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ENG587: Beyond Korean Cool

Hallyu, the Korean cultural wave, has swept the Republic of Korea onto the world stage as an exporter of dramas, boy bands, girl bands and film.

Hallyu, the Korean cultural wave, has swept the Republic of Korea onto the world stage as an exporter of dramas, boy bands, girl bands and film. After the Korean War, Korea was among the world's poorest nations. In 1960 the country's GDP per capita was lower than those of Cote d'Ivoire and Honduras, and only 13 percent of farming households had access to electricity. Today South Korea is considered the most wired country on earth and the plastic surgery capital of the world. How does contemporary South Korean literature explore rapid change and urbanization in the Land of Morning Calm? What is the price of rising at breakneck speed? If writers are holding up a mirror to this nation in flux, what are they demanding that we see? In the late 90s, with the goal of improving its image and garnering influence, the Korean government made a strategic decision to subsidize the K-pop industry. Now that the nation has the attention of the globe, exports are beginning to include more than passing fads and cutting-edge cell phones. In May 2016 Han Kang's The Vegetarian won the Man Booker International Prize for fiction, and in 2011 Kyung-sook Shin's Please Look After Mom appeared on the best-seller list in the United States. In 2013 the Literature Translation Institute of Korea in collaboration with Dalkey Archive Press published a collection of 25 Korean novels and short story collections. The course will draw upon these works, the Class of 1945 Library's collection of Korean literature in translation, and several bi-lingual editions of contemporary short stories. These newly available literary texts and Euny Han's The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation Is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture will allow us to look beyond Korean pop culture to examine the concept of han and what has been sacrificed in the pursuit of economic growth. Students will write short analytical pieces and will complete an independent project of their own design.