Last update: 2015-04-08

#16 - John Power

2015-04-08 Length: 55s

The sinking of the Sewol one year ago highlighted, among several other issues, the failure of the Korean media to report on the unfolding situation in an accurate and professional manner. Korea’s second-largest newspaper, the JoongAng Ilbo, published a full-page apology to its readers soon after the disaster, seeking forgiveness for its faulty reporting.

Our guest for this episode, John Francis Power, argues that this is only one of many examples of the various issues plaguing the Korean news landscape. In a feature article he wrote for Groove Korea last year, John depicts an industry under pressure from both government and corporate interests, and where investigative journalism and rigorous reporting are often discouraged.

John Power is an Irish journalist based in Seoul since 2010. He has written over 200 articles on a broad range of Korea-related topics, including food safety, domestic violence, politics, libel law, rail safety and various other issues. John has worked for The Korea Herald and Yonhap News, and has published his work in several international media outlets, including Christian Science Monitor, The Diplomat, the BBC, Australia’s ABC and Ireland’s RTE.

#15 - Kan Kimura

2015-03-31 Length: 48s

This year will mark the 70th (and not the 60th, as we erroneously refer to in episode's introduction) anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Yet, whereas European countries have learnt to live and thrive with each other, this seems far from being the case for Korea and its former colonial master: Japan. Historical disputes are commonplace and the relation between the two states seems to deteriorate year after year.

Why do these historical disputes exist between Japan and Korea? Under which conditions did they develop and why have they not been resolved since the end of the Second World War? In order to answer these questions, we had the privilege of speaking with Professor Kan Kimura.

Professor Kimura obtained his Bachelor's, Master's and Phd in Law from Kyoto University, writing his doctoral dissertation on South Korean nationalism. A Professor at Kobe University's Graduate School of Cooperation Studies since 1997, he was also a visiting scholar at various institutions, including Korea University, the Australian National University and Harvard. Professor Kimura was also a member of the First and Second Japan-Korea Collaborative History Research Committees initially set up by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Korean President Kim Dae-jung to promote "mutual understanding concerning accurate facts and recognition of history."

#14 - Park Kyungshin

2015-03-18 Length: 35s

South Korea is a vibrant democracy, having successfully completed its transition from authoritarian rule since the late 1980s. At the same time, a number of laws and regulations dating back to the Park Chung-hee era are still in effect. Libel and defamation laws in particular seem to be invoked by the authorities with increasing frequency. Critics argue the government is attempting to influence the public discourse and silence dissenters.

One of these critics is Professor Park Kyungsin, who has been advocating freedom of speech and opinion in South Korea, especially online. He gracefully agreed to be our guest for this episode, to talk about internet and press censorship, defamation and libel law, and the political environment of these measures.

Professor Park is a lawyer and law professor at the Korea University Law School, the Executive Director of the PSPD Public Interest Law Center, Commissioner at the Korean Communication Standards Commission and one of the leading figures behind OpenNet, a non-governmental organization defending the freedom and openness of South Korea’s internet. He earned his J.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles and an A.B. in Physics from Harvard.

#13 - Richard Min

2015-03-12 Length: 59s

To everyone living in Korea, KakaoTalk is a household name. Yet the popular messaging app is only the poster child of a much larger start-up ecosystem. Forbes Magazine hailed Korea as “the next global hub for tech startups”, and the government pledged to spend several billion dollars to foster a “creative economy”. To learn more about entrepreneurship in Korea and understand the macro-trends at work behind the scenes, we had the pleasure to talk to Richard Min.

Richard founded two of Korea’s first major startup accelerators: SeoulSpace and KStartup, attracting investment from global brands such as 500Startups, Samsung and Google’s Entrepreneurship Program. He is currently a Venture Partner at Naxuri Capital and the Managing Director of Fashion Technology Accelerator, here in Seoul. Richard is also the founder of the +822 Convergence Conference and Cityfest, which will take place in Seoul this october. He hosts his own weekly show on TBS Primetime radio and was featured in several news outlets, including INC Magazine and Bloomberg.

