Brandon Gauthier, a PhD candidate in the History Department, traveled to South Korea this past summer where he presented personal research and reconnected with the culture he intimately studies. Here is what Brandon has to say about the trip…
As the recipient of a travel grant from the Korean Political Science Association, I recently traveled to Gyeongju, South Korea and attended the biannual conference of the World Congress for Korean Politics and Society from August 25-27. At that meeting, I presented research from my dissertation, “The Other Korea: Ideological Constructions of North Korea in the American Imagination, 1948-2000.” I also spoke at the conference’s inaugural dinner, reflecting on the state of Korean studies from an American’s point of view. In the process, I delivered part of my comments in Korean, which was an exhilarating, and terrifying, experience. (If my English was assuredly more articulate than my Korean, the crowd appreciated my efforts and responded warmly.) Apart from hearing many fascinating papers at the conference, I toured historical sites in Gyeongju–the former capital of the ancient Silla dynasty–and came to appreciate why the city is often called “the museum without walls.”Following the end of the World Congress, I traveled to the city of Jeonju and stayed with a family whom I first met during a language fellowship in the summer of 2012. The experience enabled me to enjoy a number of delicious Korean dishes, including naengmyun–spicy buckwheat noodles in a cold broth–and a glass of makkoli–traditional rice wine. While in Jeonju, I also had the opportunity to speak at an academic lectures series near Chonbuk National University. It was a rewarding discussion that enabled me to receive feedback on my dissertation from scholars of other disciplines.As a whole, my trip was a wonderful experience that further deepened my admiration for Korea and its rich history. Many who visit the country often only travel to Seoul (after all, as the old Korean proverb goes: Even if you have to crawl on your knees, get yourself to Seoul!) But I would encourage anyone who visits to venture outside the capital to cities like Gyeongju and Jeonju; these are places of vibrant culture that will leave any traveler–especially historians–deeply satisfied.
Stay up to date on Brandon’s research involving North and South Korea! We’re also excited to announce his forthcoming article in the Journal of American-East Asian Relations entitled, “A Tortured Relic: The Lasting Legacy of the Korean War and Postwar Portayals of North Korea in the U.S. media, 1953-1962.”