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Society and Culture in Modern Korea


Admission requirements

This course is only available for BA2 students in the Korean Studies program.


Historiography invariably describes the colonial period as the darkest pages of modern Korean history. At the same time, it was a period of critical social and cultural changes that have left profound marks on Korean society. Partial modernization under Japanese colonial rule brought about social disruption, economic crisis and ultimately war mobilization, but also colonial modernity, modernism and mass culture. In this course we will examine these profound social and cultural changes that took place during this period. Themes include gender, sports, hygiene and medicine, fashion, consumerism, domesticity, education, technology, etc. In all these themes, the specificity of the colonial context is never far away, calling for critical thinking and nuanced understanding. After the Indpendence and the Korea War, industrialization, urbanization and the associated socio-cultural developments transformed both North and South Korea. How the shadow of the colonial period has stretched over both Koreas is an additional point of attention during this seminar.

Course objectives

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  • comprehend social and cultural developments during the colonial period and its impact on North and South Korean society and culture;

  • use basic concepts and theories from the social and cultural sciences;

  • read critically the literature and other materials;

  • write and present academic research reports; and,

  • participate in group discussions and projects.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar

Assessment method

Assessment and weighing

  • Active participation in discussions of the literature, including group discussions and presetations (25%);

  • Mid-term paper proposal (15%); and,

  • Final essay (60%).

The final mark of the course is achieved by (i) determination of the weighted average based on partial marks in combination with (ii) the additional requirement that the work must always be a pass.


Only the essay can be retaken. Only those students who have passed all partial assignments will be admitted to the resit.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 2 weeks after publication of the exam results, an exam review will be organized.

Reading list



Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.


Dr. N. Choi


Attendance policy: a strict attendance policy is imposed. Missing more than three sessions during the semester gets you barred from further attending the course and your papers may not be graded. Any absences must be notified in advance. Dispensation from the attendance rule for extenuating circumstances can only be given following consultation with the coordinator of studies.

Total study load 5 EC x 28 hours = 140 hours

  • Attending lectures: 26 hours (2 hours/week)

  • Study the required readings: 65 hours (5 hours/week)

  • Mid-term proposal: 19 hours

  • Final essay: 30 hours