Beyond the Han River Miracle to Globalization in Contemporary South Korea: Soccer, Soap Operas, Stem Cells, and Sanitation

Yoon S. Choi

A striking aspect of contemporary South Korean society is an emphasis on representing South Korea as a global nation, a nation that participates in transnational networks and imagined communities. In this talk, Choi explores this dynamic through an ethnographic exploration of the World Toilet Association, an international NGO led by South Koreans to improve sanitation worldwide through the provision of toilets. The history of Korean modernization powerfully shapes the mission, daily operations, and efficacy of this association. One concept Choi develops examines the role of this history is "compressed modernity." This term highlights how what is widely recognized as very rapid economic growth and social transformation in the latter half of the twentieth century has shaped how South Koreans understand their position in global orders. Choi shows how the ethnographic approach helps account for the way in which the specificities of South Korean history and culture shape everyday cultural logics and practices. It is in this engaged attention to the interaction of everyday beliefs and actions on the one hand, and broad social dynamics on the other, that the contribution of ethnographic methods to Korean Studies lies.

Friday, February 05, 2010 | 3:15 pm — 4:30 pm
Building 50 - Room 51A Conference Room, Main Quad