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Society and Culture in Modern Korea


Admission requirements

This course is only available for BA2 students in the Korean Studies program.


Despite being described as some of the darkest pages of modern Korean history, the colonial period was also a time of critical social and cultural changes that left profound marks on the later development of Korean society. Under colonial rule, a process of increasingly rapid modernization led to social and economic disruption and total war mobilization, but also to colonial modernity, modernism and mass culture. In this course we document how the colonial period set the stage for the cultural and social developments and changes that shaped South and North Korea as we retrace the processes that led to the social and cultural practices prevalent in contemporary South and North Korea. Subjects can be as diverse as gender, sports, hygiene and medicine, fashion, consumerism, domesticity, education, technology, art, popular culture, etc. Through a critical and nuanced understanding of the historical nature of such social and cultural phenomena we will confront the fallacy of an essentialist reading of culture.

Course objectives

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  • comprehend social and cultural developments during the colonial period and their lasting impact on contemporary North and South Korean society and culture;

  • understand basic concepts and theories from the social and cultural sciences;

  • critically read textual and visual resources;

  • write and present academic research reports; and,

  • participate in group discussions and projects.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar

Assessment method

Assessment and weighing

  • Active participation in discussions of the literature, including group discussions and presetations (25%);

  • 1,500 word mid-term paper proposal (15%); and,

  • 3,000 word final paper (60%).

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 4,500 words (worth 100% of the grade).

Inspection and feedback

The course is an integrated whole. All parts 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

To be shared through Brightspace


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