Syllabus: Korean History Since 1700 (Spring 2010)

Hist 501-03/700-03: Korea Since 1700

Prof. Jonathan Dresner
Phone: 235-4315
Office: RH 406F
Spring 2010
MWF 12-12:50am, RH 407
Office Hours: MWF 10-12, 1-2, Tu 10-12, 1-3


Korea in 1700 was a fairly typical Early Modern East Asian society: educated elites, growing economy and literacy, increasing contacts with other societies; Buddhist and Confucian beliefs, hereditary aristocracies, conservative bureaucratic governance, agricultural tax base. Over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, the government struggled with factionalism and reform, with an increasingly mercantile economy and with a changing global environment. Though the Korean government rejected Christianity and resisted modern diplomatic ties, late 19th century imperialism forced new ideas and new issues into the forefront. Japan, in particular, involved itself in Korean affairs, first as a trading and reformist presence, then competing with China and Russia for influence in Korea, ultimately forcing Korea into the Japanese empire for decades. After the defeat of Japan in 1945, Korea became a site of tension again, this time between the Cold War superpowers. Those tensions erupted into war, ultimately dividing the Korean people and peninsula into its present political configuration. North Korea has developed a resource-poor Stalinist state headed by a family dynasty; South Korea, after decades of autocratic leadership, has a dynamic participatory democracy and a sophisticated economy and modern culture.

The issues raised by Korea’s history are diverse and challenging, and the role of Korea on the world stage is not likely to diminish anytime soon. Textbook readings and lectures will be heavily supplemented by primary sources — literature, autobiography, Constitutions, oral histories – and secondary scholarship. Class discussion will be central to the course. The writing assignments will allow students to explore their specific interests and the exam will cover the readings and lecture material.


  • Korea Old and New: A History, by Eckert, Lee, Lew, Robinson and Wagner. Harvard Korea Institute, 1991. ISBN 0962771309 or 978-0962771309
  • Sources of Korean Tradition, Vol. 2: From the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Centuries, edited by Choe, Lee, de Bary. Columbia University Press, 2000. ISBN 0231120311 or 978-0231120319
  • Bipolar orders: the two Koreas since 1989 By Hyung Gu Lynn. Zed Books, 2007. ISBN 1842777432 or 9781842777435

Course Application

Within the General Education requirements, this course counts towards the Human Heritage requirement. This course can also be applied to the History and History/Government majors as a World History course.

Course Goals

In addition to the historical and cultural content, students will demonstrate increasing mastery of critical reading of primary and secondary sources in writing and discussion. “Critical” does not mean “attacking” but “analytical”: putting material in historical and cultural context, drawing appropriate inferences and and deductions from the evidence of the text, and raising relevant questions for futher inquiry.

Course Website:

Bookmark it. Check it regularly. I will use it for announcements (assignments, special events, extra credit), to maintain the schedule (particularly if it changes), to post handouts (so if you lose or miss one, it’ll be there) and keep a small library of useful links. In the event of a disparity between the original syllabus and the website, follow the website: I reserve the right to change readings, test dates, due dates, grade weights and assignments as necessary throughout the semester. This website takes the place of ANGEL for this class, though I will use ANGEL for email.


History is about real people, diverse cultures, interesting theories, strongly held belief systems, complex situations, conflicts and often-dramatic actions. This information may be disturbing. Such is the nature of historical study.


Students are expected to behave respectfully towards their peers and instructor. Disruptive behavior, including failing to turn off cell phones during class, will result in participation penalties and possibly removal from the classroom. This does not mean that there can’t be lively discussions and disagreements, but personal attacks, excessive volume, threatening gestures or words, and failure to give others a chance to speak and be heard are not acceptable.

Technology in the classroom

The use of laptop computers and other devices is permitted only if they are relevant to the material at hand: note-taking, fact-checking, assignment scheduling, etc. Web surfing, video, gaming, email and messaging are not appropriate classroom activities and can be distracting to the instructor and fellow students. Moreover, I expect the lectures and classroom discussions to be reflected in your test and essay answers; if you’re not paying attention, participating and taking notes, you will almost certainly not do as well, gradewise.

Academic Honesty

Plagiarism will not be tolerated in this course.

