Hwasook Nam

  • Associate Professor
  • Joint Appointment: Jackson School of International Studies
  • James B. Palais Endowed Assistant Professor in Korea Studies

Ph.D. University of Washington, 2003

Fields: Modern Korea
Phone: 206-685-7756
Office: THO 301A | Office Hours: W 1:30-3:00 & By Appointment
Curriculum Vitae:

I am a historian of modern Korea specializing on the labor, gender, and intellectual history of the post-WWII period in South Korea.  I grew up in Seoul, Korea, and received B.A. and M.A. degrees from the Korean History Department at Seoul National University before coming to the U.S.  My Ph.D. training in history was at the UW with the late Professor James B. Palais as my main adviser.  After earning my Ph.D. degree in 2003, I worked in the History Department at the University of Utah for four years, teaching Asian and Korean history courses.  I came back to the UW in 2007 to become the first holder of a new professorship that was established in honor of Professor Palais.  I have a joint appointment with the History Department and the Jackson School of International Studies, and serve as one of the core faculty members in the Korean Studies Program and the Center for Korea Studies, both housed in the Jackson School.  Currently (2012-13), I am the Chair of the Korean Studies Program.  I am also affiliated with the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, and currently serve on its Standing Committee.

My dissertation research was on South Korean nation-building history during the Park Chung Hee era (1961-1979) seen through a case study of state-business-labor relations at a premier shipyard, Korea Shipbuilding and Engineering Corporation (KSEC), in Pusan, South Korea.  That research was published in 2009 as Building Ships, Building a Nation: Korea’s Democratic Unionism under Park Chung Hee by the University of Washington Press, and won the James B. Palais book prize at the annual conference of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) in Honolulu in April 2011.  The prize, administered by the Northeast Asia Council (NEAC) of the AAS, is for the best English-language book in Korean Studies from all disciplines. The book has been translated into Korean and will be published in fall 2013 in Korea by Humanitas.

Following the completion of the first book project I have been conducting research on gender dynamics in the South Korean shipbuilding workers’ movement and in the South Korean “democratic” (minju) labor movement of the 1970s.  I published an article entitled “Narratives of Women Workers in South Korea’s ‘Democratic (Minju)’ Union Movement of the 1970s,” and a book chapter, “Shipyard Women and the Politics of Gender: A Case Study of the KSEC Yard in South Korea,” both in 2009, and co-authored an article, “Alternative Narratives of the 1980s South Korean Movement: Worker Identities in the ‘Worker-Student Alliance’,” with sociologist Keongil Kim in 2012.  Gender analysis continues to be a core part of my research interests.  Eventually I am planning to write a book that tells the history of the Korean labor movement during the twentieth century through life histories of key women activists.  Currently, I am working on two projects, one focusing on progressive movements and networks during the 1950s and 1960s in South Korea in the larger context of the emergence of the Democracy Movement, and the other looking into the politics of memory surrounding the martyrdom of Chun Tae-il, a garment worker who immolated himself in protest of labor exploitation in 1970.  Part of my research on the former topic will come out as an article entitled “Progressives and Labor: A Forgotten Alliance in the 1960s South Korea” in the Journal of Asian Studies (forthcoming, November 2013).  In relation to the latter topic, I organized a workshop “The Politics of Honorable Death and Martyrdom in Korean History” at UW’s Center for Korean Studies in June 2013, whose outcome will be edited into a book.

As the only Korea historian at the UW, I annually teach lower- and upper-division survey courses on Korean history, both pre-modern and modern, for undergraduate and graduate students, and occasionally offer seminar courses on special topics, including labor, gender, and developmental politics in late twentieth-century South Korea.

HSTAS/ JSIS A 212 History of Korean Civilization

HSTAS 481 History of Pre-modern Korea

HSTAS 482 History of Modern Korea

HSTAS 581 Modern Korean History (field course)

HSTAS 582, 583 Seminar in Korean History

JSIS A 484/584 Special Topics East Asia: The Park Chung Hee Period

JSIS A 585 Seminar: Modern Korea


Building Ships, Building a Nation: Korea’s Democratic Unionism under Park Chung Hee. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2009. Winner of the 2011 James B. Palais Book Prize (Association for Asian Studies)

“Narratives of Women Workers in South Korea’s ‘Democratic ( Minju) ’ Union Movement of the 1970s, ” The Review of Korean Studies , Vol. 12 No. 4 (December 2009) : 14-35.

“Shipyard Women and the Politics of Gender: A Case Study of the KSEC Yard in South Korea.” In Elyssa Faison, and Ruth Barraclough, eds., Gender and Labor in Korea and Japan: Sexing Class. London: Routledge, July 2009, 78-102.

“Sahoejuŭi yŏsŏng undong ŭi tŭngjang kwa yŏsŏng undong ŭi punhwa” [The Emergence of the Socialist Women’s Movement and the Developing Division in the Women’s Movement] and “Kŭnuhoe undong” [The Movement of the Kŭnu Association]. In Han’guk yŏsŏngsa: Kŭndae p’yŏn [Korean Women’s History: Modern Period], ed. Han’guk yŏsŏng yŏn’guhoe yŏsŏngsa punkwa [Women’s History Division of the Society for Korean Women’s Studies], Seoul: P’ulpit, 1992, 1 3 7-177.

“1920-yŏndae yŏsŏng undong esŏ ŭi hyŏptong chŏnsŏnnon kwa Kŭnuhoe” [United Front Theory and the Kŭnu Association in the 1920s Women’s Movement], Han’guk saron [Studies on Korean History] Vol. 25 (June 1991) (Seoul: Seoul National University Press, 1991) : 201-49 .

“Yŏjanggun Kim Myŏngsi ŭi saengae” [Life of a Woman General, Kim Myŏngsi], Yŏsŏng 2 [Women 2], edited by Han’guk yŏsŏngsa yŏn’guhoe [the Society for Korean Women’s History]. Seoul: Ch’angjak kwa pip’yŏngsa, 1988 , 337-55 .