ASC Blog: A Place to Share and Reflect

Welcome to the new blog site of the Asian Studies Center! This blog was created in hopes of bringing more of Asia to Pitt. It will provide a place to share reflections on our lectures, notes from the field and broaden our view of this fascinating part of the globe.

If you would like to contribute, please email with the subject “blog post idea” and your contact information in the body of the email or stop by the ASC office on the 4th floor of Posvar Hall.

We hope to hear from you soon!

Interview with Professor Shin

Dr. Seung-hwan Shin is a visiting assistant professor in the department of East Asian Languages and Literatures (EALL). Professor Shin holds a Ph.D. in English/Film Studies from the University of Pittsburgh and has served as part-time faculty at Pitt for the past six years. Recently we sat down with Dr. Shin to learn a little more about his passion for Korean studies and film.

What led you to the University of Pittsburgh, and what are you most looking forward to in your new visiting professor position?

I have taught at Pitt for more than six years. I truly love teaching at Pitt. Students are smart, and I enjoy watching my students gain new perspectives and understanding of Korean society. I am looking forward to having more opportunities to engage with more students and colleagues.

What first inspired you to study film? 

I entered the University of Pittsburgh as a literature student in 2003 from Seoul, South Korea. My undergraduate major was Comparative Literature. I wanted to Study Literary Theory but switched to Cinema once I discovered my inspiration for film from South Korean cinema directors. They deeply inspired me to investigate my own feelings toward film’s societal implications.

What classes are you teaching?

In the fall, I taught two courses: World of Korea and Fourth Year Korean advanced language course. In World of Korea-Past and Present, I discussed Korean culture, history, and media. In Fourth Year Korean I did not simply teach linguistics. I taught in a manner for my students to gain understanding of Korean history and culture. Therefore, my students had the opportunity to read newspaper articles and novels, as well as watch Korean films and write reviews on local Korean restaurants.

What is a distinct feature of Korean culture that you hope students will gain from your teaching ?

I would like to focus on Korean culture in general by discussing hallyu, the global musical lyrics of K-Pop (Korean Pop).The literal translation of hallyu in Korean is “the Korean way.” In many countries consumers of K-Pop have very little knowledge of Korean culture or consumerism. What consumers of K-Pop want to see in hallyu is not something about South Korea. The global lyrics of hallyu relate more to significant changes in many societies in relation to pop culture and how they perceive the world currently. Consumers are more open to new categories and new trends so there are many reasons why people all over the world consume K-Pop.

The main focus of your research places film as gateway into society’s political and historical portrayals and their implications. Can you share any research you are working on now ? 

I am currently analyzing the director’s cinema who inspired me long ago and expand my interest into other areas such as North Korean cinema. I helped to organize the North Korean Film Festival. By focusing on North Korean cinema, I hope we can begin to change the direction of conversation and add vibrancy with more balance perspective of North Korean society.

Any hobbies you would like to share?

My current hobby is raising my new born baby boy. It is challenging but at the end of day I can smile knowing that I have a gorgeous son. It is definitely a positive new chapter in my life.

Thank you Dr. Shin for chatting with us!

Pokemon Go: Japan in Pittsburgh

Photo Credit: Pittsburgh City Paper | Post by Lauren Barney

The Pokemon Go mobile game is sweeping the nation and is ready to empower the Pitt Pokemon trainers to leave Hillman and take a walk into the Japanese world of environmentalism, materialism, and sustainable environment.  Pokemon Go might be the first mobile gaming app to encourage mobility. In the quest to become a Pokemon master, this mobility might even entice you to explore environmental areas like Schenley Park or Panther Hollow.

Whether virtually or in reality, Pokemon challenges its consumers to engage with the environment since its inception. Pokemon creators grew up in the 1960s when the world, including Japan were first gaining insight into the environment. In 1969, the first images of earth from space were sent from Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Also at this time, the Pokemon creators were young boys playing with their insects in Japan and experiencing the first boom in the kawaii movement, Japanese cultural cuteness. Kawaii employs “cute” anime and cartoon-like images to discuss serious topics. Public advertisements in Japan ranging from disaster protocol to local police safety warnings employ kawaii to catch the attention of local citizens and visitors. Kawaii causes consumers to focus their attention on a usually dense or rather boring but important informative advertisement. Kawaii engages the sentimental feeling of attentiveness one feels for a baby and inspires many to pay attention to global issues.

The inspiration from and interaction with the environment from a young age led the Pokemon creators to develop the Pokemon game as an interaction platform of trainers and the pocket monsters. In the 1990’s television series, the main character, Ash, must reconcile his love for capturing Pokemon with his understanding of their habitat. Furthermore, the respect needed for the kawaii creatures remains at the forefront of the franchise’s development.

So next time you are tiptoeing through Schenley Plaza to catch your Pikachu, enjoy the Japanese culture of environmental engagement and kawaii that any Pokemon consumer can joyfully enjoy!

Andy Warhol |Ai Weiwei Art Exhibition at the Warhol

Post by Lauren Barney

“They always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” ~Andy Warhol

Expressing oneself is like a drug. I’m so addicted to it.” ~Ai Weiwei

The iconic artist with origins in Pittsburgh, Andy Warhol, generated intense social dialogue through his lifetime of artwork. Throughout the 20th Century, Warhol produced artwork that challenged the American concepts of capitalism and consumerism. He wanted to generate change in American consumerist patterns through pop culture.

Another artist, Ai Weiwei, is the 21st Century artistic game-changer. As a Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei critiques his nation’s state censorship and communist ideals intersection with consumerism. His work both converges and diverges from Warhol’s work.

The current exhibit running at the Warhol from June 4 until August 28, 2016 features these two artists whose work challenges the global rhetoric and political implications on modern daily life of each artist’s respective era. Representing the 20th “American Century,” Andy Warhol’s pieces tell a vernacular history of  coming to terms with political modernity. Ai Weiwei’s pieces tell the vernacular history of a social activist.

Surprisingly, all seven floors are fully utilized in this extremely captivating project of identifying both significant artists’ intersection and differences in both style and message. The seemingly disjointed themes of cats and economic systems emerge in a beautiful intersection of the great works of two artists. Only a world class city like Pittsburgh could bring such a unique exhibit to the local art appreciator.