Archived events

Korean Film Showing

Short introductory talk “Train to Busan and the Korean War” by Andrew Jackson (Monash University)

Followed by a screening of Train To Busan

 Date: 4th September 2017
Time: 18:00pm- 20:30pm
LOCATION: Japanese Studies Centre Auditorium (Building 54, next to bus loop)
Monash University, Clayton Campus, Victoria 3168.


“Hardworking Women: Embodying the Nation in a Jeju Dive Fishery”

Josephine Wright
(Independent Scholar)

Josephine Wright undertook twelve months’ ethnographic Fieldwork with Jeju people in South Korea in 2000 and 2001. She acknowledges the generosity and support of the Department of Anthropology in the College of Asia and the Pacific (then RSPAS) at the  ANU, Australian Postgraduate Award, Korea Foundation, NIIED, and Pusan, Cheju and Monash Universities. 

A talk with maps and images. This informal talk shows how gender roles have changed with the introduction of mass media, with this exposure to national representations of gender intensifying a local self-consciousness that Jeju men and women played different roles to mainland people. While young Jeju people in the year 2000 identified with mainland South Korean gendered identities, they also proudly reproduced Jeju nationalist narratives about the singularity of Jeju women’s physical and emotional strength, their loud voices, diving and farming skills and muscular builds, and the kindness and gentle faces of their scholarly, sedentary Jeju men. These nostalgic representations of a differently gendered Jeju past were both intensely felt by locals and reproduced for tourism and South Korean television shows like “Our Hometown”, important media for a nationalism wherein Jeju people continue to occupy a place as an Other within- both included in and excluded from the national imaginary. 

Date: Friday 15th september 2017
Time: 16:00-17:30pm

Location: E561 (fifth floor, East Wing, room 561), Menzies Building, 20 Chancellors Walk, Monash University, Clayton Campus, Victoria 3800 (close to bus loop).


 “20 Year’s Evolution of North Korean Migration”

Dr Jiyoung (Jay) Song
(Asia Institute, University of Melbourne)

Date: Thursday 5th October 2017
Time: 18:00-19:30pm
Location: E561 (fifth floor, East Wing, room 561), Menzies Building, 20 Chancellors Walk, Monash University, Clayton Campus, Victoria  3800 (close to bus loop).

Dr Jiyoung (Jay) Song is a Senior Lecturer in Korean Studies at the Asia Institute of the University of Melbourne. She is also a Global Ethics Fellow of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs in New York. Prior to the current positions, Jay was a Director of Migration at the Sydney-based Lowy Institute and Assistant Professor in Political Science at the Singapore Management University.

Over the past two decades, there have been notable changes in North Korean migration: from forced migration to trafficking in women, from heroic underground railways to people smuggling by Christian missionaries. The migration has taken mixed forms of asylum seeking, human trafficking, undocumented labour migration and people smuggling. The author follows the footsteps of North Korean migrants from China through Southeast Asia to South Korea, and from there to the United Kingdom, to see the dynamic correlation between human (in)security and irregular migration. She analyses how individual migrant’s agency interacts with other key actors in the migration system and eventually brings about emerging patterns of four distinc- tive forms of irregular migration in a macro level. It uses human security as its conceptual framework that is a people-centred, rather than state- or national security-centric approach to irregular migration. 


“Fish, Forests and Fungus: Vibrant matter(s) in the Environmental and Political Histories of North Korea”

Dr Robert Winstanley-Chesters
(Australian National University, Canberra)

Date: Wednesday 18th October 2017
Time: 13:00-14:30pm
Location: Japanese Studies Centre

From Pyongyang’s urban landscape to sacred political architectures of Mt Paektu, North Korea’s topographies are harnessed in support of its politics. While the nation’s coastlines, mountains and forests are by their nature more liminal and diffuse than its monolithic urban/political terrains, North Korean natures and wildernesses have long served its politico-developmental narratives, forging new ‘socialist’ landscapes and geo-political connections. These terrains are also almost entirely human in focus with little consideration given to a wider ‘web of life.’ Even though the narratives which co-produce the terrain of North Korea’s politics make enormous use of topography and environmental features, they do not for the most part include non-human or non-sentient residents or participants on/on the peninsula.

