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Divided Korea


Admission requirements

Admission to BA Korea/Japan/China Studies and BA International Studies students only, with a maximum of 20 students


Contrary to the standard reading of a selfcontained South/North Korean history, this seminar rather focuses on how the histories of North and South Korea are interrelated. The underlying rationale of the seminar is that the social, political and cultural development of each state/society can only be fully understood when taking into account the challenge posed by the other Korean state/society. This reasoning starts from the simple fact that both states build on a shared historical basis (the division of Korea is a very recent historical fact). At the same time, both states/societies developed as ideological opposites, contesting each other’s legitimacy. In this historical seminar, we reread episodes from Korea’s contemporary social, political and cultural history paying particular attention to how the division has influenced and affected historical developments in both countries.
The seminar will serve as a further opportunity for critical reflection on the ordering principles of history and how unspoken (ideological) concepts influence how history is written. In doing so, students will learn to critically think about the nature and results of historical research.

Course objectives

This course has four main goals: – to deepen the understanding of South and North Korea’s entangled contemporary history; – to develop a historical research methodology; – to develop the analytical skills of students through close readings of textual and visual materials; – to develop reporting and presentation skills.



Mode of instruction

  • seminar

Course Load

  • Total course load for the course: 140 hours.

Assessment method

Final grades are determined by the following formula:

  • Active Class Participation ————————————————————————————————————————-40%
    Attendance & active participation in class discussions (10%)
    Group Presentations (15%)
    Weekly postings (15%)

  • Paper Assignment—————————————————————————————————————————————-60%
    Paper proposal – 750 words (10%)
    Final Research Paper – 2,500 words (50%)

Attendance policy: a strict attendance policy is imposed. Missing more than three sessions 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 is possible in consultation with the coordinator of studies and for valid reasons only.

To pass the course students must receive an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher and a passing grade for the paper assignment (5.5 or higher).

Students who failed the course (receiving an overall mark of 5.49 [=5] or lower) or who failed the paper assignment must take a resit. The resit consists of a research paper of 3,500 words (100% of the grade).

The course is an integrated whole. All categories must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.


Distribution of reading materials, weekly postings, submission of assignments, group discussion. Blackboard.

Reading list

A reading list will be included in the syllabus to be uploaded on blackboard.

Recommended reading:
Charles K. Armstrong, The Koreas (Routledge,2013);
Online: Modern Korean History Portal, hosted by the Wilson Center Digital Archive:


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Dhr. Dr. K. de Ceuster