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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 9, 2007

North Korea will be discussed during UI conference Oct. 19, 20

North Korea, a communist country infamous for its dictatorship and nuclear weapons program, is not well known to other nations due to its long-time isolation. The University of Iowa community will have an opportunity to get a closer look at this nation in a conference Friday and Saturday, Oct. 19 and 20, at the International Programs Commons, 1117 University Capitol Centre. The conference is free and open to the public.

The event, "North Korea: Policy, Modernity, Fantasy -- International Conference," is designed to enhance academic and public understanding of North Korea by dissecting its politics, culture and international relations under both historical and contemporary contexts. The two-day conference will feature four main sessions: "North Korea in the World," "Inside North Korea," "Migrants and Defectors" and "Human Rights Update." Eight national and international scholars will present papers at the conference.

The conference was organized by Sonia Ryang, associate professor of anthropology and international studies in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS). She is also the C. Maxwell and Elizabeth M. Stanley Family and the Korea Foundation Scholar of Korean Studies at the UI.

Ryang commented: "The assortment of international and U.S. scholars are participating in order to exchange their views on North Korea, specifically focusing on how we need to understand this regime, rather than simply labeling it, and how we should approach it, eyeing on broader global consequences, rather than simply on the U.S. interest."

The conference received funding from an International Programs Major Projects Grant, with additional support from the Northeast Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies and the UI Center for Asian and Pacific Studies.

The conference begins at 9 a.m. Friday, Oct. 19, with an opening speech by William Reisinger, associate provost and dean of International Programs. UI President Sally Mason will greet the participants at 1:40 p.m. to launch the afternoon session. During her 30-minute speech, Mason will touch upon the UI's commitment to enhancing Korean studies and taking national and international leadership in the study of Asia.

Presenters for the conference's first day include Gavan McCormack, emeritus professor and visiting fellow, Division of Pacific and Asian History at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia; Charles Armstrong, associate professor of modern East Asian and international history at Columbia University; Steven Chung, instructor of modern Korean cultural studies at Princeton University; and Ryang.

Day two of the conference includes presentations by Hyun Ok Park, assistant professor of Korean studies at York University, in Toronto; Michael Doveton, graduate student in East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Kansas; Peter M. Beck from the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea; and Tessa Morris-Suzuki, professor of Japanese history at Australian National University.

The presentations will be followed by discussants' comments made by Scott Schnell, associate professor of anthropology in CLAS; Adrienne Hurley, assistant professor of modern Japanese literature and culture in CLAS; Jae-on Kim, professor of sociology in CLAS; and Jeff Baron, former Senate Foreign Relations Committee professional staff member. A two-hour film "A State of Mind" and a one-hour documentary "North Korea: A Day in Life" will be shown at the end of each day's presentations.

An edited volume of a collection of essays will be published based on the achievements of the conference.

"No other U.S. higher education institution has so far managed to put together a viable conference on North Korea that resulted in an edited volume," Ryang said. "Ours will be the first and the best one for that matter."

For more information and a complete conference schedule, contact Sonia Ryang at For special accommodations, contact Heidi Vekemans, IP events coordinator at 319-335-3862 or

University of Iowa International Programs enables UI students, faculty, staff and the public to learn from and about the world. Its offices, degree programs and events provide life-changing opportunities on campus and abroad, heighten intellectual and cultural diversity, and give all university constituents access to vital international knowledge. For more information, visit or call 319-353-2700. International Programs is part of the UI Office of the Provost.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Sonia Ryang, UI Department of Anthropology, 319-335-0522,; Kelli Andresen, International Programs, 319-335-2026,; Lois J. Gray, University News Services, 319-384-0077,; Writer: Lini G