In this presentation Robert Winstanley-Chesters considers North Korean physical and cultural topography as an assemblage of actors and participants, from what has been termed a ‘more than human perspective.’ With what Jane Bennett has termed ‘vibrant’ or ‘lively’ matter in mind he reviews North Korea’s environmental history and its intersection with the politics and ideology of Pyongyang. In particular Robert addresses the role of forests and timber resources in the formation of North Korean nationalism following the Japanese colonial period and the entwining of fungus and mycorrhizal matters with Pyongyang’s diplomatic efforts in the 1990s and early 2000s. Finally Robert considers fish and fishing infrastructure in North Korea, specifically focusing on communities on Sindo Island at the mouth of the Amnok/Yalu River. In conventional, common discourse North Korea’s relationship with environmental and natural resources has, since the early 1990s become fractious and difficult, beset and characterised by lack, degradation and denudation. However an alternative reading might indicate that in these absences and declines North Korea’s environment has become ‘lively’, ‘vibrant’ and active in the present. Robert within this presentation suggests that such a reading might indeed contribute to a deeper sense of how North Korea citizens, both human and non-human engaged in developmental and environmental processes, conceive of and negotiate their places at geo-political, regional and local scales, (re)constructing new forms of ‘informal life politics’ and ‘vibrant matter’ in a North Korea of transitions.


Robert Winstanley-Chesters is a geographer and Research Fellow at Australian National University. Previously Robert was a Post-Doctoral Fellow of Cambridge University (Beyond the Korean War). Robert obtained his doctorate from the University of Leeds with a thesis later published as “Environment, Politics and Ideology in North Korea: Landscape as Political Project” in 2014 by Lexington. Robert was also a co-editor of the edited volume “Change and Continuity in North Korean Politics” (Routledge) in 2016.  Robert’s second monograph “New Goddesses of Mt Paektu: Gender, Violence, Myth and Transformation in Korean Landscapes” will be published in summer 2017/2018 by Lexington. Robert is co-author of the forthcoming monograph “Transformation of Korean Mountain Culture” which will be published in December 2018 by Lexington and is working on a third monograph entitled Vibrant matter(s), Fish, Fishing, Conservation and Community in North Korea and its neighbours” for publication by Springer in summer 2019. Robert has also published in academic journals such as S/N Korean Humanities, Capitalism Nature Socialism, Asian Perspective and North Korean Review. Robert is currently researching leisure geographies, fishing and animal/creaturely geographies in North Korea and the colonial mineralogical and forest inheritances of the Korean peninsula.

The Melbourne Metropolitan Korean Studies Seminar Series

Seminar 1

‘Collecting power or compromise: K-pop fandom objectivised’

Dr Roald Maliangkay (ANU)

Date Wednesday 14 March 2018 4pm – 6pm
Location: Library-Matheson T1 CL 40Exh (36), Library-Matheson T2 CL 40Exh (45) (map)


Popular culture is commonly associated with national rather than individual soft power. And yet, the consumption patterns of individuals equally serve to attract the other. People are keenly aware of the socio-political significance of their consumption. They may not actively seek out the most significant purchase they could make, but they generally conform to a pattern of consumption that best reflects their aspirations, which social media allows them to advertise widely and instantly. Of course, not all consumption is a collection per se, but the compound selections people make serve to establish a trait. As Baudrillard put it, “it is invariably oneself that one collects”. K-pop, however, may be different. After all, little social credit may be earned from something that can be easily downloaded, and of which even limited editions are readily available, and relatively affordable. What is more, the average lifespan of a K-pop act is short and may quickly leave their collectors looking out of touch. What, then, drives so many K-pop fans to collect, and what characterizes their collections? In my talk I will discuss what may drive people towards collections and explain the unique place occupied by K-pop fandom.


Roald Maliangkay is Associate Professor in Korean studies at the Australian National University. Fascinated by the mechanics of cultural policy and the convergence of major cultural phenomena, Roald analyses cultural industries, performance and consumption in Korea from the early twentieth century to the present.

The Melbourne Metropolitan Korean Studies Seminar Series

Seminar 2

‘Sanctions and Staying Power: North Korea in 2018’

Dr. Andray Abrahamian
Pacific Forum CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies)

Date: Thursday 22 March 2018 4pm – 6pm
Location: E561 (fifth floor, East Wing, room 561), Menzies Building, 20 Chancellors Walk, Monash University, Clayton Campus, Victoria 3800 (close to bus loop).


