Politics of Purity: The Making of the South Korean Sonyŏ Sensibility


The Korean Studies Research Network, an International Programs affinity group, will host Dr. Kyunghee Eo, assistant professor of East Asian languages and literatures at Yale University, for a virtual talk entitled “Politics of Purity: The Making of the South Korean Sonyŏ Sensibility.”

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Eo will demonstrate how we can enrich our understanding of Korean culture and society through a critical engagement with the figure of the girl (sonyŏ), a subject position that seldom takes center stage in official narratives of history. Using an interdisciplinary methodology, Eo will trace how girls were represented in various types of cultural texts, from canonical literature and popular magazines of the postwar period to the contemporary K-pop industry. By doing so, Eo will show how the unique girl sensibility (sonyŏ kamsŏng) that we see in South Korean cultural production today is not just a byproduct of hetero-patriarchal discourse, but rather, a cultural form that has articulated the desires, erotic fantasies, and political aspirations of women and girls in Korea over the past century.

Dr. Kyunghee Eo’s research is centered on modern Korean literature and culture, with a special interest in queer and feminist theory and Asian American studies. She received her BA and MA from Yonsei University and PhD from the University of Southern California.

The Korean Studies Research Network aims to bring together scholars whose research focuses on Korea-related topics and to provide mentoring to the younger generation of scholars. It serves as a platform to facilitate collaborative and interdisciplinary research among scholars and graduate students at the University of Iowa and institutions of higher education in the Midwest through seminars, speaker series, and workshops.

This event is made possible through generous support from the Korea Foundation.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa–sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact in advance at