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Symposium Looks at Today's Korea

Symposium Looks at Today's Korea

A multidisciplinary group of Korean studies experts engaged a UCLA audience in discussion of contemporary issues facing the peninsula, at a symposium sponsored by the Korean Cultural Center of Los Angeles.

Five Korean studies specialists engaged with an audience of about 45 people in Royce Hall on Saturday, Feb. 27, in a discussion of contemporary issues facing the peninsula. The symposium was sponsored by the Korean Cultural Center of Los Angeles, the UCLA Center for Korean Studies (CKS), the USC Korean Studies Institute and the Southern California Association of Korean Studies.

The multidisciplinary group, including one scholar based in South Korea, covered a wide range of subjects. David Kang, a professor of international relations and business and director of the USC institute, said that in spite of government corruption scandals, South Koreans increasingly have clear choices in elections, especially in presidential races.

"Now, vying [with] the old factional politics and the personalistic politics are some real differences of opinion…," he said.

Namhee Lee, an associate professor in UCLA's Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, discussed changes in attitudes of South Koreans towards the North in the last decade, particularly as reflected in popular films that "for the first time … begin to explore North Koreans as multidimensional human beings." She also considered parallels between North-South regionalism and racism in other global settings.

Meanwhile, Professor Seoghoon Kang, an economist at Sungshin Women's University in Seoul, and Myung-Koo Kang, an assistant professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, looked at, respectively, economic growth in South Korea and attempts by the government to establish an East Asian financial hub there. UCLA Professor of History and CKS Director John Duncan provided historical context, with a focus on the legacy of the military dictator Park Chung Hee.

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