SOAS University of London

Japan & Korea Section, Department of East Asian Languages & Culture

Culture and Society in Modern and Contemporary Korea

Module Code:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Full Year



Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module the student should be able to understand the larger historical developments on the Korean peninsula since the late nineteenth century (after the division mainly in South Korea) in terms of social change, demography, culture, politics, and economy, as well as various social and cultural issues facing South Korean society today. S/he should be able to address Korea-related questions with a good understanding of the historical, social and cultural context and gather and analyze information from secondary sources to build up a well-informed and original argument.


Total of 20 weeks teaching with a 2 hour lecture and a 1 hour tutorial per week.

Scope and syllabus

Historical determinants

  • Introduction; Traditional culture and society
  • The opening of Korea
  • The colonial period and its impact
  • Division, war and development

Socio-political issues

  • Democratization
  • The Korean peninsula today
  • Civil society and political culture
  • Nationalism and progressive ideology


  • Demographic changes
  • Gender Issues: Family
  • Gender issues: Society
  • Education

Culture and religion

  • Revival of traditional culture and art forms
  • Contemporary Culture: The Korean Wave
  • Indigenous religions, Buddhism, Confucianism, and New Religions
  • Christianity

This module is core for students on the BA Korean single subject programme.

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination (80%) taken in May/June; one essay of approximately 2,000 words to be submitted on day 1, week 1, term 2 (10%);  one essay of approximately 2,000 words to be submitted on day 1, week 1, term 3.

Suggested reading

  • Eckert et al, Korea Old and New
  • Han Sung-Joo, “South Korea in 1987: The Politics of Democratization”
  • Sunhyuk Kim, “Civil society and democratization in South Korea”
  • San-Jin Han, “Modernization and the Rise of Civil Society: The Role of the "Middling Grassroots" for Democratization in Korea”
  • Uk Hoe and Sunwoong Kim, “Financial Crisis in South Korea: Failure of the Government-Led Development Paradigm”
  • Park Gil-Sung and Andrew Eungi Kim, “Changes in Attitude toward Work and Workers’ Identity in Korea”
  • Han Geon-Soo, “Multicultural Korea: Celebration or Challenge of Multiethnic Shift in Contemporary Korea?”
  • Cho Dae-Yop, “Korean Citizens’ Movement Organizations: Their Ideologies, Resources, and Action Repertoires”
  • Ku Do-Wan, “The Korean Environmental Movement: Green Politics through Social Movement”
  • Kim Sungmoon, “The Politics of Jeong and Ethic Civil Society in South Korea”
  • Hart, “Creating National Other: Opposing Images of Nationalism in South and North Korean Education”
  • Jager, Miyoshi, “Women, Resistance and the Divided Nation”
  • Gi-Wook Shin, “South Korean Anti-Americanism: A Comparative Perspective”
  • Kweon, Sug-in. “The Extended Family in Contemporary Korea: Changing Patterns of Co-Residence”
  • Ki-Soo Eun, “Population Aging and Social Strategies for Aging Problems in Korea”
  • Park So Jin, “Educational Manager Mothers: South Korea’s Neoliberal Transformation”
  • Moon “Urban Middle Class Wives in Contemporary Korea”
  • Park, “Political Representation and South Korean Women”
  • Cho Uhn, “Gender Inequality and Patriarchal Order Reexamined”
  • Woo Keong Ja, “The Beauty Complex and the Cosmetic Surgery Industry”
  • Phang Hanam S., “Educational Inequality in Korea: Recent Trends and Persistent Structure”
  • Lim Hyunsoo, “A Religious Analysis of Education Fever in Modern Korea”
  • Doobo Shim and Joseph Sung-Yul Park, “The Language Politics of ‘English Fever’ in South Korea”
  • Steven Capener, “Problems in the Identity and Philosophy of T’aegwôndo and Their Historical Sources”
  • The World Taekwondo Federation. “Origin and Formation of Taekwondo”
  • Kim Kwangŏk, “Socio-Cultural Implications of the Recent Invention of Tradition in Korea: An Overview”
  • Cho Hae-Joang, “Reading the “Korean Wave” as a Sign of Global Shift”
  • Shim Doobo, “Globalization and Cinema Regionalization in East Asia”
  • James Grayson, Korea: A Religious History
  • Robert Buswell ed., Religions of Korea in Practice
  • Lee Jin Gu, “Korean Protestantism as Viewed by Netizens: A Focus on Recent Activities of Anti-Christian Sites”


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules