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Program (Update 6 Nov 23)

9 November 2023

Venue: Harnack-Haus, Ihnestr. 16, 14195 Berlin-Dahlem (U Bahn Freie Universität Berlin)

 (Closed Session)


  • Prof. Dr. Sabrina Habich-Sobiegalla (Chinese Society, Freie Universität Berlin)
  • Prof. Dr. Gunter Schubert (Chinese Studies, Eberhard-Karls-University Tübingen)
  • Prof. Dr. Verena Blechinger Talcott (Japanese Politics and Political Economy, Freie Universität Berlin)
  • Prof. Dr. Eun-Jeung Lee (Korean Studies, Freie Universität Berlin)

Venue: Laue-Saal

Welcome Address

President of Freie Universität Berlin Prof. Dr. Günter M. Ziegler


Input: Prof. Dr. Eun-Jeung Lee (GEAS Director, Institute of Korean Studies, Freie Universität Berlin)

Venue: Laue-Saal

  • Jean Young Lee (Inha University, Korea): Social Sciences in Korean Studies and Diffusion Project of Inha University
  • Seongjin Kim (Duksung Women's University, Korea): Korean Studies: A Brief Review of Current Development
  • Kyounghee Cho (Inha University, Korea): An Introduction and Guide to the K-Diffusion Program of Inha University

Chair: Prof. Dr. Eun-Jeung Lee (Freie Universität Berlin)

Further Discussants

  • Ji Young Heo (Inha University, Korea)
  • Kyung-Min Park (Inha University, Korea)
  • Eunsil Kim (Ewha University, Korea)
  • Bae Kyung-min (University of the Philippines)

Venue: Harnack-Haus, Restaurant

10 November 2023

Venue: Laue-Saal

Discussant/Moderation: Prof. Dr. Gunter Schubert (Chair of Greater China Studies, Tübingen University)


Prof. Dr. Cho Kisuk (Graduate School of International Studies, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, South Korea) (online): Theoretical Review on Soft Power and Cultural Diplomacy

Since the seminal publication of Joseph Nye’s Soft Power, new public diplomacy emerged as one of the hottest topics in diplomatic studies. Soft power became the central concept of public diplomacy. Despite much progress, the conceptualization of soft power is at a Nye’s standstill, in which resources and assets define soft power. The most severe problem of this conceptualization stems from the fact that soft power is defined in a tautological way: some regard public diplomacy as the result of soft power, while others view soft power as the result of public diplomacy. I argue that there are two aspects of soft power: one is (Type I) inherited from the past, particularly from imperial-colonial history, whereas the other (Type II) is formed as the outcome of effective public or cultural diplomacy.

This study will present a theoretical model that not only explicates the two types of soft power and hard power but also how these powers are related to public diplomacy. This will help explain the ambivalent(polarized) image of South Korea in the East Asian region, while South Korea’s favorability is rising in other parts of the world. It also attempts to disentangle the close link between cultural and public diplomacy. Many idealize that culture and politics should be separated. Still, in the real world, both are entangled, particularly in UNESCO heritage registration due to UNESCO rules that foster contestation among neighboring countries. In the registration process, the role of hard power is ironically overwhelming. To understand complicated and ambivalent phenomena in East Asian cultural diplomacy, theoretical discussion and conceptualization on soft power, cultural diplomacy, and public diplomacy should be preceded.


Prof. Dr. Eun-hee Woo (Center for Language Education, Josai International University, Chiba, Japan):

The polarization of Japanese perceptions of South Korea

In the last two decades, Japanese perceptions of South Korea have been polarized. On the one hand, as in many other countries, the fandom of Korean pop culture including K-pop, drama, and fashion, has dramatically increased. Also, the Korean wave consumer groups became much younger. In consequence, the need for Korean language courses and departments of Korean studies at the university level has also risen. On the other hand, Japanese antipathy toward South Korea has also become palpable. In Japanese bookstores, for example, it is not difficult to find books with hateful content toward South Koreans. One of the main reasons for these polarizing perceptions is the rapid transformation of South Korea which provides different experiences for Japanese people. From the Japanese older generation’s viewpoint, South Korea is still a developing country that cannot politically and economically compete against Japan. From the younger generation’s perspective, however, South Korea is one of the leading countries in producing popular culture. In this talk, I will discuss anti-Korean sentiments in Japan as a xenophobic reaction to the popularity of the Korean waves

Venue: Laue-Saal


Discussant/Moderation: Prof. Dr. Cornelia Reiher (Japanese Society, Freie Universität Berlin)


Kwon Gi-Jun (National Museum of Korean Contemporary History, Seoul, South Korea): The Korean Wave Exhibition in Germany

The Korean Wave, a surge of Korean popular culture, has risen more dramatically than ever in recent years. This rise resulted in exhibitions in London and Seoul. The Victoria & Albert Museum introduced the overall concept of the Korean Wave, from history to fashion. Meanwhile, the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History focused on the Korean Wave as a global phenomenon and tried to compare it to other cultural waves from America and Asia. As the Korean Wave did, these two exhibitions are preparing touring exhibitions on the other side of the world. What can be discussed through the exhibition when meeting the new audience? Reviewing the 30-year history of Korean music, drama, and movies will give visitors a new perspective on how Korea's hybrid culture, different from that of China and Japan, grew with the interaction between nationalism and transnationalism. Moreover, how fandom was formed and rose, accepting not well-known Asian culture would be an essential subject to deal with in the German context.


