Eunsung Cho’s Research on the North Korean Scientific Community

Read about Eunsung Cho’s summer research on the North Korean scientific community in South Korea, and his experience attending a Japanese language institute…

1.Scientists discussing the scientific and technological problems arising in vinalon production. The sitting person is Li Seung Ki. Source: Chosǒn (April 2011) © Chosǒnhwabosa.

1. Scientists discussing the scientific and technological problems arising in vinalon production. The sitting person is Li Seung Ki. Source: Chosǒn (April 2011) © Chosǒnhwabosa.

Looking for the Thread of Juche

By: Eunsung Cho, Ph.D. Department of History, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

My project during this summer was collecting primary sources related to my dissertation topic and learning Japanese. Thanks to the Weatherhead Ph.D. Student Training Grant, I collected materials on the North Korean scientific community in South Korea, while also attending a Japanese language institute. I mainly searched for relevant data in the Information Center on North Korea, which is under the Ministry of Unification, the University of North Korean Studies Library, National Institute of Korean History, and National Assembly Library. In particular, one of my greatest accomplishments during this research trip was finding the issues of the North Korean science journal entitled Kwahakwon tongbo, which were produced from 1953 to 1960, and binding them.  In addition, I wanted to interview North Korean defectors who had the experience of working in the vinalon factory because my topic is about vinalon, which was called the thread of Juche (self-reliance) in North Korea. Since this research trip was too short, however, I failed to find interviewees. I plan to find new ways to reach these defectors when I go to Korea in the future.

Cho photo 2

Vinalon threads and vinalon cloths. Source: Chosǒn (July 2011) © Chosǒnhwabosa.

Meanwhile, I learned Japanese this summer because I got permission to take the Japanese translation exam instead of a European language exam. This was possible thanks to my advisor who considered the languages needed to do research in my chosen topic. I took the Japanese reading course for two months in a Japanese language institute, which is located in Gangnam, Seoul. As I have been studying Chinese at Columbia as my second foreign language, the different usages of Chinese characters in Japanese was puzzling at first. However, I got a sense of how to read, although I did not study to speak Japanese. Of course, I should learn Japanese more because upper-intermediate reading ability would help me have access to relevant Japanese primary sources in the future.

I am indebted to the Weatherhead East Asian Institute for supporting my summer projects. The materials I gained this summer will be an important source for my research.

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