.

For more lectures on similar topics, please stay tuned for more Soh Jaipil Circle news!


Written by Soo-Jin Kweon

Political Economy of Reform in North Korea

Partnerships for International Strategies in Asia (PISA) and GW Institute for Korean Studies (GWIKS) co-hosted an event looking at economic reform in North Korea. Both PISA and GWIKS are standouts in the Washington policy community for their mission to expand public discourse on North Korea beyond the security archetype. On February 22, 2018, we gave the audience the opportunity to learn more about North Korean economic history, government-led reforms, domestic political drivers, and the role of outside actors in shaping North Korean economic landscape. Keynote speaker, Dr. Kevin Gray of University of Sussex, and currently a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center, delivered a presentation titled, the Political Economy of Reform in North Korea. Dr. Joongho Kim, a Visiting Scholar from GWIKS participated in program as a discussant. Each scholar offered insightful expertise into the topic and agreed that the pace of economic development and liberalization in North Korea is varied across the country. PISA and GWIKS will sponsor an event next month, ‘Beyond the Nuclear Issue’ a conference held at The Elliott School March 28th.

Youn Kuk Jung on “The South Korean Media in the Post-Truth Era”

In his presentation at the GW Institute for Korean Studies, journalist and former Blue House spokesman, Youn Kuk Jung discussed the impact of the post-truth era on South Korean media and government. “Post-truth” was the 2016 Oxford Dictionary word of the year, and it emphasizes the precedence of emotion and personal opinion over objective truth. Mr. Jung traced its origins to increasing suspicion towards news sources with the rise of alternative information sources online. Through the miniaturization and grouping processes in online discourse, people converse only with like-minded individuals and their opinions are never challenged. These insulated groups can become politically powerful, playing on the sentiments of members to create demagogy, or “political activity or practices that seek support by appealing to the desires and prejudices of ordinary people rather than by using rational argument.”

Mr. Jung argued that the media has an obligation to remain neutral in order to fight against such demagogy. However, when journalists’ priority is with attracting more readers, they fear of going against the prevailing public opinion and may also write news that have yet to be proven correct. This is especially potent in South Korea, where public sentiment is seen as above the rule of law. Other challenges of online communication in the post-truth era include the tendency to block-out different viewpoints and the proliferation of low quality discourse on the Internet and via text messaging. To combat these problems, he proposed that journalists hold themselves to high standards, seeking the hidden truth beneath the surface and patiently confirming facts before breaking stories. In addition, laws limiting reporting on ongoing investigations could help prevent media and public influence on judicial decisions. Mr. Jung raised serious concerns about efforts to stir up emotions for political gain and urged a combination of media and government efforts to present the truth and preserve the rule of law.


Written by Grace Wright

Korean Literature and Culture in the Globalizing World

Korean Literature and Culture in the Globalizing World

Date: February 23, 2018, 2pm-4pm
Location: Phillips Hall 411 (CCAS Dean’s Conference Room, GWU, 801 22nd St. NW, Washington, DC)
Speaker: Dr. Seong Kon Kim, Professor Emeritus of Seoul National University and President of the Literary Translation Institute of Korea
Abstract: The recent news that Han Kang and Debora Smith won the prestigious Man-Booker International Prize greatly elated the Korean people. Thanks to Han Kang’s prize-winning novel “The Vegetarian,” Korean literature is finally in the limelight, receiving its fair share of praise from the international community at last.

Recently, The Times Literary Supplement carried an encouraging article entitled “A Glittering Korea.” In the article, Toby Richtig writes that in the U.K. there is a “seemingly insatiable appetite for publication about the Hermit kingdom.” Richtig argues that while North Korea has been busy showing off its military muscle, South Korea has emerged on the global stage as a country of charming literary arts and rich cultural heritage, “enjoying its place in the sun.’

Furthermore, South Korea has emerged into the spotlight of international recognition and admiration for its miraculous economic success, the cutting-edge technology of companies like Samsung, LG and Hyundai, and the widespread Korean cultural phenomena called hallyu, or the Korean Wave.

In this lecture, we will delve into what is happening to Korean literature and culture lately, how they manage to be “glittering” overseas, enjoying global popularity across boundaries, and what kind of radical social change South Korea has gone through since the Korean War.

Speaker Bio: Professor Seong-kon Kim, Professor Emeritus of Seoul National University and President of the Literary Translation Institute of Korea (a ministerial appointment with the Government of the Republic of Korea), is currently in residence at GW as CCAS Dean’s Global Distinguished Scholar in the Humanities. An internationally renowned author, translator, and literary critic, Professor Kim is widely recognized as a pioneer in postmodernism, post-colonialism, and cultural studies in Korea.

Political Economy of Reform in North Korea with Kevin Gray  

Political Economy of Reform in North Korea

with Kevin Gray
Thursday, February 22, 2018
12:00-2:30 pm 
Lindner Commons, Room 602
The Elliott School of International Affairs
This event is co-sponsored with the
GW Institute for Korean Studies
Speaker: Kevin Gray, University of Sussex and Woodrow Wilson Center
Discussant: Joongho Kim, Visiting Scholar, GW Institute for Korean Studies
Lunch will be provided. This event is on the record and open to the media.
This event is a part PISA’s series on Principled Engagement with North Korea. The series will culminate in a day-long conference on March 28th, 2018.
Please email for further inquiries.

Film-Screening “Secret State of North Korea: Explore Life Under Kim Jong-Un”

GWIKS was proud to host a film screening of “Secret State of North Korea: Explore Life Under
Kim Jong-Un” and a Q&A panel with North Korean defector students from Hana Foundation’s Leadership
Program. The event took place on January 24 with a dinner reception of traditional Korean cuisine. Over
250 guests including students, faculty, and non-GWU affiliated guests attended the event, one of the
highest turnouts for a GWIKS event.
Director Jisoo M. Kim started the screening with warm opening remarks, thanking all audience
members and program participants for making the event possible. Afterwards, Shin Hyo Sook, the Head
of Department of Educational Development, gave an introductory talk about Hana Foundation and their
mission to aid North Korean refugees in South Korea.
The hour-long screening of Frontline’s “Secret State of North Korea” depicted the harsh living
conditions of many people in North Korea. Interviews of North Korean refugees revealed detailed
personal accounts of hunger and torture in North Korea. Some of them were shown working alongside
activist groups in South Korea in order to smuggle DVD’s and radios after moving to South Korea.
According to the activists and statistical reports, the influence of foreign media had a great influence
and popularity on North Korean citizens.
A Q&A followed the screening with Professor Gregg A. Brazinsky moderating the panel. The
audience members were asked to write down questions for the defector students who answered from a
selection with the assistance of an interpreter. Many audience members were curious about everyday
life in North Korea, one member asking how easy it was to travel within the country. Others asked their thoughts regarding reunification. The students answered to the best of their knowledge and offered valuable insight and thoughts on a variety of related issues.
The end of the Q&A was met with a round of applause from the audience and many thanks from
Hana Foundation and GWIKS. The popularity of the event speaks to the high level of interest in North
Korea-related topics and dedication to opening up more discourse on the issue of the division. We hope
to see everyone again at our upcoming events!


Written by Soo-jin Kweon

Sergei Kurbanov: “North Korea in Modernization: Economy, Politics, and Social Life”

















On January 26, 2018, the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures hosted the Kim-Renaud East Asian Humanities Lecture Series regarding modernization in North Korea, co-sponsored by the GW Institute for Korean Studies (GWIKS). The talk featured Professor Sergei O. Kurbanov from the St. Petersburg University, who is currently a visiting scholar at GWIKS. Professor Kurbanov offered a unique insight into North Korea that he lamented as gaining far too little attention in U.S. public perception.

Professor Kurbanov began the discussion by noting that we often live in the world of our own myths, and thus, it is imperative to deconstruct these myths so that we are able to make astute decisions grounded upon facts. While many observers focus on North Korea’s “modern” history of roughly 70 years, Prof. Kurbanov emphasized that the country’s history dates back to 5000 years ago, beginning with Ancient Joseon (Gojoseon). In the minds of North Koreans, there is much more to their way of life and their history than their leadership, given how their traditions, literature, language, art, and values stem back to thousands of years ago.

Prof. Kurbanov then discussed North Korea’s more recent history, starting from the 1940s, which he argued as being a relatively free society with freedom of speech, thinking, and assembly. Before the outbreak of the Korean War, the northern provinces featured numerous political parties and factions, intellectuals espousing various schools of thought, and private ownership of small and medium enterprises. Even after the War, there was a short period in which pluralism existed.

The 1990s was a period of forced isolation for North Korea, given the fall of the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc. Thus, in the early 2000s and until 2011, North Korea sought to improve relations with South Korea, China, Russia, and the United States. In light of this historical background, Prof. Kurbanov argued that North Korea has always been more nationalistic than truly communist. Contrary to the dynasties of Korea’s long history, he asserted that it would be incorrect to label the Kim regime as dynastic, as each successive leader of the DPRK has occupied a political position different from the previous leader. Furthermore, given North Korea’s place in East Asia, where neighboring countries of South Korea, Japan, and China are making strides in economic, technological, and scientific innovation, he claimed that North Korea has similar ambitions.