Plagiarism is the use of the words or ideas of another person without proper acknowledgement. Plagiarism is intellectual theft; in an educational setting it is particularly repugnant. Plagiarism in my courses will be punished. It’s simple: Anytime you copy words into your own work, you must clearly mark them and acknowledge the source of those words. Anytime you use someone else’s ideas, you must admit it. There are three options: put it in quotation marks and footnote; paraphrase and footnote; or be original. If you have any questions or any concerns about citation format or necessity, ask someone who knows what they’re doing.

Other forms of academic misconduct will not be tolerated either, including the use of unauthorized aid on tests, failing to write one’s own papers, using papers for more than one course without permission. For more detail, see the relevant sections of the University Catalog. None of this precludes group study and discussion: those are actually really good ideas.


Advising is a very important resource designed to help students complete the requirements of the University and their individual majors. Students should consult with their advisor at least once a semester to decide on courses, check progress towards graduation, and discuss career options and other educational opportunities. Advising is a shared responsibility, but students have final responsibility for meeting degree requirements.

Student Accommodation

Any student with a documented disability who would like to request accommodations should contact the instructor as early in the semester as possible. For more information, contact the Learning Center (Kelly D. Heiskell, 235-4309,


All schedules, assignments, and policies in the syllabus are subject to change. Check the website, which will have the most current and accurate information possible, as well as copies of course handouts.


Reading assignments – including sidebars and documents — must be done before class on the day indicated. I strongly recommend that you read and think about the study questions in the textbook as preparation for class discussions. You are also responsible for looking at resources linked from the course webpage, both primary sources and handouts; they are part of the reading. I reserve the right to impose pop quizzes if I feel the readings are being neglected.

Attendance and Participation

Absences may be excused for unusual school-related events (not athletic practices), illness or family-related problems, but only if I am informed in advance or you have documentation (such as a doctor’s note). Unexcused absences will affect your attendance grade.

The essence of scholarship is constructive engagement; the best learning comes from doing. It is very important that everyone keep up with the readings, and come to class prepared to think and talk and question and listen. Asking good questions is an important form of participation.

There will be homework assignments from time to time, such as the requirement that you find, fill out and email me the student information form after the first class. Those will be included in your attendance/participation grade.

Final Exam

The final will cover the entire course. It will be a take-home essay test.


Undergraduates will pick two works on Korea since 1700 to review, one in each half of the course: the first will be a scholarly article; the second, a book. You will have a great deal of freedom to pick topics, but the article must be from a scholarly journal or a chapter from an edited book collection: footnotes, primary sources, the whole works. The book can be on any topic as well, but should be either a primary source in translation or serious investigative work (journalistic or academic). See the Review assignment for more details.

Graduate Students will do the same reviews as the undergraduates, except that they will be responsible for writing two article reviews and two book reviews.

“Democracy itself is probably something of a misnomer.
Accountability is the desired condition of civil society.
If you have accountability, you move toward a greater democratic space.
But if you have a greater democratic space,
you will not necessarily move to greater accountability.”
— Richard Leakey, Sierra Magazine (December 2009).

“Someone who is sure about something without supporting evidence is a fool.”
Hanfeizi, in Ivanhoe and Van Norden, Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy, 2e, 352.

“Our outsideness, after all, is a major part of what makes us different
from the direct participants in history
and enables us, as historians, to render the past intelligible
and meaningful in ways that simply are not available
to those immediately involved. …
That means, as I said earlier, our central task is to find ways
of exploiting our outsideness that maximize the illumination and minimize the distortion.”
— Paul Cohen, Discovering History in China, 1996 edition, xxii.

“If I had to give young writers advice, I’d say don’t listen to writers talking about writing.
Nothing you write, if you hope to be good, will ever come out as you first hoped.” — Lillian Hellman

“In his private heart no man much respects himself.” — Mark Twain

“I have discovered the art of fooling diplomats:
I speak the truth and they never believe me.”
— Camillo di Cavour

  • All assignments are due in class at the beginning of class on the due date. Hard copy is required for all assignments, unless otherwise indicated by the instructor. Email will only be accepted as proof of completion in emergencies: the student is still responsible to get a printed copy to the instructor as soon as possible.
  • In the event of an excused absence on an assignment due date, the student is responsible for turning in the work no later than the next class, unless other arrangements have been made.
  • Unexcused late assignments, due to absence, technical problems, etc., will be penalized one grade level per class period late.
  • Even very, very bad work is still going to get an F, which is a lot better than a zero.