#12 - James Pearson

2015-03-04 Length: 52s

During the 1990s, North Korea suffered one of the worst famines of the 20th century. The result of this “Arduous March,” as the regime calls it, was not only a humanitarian catastrophe: the large-scale suffering also ignited economic and social changes that are still shaping the country today. This is the analysis of James Pearson and Daniel Tudor, who argue in their latest book, "North Korea Confidential", that this experience, although highly traumatic, helped sow the seeds of capitalism in North Korea.

In North Korea Confidential, Tudor and Pearson depict a changing society, communist by outside perception only , where the poor now almost exclusively survive thanks to the little businesses they maintain to complement their almost worthless official wages. Pyongyang is the seat of a new economic elite that conducts trade with China and beyond. Foreign currencies have taken over in some parts of the country as the primary medium of exchange, and consumerism seems almost celebrated as a virtue - the winners of North Korea’s economic revolution flash expensive items and take great care in following the latest fashion trends.

James Pearson, a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Seoul and co-author of "North Korea Confidential", is our guest for this episode of Korea and the World. He holds a Master’s in Oriental Studies from the University of Cambridge, and a Bachelor’s in Chinese and Korean from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), where his interest in North Korea began.

#11 - Se-Woong Koo

2015-02-25 Length: 56s

Behind the glitter of Korea's economic success story lies a land of fault lines and social strife. Regionalism and factionalism are defining aspects of Korea’s politics and social fabric, while the rights of workers and minorities are sacrificed in the name of economic efficiency and social conformity. The media cannot report freely, foreign journalists and scholars are under pressure to spin a positive image of Korea abroad, and Koreans themselves live in fear of repression should they express ideas their government does not share.

This rather grim portrayal of South Korea is what you may be tempted to take away from According to its founder and editor-in-chief, Dr. Se-Woong Koo, Korea Expose is dedicated to covering topics that do not receive enough attention from both South Korean and foreign media. As he argues, reporting about poverty, discrimination and disenfranchisement isn’t compatible with the image South Korea wants to broadcast to the world.

We talked to Dr. Koo about his plans for Korea Expose, the media’s failure to cover difficult and often controversial topics, and some of the injustices Korea suffers from.

After receiving his PhD in Religious Studies from Stanford University, Dr. Koo was a Korea Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris and taught Korean studies at Stanford, Yale and Ewha Womans University. His writings have been featured in numerous publications, including Foreign Policy and The New York Times.

#10 - Suki Kim

2015-02-17 Length: 33s

Suki Kim is a Korean-American writer who was born in Seoul and moved to the United States at the age of 13. Driven by her Korean roots and her family background - her uncle disappeared in the Korean War, leaving her mother and grandmother scarred for life - Suki developed a keen interest in North Korean affairs.

After visiting North Korea several times and writing extensively about the land, Suki Kim landed a job as an English teacher at the newly constructed PUST, or Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. Aside from that fact that it was in North Korea, funded by a Christian missionary organization, and that Suki herself was there as an undercover writer, PUST was not a regular college: all of its students were boys and happened to be the children of North Korea’s highest elite.

Suki Kim wrote about her experiences in her most recent book, “Without You, There is No Us”, published by Crown Publishing [Group]. The book traces her life during the six months she lived on campus with 270 students, 50 of which she taught personally. She carefully describes her impressions of these young men, how she tried to broaden their horizon as much as she could, and how she felt and survived in a world of mind games and unsaids, where constant propaganda, censorship and the fear of repression so heavily weigh on one’s shoulders.


“Without You, There is No Us” is Suki Kim’s first major book of non-fiction. Her debut novel, “The Interpreter”, was a finalist for a PEN Hemingway Prize and was translated into five languages. She also wrote cover feature essays for Harper’s Magazine and The New York Review of Books as well as many op-eds and essays for The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. She has been the recipient of several high profile scholarships, including a Fulbright Research Grant, the Guggenheim fellowship and the Soros Foundation’s Open Societies fellowship. Suki Kim graduated from Barnard College with a BA in English and also studied Korean literature at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

#9 - Simon McEnteggart

2015-02-10 Length: 47s

Koreans sure like to watch movies: last year, the domestic film industry made more money than ever before. One movie in particular was seen by no less than a third of the population. Korean cinema has also been able to establish itself abroad, with blockbusters such as Oldboy or Snowpiercer being among the most famous examples.

In this episode, we dive into the Korean movie ecosystem in order to learn more about the reasons for this success, both domestically and abroad, but also to look at the differences between mainstream and independent moviemaking as well as the political environment shaping the industry.

To navigate the realm of the Korean silver screen, there is probably no better guide than Simon McEnteggart, Korean movie buff extraordinaire and founder of one of the best reference sites for Korean cinema on the Internet: We had the pleasure of welcoming him as our guest for this episode of Korea and the World.

#8 - Sem Vermeersch

2015-02-03 Length: 46s

A look into South Korea reveals a confusing number of influences: the society is commonly described as Confucian, the politics are clearly influenced by Christianity, yet visit South Korea and you may think Buddhism is the religion of the land - there are temples virtually everywhere. Almost a quarter of the Korean population define themselves as Buddhists.

Yet how can we explain Buddhism’s seeming lack of power and influence in shaping contemporary Korean politics and society? Why are there no strong Buddhist political parties or charismatic Buddhist leaders setting the agenda?

To find answers, we sat down with Seoul National University Professor Sem Vermeersch and took a long hard look together at Buddhism in Korea, from its introduction from China in the 4th century to our modern times.

#7 - Urs Gerber

2015-01-28 Length: 42s

To the surprise of many, Swiss and Swedish forces are tasked with monitoring the military buildup on the inter-Korean border. Their officers are stationed in Panmunjeom, at the heart of the DMZ's Joint Security Area, where they carry out inspections and review operations. We had the honor of interviewing Major General Urs Gerber about his work there, life in the DMZ, and his dealings with North Korea on a daily basis.

#6 - Iain Watson

2015-01-20 Length: 53s

South Korea did not only experience rapid economic development, it is also the first country to successfully transition from development aid recipient to major aid donor. How the country handles this new role and provides support to developing countries was the focus of our interview with Professor Iain Watson.

#5 - Karl Friedhoff

2015-01-15 Length: 44s

In our fifth episode we talk to Karl Friedhoff of the ASAN Institute about what the South Korean public sentiment is towards North Korea, China and Japan, and about the public opinion about the foreign policies of the South Korean government.

#4 - James Turnbull

2015-01-06 Length: 41s

The portrayal of women in Korea's media and entertainment industry provides the backdrop for our fourth episode. Together with media specialist and acclaimed blogger James Turnbull we explored gender politics in the Korean society and its depiction in Korean pop culture.

#3 - Robert Kelly

2014-12-15 Length: 54s

Our third episode led us to Busan where we met with Professor Robert Kelly of Pusan National University. In our interview we talked about the American role in East Asia, and the ways in which nationalism and territorial disputes complicate the international relations in the region.

#2 - Daniel Tudor

2014-12-08 Length: 33s

In our second episode we talked to Daniel Tudor, a British journalist and the author of two books on South Korea. He discusses with us the appeal of the country to foreign audiences – and where the limitations of this appeal might lie.

#1 - Andrei Lankov

2014-11-27 Length: 55s

For our first episode we sat down with Andrei Lankov, one of the world’s foremost experts on the society of North Korea. As he argues, the real North Korea is different from the one we know through the media – and important changes are happening there at this moment.

About this podcast:

Korea and the World

Korea and the World interviews academics, professionals and intellectuals living and working in South Korea on current political, economic and societal issues.

Korea and the World