SOAS University of London

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

Topics in the History of Traditional Korea

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2018/2019
Taught in:
Full Year

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module the student should be able to understand in depth the historical developments on the Korean peninsula up to the late nineteenth century in terms of social change, demography, culture, politics, and economy, as well as the role of Korea in the history of the larger East Asian region. S/he should be able to formulate and pursue Korea-related research 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 2 hours classroom contact per week consisting of a 2 hour lecture.  In addition there will be a one hour tutorial fortnightly.

Scope and syllabus

  • Topic 1: Early History and the Three Kingdoms
  • Topic 2: Koryŏ and Early Chosŏn
  • Topic 3: Late Chosŏn
  • Topic 4: Traditional-Modern transition

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination (60%); a 2000 word essay (25%); a presentation (15%).

Suggested reading

  • Hyung Il Pai, Constructing “Korean” Origins: A Critical Review of Archaeology, Historiography, and Racial Myth in Korean State-Formation Theories, Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2000.
  • Jonathan W. Best, A History of the Early Korean Kingdom of Paekche, Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2006.
  • Edward J. Shultz, Generals and Scholars: Military Rule in Medieval Korea, Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2000.
  • Sem Vermeersch, The Power of the Buddhas: The Politics of Buddhism during the Koryŏ Dynasty, Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2008.
  • John B. Duncan, The Origins of the Chosŏn Dynasty, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2000.
  • Martina Deuchler, The Confucian Transformation of Korea: A Study of Society and Ideology, Cambridge: Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1992.
  • JaHyun Kim Haboush and Martina Deuchler eds., Culture and the State in Late Chosŏn Korea, Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 1999.
  • JaHyun Kim Haboush, The Confucian Kingship in Korea: Yŏngjo and the Politics of Sagacity, New York: Columbia University Press, 2001.
  • Sun Joo Kim, Marginality and Subversion in Korea: The Hong Kyŏngnae Rebellion of 1812, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2007.
  • Eugene Y. Park, Between Dreams and Reality: The Military Examination in Late Chosŏn Korea, 1600-1894, Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2007.
  • Kyung Moon Hwang, Beyond Birth: Social Status in the Emergence of Modern Korea, Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2004.
  • Yi T’ae-jin, The Dynamic of Confucianism and Modernization in Korean History, Ithaca: East Asia Program, Cornell University, 2007.
  • Alexander Woodside, Lost Modernities: China, Vietnam, Korea and the Hazards of World History, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules