Korea and the World interviews academics, professionals and intellectuals living and working in South Korea on current political, economic and societal issues.
#83 - Merose Hwang
Shamanism has a long tradition on the Korean peninsula and describes a set of ethnic religions and practices. It remains in practice to this day, yet shamanism and the role it plays in Korea have changed significantly over time. In particular, the pre-colonial and colonial era saw a drastic shift in the position it enjoyed within the Korean society.
To learn more about Shamanism during this period, we had the pleasure of interviewing Professor Merose Hwang. She told us about the origins of the word "shaman" in Korea, the Neo-Confucian critique of Shamanism, the approach the Japanese colonial government adopted regarding shamans and how these performed colonial drag.
Professor Merose Hwang is Associate Professor of History at Hiram College. She wrote her dissertation on the Coloniality of Shamanism and has since then published various articles on the topic. Professor Hwang received her PhD from the department of East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto.
#82 - Juhn Ahn
Introduced to Korea during the first millenia, Buddhism has a long history on the Peninsula and remains until today a major influence on the Korean society. This is nothing, however, compared to the clout it enjoyed as state religion during the Koryo period, from the 10th until the end of the 14th century. What caused the downfall of Buddhism in Korea? A popular argument is that Buddhism had become so powerful and corrupt that the state needed to suppress it.
Professor Juhn Ahn opposes this Confucian critique and we had the pleasure of interviewing him on the matter. After an overview of the current narrative, he told us about the societal shifts of the late Koryo dynasty, the problematic integration of newcomers into the Korean elite and how these factors led to the fall of Buddhism’s popularity.
Professor Juhn Ahn is Assistant Professor of Buddhist and Korean Studies at the University of Michigan. In addition to various articles on East Asian Buddhism, he also has a forthcoming book on the subject: Buddhas and Ancestors: Religion and Wealth in Fourteenth-Century Korea. Professor Ahn received his PhD in Buddhist Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.
#81 - Mitchell B. Lerner
The early days of 1968 brought North Korea into the world’s headlines. Not only did Pyongyang send clandestine forces in an attempt to assassinate the South Korean President in his residence, but North Korea also attacked and captured the American ship USS Pueblo in international waters. One of the crew members died, the other 82 were imprisoned and tortured for eleven months - and released only after their government admitted that the ship was spying on North Korea.
To hear about the historical and political context of this story as well as about the details of the USS Pueblo’s capture and the fate of its crew, we spoke to Professor Mitchell Lerner. In particular, he told us about the questionable suitability of the ship for its mission and the flawed risk analysis carried out by the American government, which casts this incident as an avoidable tragedy.
Professor Mitchell B. Lerner is Associate Professor at the Department of History at The Ohio State University as well as director of the school’s Institute for Korean Studies. Aside from numerous academic articles, he wrote the book The Pueblo Incident: A Spy Ship and the Failure of American Foreign Policy, which was published in 2002. Professor Lerner received his PhD in History from the University of Texas at Austin.
#80 - Dong-Won Kim
Star Wars and Star Trek are among the highest-grossing movie franchises worldwide - yet they usually do not feature among the most successful films released in South Korea. This illustrates a larger trend: Science Fiction, may it be in the form of movies or books, is not particularly popular in South Korea. In contrast to that, North Korea has a rich tradition of Science Fiction.
To hear more about how the perception and role of Science Fiction differ in the two Korean states, we had the pleasure of interviewing Professor Dong-Won Kim. He told us about the conceptions of technology, society and the future that underpin Science Fiction in South and North Korea, and about how the works of Science Fiction produced in the two countries differ from each other.
Dong-Won Kim is Lecturer in Science, Technology and Society (STSC) at the University of Pennsylvania. He obtained his Bachelor degree from Seoul National University, and his Master and PhD from Harvard University's Department of the History of Science. Previously, he was Dean of the College of Cultural Science at KAIST in South Korea, visiting professor at Harvard University and the National University of Singapore as well as John Hopkins University.
#79 - Kyung Moon Hwang
When did Korea modernize? For many the answer lies in the colonial era. While broadly accepted, this view is not without flaws or opponents. One of these critics, Professor Kyung Moon Hwang, offers an alternative perspective. He argues that Korea's modernization is not just a result of Japanese influence. It was a rational process already started in the 19th century during the Joseon dynasty by the government.
To learn more about the modernization of the Korean peninsula, we met with Professor Hwang. He told us about the role the Joseon administration played in this process, the pivotal nature of the Gabo reforms, as well as the different rationalities that directed the development of the Korean peninsula before and during the colonial era.
Kyung Moon Hwang is Professor of History and East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Southern California. He obtained his Bachelor in History from the Oberlin College before pursuing graduate studies at Harvard University, where he received his PhD in East Asian Languages and Civilizations. He is the author of Rationalizing Korea – The Rise of the Modern State, 1894-1945 (University of California Press) and of A History of Korea – An Episodic Narrative (Palgrave Macmillan).
#78 - Robert S. Ross
As many observers argue, China’s foreign policy has become more assertive since Xi Jinping became President in 2013. The country once advocating its "peaceful rise" has stoked worries in many of its neighbors and is seen to increasingly pose a challenge towards America’s strong presence in the region. Caught in-between are the two Korean states, and especially South Korea, both in terms of its geographic location as well as its political and economic relations.
To learn more about China's recent foreign policy and the prospects for the future of the region, we had the honor of interviewing Professor Robert S. Ross. We discussed the driving forces behind China’s foreign policy; what role America wants to, should and does currently play in East Asia, and the position of the Korean Peninsula in this context.
Robert S. Ross is Professor of Political Science at Boston College, an Associate at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies of Harvard University, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He has written extensively on Chinese security and defense policy, as well as on East Asian international relations, in several books and numerous academic articles. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from Columbia University in 1984.