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Divided Korea


Admission requirements

Admission to BA2 students Korean Studies/Japan Studies/China Studies and International Studies only.


This seminar discards the conventional reading of mutually exclusive South Korean and North Korean histories. Starting from the simple point that the division of Korea is a recent historical fact, we explore how the social, political and cultural development of each Korean state and society can only be fully understood when taking into account: (1) the challenges posed by the other Korean state and society over time; and (2) the challenges posed to both Koreas simultaneously by trends in world history since 1945.

We will use readings drawn from Korea’s contemporary social, political and cultural history, paying specific attention to how the two states have dealt with the challenge not only of existing alongside one another within a single established national space, but also living at a crossroads for the major powers of the 20th and 21st centuries.

The seminar serves as an opportunity for critical reflection on the ordering principles of history and how unspoken concepts may influence how history is written. In doing so, we learn to critically think about the nature and results of historical research.

Course objectives

This course has three primary goals:

  • to cultivate a critical awareness of the entanglements that constitute Korean contemporary histories;

  • to develop the analytical skills of students through close readings of textual and visual materials; and

  • to acquire reporting, presentation, and debating skills.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


  • Weekly Postings (20%);

  • Classroom Debate (15%);

  • Midterm Paper: 1500 words (15%);

  • Final Paper: 3500 words (50%).


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


Students who fail the course (receiving an overall mark of 5.49 [=5] or lower) or who fail the paper assignment must take a resit. The resit consists of a research paper of 5,000 words (worth 100% of the grade).

Inspection and feedback

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. Students may make an individual appointment with the instructor within 30 days of the announcement of the exam grades in order to view their exam.


Deadlines and extensions: if you foresee that you will not be able to keep a deadline because of extenuating circumstances, contact your instructor well in advance (at least one week before the deadline). For extensions beyond the end of the semester, please contact your instructor and the study coordinator and file a request with the Board of Examiners at least one week before the original deadline.

Reading list

Weekly readings are listed in the course syllabus, which will be distributed in the period immediately preceding the beginning of the class. There is one required course text:

  • Don Oberdorfer and Robert Carlin, The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History (New York: Basic Books, 2014).


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: VRIESHOF


As is the case for all Korean Studies courses, a strict attendance policy will be enforced. Attendance to all lectures and seminars is expected. Failure to attend results in a lower grade. If you do not attend more than three classes you will not be able to continue attending the classes and your exam and/or paper may not be graded by the instructor. If you have a valid reason not to attend, you may get dispensation from this rule, but you have to consult the coordinator of studies.

Registration for this course is upon 'first come, first serve' with a maximum of 20 students.