Having established this background, Prof. Kurbanov proceeded to discuss his observation of scientific, technological, and cultural modernization in North Korea. Specifically within the context of the capital of Pyongyang, he noted the widespread use of cellphones (smartphones), computers, tablets, solar-powered batteries, banking cards, and taxis. Market mechanisms were very much active, with vendors selling goods, car owners paying for parking, and businessmen and women moving about. Prof. Kurbanov also observed the prevalence of children carrying drinking water around (which he noted was unseen when he was growing up in the USSR), soju (which had been introduced to North Korea through interactions with the South), religious institutions such as a Buddhist monastery and a Russian orthodox church (whatever their real objectives may be), and popular trends in fashion and style.

Perhaps what was most interesting among his many examples was the widespread popularity of American culture, with children avidly watching dubbed Disney animations and donning Mickey Mouse shirts. Thus, Prof. Kurbanov strongly emphasized that North Koreans do not see Americans as enemies, but rather as potential friends. Despite the rhetoric adopted by the North Korean leadership and the media, as well as the strong public sentiment against what has been framed as American imperialism, the average North Korean enjoys American popular culture and is curious to learn more.

Prof. Kurbanov shared various photos to elucidate his points and offered a unique look into the country based on his personal experience living and working there. He highlighted the importance of arriving at a common understanding of North Korea. In regards to tackling the politico-diplomatic and nuclear problem presented by the country, he offered three steps the U.S. could take toward resolution: (1) guarantee North Korea that the U.S. will not invade, (2) invite North Korea into the U.S. defense system, and (3) begin talks after these two proposals are put forth.

Written by Bomie Lee

Soh Jaipil Circle – Compiling a History of North Korea, Sergei Kurbanov

Compiling a History of North Korea in the 21st Century: Methodology of Fact Selection and Analysis 

Friday, February 9, 2018
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Lunch will be provided.
The Elliott School of International Affairs
Chung-Wen Shih Conference Room
Sigur Center for Asian Studies


with Sergei O. Kurbanov
 Professor, St. Petersburg University; Visiting Scholar, GWIKS
Sergei O. Kurbanov is a professor and the chair of the newly established Department of Korean Studies at St. Petersburg University. In 1997, he developed and opened the “Korean History Major” BA Program. His spheres of interest are wide, including the general history of Korea (with books published in 2002 and 2009), Korean Confucianism (book in 2007), and the everyday lives of North and South Koreans in 1987 – 2000s (books in 2013 and 2017). He also wrote and compiled a biography (published in 2016) of Kim Gu, the head of the Provisional government of the Republic of Korea in China, as well as a book on the theory of historical science (book in 2016). Currently, Prof. S.O. Kurbanov has undertaken a project to write a book on the history of North Korea in 2000 – 2018.
The Soh Jaipil Circle is named after the famous champion of Korean independence who earned a medical degree at GW. The circle will bring together people from the academic and think tank communities for serious and engaged conversations of Korea issues.  

Seoul to Soul: Korean American and African American Musical Extravaganza


In celebration of the Winter Olympics taking place in Korea, the Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts (CAAPA) and its international arts partner, the Korean American Cultural Arts Foundation (KACAF) have partnered to present music, dancing, drumming, singing, poetry, and more, from both cultures on one stage!

Date and Time

Sun, February 11, 2018 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM EST

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Publick Playhouse
5445 Landover Road
Cheverly, MD 20784

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Suh Yongsun in the New Project Studio


Over the course of three months, Korean painter and sculptor Suh Yongsun will transform the New Project Studio into a workshop and community space for discussions and creativity. He will explore public, social, and political issues in present-day Korea while developing a visual discourse of his time creating in Alexandria. Presented in partnership with the Korean Cultural Center in Washington D.C. and the Embassy of the Republic of Korea.

Date and Time

Fri, Dec 8, 2017, 10:00 AM – Wed, Feb 28, 2018, 6:00 PM EST

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Torpedo Factory Art Center
105 N. Union Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314

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Sergei Kurbanov to address ICAS Winter Symposium: The Korean Peninsula Issues and US National Security

ICAS Bulletin

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

January 16, 2018

Sergei Kurbanov
ICAS Fellow

Visiting Scholar
George Washington University Institute for Korean Studies Professor
St Petersburg State University Korean Studies Department, St Petersburg, Russia


        More Powerful Way to Change North Korea

ICAS Winter Symposium
Humanity, Liberty, Peace and Security
The Korean Peninsula Issues and US National Security

February 14, 2018  1:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Wilson Center
One Woodrow Wilson Plaza
1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington DC 20004

On-line Registration

U.S. Responses to the North Korean Threat: A Conversation with Senator Ted Cruz

North Korea continues its nuclear missile program—in violation of multiple U.N. Security Council Resolutions—with the stated goal of threatening American population centers and those of U.S. allies throughout Asia. In response, the Trump administration is implementing a “pressure campaign” by involving increased sanctions against Pyongyang and an international effort to further isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically.

