NK colloquium

CAS Event
Friday, September 22, 2017
4:00-6:00 p.m., ATLAS 102

This colloquium will feature academic talks by two scholars on North Korea, illuminating new perspectives on North Korean gender relations and youth literature. Suzy Kim (Rutgers University) and Dafna Zur (Stanford University) are two of the very few humanities scholars in the U.S. whose research focuses on North Korea. The event will provide CU Asian Studies community a rare opportunity to have an in-depth look into North Korean society that underrepresented in the news hype generated by the political and military tensions. 

Making Science Moral: The Story of Data in Postwar North Korea
Dr. Dafna Zur (Stanford University)

The atomic bombings that marked the end of the Second World War were followed by parallel occupations on the Korean peninsula, under which North and South Korea dedicated themselves to the task of weaving new national narratives that re-framed their colonial past and envisioned their utopian futures. In both future visions, science and technology were the means through which economic goals would be met and military, political, and social ideals achieved. In North Korea, the investment in science and technology revealed itself in young reader magazines that made banal the exceptional power of nuclear energy, and made the natural world knowable and accessible through formulas and data. At the same time, these magazines showed a particular interest in the relationship between the individual/ collective, and youth/nature, and re-configured these relationships in moral terms. Scientific knowledge, which was critical to postwar reconstruction, had to be framed by, and injected with, strong moral guidance to assure accurate and appropriate applications of the technical and scientific knowledge in order to “arm” young readers with a correct view of the world. The moral configuration of the scientific and technological was made possible not by raw data but through textual and visual narratives that turned data into stories. This paper argues that moral restructuring was the ground zero of social and economic reform, and that storytelling was recognized as the best way to shape the most elusive frontier of all: the imagination of the young.

Politics of Difference: Gender and Sexuality in North Korea in Comparative Perspective
Dr. Suzy Kim (Rutgers University)

Feminism, both as theory and praxis, has long grappled with the dilemma of difference: that is, whether to celebrate women’s “difference” from men as offering a more emancipatory potential or to challenge those differences as man-made in the process of delineating modern sexed subjects. While this debate may be all too familiar within liberal feminist discourses, socialist feminisms that stretched across the Cold War divide were no less conflicted about what to do with gendered differences, most explicitly represented by sexual violence or biological motherhood. Situating North Korea in the broader frame of socialist feminisms, this paper explores how alternative femininities became markers of ideal citizens in the name of state feminism that professed equality for the sexes. Examining the development of alternative femininities in North Korea in comparison to China, I argue that the development of the feminist project itself was bifurcated by the global Cold War, the effects of which are still felt in the iterations of contemporary feminism today.

This event is free and open to the public.