SOAS University of London

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

Readings in Modern Korean Society

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2019/2020
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Final Year
Taught in:
Term 2

This module will provide advanced level BA Korean (and combined degree) students with an opportunity to put their language skills to use to gain an in-depth understanding of key issues in modern Korean society. Each week the students will have two readings in Korean and an additional background reading in English on a particular theme. The readings will come from a variety of sources, including newspapers, essays, short academic articles or book reviews and primary sources such as speeches and manifestos. The topics covered will range from modern history (the colonial period, Korean War, economic development etc.) to more contemporary themes such as popular culture and multicultural Korea. The themes will also cover North Korean topics and readings from North Korea will be included.

Each class will consist of a combination of a close reading and translation of one of the texts followed by a discussion of the theme. If necessary this will be supplemented by a short lecture or introduction to the topic. At the start of the module students will be given an introduction to finding and using Korean source materials in the library and online. At the end of the module the students will be expected to write an essay in English on a topic of their choice, using Korean-language materials that they have found themselves.


Advanced level Korean language

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  1. Read, comprehend and translate advanced level texts in Korean (with the aid of a dictionary).
  2. Understand and engage with a range of social, political and cultural issues and debates in modern and contemporary Korea (North and South) at an in-depth level.
  3. Find and select appropriate Korean-language texts from a variety of sources, including online media, archives, books and academic journals.
  4. Independently formulate appropriate research questions, propose and evaluate analyses and present evidence.
  5. Make use of appropriate Korean-language sources to answer a research question and formulate an argument in an English-language essay.


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week consisting of a 2 hour seminar.

Scope and syllabus

The following syllabus is for guidance only and is subject to alteration at the discretion of the module convenor.

  • Introduction: Finding and using materials in Korean for research
  • The Japanese colonial period and its legacy
  • The division of Korea
  • The Korean War
  • Juche Thought and the Kim personality cult
  • Work, family and gender in South Korea
  • The meaning of Confucianism in modern Korea
  • The North Korean famine
  • South Korea, the Asian Financial Crisis and neoliberalism
  • What is Korean culture?
  • Korean nationalism
  • The two Koreas and the United States
  • Diasporic Korea
  • The ‘homogeneous’ nation and multiculturalism
  • Korean education systems, North and South

Method of assessment

A two-hour written examination taken in May/June (60%); short translation and commentary of 1000 words to be submitted on day 5, week 5, in the term of teaching (10%); an essay of 3000 words to be submitted on day 1, week 1 in the term following teaching (30%).

Suggested reading

  • Robinson, Michael. Korea’s Twentieth Century Odyssey.
  • Seth, Michael. A Concise History of Modern Korea.
  • Seth, Michael (ed). The Routledge Handbook of Modern Korean History.

 Korean newspaper archives:

  • Chosun Ilbo archive
  • Donga Ilbo archive
  • Naver News archive
  • Hankyoreh archive
  • Rodong Sinmun archive
  • Korean Historical Newspapers Database


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules