SemesterSpring Semester, 2020
DepartmentFreshman Class of Department of Korean Language and Culture
Course NameControversial Issues in Korean Society
Course TypeElective
Course Objective
Course Description
Course Schedule

** I reserve the right to make changes in the class schedule as needed and as seem appropriate for the development of the class objectives, but I will not add major papers or projects.


Prior to week 1 (One-paragraph Reflection)

What is culture and society? How can we understand it? What key terms and phrases come to mind when you think of Korea and why?


Week 1 (2/20) Introduction and Course Overview


Week 2 (2/27) South Korean Nationalism

Gi Wook Shin, “Introduction: Explaining the Roots and Politics of Korean Nationalism,”     1-20 and “Between Nationalism and Globalization,” in Ethnic Nationalism in Korea: Genealogy, Politics, and Legacy, (Stanford, Stanford UP, 2006), 204-221.


Week 3 (3/05) Transnational Adoption

Eleana Kim, Human Capital: Transnational Korean Adoptees and the Neoliberal Logic of Return,” Journal of Korean Studies 17:2 (2012), 299-327.


Week 4 (3/12) “Comfort Women” Memories and Critiques

Sala, Ilaria Maria. “Why Is the Plight of ‘Comfort Women’ Still So Controversial?” The New York Times, 14 Aug. 2017. Op-ed.

Recommended: Hyunah Yang, “Re-membering the Korean Military Comfort Women: Nationalism, Sexuality, and Silencing,” in Dangerous Women: Gender and Korean Nationalism, ed. Elaine H. Kim and Chungmoo Choi (New York: Routledge, 1998), 123-140.


Week 5 (3/19) Korean Families in Transition

John Finch and Seung-kyung Kim, “The Korean Family in Transition” in Routledge Handbook of Korean Culture and Society, 134-148.


Week 6 (3/26) Inequality and Social Change   

Hagen Koo, “The Muddled Middle Class in Globalized South Korea,” in Routledge Handbook of Korean Culture and Society (New York: Routledge, 2017), 107-118.


Week 7 (4/02) National Holiday

No Class


Week 8 (4/09) South Korean Education

So Jin Park, “Educational Manager Mothers as Neoliberal Maternal Subjects,” New Millennium South Korea: Neoliberal Capitalism and Transnational Movements, ed., Jesook Song (New York: Routledge, 2010), 101-114.


Week 9 (4/16) In-class Midterm Exam or Take-Home Essay (TBA)



Week 10 (4/23) Gender and Sexuality

Laurel Kendall, “Introduction,” in Under Construction: The Gendering of Modernity, Class and Consumption in the Republic of Korea, ed. Laurel Kendall (Honolulu: University of Hawai’I Press, 2002), 1-24.


Week 11 (4/30) Korean National Holiday

No Class


Week 12 (5/07) Youth and Unemployment

Haejoang Cho and Jeffrey Stark, “South Korean Youth Across Three Decades,” in Routledge Handbook of Korean Culture and Society, 119-133.


Week 13 (5/14) Urbanization and Gentrification

Seon Young Lee, “Cities for Profit: Profit-driven Gentrification in Seoul, South Korea,” Urban Studies (2017), 1-15.


Week 14 (5/21) Multiculturalism

Jin-Kyung Lee, Immigrant Subempire, Migrant Labor Activism, and Multiculturalism in Contemporary South Korea,” in Routledge Handbook of Korean Culture and Society, 149-161.


Week 15 (5/29) Beauty, Desire and Aesthetics

Zara Stone, “The K-Pop Plastic Surgery Obsession,” The Atlantic, May 24, 2013.


Week 16 (6/04) Technology and Video Gaming

Dal Yong Jin, “Age of New Media Empires: A Critical Interpretations of the Korean Online Game Industry,” Games and Culture 3:1 (Jan 2008), 38-58.

Week 17 (6/11) In-class Final Exam or Take-home Essay (TBA)

Teaching Methods
Teaching Assistant

 Course Grading

Attendance and Class Participation 15%; Online Forum/Email Posts 5%; Reading Responses 20%; Midterm Exam 25%; Final Exam 35%


Required Reading

Students are expected to come to class having already done the reading listed on the syllabus for that class date. This is the minimum required of you to be in the class. There are no pre-requisites.


Attendance and Class Participation (15%)

Attendance is mandatory. You are not permitted to miss class except in cases of illness or family emergency. Please inform your instructor or your TA in advance by e-mail. Unexcused absences will count against your class participation grade. Your class participation grade will be based on regular attendance, preparation, and active and thoughtful participation in class discussions, including active listening.


Online Forum/ E-mail Posts (5%)

Forum is an asynchronous learning network, or, in other words, a place on the Web where you can post your thoughts/responses/reactions to me and to your classmates. You will be required to write one post of approximately 150 to 250 word count, during the length of the course. The posts are to be "posted" by 12 noon on the Wednesday before the Thursday class. Posts are not papers; they are, however, well-organized and well thought-out responses to the readings and topic assigned for that particular week. Your post should make the attempt to integrate the weekly readings and also to place the week’s reading within the context of previous course readings and discussions. As part of your Forum assignment, you will also be required to read the posts of your classmates, which is why the deadline is earlier than our class on Wednesday afternoon, so you will have time to read peers’ responses. By reading (and writing) the posts we will begin the class the next day with a number of ideas/responses on the table, so to speak. I expect to begin each class by responding to the posts as a group and suggesting directions and problems for that particular day.


Critical Response Papers (4x): (20%)  

During the course of the semester you are required to write four reading responses of no more than one-page response to the week’s reading. You can pace yourselves and choose the week you will write, but at least two responses are due before mid-semester, April 25th. In some cases, I will give you specific prompts or questions to answer in these essays, but basically reading responses should offer a critical response of the text or texts assigned for the week. Typically, this means you should identify the main theoretical and/or empirical research question orienting the work, provide a brief description of the main argument, and offer an assessment of the text, noting both its strengths and possible limitations. Strong responses will do more than summarize and evaluate a specific reading, but will critically engage the text and its theoretical and methodological questions. You should also try to think about how the week’s readings relate to other texts we’ve read in the course. Do the assigned texts extend or contradict earlier findings? Do they take the literature in a new theoretical or methodological direction?


Take-home Midterm Essay and Final Essay: (25% and 35%)

You will be required to write an Op-ed piece on a given topic (approx. 3-4 pages double-spaced).   


**The format of the exam and details will be discussed prior to the exam.  



Course Policy

Late Assignment Policy

No extensions will be granted, except in cases of serious illness or emergency, for which documentation is required.

Collaboration Policy

You are expected to collaborate with others in this class. In terms of any graded assignments, you may discuss and work together with others. However, the expectation is that the final submitted work represents your own original writing, and yours alone.

Laptop / Electronic Device Policy

Laptops, tablets and electronic reading devices are permitted in class for the sole purpose of consulting class materials or taking lecture notes. Use of e-mail, internet, texting, etc. and any work related to other classes are not permitted. Use of cell phones is not permitted without permission of instructor or TA. For privacy purposes, video and audio taping is not permitted.

Policy on Academic Integrity

Plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty are serious offenses and will be dealt with according to the university policy and procedures. All students are expected to be familiar with your university policies and guidelines on academic integrity as outlined in the Handbook on Academic Integrity. Please review all the guidelines in the handbook, including the information on responsible paraphrasing.

Textbook & Reference

All Readings will be available online as PDF files

Urls about Course