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Forgery as Historiography in Korean and East Asian History


Admission requirements

Students from the MA Asian Studies (60 EC, 120 EC, or research) have priority. A limited number of places is available for students of the MA International Relations. Students who are interested in taking this course, but who are not from the mentioned master programmes are requested to contact their education co-ordinator.

Knowledge of Korean (or another East Asian language) and of Korean and East Asian history is recommended.


This course will introduce historical forgeries from Korea (and to a more limited extent from outside of the Korean peninsula – i.e. China, Japan, Europe, US) to discuss their importance in the formation of history and historiography. From the tenth century to the present-day, historical forgeries (mainly of texts) have played an important role in process of (national or other) identity formation. Texts ascribed to rulers, genealogies forged to raise one’s social status, apocryphal sutra’s that introduced new notions in Buddhism disguised as the words of the historical Buddha: the list is virtually endless. During this course, the uses and abuses of historical forgeries will be analyzed using original historical materials and secondary (often western) literature to develop a typology of historical forgeries.

Classes will consist of one-hour lectures, discussions of the reading materials and student presentations and will expose students to a number of approaches to understand historical forgeries in their discursive field. Aside from discussing readings, each session will introduce one (suspected) forgery that will be discussed with the aid of printed publications, Brightspace/internet resources, to illustrate topics at hand and to stimulate discussion. During the course, students are expected to exercise growing competency in accessing/referring to/using secondary materials.

Readings will be set for preparation between classes. Students are expected to read these set texts in out-of-class hours and to discuss what they have read when the class assembles.

Course objectives

To familiarize students with the role and position of historical forgeries in a Korean (and East Asian) context through:

a). scholarly discourse relevant to the modern discipline of history, in particular with regard to identity formation and historiography;
b). scholarly discourse relevant to particular conditions of historical discourse and identity formation discourse pertaining to historical forgeries in Korea and East Asia;
c). methods and approaches most useful for historical and sociological enquiry into historical forgeries in Korea and East Asia.

In order to contextualize the aims of b) and c) within the state of the discipline (a), the course will demand an amount of reading about/considering other regional engagements with historical forgeries and history (e.g. Africa, Europe, etc). The usefulness of this comparative design will become clearer as the course progresses, but it is limited to ensure that Korea (and to a lesser extent East Asia) remains the primary focus of the entire course.


The timetables are avalable through My Timetable.

The deadline(s) in MyTimetable is/are set for administrative purposes only. The actual date(s) will be communicated by the lecturer(s) in Brightspace.

Mode of instruction

Lecture and seminar

Assessment method

Academic integrity

Students should familiarize themselves with the notion of academic integrity and the ways in which this plays out in their own work. A good place to start is this page. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students may not substantially reuse texts they have previously submitted in this or other courses. Minor overlap with previous work is allowed as long as it is duly noted in citation.

Students must submit their assignment(s) to Brightspace through Turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.

ChatGPT: What is possible and what is allowed? Dos and Don'ts.

Assessment and weighing

Partial assessment weighing
Class assignments, both individual and in small groups 40%
Essay (7000 words): 50%
One final presentation on the final essay 10%

This is the major course requirement to pass this course. Students must choose a topic relevant to the content/aims of the course by/before week 7. Delivery of this essay will be expected by/before 31 December (subject to further discussion). Extra guidelines will be provided during the progress of the course.

The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average of the assignments, paper and final presentation, all of which must be sufficient.


In the case of a failing grade,i.e. 5.49 or lower, the following resit procedures are in place:

  • Assignment: if the weigthed average of the assignment is sufficient, the individual assignments do not have to be done again. If the weighted average of the assignments is insufficient, the student will make one replacement assignment consisting of a literary review (precise topic to be determined in consulation with the instructor). The grade of the replacement assignment will count as the assignment grade average.

  • Paper: if the paper is insufficient, it can be submitted again in revised form. For the deadlines, consult the syllabus.

  • Final presentation: if the final presentation is insufficient, a written paper progress report will count as the resit.

Inspection and feedback

Feedback will be supplied primarily through Brightspace. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the assessment results, a review will be organized.

Reading list

  • Remco Breuker, "Forging the truth: creative deception and national identity in medieval Korea" (special issue of East Asian History, no. 35, 2008)

  • Remco Breuker. "Size Matters: The Length of Korea’s History and the Size of Its Historical Territory." "At the Shores of the Sky:" Asian Studies for Albert Hoffstädt. (Brill, 2020), 54-61.

  • Remco Breuker, “Authenticating the Past: Filling in Gaps with the Tan’gi kosa.” Invented Traditions in North and South Korea. (Hawai’i University Press, 2021).

  • Denis Dutton (ed.), The forger’s art: forgery and the philosophy of art, (University of California Press, 1983).

  • Anthony Grafton, Forgers and critics: Creativity and duplicity in Western scholarship (Princeton University Press, 2019, Revised edition).

  • Judith Ryan, Alfred Thomas (eds.), Cultures of Forgery: Making Nations, Making Selves (Routledge, 2003).

  • David Selbourne, The City of Light: the Hidden Journal of the Man Who Entered China Four Years Before Marco Polo (Citadel, 2003)

  • Hugh Trevor-Roper, A hidden life: the Enigma of Sir Edmund Backhouse (Macmillan, 1976)

A more detailed list will be distributed later.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.