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Faculty Profiles

Helen J.S. Lee
Associate Dean of International Affairs

Email: helenlee@yonsei.ac.kr
Tel: 02-2123-3587
Office: Daewoo Annex Hall 403


Helen J. S. Lee is a professor of modern Japanese literature and postcolonial studies. Her research has primarily focused on Japan’s empire, with a particular focus on settler communities in colonial territories. She has published with positions: asia critique (2009 & 2013) and the Journal of Japanese Literature and language (2007, 2011, 2016 & 2019). She is also a co-editor of Reading Colonial Japan: Text, Context and Critique (Stanford University Press, 2012). Her current project deals with children, both Japanese and non-Japanese, within Japan’s empire, and their kokugo  compositions.


  • Ph.D.    in Modern Japanese Literature,  University of California, Irvine , 2003
    • Dissertation Title: Popular Media and the Racialization of Koreans under Japanese Occupation
  • M.A.     in Asian Studies,  Cornell University,  1993
  • B.A.       in Japanese Studies, Washington University, St Louis, 1991

Courses and Current Research Areas


  • Eastern Civilization
  • World Literature: Modern Japanese Literature
  • World Literature: Postwar Japanese Literature
  • World History: Japanese History
  • Special Topics in Asian Studies


  • Culture, Media, and the Politics of Beauty
  • Japan’s Modern Empire
  • Japanese Culture
  • Masculinities, Modernities, and Men
  • Postcolonial Theories in East Asia
  • Reading Colonial Japan
  • Visual Culture

Graduate Seminar

  • Texts and Popular Culture

Selected Publications


포위된 평화, 굴절된 전쟁기억 Besieged Peace, Refracted War Memory: A Study of Kure, the Naval Port of Hiroshima Bay, co-authored by Keun Sik Jung, Helen J.S. Lee, Young Shin Jung and Min Hwan Kim,  (P’owidoen p’yonghwa, kulj?ldoen ch?njaeng ki?k: Hiroshima man ?i kunhang tosi kurye y?ngu), J&C Publishing, May, 2015.  

Reading Colonial Japan: Text, Context, and Critique, Stanford University Press, February 2012.

Co-edited with Michele M. Mason  


ARTICLES in English 

“Living as a Colonial Girl: The Sony? (少女) Discourse of School Curriculum and Newspapers in 1930s Korea,” co-author with Shin Kyungsook (forthcoming), International Journal of Asian Studies, July 2020. 

 “Little Citizens, Big Missions in Manchuria: The Sh?kokumin as Imperial Pedagogy,” Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, vol. 20 no. 3, September 2019. 

“Binding Perceptions: Images of Korea in Japanese Colonial Documentary Photography,” The Review of Korean Studies, Vol., No. 1, June 2019. 

“Cultural Assimilation in the Kokugo (?語)Classroom: Colonial Korean Children’s Tsuzurikata (綴り方) Compositions from the early 1930s,” Japanese Literature and Language, Vol., No.1, April 2019. 

“Unending Stories of the Battleship Yamato: Narrating the Past, Creating a Phantom,” Japanese Literature and Language, Vol. 50, No.2, Oct 2016. 

“Negotiating Imagined Imperial Kinship:Affects and Comfort Letters of Korean Children,” The Review of Korean Studies, Vol. 17, No. 1, June 2014. 

“Dying as Daughter of the Empire,” positions: asia critique, Vol.21, Issue 1, Spring 2013. 

“Out of S?desuka-shi, Creating Yobo-san: Cartooning the Korean Other in Japan’s Colonial Discourse,” Journal of Japanese Language and Literature, Vol 45, Issue 1, April 2011. 

“Writing Colonial Relations of Everyday Life in Senry?,” positions: east asia cultures critique, Vol. 16, Issue 3, Winter 2008. 

“Voices of the “Colonists,” Voices of the “Immigrants:” “Korea” in Japan’s Early Colonial Travel Narratives and Guides, 1894-1914,” Japanese Literature and Language, Spring 2007. 


ARTICLES in Korean 

“여성의 몸, 그리고 국가권력: 시신정치(necropolitics)와 죽음의 작업을 중심으로,” 일본학, 2019. 

이회성의 「다듬이질하는 여인」과 나카가미 켄지의 『미사키』를 통해 보는 ‘마이노리티’와 장소론,” 동악어문학회, 2017 

“일본문학에서 자이니치(在日) 읽기:오다 마코토(小田?)의 ??アボジ?を踏む?가 제시하는 아버지, 그리고 고향,” 일본학, 2015. 

