Gina Barnes, SOAS at University of London

Hannes B. Mosler, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany

Olavi Fält, University of Oulu


Keynote speech by Professor Gina Barnes

“Pen/Insular Relations in Prehistory: understanding the past for future use”

This talk will first introduce new forms of speech and review geography in order to reorient our thinking about the Korean Peninsula and the Japanese Islands in the past. The words we choose to represent things structure our perceptions of them rather than reflect their intrinsic natures; as phrased by A. Benítez-Burraco in Psychology Today (2/17), languages “focus our perception, attention, and thought on specific aspects of the world”. Thus, we must examine how we use language to describe past events in order to expose biases in interpretation. The terms I will discuss include East Asialand and Pen/Insulae, as reorienting attention to different geographical and cultural units. Even the definition of ‘peninsula’ will come under scrutiny.

I will then examine successive socio-political formations that served alternatively to fragment or unite peoples across the landscape in constellations that often overrode – or even defied – geography. The projection of modern nation-state borders onto configurations of past polities, societies, and cultures is not only illogical and unjustifiable, it robs those entities of their original uniquenesses and “right of being”. The role of ecology rather than politics is found to have a more organizing influence on early people and cultures; this is often due to the agricultural potential offered in different ecological regimes or zones.

A pendulum metaphor is used for examining long-term relationships that lead into the future. We have approximately 7,000 years of cross-straits relations within which to assess trends of interaction. Periods of diffident isolation alternated with periods of intense interaction on various scales. These had ramifications for cultural formulation and cultural sharing, respectively. The networks that existed at different times often far exceeded the boundaries of the nation-states that define (and confine) our research interests today. Thus, we must be open to investigating those networks without prejudice and let the flexibility of the past prepare us for flexibility in the future.


Plenary talk by Hannes B. Mosler
“The Kwangju Democracy Movement and politics of memory in South Korea”

Together with the case of divided Germany, the division of the Korean peninsula was a key manifestation of the Cold War that began at the close of World War II in the mid-1940s and officially ended after the Fall of the Berlin Wall, German reunification, and the demise of the Soviet Union. However, the Korean peninsula remains divided, and the Cold War continues through other means. Besides the decades-old standoff between the two Koreas, the continuing polarization within South Korea between the progressives and the conservatives represents this phenomenon of a Cold War that still simmers. Even the Kwangju Uprising (Democracy Movement) – one of the most crucial turning points in South Korea’s history of democracy – is still not fully accounted for its causes and consequences, and remains contested by conservative forces 40 years after the event occurred.

On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Kwangju Uprising (18-27 May 1980) this talk will first reiterate its meaning for democracy in South Korea and beyond, then introduce the hegemonic-discourse battle regarding its political remembrance, and finally examine memorial addresses by South Korean presidents. While there is a rich body of research on the Kwangju Uprising including the topic of memory politics, presidential commemorative speeches so far have been neglected despite the fact that they represent an important mode of political communication in modern societies regarding the production of authoritative remembrance narratives.

The talk concludes that despite the downfall of the military dictatorship in 1987; government turnovers in 1998, 2008, and 2017; and the successful unseating of a corrupt president through the power of peaceful candlelight demonstrations in 2016-17, issues surrounding the Kwangju Uprising are still contested with the effect of potentially forestalling reconciliation as an important condition for the consolidation of democracy in South Korea.


Plenary talk by Olavi Fält

“Views of the Western newspapers published in Japan on the opening up of Korea in 1876”

In this presentation, my perspective is on the Western newspapers and magazines published in Japan in the 1870s and their writings on the events surrounding the opening up of Korea in 1876. There meet four cultural districts, Western, Japanese, Chinese and Korean. I ask, how did they relate to each other and what kind of interests were involved? I will deal first with the beginning of the Western press in Asia, then with the position of Korea, Japan’s Formosan expedition in 1874 preceding the opening up of Korea, the opening up of Korea in 1876, the views of the Western press on the opening, and finally, the views of the press after the opening treaty – the Kanghwa Treaty.

The newspapers and magazines studied here represented from the outset the interests of the western community, which had settled in Japan. The central theme in their writings as a whole was a sincere belief in the superiority of western culture and its leading role in the world. The Formosan expedition may be looked on as watershed in the image of Japan conveyed by the foreign newspapers. According to the newspapers, Japan had the best understanding of the significance of Western culture among the peoples of the East and had already been able to apply it to the extent that it could also serve as a model for Korea, which they claimed to represent a lower cultural level. As a result, the newspapers warmly supported Japan’s Korean policy, which was accompanied by hidden expectations that the country would open up to Western trade through it as well. The Kanghwa treaty would later serve as a model for similar agreements with the West. In the global perspective the opening up of Korea meant, as we know, an increasing threat to relations between Japan and China, as China had previously regarded that country as falling within her sphere of influence.