The International Review of Korean Studies (IROKS)






The International Review of Korean Studies (IROKS)

The International Review of Korean Studies (IROKS) is the official publication of Korea Research Institute (KRI@UNSW), The University of New South Wales. The IROKS solicits and welcomes research in all topics related to Korean Studies. The journal’s scope includes Language and Language Education, Literature, History, Anthropology, Political Science, Business and Management, Economics and other Humanities and Social Sciences.


Volume 10, Number 1, 2013



Representations of Koguryo Heritage in the Mythical Legends from Koryosa Sege

Pages: 1–18

Hong-key Yoon



Abstract: Koryosa Segye (“The Genealogy of Wang Kon, the Founder of Koryo”) includes narratives relating to Wang Kon’s ancestors. These stories are based on quotations from Kim Kwan’ui’s Abridged Chronological History (Pyonnyon tongnok) written during King Uijong’s reign (1146-1170). While the Genealogy of Wang Kon no longer exists, the folklorised version of Wang Kon’s genealogy included in Koryosa Segye is a key source which promotes Wang Kon as the legitimate ruler, having the most honourable family heritage and a heavenly mandate to unify Korea and to establish a new dynasty. The genealogical tales strongly imply that Wang Kon’s family originates from the Koguryo people. These Koguryo elements are more clearly reflected in the stories of Hogyong and Chakchegon. As the name, Koryo is the abridged name of Koguryo, Wang Kon wished to be the successor of Koguryo. It is highly likely, according to the tales, that Wang Kon is a descendant of the Koguryo People.

Keywords: Koguryo heritage, Koryosa Sege, the Genealogy of Wang Kon, presentism, Korean history


On Polivanov’s Study of the Genealogy of Korean: Focused on Polivanov's Life and Scholarship

Pages: 19–46
Kwang Chung



Abstract:This study has briefly presented the life and scholarship of Polivanov. The most powerful linguist after the Revolution, he had an enormous impact in establishing alphabets to record the diverse languages in the Soviet Union and other local regions. As a result, all of the Eastern countries that became Soviet colonies after the Revolution kept their records using the Latin alphabet. Polivanov also had a deep knowledge of the Korean language. He began to compare Korean and other Altaic languages and wrote a paper on that subject. As discussed herein, Polivanov's knowledge in the past on Korean was equal to that of these days. He majored in Japanese and provided the cornerstone for the genealogy and dialectology of Japanese for scholars. Therefore, he asserted that Japanese is a mixed language of Malay-Polynesian and Altaic components. Nevertheless, he claimed without hesitation that Korean is a member of the Altaic Language Family. Studies of a great historical comparative linguist who knew many of the Altaic languages can reveal a great deal of the genealogy of the Korean language. I attribute this to the fact that the study of historical comparative linguists, such as Polivanov, was not introduced here in Korea. Polivanov was a communist to the bone and hence could not be studied in Korea during the cold war: his theory therefore remained inaccessible until recently.

Keywords: Origin and Genealogy of Korean Language, Evgenij Dmitrievič Polivanov, Altaic Language Family, Comparative Linguistics, Russian Linguistic Scholars


[KSAA Conference Papers]


Textual Grammar of Korean: A Systemic Functional Approach

Pages: 47–64
Mira Kim


Abstract: On the basis of Kim’s (2007) analysis of 537 clauses from a corpus that consists of 17 Korean texts, this paper challenges the widely accepted proposition that un/nun is the Theme or topic marker in Korean (cf. Li & Thomson 1976, Lim 1972, Shin 1975). Drawing on Halliday’s systemic functional linguistic (SFL) theory, Kim (2007) shows that there are different ways of orientating the reader in terms of how a text unfolds in Korean and argues that un/nun certainly plays a major role in that regard but it is not the only resource in realizing Theme in Korean. Based on the corpus evidence, this paper suggests a model for a system of THEME in Korean and describes the choices of Theme in the language that is yet to be studied comprehensively from a SFL perspective.

