This course is discontinued

KOR4504 – Korea: History, Society, Politics

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

Through the course of its ”compressed modernization”, Korea has been undergoing drastic changes at the neck-breaking speed from the end of the 19th C. onward, being first turned into a highly regimented colony of Japan and then divided between two Cold War states, which solidified their power systems in a fratricidal war.

This course is aimed at original texts-based understanding of the influence which the pre-modern tradition, colonial regimentation and Cold War militarism exerted upon the societies in both South and North Korea.

Using a number of primary and secondary sources, the course will shed light on: 

  • what factors were decisive in South Korea’s high-speed economic development and institutional democratisation
  • what strategies the disadvantaged groups of the South Korean society (workers, migrants, women, etc.) have been employing in the struggle for their rights

Specially highlighted is the issue of the social costs of the processes of capital accumulation and centralized, government-led industrialization in both South and North Korea. 

At the same time, the emphasis is put on the theoretical underpinnings of research on modern state-building, class formation, militarization of society and gender issues.

By using Korean-language materials together with the English-language ones, this course will further deepen the students’ ability to analyze complex problems in the life of today’s Korean Peninsula.

Learning outcome

  • This course gives a historically informed, primary source-based and theoretically underpinned overview of politics and society in South and North Korea, focusing on state structures, systems of corporate governance, relationships between the bureaucracy and corporate bourgeoisie, developments in the perceptions of the external world and foreign relationship, positions of workers, women and migrants, and ecological problems.
  • Students should also learn about the two Korea’s complex entanglements in the international trade and investment networks and interstate hegemonic structures.
  • The aim is to present basic knowledge in both English and Korean about Korea’s modern and contemporary history, politics and society, to introduce the students to English and Korean literature on the subject and to discuss various ways of understanding and interpreting Korea’s modern developments.


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

Please see the admission requirements defined by East Asian Culture and History.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

Good reading skills in Korean.

Overlapping courses

10 credits overlap with KOR1504 – Korea: History, Society, Politics


The course is based on a combination of lectures and seminars, in total 10 classes of 2 hours each. Active participation in the seminars is encouraged.

The course has joint classes with KOR1504 (Bachelor level).

A preliminary draft of the term paper must be approved by the teacher in order to take the exam. The draft should be ca. 2-3 pages long and encompass title, subtitle, chapter titles, brief contents of each chapter, and a brief literature list. The draft is to be submitted in Fronter within a given deadline.

An approved draft is only valid for one semester.

Guidelines for compulsory tuition activities at the Faculty of Humanities.


The preliminary draft must be approved by the teacher in order to take the exam (please see "Teaching" for more information).

The exam consists of one written and one oral part:

  • The oral part consists of an oral presentation in class (ca. 15 minutes).
  • The written part consists of a term paper of 6-8 pages (2300 characters per page, excluding spaces), not including the front page and the list of references. The topic of the essay should be approved by the teacher in the beginning of the semester.

The oral presentation and the term paper should be based on different topics or research questions. The oral part counts for 25 percent and the written part counts for 75 percent of the final grade.The term paper is to be submitted in Fronter within the given deadline. The oral presentation will be in the end of the semester.

Information about writing and submitting assignments at IKOS.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination


Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Facts about this course






Every autumn


Every autumn

Teaching language