Preparation and Participation


Article Review


Book Review


Final Exam





Preparation and Participation


Article Review (2)


Book Review (2)


Final Exam


NOTE: I will be happy to go over your grades and let you know how you are doing in the course at any time.

Administrative Deadlines and Instructional Holidays are in Italics

Assignments and Tests are in Bold

A more complete version of this schedule can be found on the course website.

Date Topic/Event
1/14 (Th) Classwork begins
1/15 (F) First Day of Class: Introductions
1/18 (M) MLK Day/Instructional Holiday
1/20 (W) Korea since 1700 in context
1/21 (Th) Last day for full fee refund
Last day to add new classes
Last day for late enrollment
1/22 (F) Korean Society in 1700: classes, culture.
1/25 (M) Sources, Chapter 21: Education
1/27 (W) Sources, Chapter 24: Society
1/29 (F) K:O&N, Chapter 10: The Rise of the Neo-Confucian Literati
Final day for dropping course without grade report
2/1 (M) Sources, Chapter 20: Politics
2/3 (W) K:O&N, Chapter 11: Economic Advances and Intellectual Ferment
2/5 (F) Sources, Chapter 22: Reform Proposals (88-116)
2/8 (M) Sources, Chapter 26: Neo-Confucian Philosophy (200-204)
2/10 (W) catch-up/review
2/12 (F) K:O&N, Chapter 12: Dynastic Disarray and National Peril
2/15 (M) Sources, Chapter 23: The Encounter With the West (124-142)
President’s Day/ No Holiday
2/17 (W) K:O&N, Chapter 13: Growth of the Forces of Enlightenment
2/19 (F) Sources, Chapter 28: Negative Responsces to Western Civilization
2/22 (M) Sources, Chapter 29: Development of Enlightenment Thought
2/24 (W) Sources, Chapter 30: The Tonghak Uprisings and the Kabo Reforms
2/26 (F) Article Review Due
3/1 (M) K:O&N, Chapter 14: Incipient Nationalism and Imperialist Aggression
3/3 (W) Sources, Chapter 31: The Independence Club and the People’s Assembly
3/5 (F) catch-up/review
3/8 (M) K:O&N, Chapter 15: The First Phase of Japanese Rule, 1910-1919
3/10 (W) Sources, Chapter 32: Patriotic Movements
3/12 (F) K:O&N, Chapter 16: Nationalism and Social Revolution, 1919-1931
D/F Grades Due
3/15-19 Spring Break
3/22 (M) Sources, Chapter 34: The Nationalist Movement
3/24 (W) Instructor Absent
3/26 (F) Instructor Absent
3/29 (M) K:O&N, Chapter 17: Forced Assimilation, Mobilization and War
3/31 (W) Sources, Chapter 33: National Culture During the Colonial Period (321-332)
4/2 (F) K:O&N, Chapter 18: Liberation, Division and War, 1945-1953
4/5 (M) Sources, Chapter 35: The Communist Movement
4/7 (W) K:O&N, Chapter 19: Authoritarianism and Protest, 1948-1990
4/9 (F) Sources, Chapter 36: Korea Since 1945
Final day for dropping course unless withdraw from school
4/12 (M) K:O&N, Chapter 20: Economic Development in Historical Perspective, 1945-1990
4/14 (W) catch-up/review
4/16 (F) Book Review Due
4/19 (M) Lynn, Introduction: Bipolar Orders
4/21 (W) Lynn, Chapter 1: Pandora’s Box? South Korea’s Democratization and Consolidation
4/23 (F) Lynn, Chapter 2: Altered States: Economic and Social Change in South Korea
4/26 (M) Lynn, Chapter 3: Holy Trinity: North Korean Politics after 1989
4/28 (W) Lynn, Chapter 4: Economic Tetralogies: Socioeconomic Conditions in North Korea
4/30 (F) Lynn, Chapter 5: Decussation Effects? North-South Relations since 1989
5/3 (M) Lynn, Conclusion: Two Koreas in the Present
5/5 (W) catch-up/review
5/6 Last day to withdraw from university
5/8 (F) catch-up/review
5/12 Final Exam essays due at noon

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