Keywords: Theme network in Korean, Korean Theme, Textual meaning, Systemic Functional Grammar


DPRK Meets UNFCCC: An Introduction to North Korea’s Interactions with the International Climate Change Regime
Pages: 65–90
Benjamin Habib


Abstract: North Korea is a willing participant in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, despite its reputation as a belligerent actor in nuclear diplomacy. This article is the first study to document North Korea’s compliance with its commitments under Article 4.1 of the UNFCCC, finding that the objectives of the treaty coalesce with core legitimacy and survival interests of the Kim government and the DPRK state.

Keywords: North Korea, climate change, UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol, Clean Development Mechanism.


Oppan Gangnam Style: Psy’s Popularity and its Social Significance in Contemporary Korea

Pages: 91–116
Gil-Soo Han

Abstract: Psy’s music video Gangnam Style has gone viral since its release in July 2012, attracting more than a billion hits on YouTube by December 2012. The music video has become the most popular in the entire history of the video streaming website. On 31 December 2012, Psy performed in a globally televised New Year’s Eve celebration in front of over a million live audiences in Times Square, New York. Gangnam Style has been played and enjoyed even by households in North Korea, which strictly controls its inflows of capitalist popular media and culture. This paper looks for key factors that brought about the popularity of Psy and his Gangnam Style music video in terms of his personal attributes and the national and transnational contexts. The paper also analyses popular media accounts on Psy’s success from South Korea, and explores the socio-cultural functions and meanings that are varyingly attached to the popularity of Gangnam Style. Psy’s global popularity has been a significant point of encouragement for many South Koreans struggling to stay on top of their financial challenges, since they identify with his ordinariness and envy his success. Interestingly, Psy satirises the snobbish Gangnam culture, while his creative performance and the audio-visual of the music video are representative of Gangnam culture itself. Thus South Korean audiences find themselves simultaneously admiring and ‘ridiculing’ Psy. Fun and enjoyment seem to be central to the music video’s attraction for South Korean and global audiences looking for personal time and space in the entertainment-oriented neo-liberal context.


Keywords: Psy, Korean popular music, digital media, YouTube, media narrative analysis

“Still Quite Fun To Read:” An Introduction to North Korean Children’s Literature

Pages: 117–136
Christopher Richardson

Abstract:This paper investigates the role of modern North Korean children’s literature. Such texts are relevant not merely for understanding childhood policy and practice in the DPRK, but for interpreting the state’s aspirations as a whole. Attention will be paid to images and themes that recur in North Korean children’s literature, noting a process of socialisation into political norms, such as Juche, militarism, nationalism, anti-Americanism and adulation of the Kim dynasty.


Keywords: North Korea, Children, Literature, Propaganda, Nationalism.



Future Prospects for Resolving the Conflict with North Korea: Looking at the Past in order to help Change the Future

Pages: 137–184
Roland B. Wilson


Abstract: Although there is an abundance of literature on North Korea and the Korean War, less attention has been given as to why the conflict with North Korea remains elusive in terms of resolving, violent and protracted. This paper aims to help fill this analytical deficit by examining the conflict through a conflict analysis and resolution (CAR) centric lens using Edward Azar’s four clusters of variables as preconditions for protracted social conflict (PSCs): communal content of society, human needs, state’s role and international linkages. The analysis will examine and integrate Korea’s unique historical and political landscape in light of Azar’s four clusters of variables. As these clusters are explored, they will be further expounded on by introducing other key CAR theories such as basic human needs, structural violence and positioning, which build on Azar’s framework and the greater understanding of this PSC. The analysis will culminate with a revitalised understanding of the roots of this PSC and then turn to some of the major foreign policy (FP) related initiatives that have been attempted. After this is done, a series of diverse CAR driven recommendations will be introduced based on John Paul Lederach’s peacebuilding pyramid approach, and then combined with a building block model for better clarity.  The goal of this paper is to discover and put forth unique, dynamically diverse, and inclusive ways of peacefully dealing with and resolving this deadly Cold War legacy conflict. 

Keywords: Korea, Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Public Diplomacy



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