Contentious Politics on the Korean Peninsula: A Workshop for Koreanists

Sunday, 8 March 2015 from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM (EDT)

Koffler House, MultiFaith Center 569 Spadina Ave. RELOCATED: Workers’ Action Center, 720 Spandina Avenue, Suite #223

Event Organizer: Steven Denney <>

Register for this event at Eventbrite

Event Summary:

The developmental trajectories of North and South Korea have shaped the contours of each country’s contentious political environment. This workshop, sponsored in part by the Centre for the Study of Korea (at the University of Toronto), consists of two groups and four panelists exploring contentious politics in both Koreas.

Dr. Adam Cathcart (University of Leeds) and Christopher Green (Leiden University) will present work on contentious politics in North Korea during the Kim Jong-un era, focusing on the government’s use of information strategies, namely “re-defector” press conferences and the Moranbong Band, to maintain a “domain consensus” (i.e., its legitimacy). Data from structured interviews conducted with North Korean defectors will show the full loop: how information channel from the top-down is consumed and reproduced from the bottom-up.

Two professors from the University of Toronto, Drs. Jennifer Chun and Judy Han, will jointly present their latest collaborative work on cultures of protest in the South Korean labor movement. The presentation will examine a new pattern of popular contention in Korean workers’ already radical repertoire of collective action: the prolonged embodiment of emotional, physical, and financial hardship by precariously-employed workers. In particular, we analyze forms of protest with strong expressive elements: religious and spiritual rituals such as head shaving ceremonies, fasting, and the Buddhist atonement ritual samboilbae (translated as three steps and a bow) as well as long-term occupations of symbolic sites such as construction cranes, church bell towers and building rooftops. By examining how workers dramatize precarity, we seek to develop a more systematic analysis of the relationship between the cultural politics of injustice and the changing world of work and employment under neoliberal developmental regimes.

The panel will be moderated by Steven Denney.

Panelists’ Bios:

adam1Adam Cathcart ( is a lecturer in modern Chinese history at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. His research and publication program falls into three broad categories: China-North Korea relations, Sino-Japanese relations, and East- West cultural relations. He has published in the Journal of Cold War Studies, Journal of Korean Studies, North Korean Review, and Review of Korean Studies. He is the editor-in-chief of the scholarly website and the British Association of Korean Studies Papers.
chris1Christopher Green ( is a PhD candidate in Area Studies at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. His primary research concerns the political economy and ideology of North Korea. His recent publications include “Now on My Way to Meet Who?” a co-authored article published by the Asia-Pacific Journal that also appears in a forthcoming edited volume on contemporary South Korean culture. He is the Manager of International Affairs for Daily NK.
Jennifer Chun
Professor Jennifer Chun ( joined the faculty of the University of Toronto in 2012, after teaching at the University of British Columbia. Her areas of expertise include work and labour, race, class and gender, migration and transnationalism, political sociology, and social theory. Her research is internationally comparative and has focused primarily on the changing world of work, culture, politics in the global economy. Her book, Organizing at the Margins: The Symbolic Politics of Labor in South Korea and the United States (Cornell University Press, 2009) was selected as the ASA Race, Gender and Class Section’s 2012 Distinguished Book Award, receivedan Honorable Mention for the 2011 Best Book Award from the ASA Labor and Labor Movements Section, and was a finalist for the 2010 C. Wright Mills award. She is currently serving as the President of the Research Committee of Labour Movements (RC44) of the International Sociological Association.
Professor Judy Han ( is a social/cultural geographer with interdisciplinary interests in religion, mobility, and difference. Her teaching and research interests lie at the nexus of political economy and cultural politics through the interdisciplinary frameworks of social/cultural geography, postcolonial cultural studies, and critical race, sexuality and gender studies. Reflecting on her training in feminist and interdisciplinary cultural studies with a commitment to social change, her work tends to gravitate towards cultural dynamics and political contestations in contemporary articulations of race, sexuality, gender, religion, and nation. Dr. Han work closely with colleagues in anthropology, Asian studies, religious studies, and gender and sexuality studies.
Steven Denney ( is a PhD student in Political Science at the University of Toronto in Canada. He studies the political culture of South Korea and changes and variations in political values in post-industrial societies. His recent publications include “South Korea and a New Nationalism in an Era of Strength and Prosperity,” a co-authored article published by the Stanford Journal of East Asian Affairs, and “North Korea’s Cultural Diplomacy in the Early Kim Jong-un Era,” another co-authored piece published in the North Korean Review. He is a columnist for The Diplomat.

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