11th Annual Korean Studies Writing Prize Awarded - MTL second-year Michelle Ha

Congratulations to MTL second-year Michelle Ha for winning the 11th annual Korea Program Prize for Writing in Korean Studies, for her paper "Beyond Diaspora: Racial Capitalism and Empire in Kim Young-ha’s Black Flower"!

Yeseul Byeon (PhD student, History) and Michelle Ha (PhD student, Modern Thought & Literature) were awarded the 11th annual Korea Program Prize for Writing in Korean Studies for their papers: Byeon on her paper "Shrine in Every Village: Legacies of Religious Reform in Cheju, 1702-3"; and Ha on her paper "Beyond Diaspora: Racial Capitalism and Empire in Kim Young-ha’s Black Flower."

In Byeon's own words on her paper: "My essay delves into the question of regionality in premodern Korea, taking as a case study a religious purge that took place in Cheju in 1702. Instigated by scholar-official (and magistrate of Cheju at the time) Yi Hyŏngsang, the incident has been regarded as something of a puzzle and an anomaly. Yi’s persecution of popular religion goes far beyond the scope of the social reforms we typically associate with the 'confucianization' of Chosŏn. What explains the extraordinary zealotry? Why here, and why at this time?”

“I find the keys to this question in Yi’s accounts of the purge, which I analyze alongside Yi’s writings on the human geography and history of Cheju more broadly," Byeon comments. "I identify the purge within a larger struggle over the territoriality of the Chosǒn state, arguing that Yi’s actions and words connote a paradigmatic shift regarding Cheju’s place in the Korean polity, from foreign 'other' to wayward insider, politically contiguous with the peninsula, yet utterly distinct in terms of its cultural and physical landscape. My question also extends to the evidentiary basis upon which scholars today reason about and narrate the history of the 1702 purge — I argue for a recognition of the archival silences that surround this incident, and a broadened outlook on the sources of truth for Cheju’s past." For more information about the paper, please visit the CEAS website.

In Michelle Ha's own words on her paper "Beyond Diaspora: Racial Capitalism and Empire in Kim Young-ha’s Black Flower": "I am researching early twentieth-century Korean indentured labor migration to Mexican agave plantations within the frames of racial capitalism and empire. These frames are certainly relevant to understanding the story of Koreans in Mexico; however, most South Korean scholarly and artistic works tend to present this migration in bilateral terms, explained by push and pull factors between the Korean and Yucatán Peninsulas. ” “Kim Young-ha’s historical novel Kŏmŭn kkot (Black Flower) uniquely seems to break out of this binational mold, incorporating themes of race and racialization as well as transpacific imperial competition into its narrative," Ha comments.

"In my paper, I argue that Black Flower takes up an imperial turn — against dominant trends in South Korean scholarship that tend to narrowly focus on issues of adaptation and ethnic identity between countries of origin and destination. By analyzing the novel’s understudied narrative features, I demonstrate how Black Flower contextualizes Korean migration to Mexico within European settler colonialism in the Americas and Japan’s transpacific settler empire. In doing so, I suggest that Black Flower provides a model of narrating migration history with a more detailed and nuanced understanding of the political, legal, and economic structures that shape human movement — one that helps place the Korean experience in global and comparative perspective." For more information about the paper, please visit the CEAS website.

Sponsored by the Korea Program and the Center for East Asian Studies, the writing prize recognizes and rewards outstanding examples of writing by Stanford students in an essay, term paper, or thesis produced during the current academic year in any discipline within the area of Korean studies, broadly defined. The competition is open to both undergraduate and graduate students.

Past Recipients:
10th Annual Prize (2021)
9th Annual Prize (2020)
8th Annual Prize (2019)
7th Annual Prize (2018)
6th Annual Prize (2017)
5th Annual Prize (2016)
4th Annual Prize (2015)
3rd Annual Prize (2014)
2nd Annual Prize (2013)
1st Annual Prize (2012)