SOAS University of London

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

K401 Advanced Korean Readings I: Nation Building and Social Transformations

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Final Year
Taught in:
Term 2

This module will provide advanced level BA Korean students with an opportunity to put their language skills to use to gain an in-depth understanding of key issues related to the processes of nation building and social transformation in 20th century Korea. Each week the students will have one or two readings in Korean and an additional background reading in English on a particular theme. The readings will come from varied sources, including newspapers, essays, fiction, poetry and lyrics, as well as primary sources such as speeches, manifestos and declarations. The topics covered will range from social change during the Japanese colonial period to rapid industrialisation and urbanisation in the postcolonial era. North Korean topics and readings will be included alongside texts from South Korea.

Each class will consist of a combination of a close reading and translation of one of the texts followed by a discussion of the topic. Where necessary this will be supplemented by a short lecture or introduction to the topic. Students will also be asked to prepare reading grids or commentaries which should form the basis of their discussion in class. At the start of the module students will be given an introduction to finding and using relevant 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. Diligent assignment preparations and active seminar participation will help students expand their critical knowledge of the topics and further their Korean language skills.


K300 level or equivalent.

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.

Scope and syllabus

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

Topic 1 – Social transformations

  • Class and social change under colonial rule
  • Industrialisation in 1950s North Korea
  • Rapid development/urbanisation in South Korea during the 1970s
  • Propaganda and protest: Political songs under authoritarian rule
  • The South Korean struggle for democracy in the 1980s

Topic 2 – Korean nationalism and national division

  • The origins of Korean nationalism – So Chaepil and The Independent
  • Nationalism in the Japanese colonial period
  • The Korean War – How did it begin?
  • Nationalism, North Korean style
  • Nationalism, education and anticommunism in South Korea

Method of assessment

A 1,500-2,000 word portfolio of reading commentaries, due on the last day of the term in which the module is taught (30%); a 2,500-3,000 word essay due on day 1 (Monday), week 1 of the following term (60%); a 10-15 minute oral presentation on an assigned text or topic in groups of 2-3, with a hand-out summarising the main points (10%).

Suggested reading

  • The reading list and materials will be made available on Moodle (BLE) at the beginning of the module.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules