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Ready-Made Life Cover

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Ready-Made Life

Early Masters of Modern Korean Fiction

Kim Chong-un

A Ready Made Life is the first volume of early modern Korean fiction to appear in English in the U.S. Written between 1921 and 1943, the sixteen stories are an excellent introduction to the riches of modern Korean fiction. They reveal a variety of settings, voices, styles, and thematic concerns, and the best of them, masterpieces written mainly in the mid-1930s, display an impressive artistic maturity. Included among these authors are Hwang Sun-won, modern Korea's greatest short story writer; Kim Tong-in, regarded by many as the author who best captures the essence of the Korean identity; Ch'ae Man-shik, a master of irony; Yi Sang, a prominent modernist; Kim Yu-jong, whose stories are marked by a unique blend of earthy humor and compassion; Yi Kwang-su and Kim Tong-ni, modernizers of the language of twentieth-century Korean fiction; and Yi Ki-yúng, Yi T'ae-jun, and Pak T'ae-won, three writers who migrated to North Korea shortly after Liberation in 1945 and whose works were subsequently banned in South Korea until democratization in the late 1980s. One way of reading the stories, all of which were written during the Japanese occupation, is that beneath their often oppressive and gloomy surface lies an anticolonial subtext. They can also be read as a collective record of a people whose life choices were severely restricted, not just by colonization, but by education (either too little or too much, as the title story shows) and by a highly structured society that had little tolerance for those who overstepped its boundaries. Life was unremittingly onerous for many Koreans during this period, whatever their social background. In the stories, educated city folk fare little better than farmers and laborers. A Ready-Made Life will provide scholars and students with crucial access to the literature of Korea's colonial period. A generous opening essay discusses the collection in the context of modern Korean literary history, and short introductions precede each story. Here is a richly diverse testament to a modern literature that is poised to assume a long overdue place in world literature.

Reassessing the Park Chung Hee Era, 1961-1979 Cover

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Reassessing the Park Chung Hee Era, 1961-1979

Development, Political Thought, Democracy, and Cultural Influence

Edited by Hyung-A Kim and Clark W. Sorenson

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South Korea's Minjung Movement

The Culture and Politics of Dissidence

Kenneth M. Wells

The minjung (people's) movement stood at the forefront of the June 1987 nationwide tide that swept away the military in South Korea and opened up space for relatively democratic politics, a more responsible economy, and new directions in culture. This volume is the first in English to grapple specifically with the nature of a national development that lies at the center of the last three decades of tumult and change in South Korea.

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Spirit of Independence

A Primer for Korean Modernization and Democratic Reform

Syngman Rhee

Syngman Rhee (Yi Sûng-man, 1875-1965) is undoubtedly one of the most important figures in modern Korean history. He emerged as the dominant leader in Korea's nationalist struggle against Japan and served as the first president of the Republic of Korea from 1948 through 1960. Rhee's political career as founder and president, however, was not without controversy. While some hailed him as "the George Washington of Korea," others regarded Rhee as "a little Chiang Kai-shek." This first English translation of Rhee's magnum opus, The Spirit of Independence (Tongnip chôngsin), provides readers with an essential key to understanding the breadth and depth of Rhee's thought at a critical juncture in his life and his country's history.

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Split Screen Korea

Shin Sang-ok and Postwar Cinema

Steven Chung


Shin Sang-ok (1926–2006) was arguably the most important Korean filmmaker of the postwar era. Over seven decades, he directed or produced nearly 200 films, including A Flower in Hell (1958) and Pulgasari (1985), and his career took him from late-colonial Korea to postwar South and North Korea to Hollywood. Notoriously crossing over to the North in 1978, Shin made a series of popular films under Kim Jong-il before seeking asylum in 1986 and resuming his career in South Korea and Hollywood.

In Split Screen Korea, Steven Chung illuminates the story of postwar Korean film and popular culture through the first in-depth account in English of Shin’s remarkable career. Shin’s films were shaped by national division and Cold War politics, but Split Screen Korea finds surprising aesthetic and political continuities across not only distinct phases in modern South Korean history but also between South and North Korea. These are unveiled most dramatically in analysis of the films Shin made on opposite sides of the DMZ. Chung explains how a filmmaking sensibility rooted in the South Korean market and the global style of Hollywood could have been viable in the North.


Combining close readings of a broad range of films with research on the industrial and political conditions of Korean film production, Split Screen Korea shows how cinematic styles, popular culture, and intellectual discourse bridged the divisions of postwar Korea, raising new questions about the implications of political partition.

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Trilateralism and Beyond

Great Power Politics and the Korean Security Dilemma during and after the Cold War

Edited by Robert A. Wampler

A new study that sheds light on the history of a critical Cold War flashpoint

The fall of the Berlin Wall more than two decades ago brought an end to the Cold War for most of the world. But the legacy of that era remains unresolved on the divided Korean peninsula, which still presents a clear danger for the United States and its allies. Two triangular alliances—one comprised of the United States, South Korea, and Japan, and the other of Russia, China, and North Korea—lie at the heart of the security challenge and all efforts to pursue a final peace treaty.

Trilateralism and Beyond brings together a collection of essays by leading American, South Korean, and Japanese scholars that probe the historical dynamics formed and driven by the Korean security dilemma. Drawing on newly declassified documents secured by the National Security Archive’s Korea Project, along with new archival resources in China and former Warsaw Pact countries, the contributors examine the critical relationship between the United States and South Korea, exploring the delicate balancing act of bolstering the security alliance and fostering greater democracy in South Korea. The volume expands its focus to include Japan and a look at the history and future challenges of trilateral security cooperation on the peninsula; impending difficulties for security cooperation between the United States, South Korea, and Japan; and the trials that Russia and China have experienced in dealing with an often demanding, unpredictable ally in North Korea. The authors move beyond simple images of ideological support by the two great powers to draw a more complex and nuanced picture.

Trilateralism and Beyond offers an essential historical perspective on one of the most enduring challenges for U.S. foreign policy—ensuring stability on the tumultuous Korean peninsula.

Voices from the Straw Mat Cover

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Voices from the Straw Mat

Toward an Ethnography of Korean Story Singing

Chan E. Park

From its humble "straw mat" origins to its paradoxical status as a national treasure, p'ansori has survived centuries of change and remains the primary source of Korean narrative and poetic consciousness. In this innovative work, Chan Park celebrates her subject not as a static phenomenon but a living, organic tradition adapting to an ever-shifting context. Drawing on her extensive literary and performance backgrounds, Park provides insights into the relationship between language and music, singing and speaking, and traditional and modern reception. Her "performance-centered" approach to p'ansori informs the discussion of a wide range of topics, including the amalgamation of the dramatic, the narrative, and the poetic; the invocation of traditional narrative in contemporary politics; the vocal construction of gender; and the politics of preservation.

Wrongful Deaths Cover

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Wrongful Deaths

Selected Inquest Records from Nineteenth-Century Korea

compiled and translated by Sun Joo Kim and Jungwon Kim

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