Senator Ted Cruz, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, has introduced several pieces of legislation to address the threats emanating from North Korea. Senator Cruz will offer remarks on the latest North Korean threats and how the United States is responding. He will provide insights into what else the United States could and should do to provide maximum protection for the American people.

Link for RSVP:

An Evening with Scott A. Snyder

An Evening with Scott A. Snyder

Join us as Scott A. Snyder discusses the key points in his new book, South Korea at the Crossroads: Autonomy and Alliance in an Era of Rival Powers followed by a Q&A session and book signing.

Scott Snyder is senior fellow for Korea studies and director of the program on US-Korea policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), where he had served as an adjunct fellow from 2008 to 2011. Prior to joining CFR, Snyder was a senior associate in the international relations program of The Asia Foundation, where he founded and directed the Center for U.S.-Korea Policy and served as The Asia Foundation’s representative in Korea (2000-2004).

Link for RSVP:

Save The Date: Korean Unity at Pyeongchang: Prospects for Dealing with North Korea

Save The Date: Korean Unity at Pyeongchang: Prospects for Dealing with North Korea

When athletes from North and South Korea unite under one flag at the Pyeongchang Olympics, it will be more than a political statement. It may also pave the way for a new approach to deal with Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions. Join us for a discussion on the history of sports diplomacy in the Korean Peninsula and the significance of the latest Olympic détente in dealing with Kim Jong un’s regime.

Image: Flickr/Republic of Korea (CC BY-SA 2.0)


Jung Pak
Senior Fellow, SK-Korean Foundation Chair in Korea Studies, Brookings Institution

Matthew Kroenig
Associate Professor, Georgetown University

Other Speakers To Be Announced

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Monday, January 29th, 2018
1:00 – 2:30 pm

6th Floor Auditorium

Event Sponsors

Asia Program


Korea Center

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Wilson Center
Ronald Reagan Building and
International Trade Center
One Woodrow Wilson Plaza
1300 Pennsylvania, Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20004

Phone: 202.691.4000

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Film Screening and Q&A with North Korean Defector Students

“Secret State of North Korea: Explore Life Under Kim Jong-Un”

Dinner Reception and Film Screening with North Korean Defector Students


6:00 – 7:00 PM
Dinner Reception (Korean food will be served at the lobby)

7:00 – 9:00 PM
Film Screening and Q & A with North Korean defector students

Moderator: Gregg A. Brazinsky

Gregg A. Brazinsky is Associate Professor of History and International Affairs and Deputy Director of GW Institute for Korean Studies. His research seeks to understand the diverse and multi-faceted interactions among East Asian states and between Asia and the United States. He is the author Nation Building in South Korea: Koreans, Americans, and the Making of a Democracy (University of North Carolina Press, 2007) and Winning the Third World: Sino-American Rivalry during the Cold War (University of North Carolina Press, 2017). He served as interim director of the GW Institute for Korean Studies during the Spring 2017 semester.

*Free of Charge*

This event is part of the GWIKS Summer Study Abroad Program. In the summer of 2017, we had 15 GW students visit Hana Foundation in South Korea to meet with North Korean defector students and discuss about the issue of unification. As an exchange program, we have 15 North Korean defector students visiting our campus to learn about the university life in the U.S. For more information about the Hana Foundation, please click here.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018
6:00 – 9:00 PM

Elliott School of International Affairs, Room 113
1957 E Street, NW, Room 113,Washington, DC 20052

“Secret State of North Korea” Synopsis:

Just a few years into the job and armed with nuclear weapons, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is the world’s youngest dictator, ruling one of the world’s most isolated countries. Like his father and grandfather, he wants to maintain tight control over what North Koreans see of the world – and what the world sees of North Korea. But with unique access, FRONTLINE goes inside the secret state to explore life under its new ruler and investigate the enigmatic “Morning Star King” as he tries to hold onto power.

Using new footage smuggled from inside and never-before-told stories from recent defectors living in South Korea, the film offers a rare glimpse at how some North Koreans are defying authority in a country where just being caught with illegal DVDs could mean immediate imprisonment.



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