North Korea under Kim Jong Un is different to North Korea under Kim Jong Il. It is more marketized than every before, with less government ambivalence about entrepreneurship and commerce than in the past. It also appears to have taken denuclearization off the negotiating table and has pushed forward with its weapons programmes at an unprecedented rate. Because of this, it now faces the tightest sanctions regime in its history: over 90% of its legitimate export products are now banned. Will these sanctions force North Korea back to the negotiating table and create a path to denuclearization? What options does the Trump administration have and what new risks have emerged with a new presidency? This talk will provide a sketch of the current iteration of the North Korean nuclear issue, examining its impact on both domestic social and economic change, as well as North Korea’s international relations.


Dr. Andray Abrahamian is an Honorary Fellow at Macquarie University and a member of the U.S. National Committee on North Korea. He is also a Research Fellow at Pacific Forum CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies), Affiliate Scholar at the East-West Center and an Adjunct Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute. He is a frequent media commentator on Korea issues, has lived in Myanmar and visited North Korea dozens of times.

The Melbourne Metropolitan Korean Studies Seminar Series

Seminar 3

‘Myanmar and North Korea: Divergent Paths’

Dr. Andray Abrahamian
Pacific Forum CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies)

Date: Friday 23rd March 2018: 2-3.30pm
Location: Deakin University, Burwood and Geelong:


The stories of North Korea and Myanmar (Burma) are two of Asia’s most difficult. For decades they were infamous as the region’s most militarized and repressed, self-isolated and under sanctions by the international community while, from Singapore to Japan, the rest of Asia saw historic wealth creation and growing middle class security. Andray Abrahamian, author of the recent book North Korea and Myanmar: Divergent Paths (McFarland, 2018), examines and compares the recent histories of North Korea and Myanmar, asking how both became pariahs and why Myanmar has been able to find a path out of isolation while North Korea has not. He finds that both countries were faced with severe security threats following decolonization. Myanmar was able to largely take care of its main threats in the 1990s and 2000s, allowing it the space to address the reasons for its pariah status. North Korea’s response to its security threat has been to develop nuclear weapons, which in turn perpetuates and exacerbates its isolation and pariah status. In addition, Pyongyang has developed a state ideology and a coercive apparatus unmatched by Myanmar, insulating its decision makers from political pressures and issues of legitimacy to a greater degree.


‘Is the DPRK really a ‘Train Wreck in Slow Motion’? The Prospects for a People’s Power Rebellion in North Korea’

Dr Andy Jackson (Monash University Korean Studies)

Date: Wednesday 28th March 2018 1:pm- 2:pm
Location Japanese Studies Centre Auditorium, 12 Ancoro Imparo Way


Predictions of the collapse of North Korea (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK) have arisen repeatedly in the last thirty years. One scenario put forward by both researchers and journalists has been a People’s Power (or popular) rebellion. Victor Cha, for example, argues that cases of unrest since the 1980s show that an ideological clash between official state policy and a rapidly marketizing society will result in an imminent rebellion. This paper uses theories about (1) regional occurrences of rebellion and (2) military defection from autocratic regimes to opposition movements. It analyses data about unrest (food riots, protests and violent clashes) taken from researchers, defector testimony and South Korean media reports since the 1980s and examines the military institutional structure of the DPRK. The available data indicates there is a highly uneven pattern of unrest that does not spread beyond remote coastal or border regions in the northeast and northwest. Reduced levels of violence during unrest suggest authorities have developed new strategies using counteractive methods targeted at individuals rather than opening fire on crowds. These new strategies may have helped hinder the spread of violence.The overall patterns of unrest do not point to the type of central state collapse that occurred in Romania in 1989 or Tunisia in 2011, but a regionally restricted and potentially bloody conflict. The DPRK lacks a dissident political elite capable of leading an opposition movement, and neither does it have the type of personalistic institutional ruling structure that increases the likelihood of military defection to an opposition movement. In sum, the likelihood of a popular rebellion in the DPRK is far from certain.

Quiz on Korea

Date: Thursday 19 April 2018 5-9pm
Location: H1.16 Caulfield

Korea, event for Korean Studies students, co-organised with Monash Korean Studies and Korean Consulate