“우생학 담론에서 배제의 논리: 이케대 시게노리의 우생운동 (Ikeda Shigenori's Eugenic Elimination: Biopower in Eugenics Movement),” 일본역사연구 (The Journal of Japanese History), Vol. 26, December, 2012. 

“나카지마 아츠시의 조선소설: 식민지 도시공간 ‘경성’을 중심으로 (Nakajima Atsushi’s Fictional Creation of Colonial Kyungs?ng),” Korean Studies, Vol. 28, October, 2012.

“제국의 교실, 그 안팎에서 (Imperial Classrooms and Its Borders), “ 일본학 (Japan Studies),

Vol. 30, Dong’guk University, May, 2010. 

“전함 야마토의 유령들: 전함, 대중문화, 그리고 대중기억의 형성(Phantoms of the Battleship Yamato: The Battleship, Pop Culture, and Making of Popular Memory),” 일본 비평(Japan Critique), Issue 2, Seoul National University, February 2010.

More Information

  • September 2019—present         Professor/   Underwood International College, Yonsei University
  • Fall 2012—Spring 2019                 Associate Professor/  Underwood International College, Yonsei University
  • Fall 2008—Spring 2012                Assistant Professor/   Underwood International College, Yonsei University
  • Fall 2003—Spring 2008               Assistant Professor of Modern Japanese Literature and Language                                                                         /  University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

UIC Scribe Interview(2008):

Professor Lee has her Bachelor’s degree from Washington University, Master’s degree from Cornell University, and Ph.D from U.C. Irvine. Professor Lee has taught at UIC since fall 2008. And although words have spread through Theology Hall and New Millennium Hall that there is a lot of reading for her class, she has been quite well received by the students. They describe her as a kind, enthusiastic professor who makes learning about Japan and Japanese literature an unique ex­perience.  

Q1. How did you know about, and come to UIC?

PROFESSOR LEE : My father is a graduate of Yonsei (en­tered in 1958!), so I am very familiar with the campus. In fact, I came to the Yonsei summer program in 1988.


Q2. What previous experience have you had as a professor?

PROFESSOR LEE : I was assistant professor of Japa­nese literature at the University of Florida, from fall of 2003 to spring of 2008.


Q3. How did you become interested in Japanese literature?

PROFESSOR LEE : Very coincidentally. Through a stu­dent in an intensive summer language program in Tokyo (1989) I started reading an ‘I-Novel’ (Japanese novel genre) by Ito Sachio. It was a beautiful story about first love, and the narrative was so powerful (I thought at the time). I still remember how I was so drawn to the story. When I went back to school in the fall I started taking classes in Japa­nese literature, and ended up majoring in it.

My father disapproved of my choice of major in col­lege—majoring in Japanese literature did not quite fit the “American Dream” he had in mind. My father and I had a huge argument over this issue in my junior year, and we did not communicate for a long time. Born in 1935, he had been educated under the Japanese colonial rule, and could not understand why his daughter would choose to study Japanese in America. It was not until 2003, the year when I earned my doctorate degree in Japanese literature and secured a teaching position, that I felt I had been redeemed by my father.


Q4. What qualities do you think make a good student?

PROFESSOR LEE : I would say ‘intellectual curiosity’ and ‘commitment and self-discipline.’ Actually, these two criteria complement each other.


Q5. Are you enjoying your experience with UIC students?

PROFESSOR LEE : I have only been at UIC for 2 months now, so I am still making adjustments – I am sure my stu­dents will second this statement. My students are very po­lite and nice, so they have eased my institutional and cul­tural transition.


Q6. What do you do in your research time? (Academically focused)

PROFESSOR LEE : I am a scholar of postcolonial stud­ies, and my research area is Imperial Japan. Specifically my project focuses on Japan’s colonization of Korea. I spend my free time (=research) reading the archival sources from the colonial period and writing my manuscript – not much different from what you do as a student.


Q7. What do you do to relax?

PROFESSOR LEE : I am a student and a fan of Korean dance, the Chum, and I am currently learning the Salpuri (type of traditional dance).

PROFESSOR LEE : I studied with our Dean Lee in 1989 at the International Christian University’s intensive sum­mer language program in Tokyo. Dean Lee was one of the few graduate students in the program who was also mar­ried, so most of us called him “Lee-sama” to pay our re­spect to a “grown-up” classmate.

Professor Lee’s classes are one of the most interest­ing and fascinating lectures in UIC. For students who have interest in Japan, a class in Japanese literature or history in the following semester might be quite fulfilling. Or, if you need to take another history or literature class, why not take an adventure and learn about something that has some distance from the well-known West? The experience may just open your eyes to other cultures

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