Gender, Sexuality, and Social Transformation in South Korea

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Colloquium and Photo Exhibition at NYU

Sealing Cheng, Assistant Prof., Women’s Studies, Wellesley:
Henry Em, Associate Prof., NYU East Asian Studies:

The aim of the photo exhibition, colloquium, and methods workshop is to analyze and intervene in the debate over sex work/prostitution in South Korea.

Rather than simply confirm victimhood, or affirm dominant beliefs, attitudes, and values in representations of sex workers as abject (representations that do not produce emancipatory politics), how might sex workers be engaged as interlocutors?

In gaining visibility for the politically under-represented, such as sex workers, who is required to display what, and to whom?  Can photography by sex workers de-naturalize ideological common sense, and reverse voyeuristic representations that only foster sentimentality and charity?

I. Photo Exhibition: “Our Yongsan, Our Lives: A Red-light District to be Demolished”

Monday, Oct 26 – Friday, November 6

Gallatin, NYU
715 Broadway, 4th floor
New York, NY

This exhibition presents forty photographs selected from more than a thousand images taken by women in the Yongsan red-light district, Seoul, South Korea, some of whom have worked and lived in the area for as long as 40 years.  The red-light district, located near Yongsan Railway Station in central Seoul, is one of the oldest red-light districts in South Korea.  As part of the urban renewal project, the area will be demolished by the end of 2009.  These photographs are a form of personal histories written onto the space and architecture of the red-light district, indicative of how it is home to these women who have lived on the margins of Korean society.

One of the ten photographers, Hyun-Sook Park (Magdalena House), together with Kim Ae-Ryung (Ewha Women’s University), a researcher, will offer guided tours of the photo exhibition.

II. Classroom Lecture

Tuesday, Oct 27, 3:30 – 4:15 pm

Silver Center, NYU
Room 405
31 Washington Place
New York, NY

Sealing Cheng (Assistant Professor in Women’s and Gender Studies, Wellesley College)

“Understanding Sex Work/Prostitution in South Korea”

III. East Asian Studies Colloquium

Tuesday, Oct 27. 4:30 – 6:30 pm

East Asian Studies, NYU
Conference Room
715 Broadway, 3rd floor
New York, NY

“Work, Life, and Rights in a South Korean Red-Light District”
Won, Mi-Hye (Ph.D. candidate, Ewha Women’s University)
Cheng, Sealing (Assistant Professor, Wellesley College)

IV. Research Methods Workshop

Wednesday, Oct 28, 3:30 – 6:00 pm

East Asian Studies, NYU
Conference Room
715 Broadway, 3rd floor
New York, NY

“Ethnography – Doing Fieldwork with Marginal Groups”
Yi Hee-Young
Sealing Cheng