Prof. Dr. Julia Gerster-Damerow (IRIDES, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan): Disaster Cultural Memory in Japan. How to represent 3.11?

After the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster, numerous disaster memorial facilities were preserved or newly created at the Pacific coast of the Tohoku region. However, the distinction between what is upheld as a cherished piece of cultural memory and what is dismissed as mere "debris" has emerged as a deeply contentious and persistently debated issue within local communities. This presentation introduces some of these multifaceted debates, shedding light on the divergent narratives that have arisen among the stakeholders involved.

Venue: Laue-Saal

Speakers (Online Panel)

    • Prof. Dr Yoshimi Shun'ya (Faculty of Interdisciplinary Information Studies, Tokyo University, Japan)
    • Prof. Dr. Pak Tae-gyun (Modern Korean History, Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea): A rediscovery of Modern East Asia in Connectivity with the World History
    • Prof. Dr. Laurent Chircop-Reyes (Chinese Studies, D2iA, Université Bordeaux Montaigne): Martial Arts and Cultural Heritage

    Discussant/Moderation: Urs Matthias Zachmann (History and Culture of Modern Japan, Freie Universität Berlin)



Prof. Dr. Laurent Chircop-Reyes (Chinese Studies, Université Bordeaux Montaigne, D2iA): Martial Arts and Cultural Heritage

Chinese martial arts are traditionally transmitted through the private master-disciple relationship. In recent years, some masters have been expressing their concern about the desuetude of their art, which calls into question the confidential modes of transmission and what is held to be orthodox in it. Concurrently, intangible cultural heritage (ICH) taken by a wide range of social actors, including the masters, attempts to evaluate practices and perpetuate lineages. Taking an esoteric martial art of Shanxi Province (China), this presentation aims at discussing on the constraints and balance arising from efforts to preserve cultural integrity, on the one hand, and engaging in evaluation and standardisation processes, on the other.

Venue: Laue-Saal


Chair:  Prof. Dr. Sabrina Habich-Sobiegalla (GEAS Vice Director, State and Society of Modern China, Freie Universität Berlin)

11 November 2023

Conference Theme

East Asia is a region of highly developed cultures and strong national identities, with a complex history of colonialism and imperialism. On the one hand, this complex history and the geographical proximity of China, Korea, and Japan have led to common cultural roots. The importance of Confucianism and Buddhism, culinary elements, tea culture, calligraphy, and marital and traditional arts are just some of the many cultural aspects that cross national boundaries in East Asia. On the other hand, periods of domination and colonization have created long-lasting tensions in the region, which profoundly impact respective national identities and how these three countries preserve their heritage(s) and use them for cultural diplomacy. Instead of acknowledging their shared past and deep cultural interactions, Japan, China, and Korea constantly make rivaling claims over cultural origins in their cultural diplomacy and heritage preservation. While contestations over cultural heritage are also prevalent in other world regions, the distinct history of East Asia has left a legacy of power dynamics that manifest in not only more general rivaling discourses over cultural origins but also contestations over patenting certain cultural products (e.g. Kimchi) or competing practices of China’s, Japan’s and Korea’s international cultural centers.

During this conference, we aim to bring together leading scholars in the fields of cultural diplomacy and heritage preservation in and beyond East Asia to discuss the origins of the above-mentioned contestations, their specific manifestations, their consequences for socio-economic and political interactions in East Asia as well as their reception by international target audiences. More specifically, we aim to discuss these dynamics in the context of hegemony and power relations. This is because, in East Asia, we observe that countries that do not necessarily possess political and economic power may be able to dominate the discourse on cultural or social practices in the region. In a nutshell, this conference seeks to analyze how to circumvent the individual claims of East Asian countries to uniqueness, given the relative homogeneity of a material cultural tradition. We argue that tradition cannot be equated with the past and needs to be negotiated: How do cultural and heritage diplomacy relate to each other and diverge in the context of diversity in unity? If we consider heritage as hybrid and relational in power relations, who defines culture and hegemonic discourses in Asia? And finally, how are such rivaling discourses and practices received by international target audiences?