Asian Studies

Asian Studies Seminar: Owen Miller

About the seminar

War, the state, and the formation of the North Korean industrial working class, 1931-1960

By Dr Owen Miller...

This talk examines the routes by which Koreans became industrial workers in the first and second phases of industrialisation on the peninsula: under Japanese colonial rule, 1931-1945, and under the DPRK's post-Korean War heavy industrialisation, 1953-1960. While the political regimes of the Japanese colony and postcolonial DPRK were different, industrialisation occurred under similar conditions, characterised principally by war, state-led capitalism and a geopolitical context shaped by imperialist rivalries. Processes of proletarianisation also reveal similarities between the two periods, including the widespread use of forced mobilisation and immobilisation of workers and a bureaucratic apparatus supporting close control of labour. This research project contributes to the critique of conventional views about the role of 'free wage labour' during the transition to capitalism, while also criticising interpretations of the DPRK labour regime that understand it as fundamentally socialist or non-capitalist.


Owen Miller is a Lecturer in Korean Studies at SOAS, University of London, where he teaches Korean history. He was previously a research fellow at Robinson College, University of Cambridge, where he worked on developing an atlas of Korean history. Owen received his PhD from SOAS in 2007 for a thesis on merchant-government relations in late nineteenth century Korea. More broadly his research interests include: the social and economic history of late 19th and early 20th century Korea; Korean nationalist and Marxist historiographies; and the economic history of North Korea.

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.

Find out more

Mar 05 2019 -

Asian Studies Seminar: Owen Miller

“War, the state, and the formation of the North Korean industrial working class, 1931-1960." A free seminar by guest speaker Dr Owen Miller (SOAS, University of London).

Project Room (1.06)
50 George Square