Dr. Hyung Ki Shin, professor of Korean literature at Yonsei University in South Korea and Fulbright scholar currently studying at the University of California San Diego, came to Florida Southern College Mar. 29 to speak about the way “Narrative” influences identity formation and about the Fulbright program itself.
Before Shin began his presentation, Dr. Erika Vause, Professor of History and Florida Southern College’s Associate Director of the Honors program, gave a brief explanation of what the Fulbright program is. The prestigious program allows a student or expert to travel to other countries and perform research, study or teach for one year.
Shin’s presentation started with an in depth look at what narrative is, and gave an example of visual narrative in the form of a painting. “Narrative is all about cause and effect,” Shin said.
Shin went on to say that Narrative is relative and that no two people will have the same exact story to tell. Shin explained this by bringing up a classic Japanese film entitled “Rashomon” in which four witnesses of a murder describe the event in contradictory ways.
After discussing the nature of narrative, Shin began speaking on the focus of his presentation: how narrative can influence a people’s identity. “In a totalitarian state, people have no choice to read another narrative,” Shin said: “in North Korea people have no right to choose his or her place [sic].”
Shin then went on to explain how North Korea became the totalitarian state it is today. He described how after World War II, the area was liberated from Japan and became its own nation. Kim Il-Sung, the first dictator of North Korea, was able to channel anti-Japanese sentiment to exaggerate his own heroic stories of fighting in the war.
Shin then read the poem “Baek-du San” about Kim Il-Sung heroically fighting off the Japanese—as well as being so fast that he must have used magic to traverse mountain tops.
“I think one of the most important things to do is to let the people of North Korea experience other narratives,” Shin said. “So they can imagine another life.”
Once Shin was finished with his presentation, Dr. Vause answered questions about the Fulbright program, explaining that the Fulbright program pays for airfare and living expenses through a stipend.
She also talked about what kind of countries scholars get to visit: “it’s not just developing nations; they go to all different kinds of countries,” Vause said. “This isn’t the Peace Corps.”
Students were able to ask Shin questions about North Korea and how it views the rest of the world, specifically South Korea. One student asked about how North Koreans view their neighbors. “North Koreans see South Korea as a puppet of America, because America is viewed as their greatest enemy,” Shin said. “Still now many North Koreans believe that American soldiers are not human.”
Students responded very positively to what Shin had to say once he was finished speaking, and freshman history major Jean Howell was particularly interested by the presentation. “It was super interesting to hear about the situation in North Korea,” Howell said. “It was particularly interesting to hear about how South Korea and the USA are portrayed in North Korea.”