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Perspectives on Contemporary Korea 2019

Three || Eight: Korean Literature and the Division System

Nov 22-23, 2019 | University of Michigan

Weiser Hall, 10th Floor (500 Church St. Ann Arbor, MI)

  • Youngju Ryu (Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Michigan)
  • Nojin Kwak (Department of Communication Studies, University of Michigan

Korean Literature Association will hold its annual workshop at the University of Michigan on November 22-23, 2019. The workshop will be hosted jointly by the Nam Center for Korean Studies as part of University of Michigan’s Perspectives on Contemporary Korea conference series.

This year’s gathering focuses on the culture of division. The recent, highly publicized crossings of the Thirty-Eighth Parallel by Kim Jong-un, Moon Jae-in, and Donald Trump have dramatized the possible dissolution in the foreseeable future of what South Korean critic Paik Nak-chung has called the “division system”: the interdependence of seemingly hostile actors borne of and sustained by the partition of the Korean peninsula. As a defining feature of Northeast Asian geopolitics since the second half of the twentieth century, the division system gave rise to extreme and violent forms of physical, linguistic, and cultural territorializations even as it conditioned diasporic Korean communities in Northeast Asia and authored vectors of unexpected movement. Reflecting on the historical complexities of the division system as it faces its potential demise, the conference seeks to shed light on the varied literary and cultural experiences that were mediated by the Korean language under the condition of division by considering together the literatures of the two Koreas, as well as Korean-language writings produced in Japan and Northeast China. How did the division system shape literature in these regions? How did literature and film challenge this system from within and across national boundaries? And how might the concept and practice of Korean literature change in a post-division era within a rapidly changing mediascape? Especially welcome are papers that consider the study of Korean literature and film broadly or approach specific authors and works in relation to the following list of topics.

  • War, division, memory
  • Korean diaspora in Northeast Asia
  • Cross-border movements (including wŏlbukwŏlnamnappuk, and t’albuk)
  • Censorship and canon-making in North and South Korea
  • Concepts of minor literature in Northeast Asia
  • Global cold war and notions of neutrality
  • Bilingualism and translation

Please contact us at with any questions. 

For more information about the Korean Literature Association, visit this webpage.