Student Spotlight

9th Annual Korean Studies Writing Prize Awarded

Won-Gi Jung (BA '20, History and East Asian Studies) was awarded the 9th annual Korea Program Prize for Writing in Korean Studies, for his paper "The Making of Chinatown: Chinese migrants and the production of criminal space in 1920s Colonial Seoul."

"Jung has written a thoroughly researched, beautifully crafted, and convincingly argued honors thesis that was sparked by his interest in colonial Korea’s articulation of its ‘Chinese problem,’ a crisis that resulted in anti-Chinese riots and massive relocation of migrants back to China," notes Dafna Zur, Associate Professor, Korean Literature and Culture and Director of the Center for East Asian Studies. “With data he collected from archival sources, Jung created a map that reflects the extent to which Chinese migrants penetrated the colonial city. His ‘on-the-ground’ material gave him a platform from which to explore how detective fiction and reportage contributed to what Jung calls ‘imagined geography,’ or the way Koreans considered the Chinese population in their midst. Jung understands this as a discursive strategy, a way of arranging linguistic and generic forms so that the resulting ‘cultural texts' created an image of Chinatown in the minds of the readers. Jung skillfully reads the sights, smells, color and clothing in the texts to argue that fiction and non-fiction worked through generic conventions to erect boundaries and separation. At a time when colonial Korea was more than ever connected to transnational capital, Jung demonstrates the power of cultural texts to build barriers and construct differences.”

In Jung's own words: "My honors thesis focuses on the history of Chinese migrants in Seoul and Korean imagination of Chinatown in media and literature during the 1920s. Under the rule of the Japanese empire, Koreans struggled to define their nation. Urbanization and multiethnicity in metropolitan areas promoted Koreans to interact with Chinese migrants, who were crucial to the domestic economy but also posed threats of urban crime, miscegenation, and market competition. I look at how these socio-economic dynamics between Korean and Chinese migrants in Seoul shaped the Korean popular imagination of Chinese migrants and their living space.”

“In particular, I use literary analysis of fiction and non-fiction accounts of Chinatown.” Jung comments, “In my research, I identified how Korean writers used sensory languages to accentuate the difference between Koreans and Chinese and between their living spaces. Their description of Chinatown in Seoul created a chasm between the two ethnic groups and drew a physical boundary between the living space of Chinese migrants and the rest of the city. I argue that the language of the fiction and non-fiction I analyzed shaped the ‘imagined geography’ of Chinatown, on which Korean writers grounded their criticism of the colonial police and arguments for ethnic homogeneity and limiting female mobility."

Sponsored by the Korea Program and the Center for East Asian Studies, the writing prize recognizes and rewards outstanding examples of writing by Stanford students in an essay, term paper or thesis produced during the current academic year in any discipline within the area of Korean studies, broadly defined. The competition is open to both undergraduate and graduate students.

Past Recipients:

8th Annual Prize (2019)

7th Annual Prize (2018)

6th Annual Prize (2017)

5th Annual Prize (2016)

4th Annual Prize (2015)

3rd Annual Prize (2014)

2nd Annual Prize (2013)

1st Annual Prize (2012)