Asian Studies

Asian Studies Seminar: John Lee

About the seminar

Kingdom of Pines: State Forestry and the Making of Korea, 1392-1910

By Dr John S Lee..

For almost every society before the twentieth century, the forest ecosystem was the main source of fuel, construction material, and raw chemical matter. This presentation examines the longest continuous state forestry system in world history, that of Korea’s Chosŏn dynasty (1392-1910). For five hundred years, the Chosŏn government managed forests across the Korean peninsula with focus on one type of conifer, the pine. I argue that state forestry was fundamental to the expansion of the Chosŏn state and its military, political, and cultural priorities from the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries. Moreover, the government’s prioritization of pine profoundly transformed Korea’s environment. Over time however, Chosŏn forests also became contested zones as government policies clashed with local interests and the workaday sylvan needs of a growing populace. Overall, I offer a new, environmental-historical approach to Korean history that interweaves the making of state, society, and ecology on the Korean peninsula.


John S. Lee is Presidential Fellow in Environmental History at the University of Manchester. Previously, he was a Postdoctoral Associate in the Program in Agrarian Studies at Yale University. He received his Ph.D. in History and East Asian Languages from Harvard University in 2017. His current monograph in preparation, Kingdom of Pines: State Forestry and the Making of Korea, 1392-1910, will be one of the first studies of Korea’s pre-industrial environmental history. His other current project examines the environmental legacies of the Mongol Empire in Korea, focusing on the long-term impact of Inner Asian equine culture on Korean society and ecologies. His most recent publication, “Postwar Pines: The Military and the Expansion of State Forests in Post-Imjin Korea, 1598-1684,” appears in the May 2018 issue of the Journal of Asian Studies

About the Asian Studies Seminar Series

Each semester, Asian Studies welcomes a fantastic range of guest speakers and colleagues to present an evening seminar on their research, spanning fields as diverse as film and media, literature, religion, society and politics.

Covering some of the most vibrant regions of the world today, Asian Studies at Edinburgh includes long-established programmes in Chinese and Japanese, expertise in Sino-Japanese relations, and Korean Studies.

Seminars take place on selected Tuesday evenings. Check the calendar for exact times, dates and venues.

Entry is free and no booking is required. Everyone is welcome.

Are you interested in studying with us?

We are the only university in Scotland to offer full undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes in both Chinese and Japanese, and are delighted to offer an MSc, an MSc by Research and PhDs in Korean Studies from September 2019.

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Feb 05 2019 -

Asian Studies Seminar: John Lee

“Kingdom of Pines: State Forestry and the Making of Korea, 1392-1910." A free seminar by guest speaker Dr John S Lee (University of Manchester).

Project Room (1.06)
50 George Square