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.