Millennial North Korea: Cell Phones, Forbidden Media, and Living Creatively under Surveillance

Date: 

Thursday, March 5, 2020, 4:30pm to 6:30pm

Location: 

Thomas Chan-Soo Kang Room (S050), CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, MA 02138

Kim Koo Forum on Korea Current Affairs
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Suk-Young Kim
Professor of Theater and Performance Studies; Director of the Center for Performance Studies, UCLA

Suk-Young Kim's research interests cover a wide range of academic disciplines, such as East Asian Performance and Visual Culture, Gender and Nationalism, Korean Cultural Studies, Russian Literature and Slavic Folklore. Her publications have appeared in English, German, Korean, Polish and Russian while her research has been acknowledged by the International Federation for Theatre Research's New Scholar's Prize (2004), the American Society for Theater Research Fellowship (2006), the Library of Congress Kluge Fellowship (2006-7) and the Academy of Korean Studies Research Grant (2008, 2010, 2015-2020), among others. Her first book, Illusive Utopia:Theater, Film, and Everyday Performance in North Korea (University of Michigan Press, 2010), the winner of the 2013 James Palais Book Prize from the Association for Asian Studies, explores how state-produced propaganda performances intersect with everyday life practice in North Korea. Her second book, DMZ Crossing: Performing Emotional Citizenship Along the Korean Border (Columbia University Press, 2014), focuses on various types of inter-Korean border crossers who traverse one of the most heavily guarded areas in the world to redefine Korean citizenship as based on emotional affiliations rather than constitutional delineations. In 2015, DMZ Crossing was recognized with the Association for Theater in Higher Education Outstanding Book Award. In collaboration with Kim Yong, she also co-authored Long Road Home (Columbia University Press, 2009), which investigates transnational human rights and the efficacy of oral history through the testimony of a North Korean labor camp survivor.

Sponsored by the 2014-15 ACLS/SSRC/NEH International and Area Studies Fellowship, she recently published K-pop Live: Fans, Idols, and Multimedia Performance (Stanford University Press, 2018). This project traces the rapid rise of Korean popular music (K-pop) in relation to the equally meteoric rise of digital consumerism — a phenomenon mostly championed by the widespread development of high-speed Internet and the distribution of mobile gadgets — and situates their tenacious partnership in the historical context of Korea from the early 1990s to the present day. She is currently working on several book-length projects: Media and Technology in North Korea, Korean Language Theater in Kazakhstan and Russian Theatrical Costumes and the Vestige of Empire.

Kim served on the editorial board of the Routledge Handbook of Sexuality Studies in East Asia and is currently at work as a senior editor for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature. She also sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Korean Studies and serves on the advisory committee for the Hong Kong University Book Series Crossings: Asian Cinema and Media Culture.

Kim previously taught at Dartmouth College and UC Santa Barbara. She received her Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Theatre and Drama with a Certificate in Gender Studies from Northwestern University in 2005 and her Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literature from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2001.

Chaired by Alexander Zahlten, Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University

Abstract
North Korea might be known as the world’s most secluded society, but it has witnessed the rapid rise of media technologies in the new millennium. While the North Korean state is anxiously trying to catch up with the world standard of communication technology, it is also faced with the need to block free influx of outside information by allowing only intranet to its people. In a country where smuggling foreign media still can be punished by public execution, how do North Koreans manage to access outside information? This project explores how the expansion of new media technology complicates the country’s seemingly monolithic facade mired in entangled networks of technology and surveillance, intellectual property and copyrights, and the way for millennials to live creatively with censorship.

The Korea Institute acknowledges the generous support of the Kim Koo Foundation.