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Seminar Leiden Initiative on Northern Korea


Admission requirements

Admission to BA Korea Studies and BA International Studies students only.


What is (Korean) history (for)? Who is defining it in the process of production, consumption, and circulation? What sociocultural issues and political expressions are at work therein? The Leiden Initiative on northern Korea raises these questions, by examining the histories and historiography of northern Korea as an indentifiable cultural, political and spatial area from a local, regional and/or transnational perspective. Students engage a wide range of written and visual texts, produced by both Korean and non-Korean authors, providing a kaleidoscope of perspectives and understandings. In doing so, the course reveals how a distinct northern identity and/or perspective is shaped within local, national and transnational flows of people, goods and ideas. The course consists of mini-lectures, class discussions, student presentations, and close readings of both written and visual sources. Through this hands-on approach, students develop their analytical skills, critical thinking, and advanced presentation, arguing and writing skills.

Course objectives

This course has four main goals:

  • to question any presuppositions regarding Korean history and challenge the geographically bounded definition of Korea;

  • to develop research projects, focusing on an aspect of the historical representation of northern Korea.

  • to provide detailed and nuanced readings of course materials by practicing textual and visual analysis.

  • to acquire a historically informed and theoretically sophisticated understanding of Korea by examining major essays in the historiography of northern Korea.



Mode of instruction


Course Load

  • Total course load for the course: 140 hours.

Assessment method

Final grades will be determined by the following formula:

  • Active Class Participation ————————————————————————————————————————-30%

    • Attendance (5%)
    • Active paricipation in class Discussions (5%)
    • Group Presentations (10%)
    • Individual Presentation (10%)
  • Writing Assignments——————————————————————————————————————————-70%

    • Weekly Postings (15%)
    • Midterm Paper – 1,500 words (15%)
    • Final Research Paper – 3,500 words (40%)


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

Reading list

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

Recommended reading
Kim, Sun Joo, The northern region of Korea: history, identity & culture (University of Washington Press, 2010);
Morris-Suzuki, Tessa, To the Diamond Mountains : a hundred-year journey through China and Korea (Rowman & Littlefield, 2010);
Park, Hyun Ok, Two Dreams in One Bed: Empire, Social Life, and the Origins of the North Korean Revolution in Manchuria (Duke U.P., 2005);


Students are required to register for this course via uSis, the course registration system of Leiden University. General information about the Registration procedure


Dr. Koen De Ceuster


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.