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Geopolitical Imaginations in Korea


Admission requirements

  • Elective course for MA International Studies Students and MA Asian (Korean) Studies Students

  • If a student has no prior knowledge of Korea, it is encouraged for him/her to read a book on modern Korean history before taking this course. Yet, this course is open to all students interested in geopolitics, nationalism and security of Korea in East Asia, without requiring prerequisite courses.


Seemingly politics is all about boundary-(re)making and boundary-deconstructing practices which are bound up with our notion of Self-Other relations (or inside-outside demarcation) often affecting our (un)conscious behavior in a daily life. Performing geopolitical ideas, constructing nationalisms and implementing security policies are the boundary-making practices par excellence in domestic as well as international politics. Geopolitical imagination is ‘a person’s (society’s) constellation of take-for-granted truths about the world and the way in which power should be utilized in that world’, and this imagination is essentially tied to boundary-making practices.

Against this backdrop, this course aims to explore modern Korea’s geopolitics, nationalism, security and their nexus by critically examining academic, cultural and official texts (which themselves are boundary-making practices) regarding Korea. The central question of this course is how Korea(s) has produced, reproduced and transformed its national boundaries. And the assumptions and implications of the process of Korea’s national boundaries are also discussed. This course consists of three parts. The first part examines various International Relations theories, main geopolitical concepts and different approaches to nationalism. The second part focuses on modern Korean nationalism and its implications for domestic, inter-Korean and international relations. The last part critically examines both Koreas’ writing of their boundaries though state policies/discourses. Although this course is based on political studies and International Relations, interdisciplinary and comparative approaches are welcomed and adopted throughout the course.

Course objectives

By the end of the course students will – have developed a comprehensive and considered understanding of geopolitics, nationalism and security in Korean contexts – have developed a critical understanding of the scholarly literature – be able to work with and be critical of key conceptual approaches such as various International Relations theories, theoretical approaches to identity and geoplitics – be able to critically analyze academic and public sources – be able to identity salient issues and new areas for research within the field – have enhanced their critical, evaluative, analytical, communicative and problem-solving skills through participation in class discussions, research and problem-solving activities, presentation of research, and essay-writing.


This is a fat course, with two meetings per week in block 4.
See the website .

Mode of instruction

Lecture, Seminar and Presentation

Course Load

3 journal articles (or book chapters) per week & Making one critical-analytical question to each given paper

Assessment method

Final grades for this module will be based on:
1. Attendance: 10%
2. Participation: 20%
3. Presentation: 20%
4. Long Essay: 50%


A detailed syllabus will be posted on Blackboard the week before the start of the course. All course-related messages and additional academic information will also be found on Blackboard over the course of the semester.

Reading list

Dittmer, Jason. 2010. Popular Culture, Geopolitics, and Identity. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.
Shin, Gi-Wook. 2006. Ethnic Nationalism in Korea: Genealogy, Politics, and Legacy. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Em, Henry H. 2013. The Great Enterprise: Sovereignty and Historiography in Modern Korea. Durham: Duke University Press.
Ozkirimli, Umut. 2010. Theories of Nationalism: A Critical Introduction. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Kim, Samuel S. 2006. The Two Koreas and the Great Powers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


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