SOAS University of London

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

Ms Deborah Smith

BA (Cambridge), MA (SOAS)
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Deborah Smith
Centre of Korean Studies

Research Fellow

Ms Deborah Smith
Email address:
Thesis title:
Agency, history, and reality (hyŏnsil) in contemporary Korean literature
Year of Study:
Started in 2012


In 2009, I graduated from the University of Cambridge with a BA in English literature (First class). In 2010 I came to SOAS to do an MA in Korean studies, during which I became interested in Korean literature, and also in translation.

PhD Research

My research aims to answer the following key questions: 1) How has reality been represented in Korean literature from the 1990s onwards?; 2) What new models of literary agency has this relationship produced?; and 3) How might we gain a historical understanding of contemporary Korean literature? I intend to conduct close textual analyses of contemporary Korean prose fiction in order to contest the tendency to subordinate literary history to the grand narrative of socio- political history, whereby Korean literature produced from the 1990s onwards is seen as ahistorical, apolitical, and severed from its own tradition. The prevalence of discussions of “현실” or “reality” in the discourse surrounding contemporary literature, and the central significance of realism in the interpretation of 20th century Korean literature pre-1990s, has led me to focus on representational techniques and strategies in aiming to demonstrate that contemporary Korean literature is not merely a mimetic reflection of current circumstances but consists of a discursive interplay of multiple realities.